Curve 21

Well today saw us give up our plans of using the concrete. Instead we resurrected the DERM and went back to dropping out timber sleepers by hand 

And pigs can fly….

The top photo, as well as those below are from the last ‘major’ resleepeeing this curve had back in 1995, interestingly on the 2nd of September, so close to 26 years exactly. A mix of grey box and red gum looking at the wagon and that’s certainly what we saw on the ground pulling them out today.

Alan Williams took these shots back then and has kindly forwarded them on so we can make a comparison.

Almost all manual labour. A keen eye will note in the very first photo a sleeper extractor / inserter at work behind the DERM, but even still the new timber had to be manually placed where the machine could grab it, which was no small effort!

The one well wagon has become three (one on loan from Steamrail), timber is being phased out for concrete and the days of doing things largely with blood, sweat and tears are very much behind us. It’s amazing to look back and appreciate just how many functions the excavator now performs.

Just as a note re life span of these timber sleepers in our climate, the grey box are weathered and probably about 3/4 of their new size, but still usable (we’ll cascade them into Maldon and Muckleford Yards), the red gum is fully life expired, generally coming out in lumps.

There has been a few spot replacements since the big effort in 95, but the bulk of timber was still from back then.

Now back to the present and today saw us working through the exact section photographed in 1995.

To add to the versatility of the excavator, the intermediate timber sleepers left in to hold gauge, are removed completely with the excavator. A simple tap on each end to drop and loosen the spikes, the grabs pulls out two spikes, the sleeper is skidded to one side and has it’s plates pulled away, ready to be flung aside and the new sleeper installed, saving a power of manual labour or even logistical headache getting the hydraulic puller back in the right place.

135 concrete sleepers was today’s count, with only 112 needed to get around to Woodlocks Ln, so all being well that’ll happen on Thursday. The dips and wiggles look bad, but the truth is they’re actually very easy to correct. All the dips are really just areas of deficient ballast and when some is added, a controlled squeeze from the tamper lifts the slacks out. Any wiggles can be removed with a shove from the Hyundai, however the ground is a little wet still to get trackside everywhere, so we may have to live with a few of them for a few weeks, but we’ll get them out.

These three pics, also from Alan, are from the 3rd of September 1995, showing the first train over the recently re-sleepered track, we’ll replicate this (sort of) on Friday, with the first train being the ballast discharge train.

The upgrade to big rail and concrete have changed the look of our Railway, it’s no longer a country branch line. Which can be seen as good or bad, but from an ongoing maintenance, manpower and economic concern it’s really the only way we can survive. This is very evident if you look at the tourist railways in the UK, they made these changes years ago for the same reasons and now things have weathered back they really don’t look so different from a 1950/60s railway.

Thursday will be the next workday, with lots to do to finish the curve and tidy up. Meeting Maldon 8am or on site from 8.15am.

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