Kinneil railway gets Napier students on the right tracks

Napier University students assist SRPS in laying new tracks
Napier University students assist SRPS in laying new tracks

Students seized the opportunity to get away from their desks and benefit from the experience of working on a live rail construction project.

Thirty undergraduate volunteers from Edinburgh Napier University responded to a call for help to replace track at the Bo’ness and Kinneil heritage railway.

The civil and transportation engineering students were able to develop their technical skills and health and safety knowledge while helping the Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS) overcome a series of tricky challenges.

The five-mile long heritage railway, operated by the SRPS, runs from Bo’ness to Manuel junction.

Operation and maintenance of the railway is predominantly undertaken by volunteers but the SRPS wanted to upgrade six 40-foot long panels of wooden sleepered track with a more resilient concrete sleepered equivalent on a heavily-loaded curve.

Various maintenance tasks in the surrounding area were also required.

To achieve this in the proposed one-week programme, a significant amount of volunteer manual labour was needed.

To assist the SRPS in their aims, the team of volunteer students from the university’s civil and transportation engineering programme was assembled and spent a week working at the railway.

The exercise was organised by Richard Llewellyn and Mark Taylor of the School of Engineering and the Built Environment.

As well as learning valuable skills in health and safety and working on a live railway, the students also developed their technical skills in civil engineering and were required to use initiative on site to solve the various challenges presented to them.

Richard Llewellyn, lecturer in transportation engineering, said: “This was a unique opportunity for students to get fully involved in a real-life railway construction project.

“By being immersed in a live railway environment, they were able to experience a depth of learning that surpassed anything that could be created in a traditional classroom.”

Dean of School, Professor Ian Smith said: “We include events for students such as this in the course as we strive to offer an outstanding experience during their studies.

“From this they gain an incredible opportunity to boost employability skills and to enhance their CV. Students interested in studies in railway will continue do so in their fourth year.”