Odd jobs

Today saw the remainder of the pandrol adaptor’s fitted in curve 13.

We even dragged out the hydraulic drill to help speed up the job, quite a bit easier and quicker than the hand drills, but a bit more cumbersome to chance drill bits.

The spiking hammer completes the knocking in job very well.

The adaptor’s are each labelled with either a G or F. G meaning Gauge side of the rail and F meaning Field side of the rail. The only real difference is the depth of the hook, F’s are longer to match the thicker shoulder of the sleeper plate on the Field side.

Once the lokspikes were in, it was out with the old spikes and in the shoulders.

The trolley mounted spike puller made easy work of removing the spikes.

A gentle tap with a sledge settles the adaptor into its new home.

Once we’d completed the works on Curve 13, we made use of the afternoon to attend to turnout maintenance at Muckleford and Maldon.

Particular attention was paid to thoroughly cleaning the chairs and lubricating all the appropriate signalling components, with everything operating much more smoothly after our efforts.

A few other little odd jobs such as correcting this misaligned joint were attended to. It’s nice to be able to tend to all these small jobs that we’ve not had time to for months.

Tomorrow’s weather is looking very wet, so we’ve called off the workday as there is little we can achieve if it rains as predicted! Next week we’re planning bridge work at Winters Flat, however we’ll confirm which days that’ll be tomorrow.

Turnouts Castlemaine Yard

Part of the cyclic track maintenance is the maintenance on turnout operation – the actually lubrication and operation of the blades (switches). Castlemaine is a little unique on our railway, in that all the regularly used turnouts are operated from the signalbox, as such there are a lot of moving pieces that need regular lubrication.

The little orange dots in the distance are the crew working on turnout 56 which has for years been problematic off and on, the main cause was hopefully remedied today.

The lubricant (a spray graphite) is a medium which really only degrades under very heavy weights or high temperatures… Of which our trains are neither. Generally a cleaning of this lubricant (polish with a brush) is all that is needed to ensure good operation.

The shiny section on the foot of the stockrail proved to be the main issue, years of buildup of this spray, probably mixed with some oil and general grime had formed such a ridge for the blade to climb over it was making it almost impossible to move. Simply scraping all that away solved the issue.

It shows how good the graphite is to have remained in place for what could be 20 years or more.

All the while Rolf, in the box, was receiving instructions from the ground crew to move the blades as required to ensure complete cleaning and polishing could occur.

Lunch was grabbed while shade still existed beside the carriage shed.

All the other turnouts received a similar treatment, with all now operation as would be expected following a service.

Even the depths of the signal box and the rodding were inspected closely for any possible issues.

Back at Maldon, Len and Bazz are making excellent progress on the turntable re-decking, with it already being greatly safer.

Tomorrow’s gang will meet at Maldon at 8am to load up and head to Walmer Rd Bridge to continue with the Pandrol Adaptor installation (meeting there from 8.30-8.45am ish). It may be an early finish given the likely warm afternoon.

Pandrol Adaptors

Today was the first trial of these things…. One of the many items we collected from the stockpile in Castlemaine some 6 months ago.

They are adaptors to convert a standard sleeper plate into a pandrol plate and this is the end result.

The trial location was the high leg of curve 13, the first curve on the UP side of Muckleford.

Some years back the high leg of this curve was re-railed in 80lb. However we have sufficient 94lb on hand from last years recovery effort to replace it. This is for a couple of reasons:

– it allows us to keep a uniform 94lb section of track from the Down Side of Walmer Rd to Sawmill Rd (then 80lb towards Castlemaine)

– it will also means we can easily install insulated joints (the modern almost completely fool proof and failure free glued type) when the time comes to flashing light Walmer Rd Crossing. It can be done in 80lb but it’s a lot more work, with more changes of rail type etc.. , however a 94lb option is available off the shelf.

– it reduces the numbed of junctions (80lb to 94lb) required between Mukleford and Castlemaine to just one pair! They’re pretty good the 80-94 junction rails but they are still a potential week spot so the less the better.

So what has all this got to do with the pandrol adaptor? The aim here it that by converting these plates to pandrol clips, when it’s time to change the rail it should be a case of knock off the clips, change the rail, do up the clips and it’s done! No drilling, no spiking. Given this will be the third set of rails on the same sleepers, the chance of getting enough wood for a crossbore is very low and would hasten the sleeper failures greatly.

This adaption method works by placing the fastenings in the outer holes of the sleepers plates, while a normal dog spike could be used, a ‘lockspike’ is preferable for clearance beside the adaptor and it converts the whole assembly to a ‘resilient fastening’. Which is a fancy term for meaning the fastening will now offer rail anchoring and improved holding as it is able to better withstand the forces of a train.

By working through one side of the rail at a time, the gang has been able to install the lockspike, remove the old dogspike (or screw), install the adaptor into the old dog hole (they need a little hole as they have a beak with goes just below the sleeper plate and locks under the rail foot). All that’s needed then is installing the clip.

With the final product looking like this. These are actually special e clips for this purpose (they work fine everywhere else too, but normal ones don’t fit here correctly), one feature is it doesn’t matter which way they’re installed – it actually doesn’t really matter on normal e clips either but they do go on a lot easier one way.

These adaptors have a local history, they were used to upgrade the high speed (130km/h) timber sleeper sections of the Bendigo Line during for Regional Fast Rail 17ish years ago. So they’ve been tried and tested very well and we’re thankful we can give them another lease of life.

We need to work on driving in the lockspikes, but we suspect the trolley mounted spike driver will greatly improve that.

The gang have a very well earned break. Given it was a learning curve, they did extremely well today, with about 2/3 of the curve completed, with the finish off to occur tomorrow.

Meeting at Maldon from 8am or near Muckleford Station from about 8.45am onwards.

Maldon Turntable

To complement the walkway decking at Castlemaine failing, the decking at Maldon has also decided to fail, in sympathy! Thankfully Castlemaine table now has a flash new steel deck and with one table out of action the second isn’t very useful so it’s now getting the same treatment while we’re still running a relatively small number of steam services.

The timber on Maldon table is actually a few years younger than Castlemaine, however not far off being as deteriated. That doesn’t mean however that the old bolts and screws are easy to get out!

Thankfully the table timbers are in excellent condition, being less than 20 years old (both tables were retimbered about the same time), this is a fairly rare view of a table without walkways, but otherwise complete.

Photos of the new decking of both tables will feature in the coming weeks. Being of much more durable construction, expanded mesh braced with old point rodding. The results at Castlemaine have a strange effect, they actually greatly improve the appearance and show off the impressive piece of engineering that is a turntable, while being a major safety upgrade.