And Over The Bridge!

This week we replaced the rails on the ‘Down’ (South) side of the track where we had replaced the ‘Up” rails last week. The process was the same but we were a bit better prepared this week so it seemed to flow a bit better.

But first – the magnificent sunrise at Maldon station that day! Inspirational – to balance the cold wind blowing.

Once on site, we unloaded the equipment and got right into it.

Unloading the spike puller from the “Yellow” truck – now painted white – but who noticed.

The rails were once again fastened to the sleepers using a mixture of screws and spikes on the timber sleepers and clips on the concrete ones.

Mal undoing the screws.
The spike puller – temporarily unmanned while Bruce the operator takes a photo of it.

The new rail is all laid out between the old ones.

New rail ready to be installed.

The first job in the actual rail changing was to undo the fishplates holding the rails together where the new one was to go in.

John S, John McC and Clive undoing the first joint.

The old rails are shifted to one side, any ballast or tree debris is cleared out of the way and then the new rail is lifted into position. The new rails to be laid today, go over Bridge 10 (Farmers Bridge).

The old rail (left) has been lifted out of the way and the new on put in its place.

Off the bridge, every third sleeper is a concrete one, so the rail is held in place by a metal lug on either side of it. However, on the bridge all the sleepers are timber, so we put a few screws loosely into some of the old holes to stop the rails moving to under the excavator.

The new rail (right) is about to be moved against the screw standing up in the sleeper to ensure the excavator runs over rails the right distance apart.

Moving the new rails, which weigh about 2.5 tonnes, up to the previously laid ones and leaving the correct gap (to the millimetre) can be quite tricky. On Thursday we tried using a rail grab attached to the arm of the excavator to see if we could do it a bit easier – and it helped a bit.

John S with a radio, talks to John McC in the excavator while the rail is very slowly moved to give an 11mm gap for expansion.

Close behind the excavator is the team clipping the rails to the concrete sleepers.

Mal and Clive get on with the clipping while John S and Murray discuss joining the rails together.

By the end of Thursday we had replaced 275m of rail and clipped it up to the concrete sleepers. Friday’s job was to fasten the rails to the timber sleepers, particularly over the bridge, and join the new rail to the old – ready for tomorrows trains.

The short piece of rail (second from left) will be added to the nearest one on the right and the old rail cut to match it.

Friday’s gang was once again quite small (the gang – not the people!) with just four of us there.

We drilled holes in timber sleepers, installed sleeper plates, Pandrol adaptors and clips and drove in spikes until all the rails we laid on Thursday were securely fastened ready for Saturday’s trains.

We also closed the gap between the new rails and the old, and built a bit of a ramp to take account of the 25mm difference in height between the old rails and the new. We now have just 5,267m of track to re-rail to finish the job between Castlemaine and Muckleford. That’s just 10,534m of rail to go!

Next Week – Thursday and Friday – More track to be laid into the loco shed at Castlemaine. Meet at Castlemaine Depot at 8.00am each day. Please ring John on 0427 352 416 to confirm you are coming- or if you would like to join us for the first time!

Thursday and Friday Re-railing – The Left Hand Rail!

On Thursday and Friday we replaced about 275m of 60 lb/yd rail in 22’6″ lengths (30kg/m in 6.86m lengths) with 94 lb/yd rail in 180′ lengths (47kg/m in 55m lengths).

Task 1 is to unfasten the existing rails – these being held by a mixture of dog-spikes and dog-screws in timber sleepers and Pandrol e-clips in concrete sleepers.

Here Malcolm is undoing dog-screws using an electric impact wrench.
Followed by Graham pulling spikes.

Rolf had gone ahead removing anchors and e-clips – sorry no photo!

John McC got stuck into using the ‘big digger’, aka Hyundai 140W7, to shift the old rail to one side and move the new rail into place.

John McC swaps his first ever rail while John S “helps”.
The first of the new rails is in place ready for fastening.

The rail ends have to be carefully adjusted to give the right gap to suit the length of the rail and the prevailing temperature. Too much gap and the rail joints might pull apart in winter cold and too little may make the rails buckle in the summer heat. We use a clever ‘pyrometer’ to measure the exact temperature of the rail and then look up a table which tells us how much gap to leave to suit the length of the rail.

Here Graham, Malcolm (hidden) and Norm work on bolting up the fishplates after lubricating them to ensure the rails can move a little when the temperature goes up or down. Clive (left) is checking the remaining old rail.
Up ahead, and John in the excavator is swapping the last rail length for the day, just over ‘Farmers Bridge’, while John on the ground prepares the junction of the new rail to the old.
The short piece of rail shown is a junction rail which is a piece of 47kg/m rail welded to a piece of 40kg/m rail. The rail joint in the foreground, where the wide rail head meets the narrow head, is a junction joint from 40kg/m to 30kg/m. This arrangement is needed because there are no standard junction fishplates to join 47kg/m rail directly to 30kg/m.

Friday’s work was to finish fastening rails to sleepers to allow trains to run on Saturday. There were only four of us in the gang on Friday (8 on Thursday) and it kept us going all day. Our job wasn’t helped when our hydraulic dog-spike driver malfunctioned and we had to revert to driving dog-spikes using sledge hammers. Nostalgia is all very well, but we much prefer the mechanical method over the old and very tiring way of doing things.

Our small gang on Friday was a reflection of the age we live in and the age of our team. One was away with Covid, two were in hospital under repair, (not because of trackwork!), and one was away attending a funeral. We look forward to seeing you all back soon. If anyone would like to come and try track work you would be welcome. No special knowledge or skill is required and as you can see, you don’t have to young or fit!

Sorry there were no photos, but our usual photographer was under repair on Friday.

Next week we will be back at the same place, replacing the rails on the other ‘leg’ of the track.

Next Week – Thursday and Friday – Re-railing over ‘Farmers Bridge’. Meet at Muckleford at 8.00am each day. Please ring John on 0427 352 416 to confirm you are coming- or if you would like to join us for the first time!

Into the Loco Shed

On Friday we connected the track from the turntable to A Bay in the Loco Shed – almost ready for locos.

John and John finishing off screwing down points

Our first job was to finish off the pointy end of the turnout – we ran out of the right screws yesterday!

Trevor and John cutting and drilling rails to bridge the gap.

Fitting a ‘closure’ rail between two sections of track takes a lot of care and we had four to do.

Mick hard at work with a paint brush, lubricating the ends of rails before joining them.
John, Trevor, John and Rolf drilling, bolting and clipping rails before screwing them to the timbers.
Here comes the excavator to move some rails.
The track is joined up but not finished, but good enough for the Excavator to run over.

And to prove its good enough –

In the door it comes.

Another successful day but with quite a bit to do before we finish it.

Next Week – Thursday and Friday – Re-railing towards Farmers Bridge. Meet at Muckleford at 8.00am each day. Please ring John on 0427 352 416 to confirm you are coming.

Castlemaine Loco Shed Track Getting Closer

On Thursday and Friday we worked on finishing the access tracks into A and B bays of the new loco shed at Castlemaine. Back in February we made a good start by building most of the turnout needed to connect the turntable to the two right hand bays in the shed and then had to do bridge work and squeeze in a week of track work at Newport.

We now have another member of the Civil team who is filling in part-time for Will while he is on leave. John McCorkelle started a week or so ago and this week was his “baptism of fire” with the Takeuchi excavator while he shifted materials about and ballasted the track.

Adding ballast, a bucket at a time.

The weather started out a bit bleak, but that didn’t trouble Clive and Malcolm who bravely drilled and screwed rails to point timbers.

Jacks to the fore!

There was quite a dip in the turnout, so it was time to start getting ballast under the timbers. The site was very muddy because of the rain in the morning, so we confined the excavator to delivering rock from a nearby pile to the turnout by rail. This involved filling the bucket, running the excavator onto the turntable, turning it to line up with the new track, then running the excavator onto the new turnout to drop off a bucket of ballast. Lots of times! A slow and tedious process.

Rolf and Clive powering the turntable as part of the ballast delivery.

While the ballast was being delivered we roughly packed it under the point timbers to support the turnout under the excavator and to keep ourselves warm during the process. As the day wore on, the need to keep warm by shovelling went away and we had to resort to storytelling to distract us from the hot and sweaty work.

At the end of play on Thursday, the turnout was ready to connect up to the existing track into the shed.

(Photos – Bruce)