Rail Prep and Re-sleepering

Two tasks were tackled today, preparing more 80lb rail and replacing sleepers in 3 road at Muckleford.

The day began with the rail preparation, in the usual manner of laying them out for either drilling or cutting.

Some close up pics of the rail drill, a very cleaver piece of equipment, making the job of drilling holes rather easy.

Here Rolf, the master of the rail saw, shows us how its done.

We end up with heaps of these little off cuts, they make good anvils if you’re ever in need of one.

While there we also staked some more of the shorter rails in a pile, these are not desirable in the running line, but we’ll likely use them in yards as time goes on. Here the excavator is putting out sleepers as bearers for the rails to sit on.

Normally we’d stack the rails straight onto the well wagons, but as they’re both loaded with concrete sleepers ready for our next jobs, the rails were placed in a nice stack for loading next time.

Once the rails were under control we moved onto the sleepers in 3 road. It’s been a few years since a sleeper cycle was done through here but it should be right for a few years now.

The gang all mucked in as usual, using the gauger and various tools to spike up the sleepers.

A quick tamp saw them fit for traffic and while we had the tamper out some sunken track near the goods shed was corrected.

30 sleepers we installed in total, not a bad number considering a similar number of rails were prepared also.

A quick run over with the bucket to tidy up the dislodged ballast and fill the voids left the job looking more mainline than siding!

This effort is to ensure the siding is fit to house the Victorian Colonial Express during the upcoming Mucklefest weekend, head to vgr.com.au to check out the details.

As tomorrow is a public holiday the usual Friday gang will not be running.

We’ll be back into the swing next week however, with the plan to test install 100 concretes under some 60lb!

Finishing off

Today was a finishing off day on the recently re-railing track. First off was clipping up a few more steel sleepers followed by lifting and tamping.

We even squeezed in a jewellery collection run. Here Bruce and John do the honours of placing the spikes, screws and plates left over from the re-railing into the bucket.

A first round of ballast scraping was undertaken to allow some jacking and tamping to remove a few dips and some cross fall.

By Lunch we’d lifted all the dips and regulated the ballast, leaving us with a very good looking piece of track.

While in the swing of tamping we removed a few significant dips from the nearby 60lb section, this is a before view showing the type of thing we were removing.

After lunch 3 road Muckleford became the focus, with around 15 sleepers removed ready for renewal later in the week. With the upcoming Mucklefest special trains due to be placed into 3 road we thought it was a good time to get a few jobs done to make sure it’ll be right to be used.

The gang will be out again this Thursday, preparing rails at Muckleford and changing sleepers. Meeting Maldon 8am.

More re-railing

Back into the re-railing today, with the other leg now finish.

Another 8 x 80lb rails were installed, same place as yesterday but this time on the UP leg.

By 9.15am we had all the 60lb unfastened and on its way out. The cloud of dust in the distance is John using the blower to clear dirt and stones away from the sleepers before we move the new rail in.

Unspiked and about to be removed, a view towards the end of the worksite.

The spiking up process, same as yesterday (1 in 3, then a quick tamp before finishing the drilling and spiking), was again completed by lunch, leaving some time in the afternoon to cut the closure rail and replace some very life expired sleepers. Above is during the tamping cycle before the next round of spiking .

The closure rail having holes drilled after being cut to length, with Rolf and Trevor accurately lining up the rail drill. As the 80lb rails aren’t all the exact same length we did end up with a slightly different finish point for the new rails, which can be seen when compared to the rails behind.

But the main after lunch activity was replacing 15 very poor sleepers.

All 15 were replaced using steel sleepers fastened up with Pandrol fittings, we’re hoping over time to introduce a lot more steel sleepers into our straight track to give us strong gauge holding and reduce timber sleeper replacements.

Remove the timber and inserting the steel is incredibly fast, taking only a few minutes to do all 15!

However the clipping up process can take a slightly longer time than drilling and spiking a timber sleeper. A trade off which is worth the hassle considering the expected life span of the steel (50+ years).

As the steel, much like concrete, are very low tolerance when it come to gauge, we did need to use the gauger on some as even a few mm either way can make installing the fastenings a real struggle.

Here Trevor uses the pandrol applicator to start the clip, while Neville knocks the clip in using a hammer. A combination of both seems to work best with steel sleepers. While in the background John lifts the next sleeper in preparation.

The sleepers all clipped up and doing their job. This was followed by some boxing up and tamping of the new sleepers.

After yet another excellent days work, we were well and truly exhausted, but very proud of our efforts.

There’s a few odd jobs to tend to early next week, such as tidying up and regulating the ballast, likely to occur on Monday or Tuesday, so if you’d like to come check it out while lending a hand early next week please contact Will on ganger@vgr.com.au

Re-railing Tangent 15-16

A good start was made on Tangent 15-16 today, with the down leg from Curve 15 to Donkey Farm Track completed.

It was a relatively small job, only 8 x 80lb rails required today, but we have had minimal opportunity to prepare.

A wagon of rails was deposited on site late Wednesday afternoon by the last train. So first task this morning was laying out the rails needed for the Down Leg (right rail in pic above).

This took only a short time and as soon as they were out, the crew was into unfastening the 60lb.

Here John and Will discuss tactics, before the first spikes are pulled.

In no time the 60 was out and the 80 was going in. By morning tea we’d manage to remove all the 60lb and bolt together most the 80lb.

After a cuppa, we began the spiking, first gauging and drilling, followed by the spiking hammer. Here Bruce hangs onto the drill. We seemed to race through this, although only 1 in 3 at this stage, it still seemed to be achieved with time to spare!

Proceedings halted a little when it came to cutting in the closure rail before the level crossing. Unfortunately this process is always fiddly and takes some time to get right.

The gang in their various activities involved with the closure rail, bolting up junction plates, installing sleeper plates and all the associated bits and pieces.

But by lunch this was done. And for a good reason!

A K class steam engine had turned up. Hence a need to ensure we could run over our works!

It was no accident, or indeed for any other purpose than to simply return our rail wagon to Muckleford. We are currently without a Y class diesel, owing to some repairs being undertaken, so when we asked for a locomotive to move a wagon, we were delighted when we were offered the K.

The eagle eyed will note the K in the background, we had in fact ordered the engine to arrive about 10 minutes too early, not bad timing considering the 4 hours light up required to get it there! But we did have to distribute the rails required for the other leg. So the K had to wait until this was done.

A few views of the excavator doing all the hard work here. The power of those grabs is very evident on the pic above, able to lift a 45 foot rail off a wagon without any hesitation.

Once all rails were out, the K was brought gently through the worksite to dispose of the wagon.

Will about to head in between to connect the hose bags for the run down to Muckleford.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a steam engine out on a works train! It was a very pleasant experience.

The wagon was promptly dropped at Muckleford before the K ventured home.

Again the K had to wait to pass over the worksite, as those who hadn’t gone for the joyride got stuck into tamping the new works.

But before long the steam engine was waved goodbye and works resumed.

After a quick afternoon tea the drilling and spiking resumed, with ever sleeper fastened up.

Giving us a very nice result. This section was in fact very rough riding. Due largely to very crippled rail ends, hence why both legs are being tackled over the short distance.

Tomorrow will see the other side completed, unfortunately without a visit from a steam engine, but never the less it should be another great day out in the bush.

Rail Preparation

With two full gangs (Thurs and Fri) predicted for later this week and good weather we’ll be re-railing a section of Tangent 15-16.

So we spent today busily preparing for it. Sleeper plates and dog spikes were distributed, where needed and brought up from Muckleford.

The main part of today was preparing enough rails to do the work, of which we managed to prepare more than needed.

It should be a great couple of days out on the track gang!

Tamping and Regulating

After a solid days work with our crew of 5, we’ve tamped all the sleepers and regulated the ballast between Midland Hwy and Maclise St.

The day began with a collection of jewellery left over from yesterday.

Followed by lots of ballast regulating (scraping) to provide sufficient rock to tamp and fill in the voids.

After morning tea, began the tamping, with every sleeper requiring a tamp through here as well as some sections of dips being jacked.

The result is a brilliant looking curve! One we hope will now be strong for many years to come.

Some final boxing up with the digger gave us a very tidy result, looks like a mainline!

We would expect this section to comfortably survive in its current condition for at least 2 years, after which another round of sleepers will be likely.

The gang will be out again on Tuesday, preparing the 80lb rails at Muckleford that we didn’t get time to get to today. Please come along if your free, any extra hands make a big difference.

Concrete Sleepers

Well as promised we successfully installed 80 concrete sleepers between Midland Hwy and Maclise St.

It was a reasonably hard days work, mainly as the temperature was above freezing and we’ve all acclimatised to the cold!

The day began at Midland Hwy, after the usual parade of equipment was taken to site.

The marked sleepers were unfastened (real mix of screws and dogs through here) and removed from the track.

The above pics show the general quality of the sleepers removed.

The sacarifier followed behind, cleaning the way for the next sleepers. Without this piece of equipment the job would be very time consuming and labour intensive.

Once a nice clean channel was available for the concrete, they were promptly installed.

The excavator did all the heavy lifting, ensuring the sleepers were as close as possible to their final position.

Installing the correct biscuits (spacers) and clipping up followed closely behind. We did find our gauge was in places slightly wide (still within tolerance but concrete sleepers require exact gauge and have little to no tolerance) so our gauging tools were needed. Here the clipping crew adjusts gauge to get the clips on.

The gauger (old style manual one) and a clipped up concrete sleeper.

By the afternoon the novelty of the manual gauger had worn thin and the hydraulic gauger was employed. This section was generally not a big issue but the gauger just made it so much easier.

Here the gang, after inserting all the sleepers, is clipping up the last of the days efforts.

We even had a new volunteer join the gang today, Bruce. We’d like to say a big thank you to Bruce for joing us and we look forward to having him back next week.

A closeup of a clip being installed while the gauger hold everything in place.

And finished! Well for today anyhow. It was a big learning curve installing these with the full gang for the first time. We’ve learnt a lot for next time, but overall we’re very happy with the progress.

A massive thanks to everyone in the gang for giving it their all today. There will be a lot more of this happening over the coming months, so please if you’re available come and along and see what’s really involved.

We’ll be out here again tomorrow to finish off, with the tamping and ballast regulating yet to be completed.