‘A’ Road – On The Level

Thursday and Friday this week (21-22 April) saw more progress in finishing off the tracks into the Loco Shed at Castlemaine.

Our main tasks were to add ballast to the track we finished laying last week, jack it up to surveyed level, pack the ballast under the turnout timbers and concrete sleepers and fit the turnout with a point lever.

The ballast went out on Thursday and we spent much of Thursday afternoon moving it to where it could be packed under the timbers – at the all important place – under the rails.

The ballast is on top of the track, ready to be packed underneath it. (Photo Bob)
The excavator heads onto the turntable from on top of the turnout. (Photo Bob)
Jacking the track up to the proper height before packing ballast under the sleepers. (L-R) – Norm and Art are ready with a big spanner to operate the jack which Bob is placing under the track, John S calls the levels while John McC (hidden) winds a jack up. This is A Road – B Road is behind Bob and it will get the same treatment next week. (Photo by Neville.)
The Takeuchi excavator, driven by John McC, packs the ballast under the point timbers. using our vibrating tamping ‘head’ to give a good firm result. (Photo by Bob)
John S helps guide John McC in packing the ballast. Squeeze too hard and the track ends up with a ‘hump’ in it, but not enough and a dip is the result. Note the holes left when the tamping’s been done. That indicates that lots of rock has gone from on top to under the timber. (Photo by Bob)
Tamping the tricky bits around the turnout. (Photo by Bob)

By the end of Friday, we had ballasted and tamped the turnout and A Road well into the shed.

Friday’s other job was to install a point lever, crank and rods to operate the turnout. This can be a tricky job to make sure that the point ‘blades’ sit firmly against the ‘stock’ rails to guide a train in the right direction.

The lever, crank, spreader bars and rod are all in place and fine adjustment is under way. Trevor (L) is guiding Norm to get the lever in exactly the right place to allow a connection to fit together. Rolf (R) is cleaning the point chairs to make sure no obstructions will stop the point blades from closing properly. (Photo by Neville)
– and it works perfectly! Norm operates the lever while Trevor makes sure that everything is working properly while Rolf works in the background. (photo by Neville)

Thursday 28th and Friday 29th April
Next week we will continue at Castlemaine, jacking and packing ‘B’ Road and more track building (from the turntable back towards the ash pit.

Castlemaine at 8.00am on both days. If you’d like to join us, please call or text John on 0427 352 416.

Castlemaine Loco Shed – We’re Nearly Finished!

It was a short week this week with Good Friday giving us a day off track work.

On Thursday we set out to get the last two tracks into the loco shed as close to finished as possible. That involved final alignment of the two tracks (A Road and B Road), bolting rails together, drilling point timbers, screwing base plates into position and clipping up rails to sleepers.

By early afternoon we had the track ready to accept ballast, initially using a pile we had nearby, placed by the excavator bucket load. Once we had the track roughly supported, we were able to run a ballast train over B Road, but we’ve saved A Road for next week.

Clive, Graham (back of) and Mal hard at work bolting up a rail joint (in a very hard to get to place) at the vee crossing of the turnout.

Photos are in short supply, but at the end of the day we were able to run our fleet of excavators into B Road, ready for next Thursday.

The VGR’s entire fleet of excavators in the same place at once! Sitting on B Road, with A Road in the foreground.

Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd April
Next week we will continue at Castlemaine, ballasting, tamping and more track building. Hopefully we can leave the Castlemaine loco depot ready for locos after that.

Castlemaine at 8.00am on both days. If you’d like to join us, please call or text John on 0427 352 416.

Castlemaine Again!

Yesterday (12th April) we set to work to do more on finishing the three tracks from the turntable at Castlemaine to the new loco shed. ‘A’ Road (right hand track) is ready to be ballasted and tamped and ‘B’ Road (the centre track) was joined up as well.

The turnout is almost complete and Mal and John are getting ready to fit a closure rail between it and the track (B Road) from the shed.

We are now down to the fiddly bits of the job, cutting ‘closure rails’ to length, drilling holes, and fitting fishplates to join them together.

Clive drilling a point timber ready for screwing a base plate down.
and then driving dogspikes in. It’s the first 50 years of trackwork which are the hardest, and now he’s past that, he’s really getting into the swing of it!
In the meantime, Mal prepares concrete sleepers read to install rails on.

B Road needed about 7m of rails to join the turntable to the existing track and it’s laid on second-hand concrete sleepers.

The end of the day and the ‘almost finished’ product.

On Thursday we will finish fastening the rails, take some minor kinks out of the tracks, spread a lot of ballast and tamp the track ready for use.

Thursday 14th

Tomorrow we will be back at Castlemaine, finishing off the turnout and connecting tracks ready for a ballast train in the afternoon. Castlemaine at 8.00am. If you’d like to join us, please call or text John on 0427 352 416.

Next Week (Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd)

Once again at Castlemaine to add a little more track radiating from the turntable. Castlemaine both days at 8.00am. If you’d like to join us, please call or text John on 0427 352 416.

Back to Castlemaine Loco Shed

Thursday (7th April) and Friday (8th April) saw us back at Castlemaine working towards getting track into A and B Roads in the new Loco Shed. The last time we worked here was two weeks ago and our plan was to get both tracks into the shed and useable.

Two weeks ago we joined the rails up for A Road but didn’t finish clipping them to the concrete sleepers. So that was the first task.

Thursday (thanks to Bruce for today’s photos)

Clive and Mal lay out clips and spacers (‘biscuits’) ready for clipping the rails to the sleepers while dog Jack supervises with John and Rolf’s help.

Once that was finished, it was time to lay out sleepers over the heritage pit in B Road. This pit will eventually have timber coping around the top and the rails fastened direct to it. The concrete sleepers are a short term expedient.

John lays out the sleepers over the pit in B Road while Clive, Henry and Mal stand ready for any fine adjustment needed.

Back outside, more of the team prepares to join the previously laid turnout to B Road.

Rolf on the theodolite and Artie on the staff, re-survey the centreline for B Road, while Henry finishes off clipping up A Road and Graham prepares fishplates for the track-laying.
Another view of Rolf, Graham, Henry and Artie hard at it.

In the meantime a new acquisition in the form of rail tractor RT 31 has been delivered and is now patiently awaiting the completion of the track work to find its way into the loco shed.

RT 31 looks almost ready for work.

Back in the loco shed, the sleepers have all been laid out over the pit and preparations are under way to lay rails on them.

John in the excavator is about to lift the right hand rail into place. Will and Henry rest a little on the well wagon on the left while Mal, Clive, Ian, Norm and Graham are ready to assist. Artie and Rolf Discuss the next moves in the foreground.

With the right hand rail now in place, the rail is adjusted to give the correct gap for the joint.

Here Clive uses a sleeper plate to give the correct gap as John in the excavator slides the rail towards him.

And finally, the new rail is fish-plated to the existing one and clipped to the sleepers.

Henry, John, Graham and Mal, clip the rail to the sleepers; while Norm, Steve and Ian watch carefully.


On Friday there was further action. With a team of eight really progresses the job a good way so that there’s only a couple of days work to make the the roads into the shed useable.

The first task was to lift the second rail onto the sleepers over the pit, join it up and clip it down and that was completed ready for use. However there was still a 9m gap outside the shed between the new turnout and the track into the shed. To close it we needed to lay 9m of sleepers and rails and join it all up.

B Road into the shed had previously been laid and connected direct to the turntable, but to connect up C Road meant installing a turnout and now the track had to be re-aligned. The existing track had been buried to provide road access in front of the shed, so shifting it was no small task and way beyond the capability of our little Takeuchi excavator. So in came the ‘big gun’, our 14T Hyundai excavator which had been at Muckleford for last week’s re-railing.

The ‘Big Gun’ on the job.
Ian directing John while aligning B Road to new centre line pegs.
B Road after slewing to line up with the turnout.

By the end of the day, the track was re-aligned, sleepers laid out in the gap and rails made ready for laying on them.

Next Week

We will be working on Tuesday and Thursday next week – next Friday is Good Friday and we won’t be working that day. If you can spare some time on either Tuesday and/or Thursday please call John Shaw on 0427 352 416 and let him know.