Tangent 15-16

It’s done! After another stunning day’s work, we felt very proud. We’ve now got 80lb rail from Muckleford yard, all the way to the end of curve 20 with no bits of 60lb at all! Only the long straight to go in this half of the line.

We got into an excellent swing early this morning and despite it warming up a bit, we managed to keep up an excellent pace, with all 12 rails completely installed before 2pm.

We had to cut a shortish closure rail to join up with the crossing, but had a left over odd length perfect for the job.

We got into a great system today, for some reason it seemed even better than usual, but we did actually have a few extra hands.

Some final lifting to remove the dip off the crossing (built in on purpose when the crossing was rebuilt and joined to the 60lb) was the only major task for the afternoon. It looks excellent now, a really impressive piece of track.

We even found the time to sort all the old jewellery from this straight into drums or onto pallets, which means final cleanup will be a breeze.

Tomorrow is a get ready day for the big big week next week, 8am at Maldon.

We’re replacing almost 200 sleepers between Rowe St and Castlemaine Station all of next week, so any extra hands would be greatly appreciated. From 7am till we decide its too hot each day.

A very hot day…

With a top of 42 degrees predicted, we were out and about even before the sun was this morning, a quick pic of the sunrise grabbed on the way to site.

This is what faced our small team of 3 this morning, ballast scraping and tamping.

And in time we ended up with this! Thankfully the digger does 99% of the work, which in the heat is pretty much a necessity. We were going so well that my 9am we’d scraped up rock for tamping, tamped the whole section and removed any dips and twists, regulated the ballast to a nice finish and even dropped out the left over concrete sleepers to the next part of the job!

We’re back into re-railing next week, with much better weather predicted!

Concrete Sleepers

After a well deserved summer break the civil gang is back. We had planned on re-railing this week but with the ridiculously hot weather we chose a much more appropriate task.

Another 41 concrete sleepers were installed into curve 10. It was all done in the usual fashion, with one exception. A tamp of the sleepers was undertaken prior to clipping up, which greatly improved things. Normally with large gangs we’re actually looking for jobs for people, so a few extras on bars in helpful, but for today’s crew of 6 the tamping up was a life saver.

It couldn’t be said we were really in the shade today, but it wasn’t as bad as being in the full sun.

We’ve got the operation quite slick now, with all 41 sleepers installed by around 3pm, very good going for a hot day.

The small gang clinging to any shade available, we even had Wes, a visitor all the way from Queensland!

With tomorrow’s extreme weather warning for heat and fire danger, we won’t be doing any new works. We’ll be on site from 6.30am for ballast regulating and tamping, hopefully off site by morning tea. You’re welcome to join but please don’t make the trip if travelling a long way.

The week that was…

It’s been a rather busy week, with things seeming to be happening all over the railway. This a recap of all the activites over the past week, the final week on the track gang for 2018.

It would appear that our use of K class on a works train some months ago left the J class feeling left out, as this time when we requested a loco for a works train, it was sent out to the job!

It was mainly due to the diesel being in the workshops receiving a new paint job, however the opportunity was taken to undertake some training and assessment of loco crews, so a win win all around.

It’s purpose was to drop out rail near the Bendigo Road Level crossing ready for next year’s re-railing program.

All the required jewellery was also dropped out, it seems like a mountain of stuff, but we’ll likely need to get more yet to complete the job.

We’ve got a good work party planned for the week starting the 14th Jan, we’re actually hoping to be in at Castlemaine replacing sleepers next to the main line, but should we run into trouble this will be out contingency.

The day was also the first use of the QR wagon on a works train, used to transport out the dog spikes and sleeper plates. Here Will, sitting comfortably in his lunch chair!, is calling back the engine onto the wagons (it was sent away during lunch for re-fuelling).

Another pleasant first, we can’t actually remember ever using the J on a true works train before… We probably have but we decided if we can’t remember then this counts as a first!

Thursday’s gang was then tasked with the job of distributing the jewellery. But after a quick glance at the digger’s fuel gauge, we decided some more was needed. It’s got a fantastic fuel filler pump arrangement, perfect for sucking out of 200l drums.

First off bolts were dropped out, followed by Clive dropping out fish plates.

Next off was sleeper plates, this time we spent a bit more time positioning each precisely on the end of each sleeper and facing the correct way. Clive, Malcolm and Bruce got very proficient at this after 4 pallets worth.

Spikes were also dropped out, again with more precision than usual, right at the end of the sleepers, to hopefully avoid the need for double handling that can slow things down a bit.

Some odd jobs around Maldon a bit of a Christmas breakup filled in the afternoon.

Today’s small crew of 3 took on the task of trying to tackle our ever growing mess at Maldon. A recent donation of pallets makes the job much easier.

We don’t appear to have made massive in roads, but we have managed to sort most of the loose items into containers and have cleared room to start organising the pallets, drums and other bits into logical rows with some system.

There’s a lot to go, but once the genuine scrap is removed to free up valuable space, the area will actually look quite respectable. We also found all sorts of things we had no idea we had. One goal for 2019 will be to organise the stock piles, as this has caused some down time this year (trying to find those bolts or that plate…).

The week was finished with a final track patrol. And we are pleased to report that not a single new fault was found! A true tribute to all those who have helped out on the gang this year. We can’t thank you enough.

We’ll be taking a break until Thursday 3rd Jan. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We look forward to another great year in 2019.

More Rail Preparation

First off we bolted the remaining rails to go into tangent 15-16 into strings ready for the re-railing there, which may now happen in the new year. It was a small quick job with the good crew we had today.

More 80lb rail preparation followed, 25 lengths were drilled and trimmed ready for the next re-railing job, with a total of 43 now loaded onto a wagon ready for dispatch.

It was relatively slow going compared to previous efforts just because the rail is in a much more awkward location… It does however mean we have put a massive dent in the stockpiles.

Here the drillers and trimmers are doing what they can before lifting out the rails, due to space restrictions.

A lot of effort was spent on preparing the other items needed, stacking fishplates onto pallets and loading drums with spikes.

It was once stacks of rail as far as the eye could see along here, now only the short lengths and turnout components remain.

Now laden with dog spikes and sleeper plates, our newest member of the fleet is ready to go on its first works train.

We even found the time to unload the QN wagon loaded with timber from Castlemaine Yard, this will no doubt form a bonfire once the fire season passes.

Next week will see the end of the civil works for 2018, so feel free to join us Thursday and or Friday, if numbers look good we’ll be onto re-railing, otherwise we’ll be preparing for the next re-railing.

Rail preparation

The day, although dedicated to 80lb rail preparation, started off with the unloading of around 130 steel sleepers. The sleepers were collected yesterday from our good friends at Healesville, the Yarra Valley Railway. They were surplus to their requirements and we have jumped at the opportunity.

You’ll likely see some pics of the YVR in the coming year as by way of thanks for this and all their help in getting the concrete sleepers we plan on helping their railway out where possible as they start off their re-laying to Yarra Glen. It’s always good to help out other railways where we can, we’re all in it together!

We arrived at Muckleford perfectly in time for the weather to turn very wet! But thankfully the digger was able to keep busy doing lots of tidying up and stacking of short rails.

While the gang watched on from the shelter of the goods shed.

Before too long a break in the clouds meant back to work, with 28 rails prepared and loaded in between the showers and thunderstorms.

The other big news for today was we have now technically ‘used’ the recently refurbished QR wagon! We’ve stacked on 7 pallets of sleeper plates, ready for our next re-railing job. It’ll be an extremely useful wagon for moving around these items, as it’s the only vehicle we’ve got with a flat floor! Check out the mechanical blog for details of its restoration – VGR Mechanical Blog

Tomorrow’s weather is also a little shaky but should be manageable, so we’ve changed plans and we’ll start at tangent 15-16 bolting up rails, before heading back to Muckleford to prepare more 80lb rail. Meet Maldon 8am

Curve 10

As promised another 20 concrete sleepers were installed into curve 10 today.

The heat, although predicted to be worse than yesterday, didn’t really reach its peak until after lunch. This worked out well as we’d already decided lunch should see the 20 finished and us on the way home.

It’s amazing just how good the track looks once the sleepers are installed and the ballast has been regulated.

Here our current President Steve is surveying our works, in his site approriate clothing! He arrived just as we were finishing so his workwear wasn’t needed but it’s alway nice to see our work appreciated by others on the railway. We also spent some time removing dipped joints from the curve after completing the main works, this has really improved the look and will undoublty improve the ride.

This job is now becoming very well executed. Although we had actually removed all the screws yesterday, the lifting, tamping, removal of the old timber, installing the concrete, fastening up and finishing off was completed by lunch, a good effort for a crew of 5 in the sweltering heat.

To add to our presidential theme, a most recent ex-president decided today was the day to join the track gang. Michael tells us he had a great time, despite the heat. He’s turned out to be an natural with a clip applicator! We hope to see him on the gang again soon.

With the extremely uncomfortable weather (first of the season always seems worse) the gang has again gone well above and beyond the call of duty over the past two days, with a very respectable 60 sleepers installed and this part of the curve now finished.

Next week will see 80lb rails being prepared on Thursday and completing the last of the re-railing in tangent 15-16 on Friday. The weather is looking much better (wet at this stage but that will no doubt change) so please join us.