The first five Kestrel Railway Books volumes by David Larkin looked at the revenue-earning wagon fleet operated by British Railways and its immediate successor, British Rail. This volume is the second of three looking at the substantial fleet of specially-designed wagons that were used for track maintenance, and focuses on the many forms of early mechanized on-track plant, such as ballast cleaners, cranes and track relaying units, all of which were hauled to site. It also covers the self-propelled machines that preceded or followed the ballast trains, such as track recorders, tampers, liners and consolidators.
As for the wagons themselves, only three new types were introduced in this period, all bogie ballast hoppers, but there was a mass repainting of the existing fleet and the introduction of TOPS codes. The book includes build details, the telegraphic code names used to identify the Civil Engineers wagons throughout the period and details of the number series for each type.
There is quite an overlap throughout the three volumes in this series, but this volume concentrates on the period from 1968 to 1977 – a very different period from the previous twenty years. Local gangs disappeared and were replaced by mobile gangs that arrived by road transport. Although cranes had always been in use by the Civil Engineers, and some early tamping machines had been tried out, there was no push towards mechanization until the late 1950s, when track relaying units began to appear. These were followed in the 1960s by ballast cleaners and tamping machines. All these are fully covered in this volume.