Bridge Work and More Sleepers

Another big day for the gang, with two major jobs tackled.

A further 21 concrete sleepers were installed into curve 10 while the decking on Sawmill Road Bridge was secured.

The past few days has been securing the decking on Rifle Range and Winters Flat Bridges (yes every piece of decking on that massive bridge has had this treatment!). Today was Sawmill Road’s turn. The issue can be seen in the above pic, the decking had begun to wander out in places.

The issue is very easily rectified… With a digger. But it isn’t a solution, so a solution was devised.

By drilling through the runner and into each piece of decking, a screw could be installed to prevent any movement.

Winters Flat was such a big job we even purchased a battery powered impact wrench to help, much lighter than any alternative.

The finished product, a simple solution to a irritating problem.

To reach 90% of the bridges we needed this beast, as any other option was just impossible.

While half the gang was playing bridges, the remainder played sleepers.

Exactly the same process as last week, this time without any breakdowns.

Today saw 21 concrete sleepers installed, which was actually 2 more than required to complete the curve, but they were left over and it seemed appropriate to just keep going.

Again the scarifier wasn’t available, so the mud bucket was called upon. If it didn’t tie up the machine, this method would be the quickest and easiest, but it really takes the digger away from its critical jobs of removing and inserting sleepers.

Some fine tuning by eye and tamper left us with another fantastic curve.

We’re yet to sort the old sleepers and grade them for re-use, but otherwise the job here is complete. Onwards to the next curve, with will occur next week on curve 12, between Farmers and Walmer Rd Bridges.

Tomorrow will be some final bridge work at Muckleford creek, which will likely see a close to bridge work for this season, of which a busy and productive season it has been.

Meet Maldon 8am or Muckleford Creek from 8.30am.

Concrete Sleepers

Another 26 concrete sleepers were installed today into curve 10.

Unfortunately the day was plagued with breakdowns, our trusty old scarifier just wouldn’t start, we broke a bracket that connects one of the tamping tynes to the tamper and a rattle gun decided it didn’t want to play ball either!

Despite all that we still found ways to work around all the issues and have completely installed all 26 sleepers, only 19 left to go into this curve now.

We’ll be doing a mix of bridge work and the rest of these sleepers next week, so if you’ve got a free day any day next week please feel free to join us.


Some quick pics of Riley from the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group hard at work completing the painting on our QR wagon this afternoon.

The old faithful QB’s haven’t been forgotten either, the other will receive this attention next week.

The repaint and bit of TLC while at the workshop has made a world of difference to not only the appearance of this vital Civil Rolling Stock, but it helps demonstrate how we’re trying to maintain our equipment to ensure its around for many years of service.


Another record was set today, with 22 80lb rails installed completely in just one day.

Being close to the depot meant everything was well underway by 8.30.

Clive and Mal undertook the task of spike removal. We even tested our new sledge hammers… The verdict is still out but we like the colour!

While Bruce and Rolf removed the remaining screws, some were removed Tuesday to speed things up.

Following closely behind was the digger, swapping the rail over.

Rocks and dirt being blown away before positioning the new rail.

It was quite cold this morning when we joined the strings of rail, as such a decent rail joint gap was needed, the thin end of a sleeper plate was ideal.

After lunch Tony, Rolf and Mal joined up to the remaining 60lb.

And by days end the hard slog had paid off! The job is complete. Some cleaning up is still needed and that will occur over the next few weeks. Another sensational effort from the gang.

Yesterday was another busy day for the gang, with a works train in the morning dropping out more concrete sleepers.

The afternoon was spent cleaning all the years of accumulated junk from the well wagons.

It’s amazing how much deeper the wells seem when not full of gunk (Riley’s sandwich was only there temporarily we hope).

While at Maldon we managed to talk one of our Young Volunteers, Riley, into giving all three wagons a quick paint to freshen them up. And what a difference even just one coat has made. Thanks Riley.

Tomorrow is concrete sleepering in Curve 10, we’re quite light on numbers so any extra hands would be appreciated. Meet Maldon 8am or on site from 8.45am.

Some fine tuning

Yesterday was spent adjusting, tweaking and improving the track over Muckleford Creek Bridge.

The Down end had the dips removed by jacking and tamping, while the up end received much more attention.

3 panels of track were re-aligned to turn a series of flats and kinks into a stunning curve off the bridge (as it’s meant to be). We even replaced 2 joint sleepers that weren’t doing a great job with Concrete, just off the bridge.

Unfortunately we forgot to grab a before picture, but the result is a complete transformation.

Next week will be a rest from Bridge work while we complete some more re-railing near Bendigo Road and install more concretes into curve 10.

Bridge Work

As promised, Bridge work has been the aim of the game this week.

The early part of the week was spent installing shoulder packing wherever a gap existed between a pile and crosshead, all of this was on Muckleford Creek Bridge. Some of these gaps date back many years, but now we’re on top of the urgent jobs we can attend to these things.

The main job however has been investigating a sinking pile at Rifle Range Bridge. Pile 2R had settled a little more than usual, so an exploratory dig was undertaken to find the cause. (we kept out buckets and other attachments safe by storing them overnight in the hole)

Today’s effort was to investigate the sinkage and correct it. But… a flat tyre on the bridge kit trailer slowed us down a little, nothing a quick change couldn’t fix however.

It’s mid February and we’re experiencing glorious winter mornings, a chilly 4 degrees this morning as the gang arrived on site.

The fault became obvious quite quickly. The whalers were less than ideal and to make up a slight pile length discrepancy some packers had been used (not an unusual practice), however these packers had decided they’d done the job long enough.

The sill really wasn’t much better, so it was renewed while we had access.

New whalers (thicker) were fitted to the pile, here the pile is jacked and blocked to allow the change, before renewing the sill.

The newly fitted whalers and sill, looking far too nice to bury. Again some packers were needed to make up the difference, but much more sturdy and better quality timber was chosen. As well as being heavily dosed in chemical preservative. They should see all of us out now.

The finished job!

The big issue with the settling was a big kink/dip in the track just on this end of the bridge, which was completely removed by correcting the fault. Another kink slightly further along was also removed while we were there, but that was just a case of moving the track, a much simpler solution.

To do our various works, we hired an elevated work platform, an essential tool for this sort of thing.

It’s use here was to allow the fixing of screws up through the runner into the decking. This is because we’ve been having pieces of decking ‘wandering’ out, not quickly but not the most ideal situation.

They’re easily corrected with a gentle push by the digger, but a permanent solution is always better.

The runner is the small piece of timber running along the beam, to allow the kerbing to be bolted down.

We simply drilled a clearance hole through the runner at every piece of decking and installed a small coach screw, they serve no purpose but to prevent lateral movement from vibrations, so should be more than suitable for the job.

Unfortunately we ran out of screws, as did Castlemaine and the all nearby hardware stores, so that job and the same thing at Winters Flat and Sawmill Road will occur when we get more.

The gang will be back at it tomorrow, meet at Maldon at 8am.

Another pile in

After propping and jacking the beams for the next pile, it was swiftly removed and final measuring and fitting of the whalers to the new pile took place.

The sill was in excellent condition, so we chose not to disturb it any further.

Only a couple of bolts to go and it was ready to be lifted in. Rolf and Trevor are measuring the bolt length required, as we typically cut allthread for these situations.

And in no time, the pile was in and back filling underway.

While all that was going on Rolf took to the task of drilling holes to secure yesterday’s new pile, a big auger and a very robust drill are essential in this well seasoned timber.

Once drilling and bolting through the cross heads was complete, the drilling of new holes for the angle brackets was undertaken (things were a bit further apart as the new pile has a much wider tongue).

This can often be a painful and time consuming task, but with some clever thinking and well marked out holes, this one went together perfectly.

We have bolted the cross heads for today’s pile, but will adjust some beam missalignment next week before finish off the angle brackets.

Bridge work is on again all of next week and any extra hands are welcome.


The flavour of February is Bridge work.

Yesterday was some pile tongue preparation in the depot at Maldon, as a big time saver for the pile that went in today.

Lots of precise measuring, cutting and adzing to achieve a nice square, true and long lasting tongue with good shoulders to support the crossheads.

The main point of this work is to replace these undersized piles in Muckleford Creek Bridge, although still structurally sound, there is little safeguard against deterioration.

In the nice cool air of this morning we set up the worksite and production line, before getting into the job of excavating the old pile (no. 3R).

The same process as yesterday ensued, measuring, cutting and adzing to prepare the next pile (tomorrow) and the base of today’s, Bazz drew the short straw on the chainsaw today.

Before long the old pile was lifted out and the condition of the sill (raft) below could be assessed. It looks in this picture that the ratchet straps are holding up the bridge! But this is not the case, they are simply assisting in keeping the cross heads out of the way for pile changing (they can’t fall because of how they’re fastened on the oppososite pile). The heavy duty props are actually the beauties doing all the bridge holding.

The old sill was found to be far beyond re-usable, so a new one was fashioned from good quality 2nd hand sleepers.

And seemingly in no time, the new pile was being swung into position, an easy enough job with a digger. Imagine doing this by hand.

It looked very swish on its new sill holding up the bridge, it’s just a pity all our hard work gets buried.

And buried it became, here some fine tuning of the shoulders (after we’d filled in the hole so we could actually reach them) saw the job turned from a good one, into an excellent one.

Hey presto, one pile successfully replaced. We’re yet to instate bolts and angled brakets, but tomorrow should see it either finished or well under way.

We’ve even dug the hole for tomorrow’s pile, no. 4L. Mal and Clive had the job of cleaning out the last bit of fill by hand, as any damage to the sill is avoided to ensure the compacted ground below is not disturbed.

We’ll be into it again tomorrow, meeting Maldon 8am or on site from 8.30am.