THE Army joined forces with railway volunteers and Network Rail to carry out major maintenance on miles of a historic line to keep trains on track and their own armoured vehicles rolling.

The Wensleydale Railway, a heritage line used by thousands of tourists every year is also a crucial transport system for the army, carrying armoured vehicles from the country’s biggest base at Catterick to wherever they’re needed throughout the country.

To carry out the vital maintenance, refurbishing and hardening the 22 mile line, including replacing 500 yards of track and replacing a level crossing, the army pulled together a specialist team of 80 Royal Engineers, regular soldiers and reservists gathered from all over Britain.

Major Alex Hamilton, Officer Commanding 507 Specialist Team Royal Engineers said the line plays a major part in getting armoured vehicles from Catterick onto the main line at Northallerton and onwards from there.

“This railway is a great utility for the army To take 22 armoured vehicles to Dover by rail would cost around £18,000, by road transport it would be £90,000, so it is really good for long haul.

“It is also massively important for us to work with the Wensleydale railway, they have been huge supporters of what we are doing in getting materials and on our behalf we are providing the manpower, it is a great partnership, it serves the local community and improves the line. It also adds to the aim of reopening to Hawes.”

The line dating back to the 1850s starts at Redmire and runs through some of the Yorkshire Dales' most impressive countryside through Leburn and Bedale to Northallerton.

Guy Loveridge, Chairman of Wensleydale Railway said: “This is an historic event for us as this will be the first time that the Royal Engineers have staged an exercise on the UK Rail Network for 55 years. That they have chosen the Wensleydale Line is a real feather in our cap, and shows that we are very much on not only the military radar, but also that of Network Rail.”

He said the work carried out through Operation Turnout would have cost around £200,000 and is a major boost for the line which they would not have been able to attempt without the Army. But he said there is still a cost of around £38,000 for materials and the Railway is appealing for donations to help foot the bill for the work.