Located just outside York’s ancient city wall lies the York Engineers’ Triangle, so called as it was the location of a triangular track used for turning engines. The site was selected by Network Rail as the location for one of its 12 Rail Operating Centres with York set to be the largest in the country and will house the latest technology to manage and control the rail network. Prior to construction, the track was removed by the project and replaced by a newly installed refurbished turntable located nearby, leaving the well-preserved foundations of the three ‘roundhouse’ and one straight Victorian engine sheds.
York Triangle’s former use was as a maintenance depot from 1840’s until 1963. Despite the depot’s disuse and demolition in the 1960’s, significant remains of one straight engine shed and three ‘roundhouses’, in which locomotives were stabled in stalls radiating from a central turntable, survived below ground. These provide an important archaeological record of our railway heritage and a valuable asset for future generations. Ramboll’s archaeologists undertook archaeological investigations, which enabled the mapping, evaluation, recording and interpretation of the remains and informed an innovative programme of foundation design by Ramboll archaeological consultants and engineers who were tasked with maximising the preservation of the historic fabric below the new scheme.
Through collaborating with the City of York Council’s (CYC) Archaeologist and the innovative design, 95% of the archaeological remains were left intact as required by the local authority. The foundation design went far beyond standard practice to preserve the historic foundations.
To assist Ramboll engineers in the foundations design, Ramboll’s archaeologists’ findings were recorded in an intelligent preservation model. This model ranked the importance and value of each element of the archaeological remains, which then informed the substructure design. This innovative method of compiling the data enabled the engineers who were tasked with designing the foundations to treat each pile location individually and trial bespoke individual foundation designs for each location, enabling the formulation of a solution tailored to each one. A new process of designing piled foundations was required so that the substructure could support the new development above ground, but divert its load paths around the Victorian structures’ remains below.
New Rail Operating & Training Centre
The new operating and training centre incorporating classrooms, signalling simulators, internal and external training tracks and a welding training facility. These national centres have been designed to provide a state-of-the-art learning environment to meet the challenges of running a modern rail system. The facility in York also has the potential to train up to 200 delegates at any given time.
York’s continued prominence on the East Coast Main Line made it an obvious choice for investment into the new ‘Very Good’ BREEAM rated rail operating and training centre that was achieved through a number of measures, including the installation of Tri-generation CCHP units, used to provide power and cooling with residual bi-product heat used for space heating in the Training Centre. This unique combination provides for circa 23% on-site generation of renewable energy. Roof lights, internal atriums and sun-pipes have all been incorporated to provide natural light deep into the floor plates. Exterior green walls and brown roofs have been utilised to propagate insect habitats, and the brown roofs also mitigate rainwater run-off. Recycled materials have been utilised in both landscaping and structural elements with exemplar recycled content in the specification of internal finishes and fittings.
Technology of the 21st Century preserving 19th century history
The creation of the largest of Network Rail’s twelve Rail Operating Centres above the preserved the railway heritage on site was made possible by the innovative use of the latest tools and techniques, and a collaboration that has focussed on delivering the best outcome to preserve the site’s heritage, all of which has enabled new technology of the 21st century to safeguard the archaeological remains of architecturally important structures of the 19th century, whilst creating a building that will serve many future generations, earning the work carried out on the site’s archaeology an innovation credit.