The week that was…

It’s been a rather busy week, with things seeming to be happening all over the railway. This a recap of all the activites over the past week, the final week on the track gang for 2018.

It would appear that our use of K class on a works train some months ago left the J class feeling left out, as this time when we requested a loco for a works train, it was sent out to the job!

It was mainly due to the diesel being in the workshops receiving a new paint job, however the opportunity was taken to undertake some training and assessment of loco crews, so a win win all around.

It’s purpose was to drop out rail near the Bendigo Road Level crossing ready for next year’s re-railing program.

All the required jewellery was also dropped out, it seems like a mountain of stuff, but we’ll likely need to get more yet to complete the job.

We’ve got a good work party planned for the week starting the 14th Jan, we’re actually hoping to be in at Castlemaine replacing sleepers next to the main line, but should we run into trouble this will be out contingency.

The day was also the first use of the QR wagon on a works train, used to transport out the dog spikes and sleeper plates. Here Will, sitting comfortably in his lunch chair!, is calling back the engine onto the wagons (it was sent away during lunch for re-fuelling).

Another pleasant first, we can’t actually remember ever using the J on a true works train before… We probably have but we decided if we can’t remember then this counts as a first!

Thursday’s gang was then tasked with the job of distributing the jewellery. But after a quick glance at the digger’s fuel gauge, we decided some more was needed. It’s got a fantastic fuel filler pump arrangement, perfect for sucking out of 200l drums.

First off bolts were dropped out, followed by Clive dropping out fish plates.

Next off was sleeper plates, this time we spent a bit more time positioning each precisely on the end of each sleeper and facing the correct way. Clive, Malcolm and Bruce got very proficient at this after 4 pallets worth.

Spikes were also dropped out, again with more precision than usual, right at the end of the sleepers, to hopefully avoid the need for double handling that can slow things down a bit.

Some odd jobs around Maldon a bit of a Christmas breakup filled in the afternoon.

Today’s small crew of 3 took on the task of trying to tackle our ever growing mess at Maldon. A recent donation of pallets makes the job much easier.

We don’t appear to have made massive in roads, but we have managed to sort most of the loose items into containers and have cleared room to start organising the pallets, drums and other bits into logical rows with some system.

There’s a lot to go, but once the genuine scrap is removed to free up valuable space, the area will actually look quite respectable. We also found all sorts of things we had no idea we had. One goal for 2019 will be to organise the stock piles, as this has caused some down time this year (trying to find those bolts or that plate…).

The week was finished with a final track patrol. And we are pleased to report that not a single new fault was found! A true tribute to all those who have helped out on the gang this year. We can’t thank you enough.

We’ll be taking a break until Thursday 3rd Jan. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We look forward to another great year in 2019.

More Rail Preparation

First off we bolted the remaining rails to go into tangent 15-16 into strings ready for the re-railing there, which may now happen in the new year. It was a small quick job with the good crew we had today.

More 80lb rail preparation followed, 25 lengths were drilled and trimmed ready for the next re-railing job, with a total of 43 now loaded onto a wagon ready for dispatch.

It was relatively slow going compared to previous efforts just because the rail is in a much more awkward location… It does however mean we have put a massive dent in the stockpiles.

Here the drillers and trimmers are doing what they can before lifting out the rails, due to space restrictions.

A lot of effort was spent on preparing the other items needed, stacking fishplates onto pallets and loading drums with spikes.

It was once stacks of rail as far as the eye could see along here, now only the short lengths and turnout components remain.

Now laden with dog spikes and sleeper plates, our newest member of the fleet is ready to go on its first works train.

We even found the time to unload the QN wagon loaded with timber from Castlemaine Yard, this will no doubt form a bonfire once the fire season passes.

Next week will see the end of the civil works for 2018, so feel free to join us Thursday and or Friday, if numbers look good we’ll be onto re-railing, otherwise we’ll be preparing for the next re-railing.

Rail preparation

The day, although dedicated to 80lb rail preparation, started off with the unloading of around 130 steel sleepers. The sleepers were collected yesterday from our good friends at Healesville, the Yarra Valley Railway. They were surplus to their requirements and we have jumped at the opportunity.

You’ll likely see some pics of the YVR in the coming year as by way of thanks for this and all their help in getting the concrete sleepers we plan on helping their railway out where possible as they start off their re-laying to Yarra Glen. It’s always good to help out other railways where we can, we’re all in it together!

We arrived at Muckleford perfectly in time for the weather to turn very wet! But thankfully the digger was able to keep busy doing lots of tidying up and stacking of short rails.

While the gang watched on from the shelter of the goods shed.

Before too long a break in the clouds meant back to work, with 28 rails prepared and loaded in between the showers and thunderstorms.

The other big news for today was we have now technically ‘used’ the recently refurbished QR wagon! We’ve stacked on 7 pallets of sleeper plates, ready for our next re-railing job. It’ll be an extremely useful wagon for moving around these items, as it’s the only vehicle we’ve got with a flat floor! Check out the mechanical blog for details of its restoration – VGR Mechanical Blog

Tomorrow’s weather is also a little shaky but should be manageable, so we’ve changed plans and we’ll start at tangent 15-16 bolting up rails, before heading back to Muckleford to prepare more 80lb rail. Meet Maldon 8am

Curve 10

As promised another 20 concrete sleepers were installed into curve 10 today.

The heat, although predicted to be worse than yesterday, didn’t really reach its peak until after lunch. This worked out well as we’d already decided lunch should see the 20 finished and us on the way home.

It’s amazing just how good the track looks once the sleepers are installed and the ballast has been regulated.

Here our current President Steve is surveying our works, in his site approriate clothing! He arrived just as we were finishing so his workwear wasn’t needed but it’s alway nice to see our work appreciated by others on the railway. We also spent some time removing dipped joints from the curve after completing the main works, this has really improved the look and will undoublty improve the ride.

This job is now becoming very well executed. Although we had actually removed all the screws yesterday, the lifting, tamping, removal of the old timber, installing the concrete, fastening up and finishing off was completed by lunch, a good effort for a crew of 5 in the sweltering heat.

To add to our presidential theme, a most recent ex-president decided today was the day to join the track gang. Michael tells us he had a great time, despite the heat. He’s turned out to be an natural with a clip applicator! We hope to see him on the gang again soon.

With the extremely uncomfortable weather (first of the season always seems worse) the gang has again gone well above and beyond the call of duty over the past two days, with a very respectable 60 sleepers installed and this part of the curve now finished.

Next week will see 80lb rails being prepared on Thursday and completing the last of the re-railing in tangent 15-16 on Friday. The weather is looking much better (wet at this stage but that will no doubt change) so please join us.

Curve 10

More concrete sleepers today, this time in curve 10.

As per our most recent efforts in curve 9 they were installed into 60lb track, however this time it was hot!

So hot that we had John on water duty, here with Will greatfully quenching his thirst.

Normally the screws come out relatively easily, however today seemed to be an exception, with brute force required on a few. Here Rolf leans on the breaker bar to loosen a stubborn screw.

As per last time a 50mm lift across the job was undertaken once unfastened.

No action shots but we did test out the sleeper extractor today, it was very successful until the hydraulic filter on the power pack developed a bad leak. No doubt this will feature again soon as it will certainly allow for a much more production run operation, instead of shuffling the excavator on and off track as often.

Once the extractor had failed the digger was called upon to do the honours of sleeper removal.

The clipping up crew, now well practised, managed to get all 40 clipped up in very good time considering the rather harsh and uncomfortable weather.

Some ballast scraping and a quick tamp of the new sleeper saw the job almost finished. Another scrape of the rock tomorrow will tidy it up nicely.

We’ll be out again tomorrow, however given the forecast is for hotter again, about 37deg C, we will only be installing 20 sleepers and tidying up today’s work. We don’t expect to be out late tomorrow, with the weather likely to convince us we need an early Friday for once. So please feel free to join us for the morning, Maldon from 8am or site from 8.30am.

Track at Bylands

Amongst the VGRs external contract list can now be added standard gauge track at Bylands!

A collecter of trams had the need for a short length of track be made for his latest acquisition.

It was relatively labour intensive work with sleepers laid out by hand and the rails manipulated into place with the crane truck and crow bars. But otherwise a very simple and straightforward task.

It was a strangely quick job, with the travel time longer than the work! Another interesting job and a very nice change of scenery.

Despite the rather hot weather predicted for the rest of this week we will still be installing more concrete sleepers, this time in curve 10. We won’t be out to set any records but we will try playing with some new toys. Meet Maldon 8am or site from 8.45am if you’d like to join us.