Curve 8

Another busy day concrete sleepering.

Unfortunately not all our plans came off, with our regular assistants from Middleton Prison having to call in sick at the 11th hour.

We did however still achieve an enormous amount. We had hoped to finish the whole curve this week but it’ll only take a day to complete it next week now.

As the screws had been removed on Tuesday, only this one damaged screw required attention. Sleepers were also distributed and pads installed on Tuesday.

We tried a couple of small differences today, the first being our new shovel measurer… A simple bit of 50mm RHS welded on the end of one of our broken shovels, bent to this shape. It removes the need for the wooden blocks. It actually worked really well and certainly sped things up.

While the lifting was happening, all jewellery was distributed as well as the old collected and removed.

Morning tea shows the gang well and truly enjoying a relax. It wasn’t overly hot but the humidity was high.

Another alteration was using the digger to hold up the sleepers while the first inner biscuit was installed and clipped. This saved a lot of manpower, probably not quicker but it was better use of our workforce.

This was followed up by the gauger and small crew installing the other inner biscuit and clip.

We didn’t install any of the outer biscuits until much later which certainly sped up proceedings.

By 2pm we’d inserted and started the clipping of all 78 that we’d set out to do so we started installing the outer biscuits and clips and achieved around 20 before we knocked off.

The last clip of the day going on, a nice feeling knowing we’d achieved so much and still had tomorrow to finish off.

We’ll be back tomorrow finishing off the clipping then sorting the removed sleepers and bundling the reusable one. Meet Maldon 8am or site from 8.30am.

Sleepers and Rail

Another good day on the track, with 176 concrete sleepers dropped out in various places for the next few jobs.

The afternoon was spent preparing more 80lb rail.

34 lengths were prepared and loaded onto a wagon. These will be for the UP leg near Bendigo Road.

Next week will be another big one, with our aim being to install at least 100 of the 124 concretes needed in curve 8. It’s success is largely due to any preparation we can do on Tuesday, so any extra hands Tuesday would be very greatly appreciated.

Castlemaine Yard

With the impending arrival of ‘The Royal Train’ (check out for details) we have brought forward out next round of sleepers required in Castlemaine Yard.

Only 27 were needed and none were critical, however it’ll ensure we don’t need to divert our busy gang from its other tasks while hosting the visiting train over the next few months.

It was all just done in the usual way, but being a bit more fiddly than usual due to all the things that get in the way in yards! The scarifier was used in most locations, with the digger handling those that it couldn’t.

We even had to do some delicate hand digging for some timbers near the signal box, interlaced with all the point rodding and signal cables.

All of which went perfectly to plan.

We only have available 2nd hand timber, some of which won’t see all that many years, however it will tide us over comfortably until we can find the time to do a more thorough rebuilt / referb of the yard as our use of it grows.

It was a very successful day, with all 27 replaced and all the tidying up completed.

We had thought it might take us into tomorrow, however we’re now going to distribute concrete sleepers, ready for next week. Meeting Maldon at 8am or curve 8 (near boundary track crossing) from about 8.30am.

Muckleford Yard

Only 16 sleepers replaced in Muckleford yard today. A pretty good effort for our little crew.

Most of them were in the UP end of 1 road, just replacing life expired. It’s the first time we’ve done timber in a while and it’s seems like ridiculously hard work compared with the concrete! However we didn’t have enough people to bring all our kit down so we did some of it the hard way.

Most of what we removed came out in kit form… So well and truly due, however all surrounding timber is in very good condition which is nice.

Some final tamping in a week or two once it’s settled a little will see this end of the yard as good as new! We might even get the wiggle through the dock road turnout out if we get time (there’s no rush, it’s only been like that for almost 25 years).

Next week will be the same but in Castlemaine yard, nothing is urgent in there but while we’ve got the gear on the trucks it’s a good time to do another few.

Curve 12

It would seem we’ve got our concrete sleepering skills in peak condition, as we managed to install 56 sleepers before lunch time!

This time however a fair amount of preparation was undertaken in the days before. The sleepers were dug out on one end, screws were removed and the new sleepers distributed closely to their eventual homes. This was done on Monday and Tuesday in quite warm conditions.

However this morning was a delightful 3 degrees! Autumn is finally here.

As the screws were already out, the lifting and tamping was underway first off, with Clive being the important block kicker-underer.

In no time the old was on its way out, while all the jewellery was distributed. The concrete sleepers beside the track look quite impressive, showing that we really mean business.

Rolf had the scarifier going today, amazing what a new battery will do!

Before morning tea the last of the new sleepers were under the track.

As this was all done so quickly we had time to tamp up most of the concretes before they were clipped, this makes an enormous difference to the speed of the operation, as the clipping occurs at twice the normal rate once the sleepers are tamped.

As the ballast scraping and final tamping only takes the digger and one pair of eyes, the rest of the gang moved on to Muckleford.

We’re due for a few replacements at the UP end of 1 road. However the fish plates there prohibited the use of sleeper plates which is less than ideal, so we changed the plates.

The old plates are out beside Mal and the new are on. There are some strange hole spacings in some of these rails, so we had to use a mixture of plates to get around these issues.

Will and Clive inspect an instance where sleeper plates could have been installed, but weren’t (likely because they just weren’t available at the time). This will be corrected during tomorrow’s re-sleepering.

Please feel free to join us tomorrow, we’re fairly light on for numbers so any extra hands would be appreciated.

Bridge Work and More Sleepers

Another big day for the gang, with two major jobs tackled.

A further 21 concrete sleepers were installed into curve 10 while the decking on Sawmill Road Bridge was secured.

The past few days has been securing the decking on Rifle Range and Winters Flat Bridges (yes every piece of decking on that massive bridge has had this treatment!). Today was Sawmill Road’s turn. The issue can be seen in the above pic, the decking had begun to wander out in places.

The issue is very easily rectified… With a digger. But it isn’t a solution, so a solution was devised.

By drilling through the runner and into each piece of decking, a screw could be installed to prevent any movement.

Winters Flat was such a big job we even purchased a battery powered impact wrench to help, much lighter than any alternative.

The finished product, a simple solution to a irritating problem.

To reach 90% of the bridges we needed this beast, as any other option was just impossible.

While half the gang was playing bridges, the remainder played sleepers.

Exactly the same process as last week, this time without any breakdowns.

Today saw 21 concrete sleepers installed, which was actually 2 more than required to complete the curve, but they were left over and it seemed appropriate to just keep going.

Again the scarifier wasn’t available, so the mud bucket was called upon. If it didn’t tie up the machine, this method would be the quickest and easiest, but it really takes the digger away from its critical jobs of removing and inserting sleepers.

Some fine tuning by eye and tamper left us with another fantastic curve.

We’re yet to sort the old sleepers and grade them for re-use, but otherwise the job here is complete. Onwards to the next curve, with will occur next week on curve 12, between Farmers and Walmer Rd Bridges.

Tomorrow will be some final bridge work at Muckleford creek, which will likely see a close to bridge work for this season, of which a busy and productive season it has been.

Meet Maldon 8am or Muckleford Creek from 8.30am.

Concrete Sleepers

Another 26 concrete sleepers were installed today into curve 10.

Unfortunately the day was plagued with breakdowns, our trusty old scarifier just wouldn’t start, we broke a bracket that connects one of the tamping tynes to the tamper and a rattle gun decided it didn’t want to play ball either!

Despite all that we still found ways to work around all the issues and have completely installed all 26 sleepers, only 19 left to go into this curve now.

We’ll be doing a mix of bridge work and the rest of these sleepers next week, so if you’ve got a free day any day next week please feel free to join us.


Some quick pics of Riley from the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group hard at work completing the painting on our QR wagon this afternoon.

The old faithful QB’s haven’t been forgotten either, the other will receive this attention next week.

The repaint and bit of TLC while at the workshop has made a world of difference to not only the appearance of this vital Civil Rolling Stock, but it helps demonstrate how we’re trying to maintain our equipment to ensure its around for many years of service.