Concrete Sleepers

Without the digger available (it’s almost fixed, thankfully not as serious as we suspected), it was a case of clip up everything we could. It’s rare to see both Will and Bruce this excited about clipping up sleepers!

We spent around 2 hours clipping up the first 50 sleepers, requiring the use of the porta power to spread the gauge to get the biscuits in, however the remaining 127 took less than 2 hours to clip up, only requiring the gauge to be adjusted twice! This is simply due to very slight differences in the gauge when this track was re-laid in 2002/3, it’s only a mm or two tight but concrete sleepers aren’t forgiving to any discrepancy.

The finished job gets us a long way towards finishing this project to Midland Hwy, really it’s only a few curves to go now.

As we’d finished our clipping up by lunch time, we looked at the ominous sky and decided we’d head into Castlemaine to check out the new loco shed. It’s big and looks impressive! It’ll no doubt feature a lot in coming months as we begin track construction.

The afternoon, despite the occasional strong hail downpour, was successful. We loaded our civil train with the concrete sleepers stacked by Woodlocks Ln.

The bigger machine is an enormous benefit when handling heavy sleepers, easily moving twice the number of sleepers the small digger will with far more than twice the stability with nowhere near the strain on the machine.

Around 300 low profile sleepers were loaded here, more of less clearing out the site.

It’s been wet… And wet means getting bogged. Thankful this digger is good at getting itself out of a bog! Something the takeuchi struggles with a little.

After getting back to Maldon, the hail returned!

Tomorrow’s workday has been called off on account of predicted rain and lack of preparation due to the digger being off line. But next week is looking like great weather and will be action packed, so please join in the fun if you’re at a loose end.

Success, setback and Rain

The good news is that we managed to insert a further 157 sleepers in tangent 7-8 earlier this week. We also got most of tangent 8-9 tamped up… Before we broke the digger.

Unfortunately a seal in the main swivel coupling (the bit that let’s the top and bottom slew around) has failed, rendering the digger largely inoperable.

After a fun day in the pouring rain of limping it off the track (just lucky it was parked on level ground close to a roadway!) we managed to get it floated back to Maldon and into the workshop undercover for Bazz to fix.

The afternoon wasn’t wasted, as we had to start the Y class to pull wagons out of the shed, we decided it was well overdue a battery charge so we did a run to Muckleford to bring back the civil train ready for loading more conc. sleepers near Woodlocks Ln, which will do with the Hyundai while the takeuchi is fixed.

The takeuchi is likely to out for some time, so check the workdays on the blog as we might divert onto some different work for a while.

Tomorrow will be clipping up the sleepers in tangent 7-8 as long as the weather allows! It’s forecast to be an okay morning so it may be a half day. Meeting Maldon 8am or near Rifle Range Bridge from 8.30am – bring your raincoat.

Clipping up

Nothing too exciting today, but we did manage to complete the clipping up of tangent 8-9, approximately 50 sleepers.

We even managed to replace the 20 failed wood sleepers in this section, with some of the better timber pulled out for the concrete sleepers. All in all an excellent effort for a small gang of 4.

Next week will be another big one, with another 180 odd concretes hopefully to be inserted under the track. Check out the blog works diary for details of workdays.

More progress

Another successful day out on the concrete sleeper mission, with an excellent start made on tangent 7-8.

After running in the trolley and digger from Boundary Trk this morning and loading on all the tools to remove fastenings, all screws right the length of the straight were removed, with about 2/3rds of the spikes having been pulled.

White marks the spot, or sleepers in our case. The regular pattern of 1 in 3 avoiding as many joints and anchors as possible was picked, it doesn’t always miss all the anchors or joints but it certainly reduces the overall work.

We improved the method slightly today, with a drum on the trolley allowing the jewellery to be collected at the same time, saves another walk along the track.

We even achieved a 50mm lift from curve 8 to Rifle Range Bridge, with all the timber sleepers removed and stacked ready for sorting track side in one location. A start was also made on inserting the concrete with 20 installed under the track.

A very socially distant smoko, however still very welcome after lugging around the fastening removal gear.

Now that our delivery of pads has arrived, tomorrow will be spent clipping up the remainder of tangent 8-9 before we make more progress on tangent 7-8 in the afternoon. Meeting Maldon 8am or Boundary Trk Crossing from 8.30am.

Crossing Renewal

We decided we needed to practise our level crossing renewal technique, so we got stuck into Boundary Track Crossing.

It’s a very quiet road crossing, we’ve only seen 1 car cross it in the past two weeks!

We simply excavated the crossing, removed the old timber, jacked the track to take the concrete sleepers and slid them under.

We’ve gone for 100% concrete so apart from changing rail, it should be many many years before we need to expose it again.

As we’ve lifted the track either side by 50mm we needed to achieved a similar lift through the crossing. We achieved this the old fashioned way with jacks, by eye and with a level.

Thankfully when the crossing was laid it was put down on a bed of crushed rock and as we didn’t disturb the roadbed at all it should remain a very stable and solid piece of track.

The finished roadway, it is actually 99% the old ballast and crushed rock with a skim of gravel (stockpiled nearby from the original relay some 18 years ago) over the top to offer a smooth path for all the cyclists and pedestrians who use the crossing regularly. We had John run the gang truck back and fourth to compact the surface which seems to have given a solid result, first rains will tell though.

Believe it or not, all that only took the morning!

Earlier this week all the sleepers down the hill to curve 8 were inserted (98 sleepers), pads installed to about 2/3rds of the way down the hill (until we ran out, more due to arrive on Friday).

This afternoon was spent clipping up all those sleepers that had pads, leaving only about 50 to go to complete the tangent. Not a bad effort for a gang of 3.

Tomorrow will be onto the next tangent, removing fastenings and hopefully lifting the track ready for the beginning of insertion on Friday. Meeting Maldon 8am or Rifle Range Bridge from 8.30am.

Castlemaine project progress

The new depot at Castlemaine continues to take shape.

The shed contractor has all but finished the loco shed erection works. The main builder will now complete the other minor works to get formal occupancy – storm water connection and installation of emergency lighting.


While the loco shed may now be finished from a contractual build perspective it will now be up to the VGR to undertake the internal fit out . This will happen over the coming months.


The other activity has been to clean up the various stored items on site – recent work included cleaning up around the shunters cabin with the loading of all the Ballarat water tower structure into GY’s for safe storage.

Opportunity was also take to dismantle and store the Castlemaine weighbridge components in another GY until a suitable display site is available to display it.

At the same time the small water tank from Woodend was relocated nearer the outside inspection pit where we are hoping to erect it for use.


The cleanup coincided with the transfer of rolling stock from Maldon for storage in the existing carriage shed during the COVID-19 shutdown of services.  There was quite a shunt required to gain access to the GY’s stored behind the carriage shed.

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The portable site hut has not been left out either. It has been tidied up by Andrew Key and Andrew Reynolds with external cladding repaired and work started on preparing the inside for use by our volunteers. If you have some free time and would like to assist with basic handyman work to make this habitable, please get in touch via site project manager Graeme Alford at





More concrete

Another very successful day’s work, with all 170 on the down side of Boundary Track clipped up by lunch time.

After lunch we made a start on inserting sleepers on the UP side of the crossing, with a very respectable 60 inserted and fully clipped up.

There’s only about another 100 concretes sleepers to go into this straight until we begin on the next.

Hopefully early next week they’ll all be under the track down to curve 8, with boundary trk crossing itself due to be resleepered around midweek.

We’ve run out of pads for the sleepers but hopefully the delivery will arrive this coming week, otherwise we’ll simply forge ahead removing fastenings in tangent 7-8 in preparation.

We’re certainly making excellent use of no train running to maximise on preparing for the upcoming re-railing and generally catching up on maintenance.