Our best read posts of 2018

With 20,000 miles of track in Britain, there are countless stories on the railway.

We look back at some of our best read features of the past year...

January:

National operations nerve centre

At the heart of the rail network is a team of dedicated specialists, the National Operations Centre (NOC).

The NOC controllers are vital to keeping trains running, but little-known outside railway circles. Whatever happens on the railway, the NOC is always among the first to find out and plays a critical role in contingency planning and resolving incidents, working 24/7 including weekends.

February:

What the railway could look like in 30 years’ time

Imagine the railway of the future.

Research and development teams across the rail industry are doing just that, thinking about the needs of passengers and businesses in 30 years’ time and even further ahead, and considering how the railway can adapt through innovation to meet these requirements.

March:

Drones trialled for the inspection of large railway structures

The LNE&EM route Structures asset management team is trialling the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to inspect large structures in a safer and more cost efficient way.

The vehicles, commonly known as drones, are being used to get a closer look at five arch viaducts on the route, including the Grade 1 listed, 28-span Royal Border Bridge in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland.

April:

Flying Banana train: What our New Measurement Train does and how it saves us millions of pounds

The New Measurement Train (NMT) is the most technically advanced train of its type in the world and the flagship vehicle of our Infrastructure Monitoring fleet.

Our NMT monitors and records track condition information at speeds up to 125mph. It helps identify faults before they become a safety issue or affect our performance.

Affectionately known as the Flying Banana due to its distinctive yellow livery, the NMT is a unique, high-tech machine that we’ve been using for almost 15 years.

May:

High Output: 25 years of innovation in renewals

Ballast cleaning has been a cornerstone of railway maintenance for 50 years, but the Kershaw machine’s 1993 outing marked a milestone in the story of railway renewals.

Today, ballast cleaning is a slick operation, part of the High Output team’s schedule of rapid renewals work that replaces up to a mile of ballast every night.

June:

Why rails buckle in Britain

Why don’t rails get hot in Europe? The truth is they do.However, in countries typically hotter than ours, rails are stressed to withstand higher temperatures.

Hot weather can cause a great deal of disruption to the railway so Britain’s rails are pre-stressed to help them resist high temperatures. Our rails have a stress-free temperature of 27 degrees - the UK mean summer rail temperature. Other countries choose different temperatures depending on their climate.

July:

Preserving railway history: five things saved by Network Rail 

In May, Network Rail undertook the challenging task of removing a historic bell from the top of Runcorn’s iconic Britannia Railway Bridge ahead of a full restoration.

The operation highlights Network Rail’s commitment to preserving our railway’s history. Here are some of the historic items we have encountered on the journey...

August:

From plot to platform: how fast can we build a railway station?

Many are expected to achieve it in 18, some manage it in 12. Maghull North did it in nine.

The brand-new railway station in Merseyside opened in June after just nine months of construction.

The £13m scheme, part of a broader £340m railway investment in the Liverpool City Region, forms part of the Great North Rail Project to transform travel in the region. It was funded by the Government’s Local Growth Fund (LGF), transport executive Merseytravel and the Homes and Communities Association.

September:

The Great Fall: historic landslip images resurface

Exceptional images have re-emerged of one of Kent’s biggest landslips, highlighting the essential work by Network Rail to maintain coast-side railway lines.

Original photographs of The Great Fall, a severe landslip at Folkestone Warren in December 1915, show train derailments and continued rail movement following the incident.

The railway line to Dover moved 50 metres towards the coastline and 1.5 million cubic metres of chalk fell into the sea following weeks of heavy rain.

October:

Network Rail graduates step into history

“We’re doing one of the last steam-age jobs on the network.”

At Shrewsbury railway station, signaller Jamie Green is steeping young Network Rail graduates in history.

He works at Severn Bridge Junction - the largest working mechanical signal box in the world. The grade II-listed building houses 180 levers, all dating from 1903. The box doesn’t just embody a rare tradition, it continues to perform a vital function on a modern railway.

November:

Five things you didn’t know about our fleet

Our fleet of vehicles and machinery works hard all year round.

It plays a crucial role in keeping the railway safe for passengers and freight operators, such as each autumn, when 61 specialist trains and vehicles minimise the impact of leaf fall and help reduce the chances of delays.

The broader fleet’s coverage includes infrastructure monitoring, maintaining and renewing tracks, and inspecting and clearing drainage.

December:

Step back in time… and inside Britain’s busiest signal box

The journey from London’s Borough Market to York typically takes about two and a half hours.

For what was once Britain’s busiest signal box, it will have taken more than 40 years to reach its final destination.

For over 80 years, the small Victorian structure sat upon a brick tower above the tracks and guided trains through Borough Market Junction, where the lines from London Bridge, Cannon Street and Charing Cross converge.