Finishing touches

As promised, today saw lots of drilling and spiking but we knocked that over quite quickly so we spent the afternoon lifting and tamping our latest efforts. The call for help yesterday was answered and an excellent gang was on hand.

We set off this morning to test our new drill, but very quickly decided it’s still missing a bit…. The bit that helps centre the drill in the hole of the sleeper plate. So we abandoned mission very quickly so as not to damage too many drill bits.

We were hampered somewhat by showers during the morning, but only giving up during the worst of it however. Here the spiker is about to be fired up. All the holes down to near the trucks have been drilled with spikes started.

A bit of a jump in time and the drilling was finished with the spiking well under way. Here Trevor hangs onto the hammer nearing the end of the job.

The hammer in action, although it vibrates quite a bit it is actually quite easy to use. Lunch time was called at 12.02pm just as the last dog spike was driven in.

After lunch a quick emu parade to collect all the jewellery was undertaken. This job takes about 5 minutes with a crew of this size and about half a day with only two!

Tamping was next on the agenda, to remove the excessive cant that had come about from settling and tamping during the previous works. Through this process the dips were also removed. Here the jacks are installed at appropriate intervals to lift the rail evenly, we started by lifting the dips from the outside or high leg followed by raising the low leg to the correct level.

It’s a bit hard to appreciate the vast improvement just from the picture but before the lift this scene was much more reminiscent of a roller coaster.

A profile pic of the jacking, showing some of the dips we were aiming to remove.

The finish product is actually very impressive, Pete certainly thinks so!

No jobs finished without some tidying up. Largely aesthetic here but it certainly makes these curves look to be a very high standard for a tourist railway.

By the afternoon the sun was shining, the rain long gone and the temperature very comfortable, excellent conditions to end yet another outstanding week’s work.

Timing is everything, just as the gates were locked after putting away the vehicles, the rains returned rather spectacularly, back lit by the fading sun.

Not only is a day out on the track always a great achievement, it’s often a very enjoyable experience all around.

Last bit Tangent 14-15

We’ll today saw the last 19 80lb rails installed in Tangent 14-15.

We set sail with out trusty fleet from a slightly warmer than usual Maldon, it was already 2 or 3 degrees today, much warmer than recent mornings.

We were hit with a light rain shower around 10 so decided this was the perfect morning tea time.

We’d almost finish pulling spikes on the 60lb by then and had started slewing the 80lb across.

Morning tea was in the truck, to avoid the rain and it took no time at all for Clive’s warm coffee to fog up the windows.

After lunch and the spiking hammer shows where works had progressed to. We have only spiked 1 in 3 today, enough to still run a train if we do run into any trouble tomorrow.

It’s hard to see where we started but it’s about 4 rail lengths in front of the truck.

Of course, without fail our new rails fell only inches short of the existing 80lb on the bridge! So we decided we would actually use an additional new piece of 80 and remove some of the lower quality rail (all that was available at the time) that was on the bridge.

Here Rolf cuts the existing rail to length.

Rail cut and just awaiting the rolling in of the new length. These plates are from the 80lb already on the bridge and as they were holding the rail to the correct gauge it was a waste to remove them, so just one spike was pulled allowing for the old rail out and the new in!

Afternoon tea and job almost finished, well today’s part anyhow.

After a quick tamp to lift low sleepers for drilling as well as bolting in the last rail, we packed up camp, here the truck and trollies are making their way back to the crossing for loading onto the truck.


Using the excavator the gear is craned carefully onto the back of our small crane truck. We have quite a few toys these days so this process does take a little while.


We’ll be out again tomorrow to finish off the drilling and spiking, but we’ll be testing out our new sleeper drill! So check back to see how we go.

It’s looking fairly light on numbers tomorrow so any extra hands would be appreciated, even just to help carry tools and fuel is a real weight off our small gangs shoulders. Maldon from 8am or on site from 8.30am.

Preparation again and sleepers

Today was a mixed bag, very quick preparation in the morning followed by some re-sleepering in the arvo.

Before we kicked off today, same place as yesterday, we drove out the gear ready to bolt up the rails dropped out.

We had four of us today, so the bolting up took no time at all. Using two rattle guns and the truck as a work platform, we’d bolted up 12 joints by morning tea!

Again we bolted them into strings of 3, to allow moving later on if required. Here we have the bolting completed and we’re moving strings into their approximate locations.

A job we normally don’t get time to do in the preparation is clearing rocks and debris from around the dog spikes, this is needed to give access when removal of the fastenings.

Some hand shovel work with a quick blow from the blower was undertaken and should free up a couple of people on job day!

After lunch we tended a patch of poor sleepers discovered last week, they were hanging in there but the recent rains have seen to their failure.

The 3 sleepers above (the ones without spikes for plates) we’re the problems and as they’re on a curve, we thought we would test out some more concretes.

We used a different method again here! Digging out the old timber and scraping away the ballast of all 3 sleepers.

As the concretes are a long term solution, we want to get them right first time, as such we measured the exactly locations for the sleepers and discovered where there was 3, there should have been 4. So 4 were installed.

We placed all 4 in between the rails parallel with them, then while jacking the rails, the sleepers were rotated into position.

All of this was actually done using the pallet forks! As we didn’t have the boots for the grab jaws at hand. Overall, although not the reccomended method, the pallet forks and some fine-tuning with the bucket did a great job! Not a scratch to the concrete.

Just prior to clipping up, Tony admires the feat we had just achieved. This method will lend itself very well to cuttings.

Tony and John clipping up the sleepers, this process is incredibly fast compared to spiking, especially now we’ve got the hang of it.

No tamper at hand today, so we jumped on the hydraulic hand tampers (a job you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy) and packed them.

We’re very interested to see how we go here, the ballast is largely gravel, with some rock so it’ll be interesting to see just how they perform.

Some tidy up and they look very smart, this sort of long term infrastructure is a trend we’d like to see all over the railway.

Today’s gang Rolf, Tony, John and Will’s silhouette, admiring their efforts, very impressed and proud of how easy it actually was!

We’ll be out again this Thursday and Friday, keep an eye on the blog for what we do as our plan is to re-rail but the weather is hinting otherwise…

More Preparation

No sooner is one section finished than the next is started.

Today involved removing the old jewellery from last week’s works, scraping clear the 5 foot for rails as well as dropping rails out.

Here with jewellery collected and rock scraped aside, the excavator awaits the arrival of a train, with a wagon of rails attached!

The Y was out on a driver experience trip today, so the opportunity was taken for them to collect the rail wagon at Muckleford and propel it back to the worksite.

After dropping off the wagons (the 2nd was just because it got in the way!) the train departs for Castlemaine.

The rails being dragged off the wagons using the grabs, we’ve discovered that by sliding the rails almost off the wagon, lowering one end then lifting it off with the grabs allows us to lower the rails without dropping them, preventing damaged to them, the track or anything else likely to be in the firing line!

After the wagons had been put away by the returning train and it had run through to Maldon, the next section to be re-railed was scraped ready to receive its new rails.

This is just around the corner from the current works, in tangent 15-16 near Donkey Farm Track. This section has incredibly crippled (permanently bent) rail joints so is a high priority for new rails.

While out with the bucket the drains recieved a scrape too, they weren’t too bad but as always prevention is better than a cure.

Clean drains and scrapped ballast, just awaiting the new rails!

We’ll be out with a crew again tomorrow, bolting up those rails distributed today. Meet us at Maldon from 8 or out on site from 8.30.

Closing the gap

Today was full steam ahead into the small section of 60lb left in tangent 14-15 (it’s actually the very slight reverse curves leading to the bridge but very nearly a straight so we refer to it as a tangent most of the time). The up or north leg is this week’s job, with the down leg to follow very shortly.

The team having a good look at their efforts! The foreground is the occupation crossing which has been dug up to allow the re-railing to occur.

Right at the start of works, the rattle gun ready to pull screws, the spike puller in the background and the 80lb in the centre ready to go in.

The 60 starting to come out, with the 80 awaiting pushing across into place.

A couple of Norm, Bazz and Pete as they discuss and pose with the spiking hammer.

Some ‘wheel eye views’ of the spiker in action, working towards the camera driving in the spikes on the way.

The rail through the crossing all spiked down, thankfully the joint is ‘just’ out of crossing, important for bolt tightening later on.

Here Colin admires the joining of the newly installed rail to the existing 80lb over the bridge.

Which means we have retrieved two sets of junction fish plates, always nice to have a few more on hand.

The obligatory lunch time shots, Norm was obviously feeling camera shy so tried hiding by the truck.

By the close of play today all 16 lengths were dogged down and bolted up with only a little over half of them to be tamped up tomorrow for job finished! The gang will be out again tomorrow though, meeting at Maldon from 8 am or back here from 8.30.

Thanks to Bruce for today’s pictures.

Re-railing prep

Out again this week re-railing. Today was material distributing and preparation to speed things up Thursday and Friday.

First off we set about removing anchors, steel sleeper fastenings and digging out the occupation crossing.

Here Rolf wanders back after dropping out fish bolts.

By lunch we’d drop out all the needed materials and bolted up the rails into lengths of 3. This will be one of our smaller jobs, with only 16 lengths required here.

After the preparations we set about finishing off a few odd jobs, first off was fastening down some steel sleepers that happened to be under joints, not the easiest process but it can done. Here Rolf and John tighten up the last bolt, with a spanner as the rattle gun won’t fit on with the panadol clip in the way. Eventually with resleepering these will be adjusted to remove these problems.

Then onto the exciting job of picking up the old jewellery, the team last week had kindly placed it in piles which made the job much easier.

One job still hanging over from last week was boxing up around the concrete sleepers.

After some ballast regulating with the mud bucket and a bit of shovelling, we have it looking very tidy.

We’ll be out here again this Thursday and Friday to get these 80lb rails in, please feel free to come along and help out.

Finishing off

We were back into the job today, finishing off the spiking and fastening up the steel sleepers.

Right at the start of work, with the drilling well under way the spike driver was also in fill swing trying to keep up, just to mix things up we decided to work up the hill…. Made for slightly harder work but not overly.

Here looking back the job, with two drillers and one standing the dog spikes racing up the hill. The eagle eyed will note the Y class in the distance, we bought that down for later on, but it marks where we reached yesterday with the spiking.

These pics show a view further up the hill, yet to be spiked but after a quick cuppa we raced through this section.

By about 11.30 we had all the spiking complete.

The finished product! You can see that the right hand rail is still rusty, with a busy weekend of trains forecast this will look like its always been there on Monday.

Here’s a pic right at the bottom of the hill showing the next section to be re-railed, which will be next week.

The purpose of the Y class was to bring out a wagon of rails, which you can see here have been placed out right down to the bridge, ready for next week.

A last couple of pics showing off what we’ve achieved and what will be achieved next week.

We will be out preparing for this on Tuesday and could really use an extra pair of hands, so please let Will know via ganger@vgr.com.au if you’re able to help out.