Track Watch 2012 – Aylestone Road

6 Jul

Well it’s another hole in the road revealing a part of Leicester’s tramway heritage and this time its a whopper!

Leicester City Council and the Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, are having a big push to feed a new low cost energy supply through the City. This is where the waste heat (in the form of hot water) from electricity generation can be fed off to serve as heating for other buildings. This work has prompted a few interesting sets of roadworks to appear across the city and every now and then we hear a report of some tram rail exposed.

The pipework for this project has already crossed Welford Road near the Prison and is now heading off down Aylestone Road between the old Granby Halls site and the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Insulated heating distribution pipes.

Running from the direction of Welford Road Prison – just look what the trench has uncovered…..

The start of the trench and the point where the new pipes come in. The left hand rail of the inbound track can clearly be seen against the tarmac.

Looking down Aylestone Road away from the City Centre you can see the rail ending where the new pipe is to be laid. The trench actually crosses the track at an angle and once this rail has crossed the trench it has been left intact and unlikely to be affected by the works. As the nearside rail (the one exposed) sweeps to the right of the trench, the offside rail would have appeared a little further along and would have ran in line with the path of the trench.

You can see the granite sets still under the tarmac which would have been laid either side of the tram rails.

Sections of rail that have been removed to make way for the pipework.

A good shot looking towards the City Centre reveals the extent of the trench and just how much rail has had to be lifted. Much of the removed rail can be seen alongside the fencing. It's tough steel and removal can slow the works down incredibly. Cutting discs wear out very quickly and there are only really two ways to remove the rail, hand operated gas axe which is time consuming but neat, or hydraulic cutting with a JCB or similar. The latter is very destructive although cutting neat rails is not on the minds of the chaps doing the job!

A curved section on a straight road? This has actually been bent through lifting out of the trench with a digger. You can see the groove on top of the rail where the flanged wheels inserted. Much of the groove is filled with tar fom when the system was abandoned but there is an open section with sitting water now resting in it. As I was leaving, this section was being cut into smaller pieces.

Looking out of town at the junction of Aylestone Road and Walnut St. There are some long lengths still to lift.

The trench ends at the junction with Walnut St. It is at this point where the route of the new pipes and the route of the tram rails part. The inbound track can be seen with both left and right hand rails visible. Note the grooves in the top where the flanged wheel was inserted.

If you see any roadworks taking place across the city  –  have a look and let us know if there is any evidence of the tramways revealed!

Be a part of Track Watch 2012 and let us know!!! It’s all a bit of fun but fascinating to see just how much of the old network is still down there.

Thanks to Nick and Sam for showing me the works site and explaining the project to me.

6 thoughts on “Track Watch 2012 – Aylestone Road

  1. My son drives JCB’s for a living and had some work to do in Meanwood Road in Leeds. I asked him if he had hit the tram rails yet and his reply was unprintable. I offerred to work as a consultant to the main contractor to assist in tendering for such works by telling then where the buried rails are. I haven’t been offerred any further consultancy work but did acquire a yard of worn out tram rail buried in 1955.

    Looking forward to more news about 31.


  2. Hi Rob, thanks for your comments. Yes it’s something I always wondered about too. Apparently when a contractor stumbles upon redundent metal whilst laying new pipes they are allowed to remove it and weigh it in as bonus money. I guess it’s no coincidence that there have been a remarkable number of tram line sightings in the last 12 months as scrap prices are at record highs? The City Council have stepped in though and are making efforts to work with the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust when planned digs are likely to find tram lines. The City Council recently donated a section from a dig on London Road so some of the rail is being saved. I’m still holding out for the day when we see a junction re-surface from under the tarmac! Keep ’em peeled!

  3. Would love a section of tramrail as I’m building model of a Leicester car in memory of my old Dad. I contacted one or two likely ‘authorities’ but no response and offered a donation.

  4. Yes, I wouldn’t mind a section of Leicester Tram history too! Glad the Council/LTHT are stepping in though, i’d gladly pay more than scrap price for a small chunk

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