During the quiet, dark, early hours across the rail networks of the world, strange, complex locomotives traverse the tracks at a crawling pace, ensuring that the vital trackbed is suitable for the next day's passenger and freight trains. The railway tamper or tamping machine can sometimes be overlooked by railfans but in this instalment of the We Are Railfans Podcast, we delve deep into their operations with Colas Rail driver Martin.
Martin discussed the difference between these complex machines and driving passenger multiple units, what considerations are taken when operating them and describes exactly what they do to keep Britain's railway network running smoothly.
Tampers can be seen not just in the UK but around the globe in a variety of shapes and sizes, including those performing maintenance on narrow and broad gauge tracks. In the USA these can be referred to as 'Maintenance of Way' or MOW equipment whereas in the UK they can be referred to as on-track plant or simply maintenance vehicles. The physical route of the trackbed is called the Permanent Way or 'P-Way'.
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Martin regularly takes photos of Tampers and their work. Here, two Tampers line up alongside each other. The one closest is DR75009, a Colas Rail Plasser & Theurer Unimat 09-4x4/4S Dynamic Tamper. Photo by Martin Clitheroe.
Tamping in action! The orange army get to work with the Tamper centre stage maintaining track ready for the next day's passenger and freight trains. Photo by Martin Clitheroe.
Due to the nature of their work, Railway Tampers rarely see extensive use in the daytime and are often hidden from public view between other rail movements like passenger and freight services. In this photo, Colas Rail Matisa B41UE Tamper DR75406 'Eric Machell' runs between passenger services at Tiverton Loop on a round trip to and from Tavistock. Photo by Joe Rogers.
To learn more about what Colas Rail do across the UK network, go to their website: https://colasrail.co.uk/
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