Finishing off

Another 22 sleepers installed today, mainly concrete but a few timber as well.

After a good tamp and ballast scrape this section is looking very smart.

Next week will be a big week, as we start 9km of rail recovery! Work starts Tuesday, with any extra hands very welcome. Meeting Maldon 8am.

Maclise Street Crossing

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Today saw a very old section of poor track corrected. This very short section between Maclise Street Crossing and the pedestrian crossing has been on our watch list for some years, finally showing signs in December that it was due for renewal.

received_2847514305292021 As the location was noting short of awkward, we decided it best to do a total sleeper replacement rather than individual sleepers.

As it was largely buried, we were presently surprised to find that several of the sleepers were still really quite good, but while in there it would have been foolish not to replace them.

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Given the location of the conduits for the track circuits, we elected to do all the replacements from within the 5 foot, an easy task when the gap is large enough. We even cleaned out all the ballast to make the job easier.

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We haven’t as yet ballasted or tamped this section, a job for tomorrow.

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The sleepers near the crossing took all morning, but we did manage to insert a further 9 concrete sleepers and 14 timber sleepers into the nearby curves, just as spot replacements for life expired timber.

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We used a mixture of timber and concrete sleepers, it’s a bit of a test to see how the concrete performs given the somewhat poor quality of the ballast here.

Similar tests have so far proved extremely successful, we’re fortunate that given our light axle loads, low speeds and relatively few trains, we can get by with installing concrete in lesser quality ballast with no issues. The timber is second hand, removed from near Muckleford where we’ve installed concrete, it’s of varying quality and we’re not likely to see more than 4-5 years of service, which is why we’re eager to see how the concrete will perform.

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We’ve got another 20 sleepers to install tomorrow (we’ve already removed the old ones). All will need a tamp and the usual boxing up of the ballast etc…

It has been declared a day of total fire ban tomorrow (mainly due to wind), we will still be working however as we have no grinding, cutting or high fire risk tasks to undertake, we will look at finishing early if the weather turns out to be too bad.

Meeting at Maldon 7.45am or site from 8.30am.

 

 

The great wall of Castlemaine

It’s 2020 and we’ve hit the ground running.

The great wall of Castlemaine is now almost done! With a big effort today, securing the last of the rail and back filling, we now only have the top rail to be fitted.

By lunch time we’d fastened all the rails and began the filling (including the danger tape for the electricity).

It ended up looking pretty snazzy.

We even spent a good 10 minutes deciding how the top rail should be installed.

We will use old point rodding, sitting on an angle over the foot of the uprights. After much discussion and deliberation, all 4 of us decided this looked very neat and tidy and will leave a finished product with no sharp edges.

Thursday / Friday will be installing a mix of concrete and timber sleepers near Maclise St Crossing, where the old timber is starting to fail. Meeting Maldon 8am or site from 8.45am.

Retaining Wall Castlemaine

Well we set out to install as much of the rail in the retaining wall as possible today, the end result was greatly more than we had expected given the horrid weather.

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We’ve completed all the full length runs of longitudinal rail strings, with only about 10 rails left to install in the higher section early in the new year.

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The day began by unloading rail from the wagon stored on site, placing the first of the rails down and working out exactly how to ensure they stayed there while they were welded on.

Bruce and Colin were very quick to work out a very easy system with crow bars, which proved to work extremely well.

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Bazz was chief welder, working very closely behind the bolting up and propping crews.

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By morning tea we’d reached the north end with the first run of rail, which proved quite time consuming as we had all sorts of conduits and an NBN pit to negotiate, thankfully Project Manager Graeme and Rolf tackled this task.

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Morning tea was spent using about the only decent shade available in this area of the Castlemaine Yard – next to an old oil tanker.

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We had some cutting to do and although water is now on site we decided the fire truck was just as good as any… until we managed to break the hose reel. The effect was very spectacular and the gang were in no way complaining about the water spray, once we’d run the ute back and fourth to wet the area we reverted to the mains supply while the hose reel was fixed.

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By lunch we’d done so well we were even able to sand over the last of the exposed conduits to make life much easier for the higher levels of rails.

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Lunch was in the sturdy old Shunter’s Cabin, now equip with couch and bench!

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After lunch and we really got into the swing of things, with it all coming together very quickly. In the end we just had to give up because of the heat and given the enormous effort put in by everyone, it was a well deserved early finish (only about 1/2 hour early mind).  The new grabs proved invaluable in this task, the ability to move them so precisely made it very easy.

We’ve now got 6 longitudinal strings installed the full length, we still need to install another longitudinal string for half the length and then at least another for a quarter of the length. Something we should be able to achieve easily in the new year. Then we’ll be able to start back-filling and tidying up once that’s done.

That was the last workday for 2019! Tomorrow’s extreme heat, total fire ban and high fire danger seems like the universe’s way of telling us we’ve done enough for the year and we deserve an extra day off. (Civil Saturday on 21st Dec will NOT be running due to the same reason)

We look forward to seeing you all again in 2020, with gangs starting back on Tuesday 7th January. Thank-you once again to everyone who has come out and helped on the civil gangs this year – we just couldn’t have done it without you.

We would like to wish everyone a very safe and happy festive season – watch this space for the excitement that will be civil gangs 2020!

 

 

 

 

 

Last of the detailed track inspection and some very interesting figures

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Today was the last of the track walk, between Winters Flat Bridge and Castlemaine. Nothing unexpected or disastrous, however a few things we will tend to early in the new year before they get any worse.

We even did a very detailed track patrol over the whole length, replacing 3 broken bolts, tightening others and tending to general odd jobs.

The retaining wall at Castlemaine had its bracing removed (now the concrete’s starting to set) ready for finishing (hopefully) on Thursday.

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We even had our friendly Arborist in to remove a large dead tree at Maldon, it was starting to drop limbs and presented quite a risk. All the messy heads have been chipped and we’ve been left with the timber to use as light up wood for the locos.

On the theme of inspections and reducing risk, we have recently compiled the past few years of data in terms of sleeper insertions and re-railing.

Given our largely Volunteer Gangs, average age (over 60) and sometimes less than ideal working conditions (the hot summer days, wind, dust and general hard labour) the figures and graphs below paint an extremely pleasant picture of our tremendous track gang and all those who support them.

Sleeper Totals by Type
Concrete Steel Timber
2019 1932 0 127
2018 367 51 134
2017 (June to Dec Only) 0 0 217
Total Jun 17 to Dec 19 2299 51 478

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Re-railing of 60lb/yard Rail with 80lb/yard Rail
metres
2019 2793
2018 4159.5
2017 (June to Dec Only) 2009.5
Total Jun 17 to Dec 19 8962

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These figures are only since June 2017 (When the simple self calculating electronic records were started) and there are some equally significant figure from years gone past that shouldn’t be forgotten.

The figures really just speak for themselves, we will be happy to provide any explanation if asked in the comments section, but basically, we have made an enormous leap forward in the past 2.5 years in future proofing our little railway.

We now have in excess of 16km (lineal) of 80lb rail in place of the old 60lb, we have over 2300 less timber sleepers (now concrete) to worry about replacing every 20 or so years and most importantly we’ve achieved it all with a massive smile on our face.

We know that forever thanking everyone doesn’t make for the most exciting reading, but it is worth noting that it is a massive team of people that have made this possible, from our front line warriors out there week after week, to the behind the scenes meetings securing these valuable materials to the continued financial support from those who think our cause is worthy enough and to the management who have plenty of long days pulling out their hair trying to make it all come together.

We thank you all.

 

Some context in regards to the significant of these figures:

We have around 22000 sleepers in our 18km of track. Having 2300 concrete sleepers which have a life span of 50+ years (probably much longer on our line) means over 10% of our sleepers are “Durable” or long lasting sleepers. We can never expect more than 20 years from a timber sleeper and the continual replacement with timber is a very labour intensive task, requiring vast cost often at the cost of actual improvement (in the case of small business like ours).

10% might not seem a lot, but when you consider that just over 9% of that was just in this year alone… it shows if we can get the materials, we can make a bigger difference, fast. Assuming a steady supply of appropriate concrete sleepers and suitable conditions we could achieve a fully durable running line within the next 12 years.

We have 36 lineal km or rail (or there abouts) on our line, approximately 23 – 25km (exact figure not at hand when writing this) have already been re-railed or were already a heavier rail. So we are now well over half way. We only have around 13km of rail to replace to have the whole line completed, which we know can be done at a rate of around 4km/year, meaning we could have it all completed within 3.5 years.

We actually expect that the re-railing still required will happen at a much faster rater, given the number of concrete sleepers we’ve now installed, but we will wait to prove that before setting any timelines.

Given all the commitments of maintaining a safe railway, these time-frames will increase it’s inevitable, but if we can keep up the current momentum and productivity, we will not only improve our track very quickly, we will be making a lasting track, one which we can be proud and sure of for years to come.

We could always use more support – finanical, physical, logistical, administrative etc.. etc… We know it’s a big ask, but without the support the railway’s permanent way can very quickly become the whole railway’s Achilles heel.

If we can use our recently found success to get us over the line with your support, we will welcome it with open arms! Please contact us via email at civil@vgr.com.au or ganger@vgr.com.au

 

 

 

 

Last Concretes for 2019

Another very successful day, with 60 more concrete sleepers installed and all tamped up.

These 60 were comparatively easy, compared to yesterday’s 114 given the very shallow cutting and no high embankments.

We had such a turnout of helpers from the Middleton Prison that we had all the sleepers in and clipped up well before lunch.

To keep the gang busy after lunch we replaced the 27 life expired timber sleepers in this section, giving us a very good strong track.

An excellent way to round off the re-sleepering program for 2019.

It’s not quite the Christmas break yet, next week will still be a normal week, being the completion of the retaining wall at Castlemaine. If the extreme temperatures forecast allow us! -watch this space.

Tuesday morning will be the completion of the detailed track inspection, we’ve only got about 1.5km to go, so feel free to join us from 8am at Maldon.

Concrete Sleepers

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Another day and another 114 concrete sleepers installed.

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Given the amount of time we’ve had to put into the new retaining wall at Castlemaine, we haven’t had much preparation time for this job. However we did have plenty of timber sleepers from the previous straight to bundle up.

This kept the gang busy while the first 60 odd concretes were inserted.

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The stacks are all located conveniently track-side for later moving with the excavator to a stack that we can then side load onto a train.

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We’re starting to get the hang of these new grabs, which is proving to really speed up the operation. We can’t quite keep ahead of the clipping up crew but it’s not far off it now.

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Scarifier and digger hard at work, with the clipping up (hidden by the shrubbery) hot on their heels.

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The new grabs are proving to be far gentler on the concrete, with little to no damage. Something which the old grabs weren’t always that good at.

We’ve only got another 60 concretes track-side to install tomorrow, which by today’s efforts should only be a morning’s work! Meeting Maldon 7.45am or on site from 8.15am. This will be the last re-sleepering for 2019 so why not join us.