Well it’s done!

It was full steam ahead with drilling and spiking this morning. With the 1 in 3 completed by morning tea.

We used a combination of drills today, just to mix it up a bit.

Just after morning tea, we began a tamping pass to lift the undrilled sleepers. This was followed very closely by the drilling and spiking crew, so closely we were all done by lunch time.

Now it wouldn’t be a ceremonious occasion in track work if there wasn’t a Golden Dogspike and a Speech.

John didn’t dissapointed with either.

It’s almost 5 years to the day since the re-railing program began, it’s been a long and sometimes slow road. however with 5 years of practice behind us, it’s fair to say we’ve got pretty good, managing to aquire greatly improved equipment, tools and techniques, as well as being able to train up our volunteers to become very very proficient track maintainers.

With a few swift blows after a very appropriate speech, thanking our hard working volunteers, John had driven home our golden spike!

(We do have a video of this that we’ll post up soon when we do a peice on the whole re-railing project)

(if anyone’s thinking they might like to souvenir this gold spike, they will be quite dissapointed to find it is in fact a very well painted regular dog spike)

Nev, looking very proud to be part of the momentous day.

Once the important spiking works were complete, we tended to some significant dips in the track. The main dip funnily enough was at the very crest of the hill!

But some jacking and tamping has brought it back to a lovely vertical curve.

We also had several smaller twists and unlevel sections that were not pretty, but these are now gone and this bit of track looks very smart indeed.

The completed job, with everyone either looking very happy or waiving their arms in celebration.

Today marks a very significant day on our railway. Not only has it shown that we are determined to ensure our railway keeps operating, it has shown that we have the ability to go one step further….

We have helped ensure that our railway will be around for the next 100 Years.

We’ve taken our old branchline standard of railway, with trains maybe twice a week, to a railway that can handle our ever growing traffic, while reducing our ongoing maintenance requirements.

We’re making our permenant way sustainable, safer, stronger, smoother and future proof, it now brings us in line with current Australian industry standards, allowing the greatly increased use of mechanised maintenance and off the shelf replacements, spares, fittings etc…

But it’s really down to the ongoing support of our volunteers, benefactors and dedicated supporters who have allowed this to happen. We couldn’t have done any of this without you and as such we want to thank you formally, with a special train later this year, for all to enjoy and to see for yourself the result of all this hard work. (details released soon).

As a bit of a rounding off to the great day, we kicked another small milestone…

We were able to remove the temporary speed restriction that we’ve had over this straight. With the exception of Bendigo Road Crossing (for safety reasons), this whole section is now line speed – 25mph (40kph), the first time ever in VGR history.

The rails in!

Well it was a massive effort but we’ve now replaced all the 60lb between Maldon and Muckleford!

Today was probably the most different we’ve had when it comes to re-railing, as we had to keep letting passenger trains through.

As such we set about installing 8 x 80lB rails before 11am, with that completed just in time to allow the first train through without having to hold them up.

Between 11 and 1.45 (the next train) we managed the same again. As such we’ve installed and spiked 1 in 3 16 x 80lb rails todays.

But that wasn’t all.

After the last train was through we quickly pulled out the final 18 lengths of 60lb. As well as moving into position the final 9 lengths of 80lb. An amazing effort considering our smaller gang size and train impositions.

We’ve just cut in the final length of 80lb for this section, with Clive and John prepareing to drill holes for the last joint.

Plates on, bolts in with just tightening to go for all the rails to be in!

It was quite a ceremonious occasion, so having 4 bolts meant we had to have 4 different dooer-uppers. Bruce did the honors first.

Followed by John

Then onto Rolf

With Mal now able to claim he was the last to do up a bolt during the re-rail of this section! A sensational team effort.

A view back up the hill of the day’s hard work.

And a view down the hill, it’s a little hard to tell, but the difference is actually quite noticeable.

We even got Mick out with his fancy thermometer to check out our rail temperatures (about 36-38 degrees C if you were wondering, air temp was around 26). This was more a curiosity than anything.

The re-railing has been massive task for the Railway, taking enormous resources, planning and manpower. But just ask anyone who takes a ride to find out just how amazingly better our railway is for it. And it’s all down to our equally amazing volunteers, who give up their time to keep our railway not only running, but hlpung to make these significant improvements, we can’t thank you enough.

It’s not quite time to hang up the tools in celebration, as we still need to complete all the spiking and install anchors by close of play tomorrow.

Why not join us to help celebrate this enormous milestone in the history of the VGR. Many hands make light work and this will be the last opportunity to experience the re-railing in this style as the other section will be much different with it’s concrete sleepers. Meeting Maldon 8am or site from 8.15am, we’d love to have you there.

Trenching – filled!

Well three long days of back filling, our enormous trench is no longer.

With all but the small hole in front of the digger now filled and smoothed, it will of course all sink and require topping up after some rain.

Unfortunately this doesn’t quite mean the end of the trenching works, as there is about half as much still to go in the south direction, but it’ll be much easier with far fewer obstacles in the way. That will still be a few weeks away.

Tomorrow’s gang will be begging the final re-railing in the Maldon – Muckleford section. Please come along and help us celebrate this enormous milestone. Maldon 8am or site from 8.15am.

Civil Saturday’s

This coming Saturday’s gang will be working again on the signalling in Castlemaine yard.

It’ll be lubrication of the vital innards of the signal box itself, a sight not often seen, so if you’ve even wondered how the signal box really works, Saturday’s for you.

Meeting at the Signal box from 8.30, access may be limited from Walker street so parking in the station carpark is recommended.

Trenching

We’re finally up to the un-trenching phase in Castlemaine.

For convenience and just because we could we’ve started at the south end and we’re working north.

It’s a case of installing sand over the services, dirt over that to 300mm below ground level, rolling out the danger tape for the electricity, followed by the final cover of dirt with a few compaction runs of the digger.

Here project manager Graeme is taking a well earned break after the section behind him has just had it’s tape installed, to be filled first thing tomorrow morning, were about 1/3 of the way there after today’s efforts.

We should have it all backfilled by end of play tomorrow, with final tidy up to occur on Wednesday.

Muckleford Creek Bridge

The wiggly track over Muckleford Creek was tackled today. It’s a two part process. To start with the track is lifted a reasonable height (about 30mm) to remove all dips and to loosen it up for sliding/aligning.

The second part is to align the track, we didn’t get time to do that part today, but we did get the whole bridge lifted and what a difference it made.

Part of lifting is to ensure the deck below isn’t losing ballast, which in places it was. This was remedied in two of the worse locations, but it’s a very labour and time intensive job so we’ve still got more to do.

The gang even took the opportunity to realign a few skewed sleepers and replace a failing set of fish plates.

Here John’s re-drilling a sleeper which was moved away while the hole in the decking below was plated. We use any old sleeper plates which have no use to us in the track.

To ferry the plates and reduce handling, the yellow truck brought them close enough to the bridge to allow passing up, with Clive and Rolf having a breather between plate handling, while Mick digs out the next hole.

The whole bridge was jacked to a very nice uniform height before a tamping pass.

The amount of lifting was very evident after the tamp, with the bridge now needing more ballast. However that won’t go on until after the holes are plated and track is straightened.

It’s a bit hard to see, but the track is now a uniform height right across the bridge, something we just haven’t been able to get around to until now.

After next weeks re-railing and the following week at Korumburra, we’ll be back here to finish the job, after which we expect it to look like 60mph track!

In other news, one of our well wagons is going through the workshops next week (general maintenance) and Riley has taken the opportunity to finish the painting, thanks again Riley and keep up the good work.

Just a reminder, due to the public holiday there’s no workday tomorrow. But we will be back into it next week, Mon to Wed in Castlemaine & Thurs/Friday re-railing.

Services

Another big day at Castlemaine. The water meter and fire service/ booster point are now installed.

The power is getting closer also, with most of the conduit now in place and all their trenches dug.

There’s a bit to go yet, but Wednesday next week the site should look much more normal.

Due some boundary complications, the power actually runs through next door’s property, The Mill, who we’re very thankful for their fantastic cooperation.

We’ve even back filled the first section to satisfy the ending of a permit for works near some live optic fibres.

There will be a little more work here in the morning, but more so Monday / Tuesday will see lots of the trenche filled.

The gang will be out tomorrow at Muckleford Creek Bridge lining and lifting the track. Meet Maldon 8am or sit’s from 8.30am