Last two days

The past two days have been very odd jobsy days.

Yesterday started out by cleaning up all our piled up jewellery beside the line. This is all from our recent re-railing efforts.

The items were sorted into drums, making re-use, storage or disposal much easier.

With all hands on deck, the team raced through the piles in the bush. Overall looking a much tidier line-side.

Some scrap and various items around Muckleford were also picked up, to help clean up for Mucklefest, which is this weekend so why not check it out. Details on the VGR website.

The dreaded job of dog spike sorting took us up to lunch. It’s hard work fishing the spikes out of piles like this, but we have filled two drums, which will well and truly cover our next re-railing effort.

The typical lunch ritual took place in Castlemaine, finding any shade available. The sun’s certainly starting to show its strength with hats and sunscreen now an essential.

Our trip into Castlemaine wasn’t just for lunch, it was to complete the cleaning up along the platform that we hadn’t quite finished Monday.

Lots of exciting shovel work here from the gang, but the end result certainly looks very presentable.

The digger was aiding where possible, however it unfortunately isn’t the neest close to the rail as damage to the fastenings and sleepers is possible, hence the shovel work in those areas.

The last 80 years of built up debris along the platform edge was starting to get a bit overwhelming. So delicately scooping it out with the bucket has brough the levels back to where they should. Unfortunately no one ever sees down there, except for us.

Today’s efforts were all focused around distributing more concrete sleepers at curves 8 and 9. This took up the majority of the day, with about 175 sleepers dropped out.

This view is from the Y along the train on the way to the drop out.

Next week will be back into re-sleepering with concrete. Hopefully completing curve 9. Tuesday will be a workday in preparation for this, as we learn from last time a lot could be done to speed up the process. Meeting Maldon 8am

Castlemaine… Exciting news

It was a big day today…. We have been successful in our efforts to secure $500,000 from the state government for the redevelopment of the Castlemaine locomotive and carriage shed precinct!! A massive bonus for the railway. – Check out the Press Release

All the details will come out in due course so keep an eye on the VGR website for the details.

A special train was run from Castlemaine Station down to the turntable for the announcment. During all the excitement of the announcement, the gang ceased their duties of boxing up to enjoy a cuppa. Here John and Ian enjoy the shade while the special train simmers in the background.

Although very exciting, the gang didn’t let the news prevent works occurring. The day began with some boxing up and removal of excess fill from against the platform edge. It still needs a tidy up with some shovels but it’s starting to look much better.

We had our prison workforce hard at work again today, on the brush cutters. The yard is looking absolutely stunning now! Which is a great thing considering how much work will be going on here over the coming months.

We managed to tie in a small ballast drop towards the end of today. After we lifted and tamped curve 5 (just on the down side of Winters Flat Bridge) we found we’d used up most of the available ballast, however mainly in just one spot.

The bigger issue was the ballast shoulder was insufficient to prevent the track from moving in this particular spot, it had in fact pulled into a slight flat.

With summer approaching the last thing we want is to deal with a heat buckle, so after lining, a good dose of rock was added and spread to hold the track firmly in place.

It’s been a busy few months on the track gang and as such we haven’t managed to completely tidy up after every job. But this Thursday and Friday will see all that taken care of. So please join us at Maldon station at 8am and we’ll get back on top of our mess before we get into our next big job!

More sleepering

More sleeper works around Castlemaine yard yesterday.

We only actually installed about 8 more sleepers, but lots of other odd jobs were tended to.

The high legs (outside leg) of these curves were starting to show signs of working. The timber is still in quite good condition, so we installed sleeper plates under all outside rails to strengthen the curves.

Plates under but drilling and spiking still to be done.

Using the gauger to ensure we achieved correct gauge right through the curve.

Installing the few sleepers we did change. This was using the same method as the previous day.

Spiking up the last of the replaced timber.

That amount of work certainly called for a well earned lunch break.

Rubbish collection was amongst the jobs undertaken. Unfortunately Castlemaine Station area is not always well treated by the public, meaning our tireless volunteers have to step up to mark to keep the railway looking respectable.

The afternoon consisted of cleaning up all the old sleepers. As we already had a loco and train at Castlemaine we thought we’d make use of it to speed up the process.

By lifting the bigger bits onto the wagon using the excavator on the parallel track, the gang raced through the cleanup as only the small bits needed man handling.

A quick scrape with the bucket tidied up the mess made during the process. Looking quite presentable.

We had our prison workers on the task of grass cutting. With the results looking amazing. The railway is extremely lucky to have access to the community prison workforce, otherwise tasks like this detract from the track gang’s regular activities very heavily.

There’s still a little more to go but mowing the grass completely changes the appearance of the place!

As we’d organised a gang for Monday anyhow, we’ll still be running the gang, completing more works in Castlemaine yard. We’ll be meeting Maldon at 8am or Castlemaine from 8.45am.

Sleepers in Castlemaine Yard

But first a quick notice about a change of plans.

We’d previously planned to replace sleepers between Castlemaine and Rowe Street this coming Friday, Saturday and Monday. This has had to be cancelled due to some unforeseen circumstances.

We will still be holding workdays on Friday and Monday (NOT Saturday), but they will be in Castlemaine yard instead, doing various jobs around the yard.

Anyhow, today was quite successful with around 30 sleepers replaced in 3 and 4 roads Castlemaine.

Here the scarifier is seen cleaning out the trenches in 3 road.

Installing sleeper plates before tamping up the timber to speed up the drilling and spiking.

Today’s activites were restricted to the platform, tomorrow will be a few more along the platform and out along the turntable road.

Tony and Rolf installing the last of the sleeper plates.

We also made use of a few extra hands to unfasten some of steel sleepers used in 5 siding, we’ll make better use of these under the running line over the next few weeks.

You’ll notice we have two loaded wagons of concrete sleepers ready for the now postponed works. But not to worry we’ll deploy these at an alternative site over the coming weeks.

Some more pics

As promised, some more pictures of today’s works. Courtesy of Rodney.

During the first pass of the tamper.

Trevor, Neville and Bruce look on while the tamper moves to the next sleeper.

While Rolf checks for level, an important factor especially where drainage is concerned.

The gang in position, ready to remove the jacks as the tamper works towards them.

Spreading the gravel, thankfully the digger was able to do all the heavy lifting here.

While the roadway was attended to, the drains were not forgotten, here receiving some attention to remove debris and unwanted ballast. You can see the end product of trackwork that was achieved, overall very desirable.

The high tech roadway compaction apparatus.

Some final trimming up before the last compaction run.

Don’t forget to read the previous posts to get the full story on this project.

It’s a crossing again!

It took us the best part of two days but the crossing is now complete. And looking very snazzy. There will be more pics to follow too from ou most recent track recruit, Rodney.

Things kicked off this morning with the fastening down of the UP end closure rails.

We had to wait a while for things to warm up before we could bolt up the rail cut yesterday as things had shrunk a bit over the cool of last night.

We had a load of road gravel dropped off this morning and a load of our ballast from Muckleford was also brought up to site. Here we’re distributing that ballast over our new works to allow for lifting and tamping as required.

Before tamping, the ballast has been scratched away from the centre to allow visibility for the tamper.

Post tamping but before lifting. After an initial tamp just to help build a firm foundation we jacked the track, which is extremely hard work with heavy sleepers, to get the levels right. Here the gang is installing the jacks.

We, deliberately, ended up with a slight hump at the crossing, this is to allow for the eventual lifting of the track either side of crossing as re-railing and ballasting occurs. This way we won’t have to return to the track through the crossing for many years, hopefully decades.

After achieving the desired heights and appropriate ramps down to the existing track, it’s only a very slight ramp on the UP side to allow for future ballasting, but more of a ramp on the Down as this section is still 60lb.

The ramps are insignificant for our trains and will be quite acceptable if we never get around to lifting either side.

After a ballast regulate and general tidy up we set about gravelling the roadway. It was placed in several layers, with our modern road compaction devices (trucks!), running over the crossing many times each layer to achieve a solid roadway.

The finished product. After the predicted rain early next week we expect this to firm up beautifully and hopefully leave it maintenance free for a few years.

Thankfully last time the crossing had works done drainage pipes were installed below sleeper level, these have been left in as they were certainly keeping the roadbase nice and dry.

Next week’s the big week, with works underway on Friday, Saturday and Monday around Castlemaine while V/line have a shutdown. We’re going to need all hands on deck those days, so please consider your availability as even a few hours will be a big help. Thursday’s gang will be on as usual too, replacing sleepers in Castlemaine Yard.

Donkey Farm Track Re-build

After today we’re most of the way through the re-building of Donkey Farm Track Crossing.

First job was to remove the fill from the crossing, which proved quite a task given how compact it had become.

But once we broke through the hard crust we were into unfastening the sleepers in no time. Screws has been used in here and it took some digging and scrapping to get the screw heads clean enough for the socket to fit on.

Only two screws gave us serious trouble, with the easiest course of action being to just cut the head off, as Rolf is doing here.

After the old 60lb rails were removed, the sleeper removal started.

Although the timber through the crossing was still in as new condition (replaced about 10 years ago) the timbers either side were worse for wear and as such we pulled quite a few out, particularly on the Down side of the crossing.

The road bed, less the rails and sleepers.

All the ballast was scraped away, to allow the new sleepers to sit flat on the old firm base.

The digger delivering the new sleepers to the formation, at this stage an unprecise dumping was undertaken, before running along with the grabs and accurately locating each sleeper. The weight of each sleeper, at least 230kg each, means that the excavator is required for all handling and locating of the sleeper.

The green marks indicate the positions of the sleepers. While the gang may not look too busy, they are needed to provide indication to the excavator as to which way the sleepers need adjusting.

We’ve used a mix of full and low profile concrete sleepers for this job, full profiles were used through the crossing, where we actually needed to gain a little extra track height for ideal drainage and low profile concretes in the leads up the existing track.

Before long the first of the 80lb rails were in, which was really the main reason for doing the works.

The rails through the crossing went in first to ensure we didn’t end up with a joint in the crossing, with either end cut to suit.

One draw back of not having a crossing was having it get on ‘track side’ which can be a little interesting given the excavator’s ground clearance isn’t enormous.

The digger was used to place the rails onto the sleepers, an almost impossible job otherwise. Here the next rail is being prepared to be lifted into place while the gang busily clip up the other side.

By afternoon tea we’d reached this point, all new sleepers from the crossing towards Maldon were fastened up. Here John sights along the rail, calling to Will in the excavator (via radio), to gently remove that slight kink in the track. Quite a job for the digger given the weight of all those sleepers.

And by close of play enough rock had been put back over the crossing to make it safe for road traffic (if any should come along!).

We’ve organised to have more ballast on site tomorrow to finish off the job and allow a tamp. Along with some gravel material to form a good hard road surface.

We’ve still got a full day’s work here tomorrow with tamping, ballasting, fastening down the last few sleepers and transitioning back into the existing track. So please come along, lend a hand and check it out.