The now devastated Dawlish stretch of railway that runs along the sea wall is one of the most beautiful sections of the UK rail network. Designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it opened in 1847 and follows tidal waters for 13 miles – four miles of sea, and nine miles alongside the Rivers Exe and Teign – on the main Exeter-Plymouth route.
The sea, though, has been pounding the stone walling that has supported this vital rail link for generations, finally winning its battle in conjunction with the raging storms seen over the last few weeks, creating a breach that left three sections of track dangling, and the homes behind threatened with collapse; effectively cutting off the West Country.
At Plastic Surgeon, as a national repair specialist, with our headquarters based just 20 miles down the line, we know how vital communication links are; as well as what a challenge Network Rail faces in reinstating the structure. For although we specialize in cosmetic repair, we frequently work with builders, civil engineers and even stonemasons on some very substantial old buildings. They address the heavy duty construction tasks and leave us to deal with issues such as colour matching or the reinstatement of detailing, including lettering or motifs.
Other elements we frequently carry out include window cills, copings and mullions as well as marble or granite kitchen worktops – filling in gouges and scratches – while the same is possible for fire places and slate flooring or stone tiles. Our stone repair techniques involve filling the damaged areas with our ultra-premium fillers, smoothing back to the level of the original profile, and then colour matching by mixing stains and pigments so that the stone repair is barely discernible to the naked eye.
Back outside, meanwhile, we have had to dispatch a team of our Finishers to a hotel on the South Coast where the aggressive marine climate and wind driven rain had eroded a stone balustrade to the point it was becoming unsafe. Sometimes the damage has been caused by the freeze-thaw effect of water in the pores to natural stone; then also our Finishers deal with all the pock marks and stains on building façades which show up when signage has been removed or replaced – leaving holes that need our expertise.
With more rain and storms predicted for the rest of this month, we urge homeowners, contractors, builders and facility managers to look carefully at any damage done to stone, in whatever way, because our stone repair techniques are more cost-effective than replacement, cause less disruption and will take much less time. In addition, our repair process uses specialist products that can be used in wet conditions, on wet as well as damp stones. Thus meaning that work can continue, even in the worst of British weather. We might not be able to repair the sea wall at Dawlish, but we can repair just about any size or type of stone that has been chipped, scratched, cracked or eroded.