The End for 2021

Well lunchtime today saw a nice simply gathering to celebrate the end of 2021 and it was one of the few occasions where we’ve been able to get so many different people together from the various Tuesday, Thursday and Friday gangs.

But, before breaking up, we made good use of the large workforce to tend to a few things. The first being the V crossing in the dockroad turnout. This particular design has the rails riveted to a flat plate. After 140ish years in service the odd rivet works loose.

Given that high tensile bolts are now a common item, it’s quite easy to remove the old rivet and replace with a bolt, which is what we did. We also did a bit of belts and braces stuff by actually screwing the crossing onto a couple of the timbers, which will help prevent the movement that leads to the loosening of the rivets. When time, resources and final future use plans for Maldon are available, we’ll upgrade this turnout appropriately.

Then we turned our attention to the gang truck. We’d all suspected for some time we were probably carrying too many bits and pieces, but we didn’t realise we were carrying so much!! Beside incredible duplication of most tools, we decided having 21 crow bars on board was possibly excessive.

And when tided up and the appropriate number of tools were returned to the vehicle, it was staggering just how much extra space there suddenly was.

While the truck was being attacked, our storage containers also received the same treatment and now not only is everything accessible, there seems to be twice the availability space.

And as if all that sorting wasn’t enough, the signalling van was also in dire need of an organise. As we slowly sort out our collection we’ve placed weather sensitive items into here, but never had the time to do the sorting. Well a small mountain of rubbish was turfed and the good stuff is now laid out in such a way as it can all be found!

At the end of another extremely busy year, it was very nice to finally have a chance to sit down and reflect on everything the amazing volunteer workforce has achieved. We were very spoilt as Mal’s wife very kindly made us sausage rolls and a very very nice selection of cakes and treats to enjoy, which was greatly appreciated by all – thankyou Leanne.

In a very brief summary, 2021 has seen a vast array of projects –

3 level crossings rebuilt, around 3000m of re-railing, another 1700 odd sleepers replaced (mostly with concrete), significant works at Castlemaine, with the loco shed pit and trackwork, the workshop trackwork and turnout. Elsewhere we’ve done – beam replacement in two bridges, lots of lineside mowing, one crossing upgraded to flashing lights, curve 21 fully re-sleepered with concrete, around 1700tons of ballast distributed, an enormous amount of geometry work, a great number of bolts tightened and lots of tidying up and sorting of materials and jewellery, with quite a bit of that done while working around covid lockdowns.

It’s been a busy one and next year’s not looking much quieter, although we’re essentially finished the major projects now (well our portion of them largely), with most Castlemaine work likely to reduce to a more staged approach as funds and resources allow, meaning we shouldn’t be under the pump quite so much. Our main track project next year will be completing the re-railing, which should be achievable, in between the other general maintenance.

Once again, thankyou to everyone who has been able to help us this year, not only do we greatly appreciate it, but we wouldn’t have achieved much at all if it wasn’t for you.

Merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year from the VGR Civil Branch.

Workdays will resume on Tuesday 11th Jan 2021, check back on Monday 10th Jan for details.

Castlemaine Yard

The great wall of Castlemaine part 2! Although not truly an extension of the wall, rather just more posts to offer the waste water treatment some protection. However given that we learnt all those skills building the first wall, we fell into muscle memory for this one.

Basically a very straight forward rail post fence that’ll have a bottom kick rail to help define the different areas and a simple top rail to cap it off. We’ve done all but the top rail so far, and depending on the final levels, we might even add another longitudinal rail along part of it to help divert rain water run off away.

Here John shows us he has still got a good feel for the rail saw, although a short wall, still a good few cuts were required today.

In the afternoon we did another test move into the carriage shed, with the longest available carriage pushed around the curves and into the shed to just confirm everything was okay – it was!

That’s put a close to our Castlemaine works for 2020, next week will see lineside mowing early in the week, followed by odd jobs and a breakup day on Thursday.

Workshop track

Everyone was on hand nice and early this morning, obviously eager to see this project completed.

With the ballast train on hand, it was only the clipping up standing in our way.

But that task was completed in good time. Unfortunately these old VR concrete sleepers are a pain to clip up, as the pandrol lug is a different shape, making it a much more awkward task than on newer sleepers. However it’s done now!

Although we had previously lined the bit of track through the roadway, it had pulled itself flat a bit, probably when the gravel was added. So a bit of digging and lining saw the curve tweaked into a very nice line.

It looked very snazzy and seemed a pity to ballast it.

Before we ran a heavy train over it, some ballast was extracted from a wagon to help support the section of track now hanging from the concrete slab, so as not to damage the slab.

A quick tamp of that and the first rail vehicle into the new shed was the little digger, we tucked that up into the far end of the shed while we dropped the rock.

Daylesford’s plough did once again got the honours of being the first rail wagon into the new shed – we’re very thankful we can continue to rack up firsts with good bit of gear. The wagons were pushed in just far enough to allow the ballast to be dropped right up to the concrete.

Unfortunately this ballast had been sitting in the wagons a while and set a bit, so the digger lightened the load by unloading a little more from the side, as extra ballast was going to be needed in this area anyhow.

With a few prods, pokes and strategic whacks the ballast began to flow and we were into it (obviously the plough couldn’t be lowered until we were outside the shed however).

A bit of rock manipulation in preparation for tamping.

We’ve found, especially with a decent drop like this, a pretamp of the sleepers prior to jacking makes the job much easier, it helps lifts small issues, uses up a bit of ballast to make inserting jacks easier and certainly seems to make for a much more solid final tamp.

A good amount of jacking was needed, although not excessivly so, to allow the final tamp to occur.

And it certainly came up looking a million dollars!

As one does, once one’s just completed a section of track, one immediately parks a train on top of it! This is either to hide it, show it off or as was the case here it was getting pretty close to knock off time and that was easiest.

Well after all that excitement, it might be realistic to think we’ve got no work tomorrow, however that’s far from the truth, as besides returning all this rolling stock to Muckleford and giving the Y a decent run (something this one hasn’t had for quite a while), we’ve got part two of the great retaining wall to construct, well cut the posts and stand them in the holes at least.

Meeting at Castlemaine depot tomorrow from 8.15am.

Workshop Track

Well Castlemaine Yard was once again a maze of trenches Yesterday, installing the future oil and air lines from the loco shed to the fuel store. This has been the hold up in us completing the track into the workshop.

Thankfully however when we arrive on site this morning, the trenches were filled, enough for the track to go down at least.

It was all just the usual mechano kit of bits, concrete sleepers and the non-mainline worthy bits of 94lb rail we had lying around, stuff that’s come out of concrete, crossings and heavily worn on one side, it all went in, once any rough ends had been docked off.

It has certainly changed the appearance of the area quite considerably. You’ll also be pleased to note that the battery rattle gun did all the work bolting up today, around 10 joints worth, all on one battery! Now we just need a battery rail saw and drill and we’ll have done away with all the horrible heavy gear.

By close of play (on what ended up being a very hot play!), all the rails had been connected, sleepers roughly positioned and jewellery dropped out.

A keen eye might note the rather close spacing of the sidings here. The last two panels which we temporarily dropped on the end are foul, so we’re glad we didn’t do anything more than just drop them there, as we’ll take them up or slew them hard over to the fence to give some extra storage room in the short term, before the fuel storage is installed.

We made use of a driver experience train yesterday to transfer all the appropriate wagons to Castlemaine for these works, it made for a decent sized train. The Y class was to aid in shunting and give it a good run as it hasn’t done much for some time.

The bulk of the job is done now, the heavily lifting part anyhow. Just lots of clipping up to go! So we’ll definitely be here all Thursday and most of Friday, meeting on site from 8.15am.