October 7th 2016

Taking part in an international training exercise

Reservists with the improvised loading ramp

33 Reservists from 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group have taken part in an international training exercise to develop working relationships with other NATO partners with railway infrastructure capabilities.

Turnout removal during the activity

The exercise took place in September in Bicester, Oxfordshire, and included personal from 102 Engineer Construction Company of the Royal Netherlands Army and the Italian Railway Regiment.

The British Army’s railway infrastructure capability is uniquely held by 507 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Rail Infrastructure), a Reserve sub-unit. Its role is in railway design and project management of railway infrastructure tasks whereas the Dutch and Italian capability is in the physical construction and maintenance of tracks.

The exercise allowed different aspects of railway engineering to be bought together covering the entire spectrum of railway engineering in an effective manner.

Reservists undertaking turnout maintenance

Reservists undertaking turnout maintenance

The exercise was based on the need to support the onward movement of refugees from a war torn region. The refugees would be moved by rail to a safe location, however, to enable this to happen several sections of railway were either required to be repaired or modified to enable trains to run on the track.

The area used to complete the exercise were abandoned railway tracks that had been left in their original positions within the Dems School Training Area enabling physical work to take place. The exercise involved four tasks where four sections rotated through to have an involvement in each.

The first task included building an improvised loading ramp using railway sleepers secured together using ‘timber dogs’ which are large staples hammered into the sleepers. The design came from an existing military engineering publication but had not been practiced for many years.

The next activity was to repair a ‘turnout’, a turnout is where a track splits into two with a manual operating switch.

Participants also had to level a section of track that had sagged, this is done by jacking up the track, adding ballast (aggregate) and resettling the track to the correct level. A small group of reservists also surveyed a piece of land for a potential  new track to be laid.