With just under two years to go to the Beeching Report of March 1963, which famously axed 5,000 miles of track, British Rail demonstrate how keen they were to renew and maintain what remained of the 19,000 route miles. This astonishing array of permanent way equipment, gathered together and demonstrated here at Ponteland near Newcastle in 1961, is testimony to this. Some of the weird contraptions on show would surely have made great Dinky models.
This is one of a large collection of British Rail, and some pre- British Rail, films inherited by the track renewals company Fastline in 1996, and passed on to Fastline Photography when they folded in 2010. Although undoubtedly the Beeching cuts marked a highly significant moment for British railways, already the 1950s had seen the disappearance of more than 3,000 miles of track. The Ponteland line into Newcastle itself closed in 1967. Yet British Rail were embarked on a programme of modernisation of the railway entailing the replacement or repair of 2,000 miles of track a year, using highly sophisticated equipment which could lay track at each site at the rate of one mile per day.