Back on our railway and back into it

We’re back into the full swing of it on the VGR, with the next re-railing project now fully prepared and just awaiting the man power.

The next section will be the other leg of tangent 14-15. This time aiming for 30 rails in the two days (3 more than last time).

The pic above from the digger shows a bright light which is in fact the Y class with a wagon load of rail that is about to be unloaded.

By the close of play we’d dropped out and positioned all the rails. We’ve bolted up strings of 3 rail lengths, so we’ve got 10 strings ready to install to make up the 30. Here John takes a breather after we bolted up the last string.

While Ian drops out the last of the fish bolts. This section pictured will actually be part of the next project but as the rail was already on the wagon it was easiest to distribute it today.

Depending on weather and man power we’re hoping to tackle this on Thursday and Friday.

Drainage

Well we’d planned on spending a few hours finishing off from yesterday and heading out on the track tamping….

But that didn’t quite work out.

We blew a hose on the excavator, which largely rendered it unless! But a plan was deviced and it was fixed within a couple of hours.

In the meantime we sent the gang onto boxing up and cleaning out a drain at the UP end of two road that was obviously blocked.

After digging and digging with shovels no drain was found, but we all knew it was there somewhere. Lucky the digger came back on line around this time so some heavy duty digging was undertaken.

We found it, and broke it! Thankfully we only snapped the end off so no big issue. You can see the puddle which had formed, which had been causing that whole end of the yard to become water logged, an issue which became very obvious as we continued.

We turned our attentions to where this drain actually led.. That mystery was almost as bad as the first, with the outlet buried under 2 feet of fill.

This was cleaned out along with the drain past it, visible by the trickle of water in the background. Once we found it and flushed out the pipe the drain began to do its job.

A grating of steel sleepers was placed over the pipe to ensure it didn’t block up again, eventually we’ll come up with a permanent solution and get the sleepers back, a job for a drier time we decided.

After this success we turned our attention to the drains along 1 road.

These had been long silted up, which was causing a big issue. This drain takes away the outflow from a sump pump installed some years back to remove water from along the platform track, but the pump had been disconnected and it’s power supply removed. We reinstated the power supply and amazingly it still works.

As such it appears that between the pump not working and the drains not flowing, the track was sitting in water to about 1 inch up the sleepers.

This pic is after about half an hour of the drains and sump pump running, you can see just how much water was leeching out from the trackbed, it was all just floating, quite literally. We’d suspected it was bad yesterday when we tried to tamp in this area and didn’t received great results.

These seemingly little jobs have a big impact on the permanent way, so hopefully over the coming weeks the track will begin to dry out and it’ll prevent it sinking back to where it was before.

2 Road Maldon

Well today was a bit different, we tackled a long overdue project in Maldon. We moved number 2 road away from the platform around 8 to 12 inches.

Over time and after various works over the years, 2 road was sitting slightly too close to 1 road, this couple with the lean that was begining to form on 2 road was meaning the clearance for rolling stock was down to just a few inches.

Before destruction had begun.

Initially a narrow trench was dug along the sleeper ends, to allow the track to move.

Then using the excavator we simply pulled the track across to an approximate final location.

You can see just how far the sleepers moved in the pic above, the fresh fill at the ends has been placed in the hole to prevent the track moving back.

After lots of tweaking and lining the track was in a position we were happy with, happy enough to begin to lift the dips out at least.

Before we could go much further, 16 failed sleepers that didn’t survive the move were replaced, not a bad number really, we had anticipated twice that.

After a quick back fill of the trench, a tamp was undertaken, lifting out the massive 4 inches of crossfall.

Overall it looks and rides much better, but time just ran out to get the last tweaking done, with a couple of hours to finish off needed in the morning.

We’re a bit low on numbers tomorrow, so if you’re interested in helping out, please join us from 8am at Maldon.

Castlemaine yard

Not a big news story but we’d had a bit of the overgrown Castlemaine yard mown. It’s amazing just how good it can look with a mow.

During the week just gone while we were busy in Bendigo, our prison helpers were kept busy by having them whipper snip the long overgrown grass/weeds around Castlemaine.

Amazing what turned up! All sorts of stuff was hidden under there.

Over the next few months we’ll get back into weekend gangs at Castlemaine, with the main focus sorting out the great mess of materials lying all over the place.

Bendigo done and dusted

Well no so much dusted as it was still quite wet from recent rain, but certainly done!

It’s looking very spiffy after a tidy up.

We’d like to thank BRW for having us, it’s certainly always interesting and a nice change to work on someone else’s railway.

Bendigo – a success!

Well a big ceremony was held by the VGR and the BRW teams today when the first locomotive ran successfully over the new track!

T369 did the honours, running back forth several times to help bed in the new track. To our delight there was almost no settling, meaning a re-tamp was not required.

The excavator about to squeeze the last sleepers before the first loco.

A view through the shed towards to concrete slab. We did test run right through the shed to check the integrity of the existing track but haven’t gone onto the new concrete yet. Another week of hardening will not hurt.

The tamped but as yet un-boxed turnout.

The T doing the honours. It was completely uneventful, exactly as it should be!

After the T had passed we decided we would remove a very small dip before boxing up, it’s nice to get a job just right.

The finished job. Doesn’t it look fantastic! Unfortunately it shows up some of the old track nearby, you can notice a big dip in a pic above, that’s actually in the old siding and despite trying to give it a slight lift we decided it was best to leave the old sleepers alone rather than do any damage.

We’ll be back Tuesday to level of the remaining fill and finish off the cleanup, then back the VGR!

An enormous thankyou goes to all of our gang, they have put in a fantastic effort over the past few weeks, really going above and beyond. Our volunteers are the lifeblood of the civil branch and without them we’d be stuffed!

Bendigo

Today was massive landmark in the project, with all the trackwork complete!

By afternoon tea we had finished all of the track work and even tested it by a run through with the excavator.

The ceremonious last spikes and the group celebrating with a cheer!

There had been much pushing and pulling and tweaking to lead up this point in the day, so the group was more than relieved to drive in the last spike.

And it looks fantastic! Just a pit this isn’t on our railway really.

With the forecast of heavy rain and storms tomorrow morning, we decided we’d stay back a bit later and begin the job of back filling / ballasting before things got too wet.

The whole yard is laid in old loco ash and gravel, which over the years will have no doubt been contaminated with oils and such things, it’s safest environmentally to use the removed material as the ballast, thus containing any issues to the existing location. It is actually remarkably clean, with quite good aggregate size, no clay contamination and very little organic matter. With a good tamp and some rain it’ll compact up very nicely, just as it was before.

In a site like this with very minimal drainage, we also run the risk of ending up with a large swimming pool if we’d chosen to use rock ballast, as getting the required fall across the site to drain our excavations would be a massive job.

The excavator does around 90% of the spreading and levelling, with only a bit of shovelling needed around the turnout.

This pic shows off just how well the curve and turnout came out, we are extremely proud.

With the exception of tamping and a bit of a clean up, the job is essentially completed on time! We expect to run a test locomotive over the works tomorrow to help bed in the new turnout and settle any soft spots, allowing time for a final tamp if required before we leave the site.