Progress Report No. 33 – Track Extensions

Heavy and physical construction work on Pete’s Hobby Railway is limited to brief and intervals when Mario (with his heavy machinery – bulldozer, crane, road roller and truck) is available to assist. When this does happen, it is a case of calling in all volunteers available to help out.

With Mario available for a week following the return of the Hunslet locomotive (1187/1915) from Goulburn (see the previous Progress Report No. 32), it was a case of “all hands (and machinery) to the deck” on planned track extension construction works for Pete’s Hobby Railway. The plan was to extend the railway across my entrance driveway for a second time, through the house lawn at the front of my dwelling, then around in a sweeping 180 degrees curve to the rear of the property – a major step in getting the track to a stage where it would be possible to finally site the location of the rollingstock under-cover storage facility and future inspection pit.

The short version of this Report is that my driveway was dug up for a second time and nine lengths of track laid – an additional 117 metres… although only 39 metres is currently cleared for use.

Firstly, a bit of track-laying history…

As covered in Progress Report No. 3, the first section track to be laid on Pete’s Hobby Railway was three 13 metre lengths (39 metres) on 21st March 2016, long enough on which to place the three items of rolling stock then on site, and also to provide for an unloading ramp at the western end. This original track is adjacent to the current Loftus station. The overhauled steam and diesel locomotives, together with the fourth carriage were unloaded on to this track on a very wet Friday, 1st July 2016 (Progress Reports 12a & 12b).

Sunday 28th August saw the extension of the track by one 13m length eastwards across my driveway and one 13m length westwards towards the side fence, bring the track length to 65 metres. This enabled the first (very short) operation of a train on PHR – the Ruston diesel hauling four passenger carriages, to take place that day.

Continuing adverse weather conditions meant that the next track extension (eastwards) of eight panels (104m) was not completed until Friday 4th November, making the new total length 169 metres. Unfortunately, load trials evidenced this new section was too steep, so four panels of track had to be lifted to allow an easier grade to be profiled, this being undertaken three weeks later, on Saturday/Sunday, 26/27th November. Two further panels (26m) were laid on Wednesday 29th November (new length 195 metres), followed by an additional three panels (39m) on Thursday, 26th January 2017. The same date saw the extension of the track by five panels (65m) in a semi-circle to the western boundary, ending temporarily next to a gum tree not far from my carport, as covered in Progress Report No. 24. This brought the length of Pete’s Hobby Railway to 299 metres as at the official opening on Monday 6th February 2017.

Back to the current track laying!

It is probably simplest to record these construction works by including an updated track diagram, kindly prepared by Bob Stack. The diagram incorporates minor adjustments to the original track layout that have taken place since Bob’s original diagram included with Progress Report No. 7. The diagram is self-explanatory, showing by black line the track currently laid. The inner circular portion beyond the temporary terminus marker is not yet available for use, as will be explained later in this Progress Report.

Diagram showing by black line, track layout as at July 2017. Future planned trackwork shown in red.

Diagram showing by black line, track layout as at July 2017.
Future planned trackwork shown in red.

I had previously marked out the route of the extension, which included the removal of one small tree, already in very poor condition, so it was no great loss. Otherwise, the new line would carefully skirt between the more mature gum tress. Again, sharp curves were the order of the day, although my plotting of the route beyond the house garden attempted to limit the minimum radius to 21 metres.

Image 2017-3167: Main casualty of the extension was this small tree, being demolished by the bulldozer on Saturday afternoon, 8th July. Its remains would be added to our growing bonfire material.

Image 2017-3167: Main casualty of the extension was this small tree, being demolished by the bulldozer on Saturday afternoon, 8th July. Its remains would be added to our growing bonfire material.

Why is it that when a Works Week is programmed, the rains return?

Mario’s ‘dozer made short work of excavating the route through the front “house lawn”, the only casualty being a disused rubber hose, part of the former lawn watering system which didn’t work anyhow! Like with the original driveway crossing, I had some concerns with the still not-located route of the water main serving my abode, which lay “somewhere” under the house lawn. Whether by good luck or providence, Mario missed the water main again, so I’m safe!

Image 2017-3169: Initial scouring of the house-lawn – the truncated rubber water pipe can just be discerned. Saturday, 8th July.

Image 2017-3169: Initial scouring of the house-lawn – the truncated rubber water pipe can just be discerned. Saturday, 8th July.

The hardened roadbase of the driveway went down further than we needed to excavate to form the level crossing, so there was no need to form a base for the blue metal ballast prior to laying and joining three lengths of track (39m). As seems to always be the case, showers fell during some of the works, particularly when Ben was cutting the curved rail to fit.

Image 2017/3178: Nick and Ben supervise as Mario excavates my driveway for the second time. Saturday, 8th July.

Image 2017-3178: Nick and Ben supervise as Mario excavates my driveway for the second time. Saturday, 8th July.

Image 2017-3179: Rob checks that all the ballast underlay load has been tipped into the driveway cutting.

Image 2017-3179: Rob checks that all the ballast underlay load has been tipped into the driveway cutting.

Image 2017-3186: Rob and Mario spread the ballast underlay. The blue tarpaulin covered trike marks the previous end-of-track.

Image 2017-3186: Rob and Mario spread the ballast underlay. The blue tarpaulin covered trike marks the previous end-of-track.

Image 2017-3202: Ben, Rhys and Mario join the first section of the track extension…

Image 2017-3202: Ben, Rhys and Mario join the first section of the track extension…

Image 2017-3206: And moments later, the rain comes tumbling down!

Image 2017-3206: And moments later, the rain comes tumbling down!

Image 2017-3208: Mario gazed upwards as just as suddenly, the sun reappears. Rhys is using a battery-powered rattling gun to tighten the nuts on the bolts holding the fishplates in place.

Image 2017-3208: Mario gazed upwards as just as suddenly, the sun reappears. Rhys is using a battery-powered rattling gun to tighten the nuts on the bolts holding the fishplates in place.

Initially, the new driveway crossing was left open so that test trains could be run, ensuring there were no problems. Because the trike “Torpedo 2” had been stowed at the former track terminus, it became the first vehicle to operate over the extension, powered by Ben and Rhys.

Image 2017-3212: Chocks prevent “Torpedo 2” from running back down the grade as Ben and Rhys pose on the new level crossing.

Image 2017-3212: Chocks prevent “Torpedo 2” from running back down the grade as Ben and Rhys pose on the new level crossing.

Trials were then undertaken with the Ruston propelling the carriages and the steam locomotive over the new track as far as the temporary terminus. Although the curvature seemed to be sharp, the steam locomotive showed no signs of stress traversing same – which was later confirmed during steaming trials. Accordingly, it was in order to fill in the future driveway crossing.

Image 2017-3218: The first test train and “Torpedo 2” at the very temporary end-of-track. The Hunslet was not in steam.

Image 2017-3218: The first test train and “Torpedo 2” at the very temporary end-of-track.
The Hunslet was not in steam.

Backfilling with new road-base, followed by watering and rolling meant that I soon had my undercover car parking facility again available. Rhys later erected a temporary stop block (an old sleeper), together with a red flag, to mark the temporary extended length of operations.

Image 2017-3311: The new level crossing looks very different after being back-filled with road base, even before being watered and rolled.

Image 2017-3311: The new level crossing looks very different after being back-filled with road base, even before being watered and rolled.

Meanwhile, construction of the formation through the house front lawn continued with a sweeping curve towards the eastern boundary and the existing track.

Image 2017-3316: Continuing through the house front lawn. Thursday, 13th July.

Image 2017-3316: Continuing through the house front lawn. Thursday, 13th July.

Image 2017-3325: And laying the track beyond.

Image 2017-3325: And laying the track beyond.

Image 2017-3326: While the dozer holds the rail at an intermediate point, the mobile crane will drag the end-of-track around until the appropriate radius is obtained.

Image 2017-3326: While the dozer holds the rail at an intermediate point, the mobile crane will drag the end-of-track around until the appropriate radius is obtained.

A shallow embankment was created as the new formation emerged from the house-lawn area, just sufficient to allow a drainage pipe to pass underneath. This changed to a slight cutting, with the new track roughly paralleling the existing track. This inside track curved slightly sharper as the formation swings around with the aim of allowing a track to run parallel to the back of the house to form one of the track through the proposed storage shed and beyond to the site of an intended inspection pit. However, Mario’s time was quickly running out, so we didn’t quite make this last section.

Image 2017-3338: The rains are back again as Mario works on the base for the current last section track to be laid. Friday 14th July.

Image 2017-3338: The rains are back again as Mario works on the base for the current last section track to be laid. Friday 14th July.

Image 2017-3347: It is getting later on the Friday afternoon as the last section of track has been dropped and is pulled over into place with the aid of Mario’s crane.

Image 2017-3347: It is getting later on the Friday afternoon as the last section of track has been dropped and is pulled over into place with the aid of Mario’s crane.

This five days of track construction works have seen a total of nine 13-metre panels of track laid, increasing our track length by a further 117 metres to a new grand total of 416 metres. At the time of finalising this Progress Report, the final six panels (78m) cannot be commissioned until additional sleepers are installed at the various rail joins and spiked. Finally, the sleepers have to be built up and under-packed with ballast and super-elevated around much of the length of this 180 degrees curve. At present, there is access for light vehicles only to the rear of the property… accordingly, another level crossing has to be constructed adjacent to the existing crossing on the eastern boundary. This will allow a more suitable access for heavy vehicles which will be needing access during the construction of the storage shed.

Existing Track Upgrade:

One of the least popular projects to be undertaken on PHR is upgrading of the initial ballasting of the track, a laborious and back-breaking task, even when it is practical to hire in a bobcat to move the actual ballast ready for final spreading and packing.

So I was more than surprised when one day in late June Rhys rang to say that he was bored and wanted to “do some ballasting”. The rail line had initially been laid on a basic bed of 20mm ballast, but really needed additional ballasting, packing and stabilisation. Some had been done already, particularly eastwards from Loftus platform, part way to the level crossing leading to the former stables, now used for timber storage. Perhaps it was the opportunity to drive the powered ride-on lawn mower with its heavy duty four wheeled trailer capable of handling twelve or more fireman’s shovels full of ballast.

Not prepared to look a gift-horse in the mouth, I accepted his offer – collected him in my car and put him to work! No chance of getting bored – I had him loading the trailer from the ballast-heap, driving the ride-on mower with loaded trailer to the worksite, then unloading the ballast on to the permanent way. And then, back for some more ballast!

Image 2017-3079: Rhys shovels ballast into the trailer.

Image 2017-3079: Rhys shovels ballast into the trailer.

Image 2017-3081: After driving the ride-on for what must be no more than 50 metres, it was time to spread the ballast. The centre had already been done and Rhys is now unloading along the edges.

Image 2017-3081: After driving the ride-on for what must be no more than 50 metres, it was time to spread the ballast. The centre had already been done and Rhys is now unloading along the edges.

Image 2017-3082: Of course, I couldn’t let Rhys do all the work, so I undertook a little while he photographed me in action. Here, I am packing under the sleeper. This image was taken by Rhys.

Image 2017-3082: Of course, I couldn’t let Rhys do all the work, so I undertook a little while he photographed me in action. Here, I am packing under the sleeper. This image was taken by Rhys.

Over the course of a couple of days, almost 30 metres of track was fully ballasted, a very creditable effort – mainly undertaken by Rhys (thank you!), with some encouragement from myself along with some physical support!

Still to Come:

There is still much to cover in future Progress Reports – particularly with the trials and continuing problems with the Hunslet steam locomotive. Another subject to be covered, for those with an interest in diesel locomotives, is the story of the 48hp Ruston unit on Pete’s Hobby Railway.

Reluctantly, Mario and I have agreed that it will be impractical to use the two 60-lb points that I have in stock. At 13 metres in length and with a minimal turnout radius, they are just too long. While at Lake Macquarie Light Rail a week or so previously, Mario was able to inspect some 8m long points with a sharper turnout radius – which LMR’s 0-6-2T Perry locomotive can traverse – thus similar points would be more than suitable for use on PHR. We now have to investigate the practicality and economics of constructing such points. Initially two will meet our most pressing requirements, providing for a right-hand point to allow access to a single track through the proposed storage shed to an external inspection pit, along with a left hand point which would permit the two ends of the main line to be joined, thus forming a large figure “6”. Bob Stack’s updated plan at the start of this Report will explain the proposal a little more simply.

As I look back on what has been achieved with Pete’s Hobby Railway, it is hard to realise that in a few days’ time, Monday 21st August 2017 will mark one year to the day since the first three panels of track were laid. Yes, a lot has been achieved in twelve months (including the emptying of my pocket!), but still there is more to be undertaken. I look forward to the completion of this first major stage – the joining of the two ends of the main line, the storage shed and inspection pit.

A Continuing Word of Thanks…

This tracklaying effort was brought to you by Mario, capably assisted (in no particular order!) by Ben, Rhys and Rob, plus a little from myself. Thanks, guys. The images accompanying this Progress Report, unless otherwise indicated, were taken by myself.

Finally, I should include my continuing thanks to Nicholas who has to transfer these writings and collection of photographs into these meaningful Progress Reports for your enjoyment. Particularly as Nick claims to have little interest in railways (apart from a means of transport), his otherwise unseen assistance with a small band of helpers is really appreciated. In the twelve months or so that these Progress Reports have been appearing, the number of “hits” is rapidly approaching 15,000! Pete’s Hobby Railway continues to show up first in the various Search Engines!

Until next time…
Cheers,
Pete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<strong>BONUS IMAGE 2017-3211:</strong>It's not always hard work at PHR -- Occasionally, the team take time out to have a bit of fun... Here is Rhys "Posing as one of Jack's French Girls" on the trike.

BONUS IMAGE 2017-3211:It’s not always hard work at PHR — Occasionally, the team take time out to have a bit of fun… Here is Rhys “Posing as one of Jack’s French Girls” on the trike.

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