Castlemaine Yard

Something a little different today, actually something we haven’t done for quite a few months, replacing timber sleepers with timber sleepers! We began by loading all the required gear onto the excavator trolley and headed out into the yard.

Today’s victim was the North end of 3 Road, we’ve replaced all truely failed sleepers between the double compound and the signalbox, there’s always many more that could be done, however this cycle will remove anything that won’t survive another 12 months.

We’ve only used 2nd hand timber, which should comfortably see another 4-5 years, at which point we’ll hopefully have found sufficient money to completely dig out all of the sleepers and ballast (basically just ash) and renew it all and install some drainage, as it really doesn’t have any, just pretty good free draining soil below.

You do forget how tedious timber sleepers are compared with concrete, first remove spikes and sleepers, then change the sleeper, return the plates, drill/spike one side, gauge it and then drill/spike the other, quite a lot of stuffing about really, particularly tedious in confined locations such as this.

We did get back into a good swing after a few sleepers, with today’s total being around 25.

We’ll, progressively over the next few weeks, move around the yard and ensure all failed timber is removed, for now we’re keeping anything visible from the platform timber, but once we’re any distance away, we’ll be changing to concrete.

We even had to drag out the gauger for the job, doesn’t get a lot of use these days, but a really useful tool when it is needed.

Tomorrow’s crew will be continuing with more of the same. We’ll be meeting at the loco depot at 8.15am, where we’ll then take the gear out into the yard and begin.

Castlemaine Loco

The first work day of 2022 has seen us back in at the depot in Castlemaine, with the east road of the loco shed now all tamped up and, ballast tidied up, ready to store some locos on.

We had to drag everything out of the shed to complete our works, and we suspect it’ll be a long time before we see it this empty again!

We spent the afternoon (but forgot to get pictures), trimming foliage along the turntable road. Using a polesaw and a moveable work platform (that looked suspiciously like a GY wagon), we were able to trim back sufficiently to now have nothing too close to the rolling stock as it passes through, much improved. We’ve even stacked all the trimmings into the GY for delivery to a suitable location to dispose of.

Thursday and Friday this week, we’ll be meeting at Castlemaine from 8.15am, where we’ll be renewing sleepers around the platform area. Meeting up at the Castlemaine Depot however, so we can bring down the equipment.

The final works for 2022

It’s been a massive year, with an enormous amount achieved, just head back through the archives of this blog for 2022 to see just what we managed to achieve.

This week saw the final bits of work for 2022, which included fixing the flail mower and testing out our new laser level to ensure we get all our heights for things right.

The poor old flail mower has now seen a lot of use. Its main top piece was starting to show signs of wearing, so we’ve replaced it with a new and slightly heavier piece of steel. This just a small part of what goes on behind the scenes to make sure we can keep all the gear in good condition.

We got a nice orange level, it’s not the best of the best, but it certainly will do everything we need it to, which is largely setting levels, straight lines and handling grades, all things that are essential to the kind of work we do.

Although this blog focuses largely on the track, there are other things of note that have happened this year in the Civil Branch.

During the course of the year much has happened with our signalling equipment, both in maintenance and acquisition, a snapshot of this sort of work from this year was:

  • Refurbishment of flashing light heads for spares and future LX.
  • Refurbishment of recovered track disconnection boxes, retap screw holes, repaint lids orange
  • Submission of Expression of Interest documents for surplus signalling equipment to Victrack etc
  • Collection of donated signalling equipment ex Meredith, Melton, Seymour & Vline Lara depot
  • Resolved & installed outstanding spares & current date relays from Vline for MLRFGR LX
  • Install and test temporary radio remote control from trolleys etc for Maldon Lockwood LX
  • Install and test temporary radio remote control from trolleys etc for Midland Highway LX.
  • Upgrade Healthy state light to LED at Midland Highway and MacLise St , CME.
  • Regular maintenance (T3) & Planned servicing of parts on the three active LX.
  • Exploration of design features for future signal reversers at CME (Guard in charge working).
  • Exploration of signalling design & equipment procurement for future outer home signal at CME.
  • Liaison with Civil Manager & civil dept and providing on going technical signalling support
  • Keeping records of equipment and service intervals for signalling equipment.
  • On going liaison with Vline Projects for outstanding issues relating to Maldon Lockwood Rd LX

A lot goes on to ensure we can keep our current supply of signalling equipment in good working order, as well as trying to ensure we can acquire enough good serviceable 2nd hand equipment for our future needs (such as installing flashing lights at the Walmer Road Crossing).

Back in November we were donated a signal doll and arm. Long term member Dr Yuri Sos has begun to ‘downsize’ his collection of railwayana. He offered the VGR an 8′ signal doll mast- as seen on the departure mast at Castlemaine – and distant signal arm which were deemed as scrap during the Western Line closure in the mid 1990s.

Our signal department was extremely happy to accept the generous offer. The only missing part was a finial. Many years ago, foundation member Tony Marsden had one cast by Billman’s Castlemaine and gave it to Yuri and now it is with the doll. The mast came from the signal bridge on the downside of Buangor Loop which was deemed as scrap during the Western Line closure in the mid 1990s.  The  signal arm came from the up distant signal at Kororoit Creek Sunshine which was removed when the line between Sunshine and Deer Park was duplicated in 1976.

John McCorkille travelled to Sunshine to pick up the prized possessions and our crane truck was needed to lift the heavy doll mast with Yuri and Tony assisting John.

We thank Yuri for his kind donation which will be valuable assets for the railway.

We wish everyone a very safe and happy New Year. As always, a massive thankyou to everyone who has helped us out this year, we couldn’t do any of it without our supporters and volunteers. We’re looking forward to another busy year in 2023, with lots on the cards, including some work in the depot at Castlemaine, lots of bridge work, heaps of re-railing and lots and lots of sleepers!! Works will be back in full swing from Tuesday 3rd January, meeting at Castlemaine Depot from 8.30am.

Mowing and Tidying

Mowing, it was just a massive day of limeside slashing with the flail, with the little digger on hand to move all the items that have got in the way of the mowing over the past few years.

The trolley to go behind the excavator received a thorough workout today, with many loads transported away from the lineside around Castlemaine to much more appropriate homes. These drums did a long trip to Muckleford while many other items, such as sleepers, were condensed in single piles rather than multiple smatterings.

The grass mowing is progressing very well, with hopefully only two more days needed to knock it over. Therefore, we will be able to hold a workday on Thursday for anyone interested. It’ll be at Castlemaine Depot, jacking and tamping the loco shed track, meeting there from 8.30am.