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.

Tidy up

Over the past few weeks we’ve started very seriously sorting our stockpiles of material. Today saw the job almost completed around Maldon.

We’ve even had a large area cleared just for our storage, nicely out of view. Best of all we’ve taken the opportunity to sort, dispose of the rubbish and organise the rest to make life much easier.

We’ve laid out the materials so all items can be easily seen, collected by hand or minimal moving to get to with the digger.

After lunch we sent Rolf out looking for any signs of storm damage, of which none were found thankfully, while the rest of us distributed the remaining pallet of sleeper plates near Bendigo Road.

This month is Bridge month, with pile replacements planned at Muckleford Creek next week, some exploration of a settling pile at Rifle Range the week after and further work at Muckleford the weeks after that, any extra help would be appreciated as we will have works going on ever day.