Dawlish railway line

So, the southwest of England has been suffering a bit in some stormy weather recently, and today the sole railway line which connects Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the country has been de-railed by the destruction of the sea wall beneath it. If you look at 40s in that video, you can see the track and sleepers hanging in mid-air with a chunk of wall missing beneath it.

Don’t think they’ll be running any trains down there anytime soon!

And I was wondering who the Dawls were. Did not know that Dawlish is a place name…

I used to go on holiday there as a kid. The rail line has always been very vulnerable to storms. The BBC has better pics of the damage.

I’m that this will get some impetus behind the campaign to re-route the line somewhere less ridiculous. It’s not like we didn’t know this was going to happen, sooner or later.

That’s what I was wondering, whose brilliant idea was it to put critical railroad tracks about a foot from a sea wall.

Perhaps it was so that those sea-front houses wouldn’t be too valuable - they might have killer views, but they do get noisy from time to time.

That would be Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

There isn’t anywhere else they could stick it. The original lie was an atmospheric railway and couldn’t handle gradients of any kind. Since the town was at sea level, and under a 300ft high cliff, it had to be routed along the sea front.

The whole of the south west coast has been suffering a bit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/while-londoners-complain-about-a-tube-strike-the-south-west.

The first picture is of Sennen Cove.

FWIW, the North American term for that is ‘washed out’. While I was a fireman, I witnessed a road culvert wash out in the flooding from a hurricane. Took about a minute to go from driveable road surface to 50’ gap.

ETA: If you don’t care about the seawall, the railroad can be restored in about 2 days of work. The seawall can then be done at leisure.

Bet this has got the Cornish independence types excited!

This situation in Portleven looks pretty scary. Actor Stephen Mangan tweeted this photo:

That church has got to be badly damaged, surely?

A gentleman called I.K. Brunel (1806 - 1859); chief engineer of Britain’s Great Western Railway. Acclaimed as an engineering genius of the Victorian age; but some consider that at times, his projects could get into the realms of over-the-top hubris.

ETA – Tapioca Dextrin – sorry ! In my haste to make my post, I completely failed to notice yours.

Here’sone of Plymouth Hoe getting a battering - and this is behind a breakwater!

Also, VunderBob, the railway line runs along on top of the sea wall, so you can’t actually repair the tracks until the wall is rebuilt.

((missed edit window!))

That first picture is stunning.

Whilst nowhere near as dramatic as the Dawlish washout, similar problems are arising on other parts of the rail network.

This one happened right where I live (and impacts my daily commute) - a section of embankment has slipped away from beneath the track. They’re saying this might take a month or more to repair - this is in part because the embankment traverses low-lying normally-marshy fields that are now flooded - apparently a temporary road will need to be built just to get all the machinery, workers and materials on site.

I live less than ten miles from Dawlish, and usually pass through it once a week if I take the scenic route home from work. It’s my opinion that Brunel ruined the otherwise picturesque town by placing his railway on hideous elevated beams right above the seafront.
However, even without the limitations of the original atmospheric design, there are not many options for locating the railway elsewhere. Immediately to the west lies the high ground of Haldon, forming a pretty effective barrier between Exeter and Newton Abbot - although a route was supposedly surveyed through here in 1939. This route would require a substantial tunnel. World War 2 halted any progress here. The only other viable route - the single track Teign Valley line - was closed by Beeching in the 60’s and has since been partly built on (the A38 being the biggest obstruction to reestablishing this route).
Just by coincidence, I have on my desk here at work Network Rail’s “Dawlish to Teignmouth Seawall Frontage Management Strategy”, written by one of my colleagues in 2006. The level of maintenance performed on the wall over the years is just staggering.

What’s the likely repair strategy for this? Looking at the map, any alternative route that doesn’t involve knocking down huge swathes of housing would have to divert a very long way around the town.

So will they just rebuild a sea wall here and plonk a new track on top? Would a layer of concrete tetrapodshave prevented this destruction?

Not really my field to be honest, although I imagine it would help a lot. Providing whoever owns the beach consents to it of course, which could be why it has never happened.

The weather here today is perfect, and they are meant to be spraying concrete all day in order to fix things in place. However, the forecast for tomorrow is horrendous, so I wouldn’t be surprised if any work done today will be lost tonight or tomorrow.

[ETA] Well that jinxed it… it just started raining!

Tapioca Dextrin mentioned these limitations earlier in the thread, but I had a look at the wiki, which suggests that the atmospheric railway could actually handle steeper gradients than the standard at the time, and the original plan for an atmospheric railway was required so that any rail at all could be linked down here.

The problem with other routes for the railway is mostly down to the moorland it would have to cross. But this is a problem I think we’re going to have to solve, really, or just put up with a large part of the country being cut off by rail on a regular basis.