Andrew Briddon Locos

Andrew Briddon Locos

preserved railway vehicles

Gullick & Dobson/YEC: Multi-Gauge Tamper

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Weight 10tonnes (in working order)
Power Unit MWM 4 cylinder normally aspirated
Drive Hydrostatic
Tamping Capability With lift and slew
Present Location SOLD


In the 1970s, the NCB attempted to accelerate transit times in productive collieries where the coal face over the years had become farther and farther from the pit bottom. In some collieries haulage of 5 miles underground was not unusual, and at 10-15mph took up a lot of time, both for men and coal. To speed the trains required "high speed" locos, and Hunslet responded with 300bhp B-Bs, but to operate at 30mph safely the NCB also needed to improve track standards, and thus mechanised tamping underground was introduced.

The Coal Board had in effect two choices. Either to go with an established tamper manufacturer who might have no experience of flameproof practice, or opt for an existing manufacturer of flameproof equipment who might not have built tamping machines before. They chose the latter and a number of these "ballast packers" were built by the Wigan firm of Gullick & Dobson. With the colliery run-downs after the 1984 strike, most of these machines were abandoned underground as their scrap value was not justified by the expense of recovering - a fate that befell many u.g. locos too. This tamper however, was on the surface having just had a full overhaul in British Coal workshops when it came in to YEC hands.

At this point, the embryo Welsh Highland Railway was looking for a cost-effective narrow gauge tamping machine as a grant application that included an all-singing-and-dancing tamper had been cut. It was agreed that YEC would modify the ballast packer by removing the flameproof equipment and fitting basic cabs, etc to make it suitable for surface use.

The layout of the tamper is that it has a "power unit" (far end of vehicle in the picture) with four powered wheels and providing hydraulic power via flexible hoses to the "tamper module" which has only two unpowered wheels and hangs on the power unit via a large articulated coupling. The tamper unit has rams and clamps so that the track can be lifted and slewed while the sleeper is tamped (by vibrating tines either side of the rails), but alignment is done by eye/experience/spirit level. Compared to "modern" laser-aligned, automated tampers it forms an intermediate stage between them and rudimentary hand-tamping with shovels or Kangos.

The tamper was modifed at Long Marston and went first to the Bala Lake Railway, where it was wired and tested. It was delivered to Dinas (WHR) and tamped the whole of Phase 1 down to Caernarvon. After Phase 1 had been completed, the machine was parked up and when Phase 2 began, was found to need attention. As money was available for a "better" (faster) tamper, it was parked at the end of a siding at Dinas and left.

At the end of 2007, its purchase was agreed and it left in 2008 for Rowsley (Peak Rail) for restoration. However, in summer 2010, Andrew came to the conclusion that it was not really relevant to the bulk of the collection and accepted an offer from a Director of the Derbyshire Dales N.G Railway to aquire it from him.


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