If there is one word which puts fear and trepidation amongst volunteers on preserved and tourist railways of all gauges, it is “trackwork”, with the emphasis on the last four letters! This is no different on Pete’s Hobby Railway, although I must say in defence of my volunteers, they still answer the call when made. Unless we have good, or at least safe, trackwork, the railway is not able to operate.
In the days leading up to the official opening of the newly built waiting shed at Loftus platform on Pete’s Hobby Railway, I was able to entice Gordon, a long retired NSWGR ganger, to arrive a few days earlier. Gordon had previously spent time assisting us on Pete’s Hobby Railway before relocating from the area following a family bereavement. The idea was to have Gordon cast a professional eye over our line and guide us in any remedial works necessary. There was a difficulty however, in the Gordon is used to NSWGR standard gauge main lines with high speed running. Sleepers had to be a high (or at least good) quality and be equally spaced apart. Ballast had to be perfect while super-elevation on curves had to be high, commensurate with the speeds required to operate.
Things are a little different on narrow gauge (which in Australia can be defined as being below 3’6”/1067mm) and especially on 2-ft gauge where the maximum permissible operational speed could be described as “sedate”. Possibly the only exclusion to this statement would be the 2’6”/762mm gauge “Puffing Billy” operation in the Dandenongs of outer Melbourne where there has to be a high track standard and maintenance commensurate with the seven-days-a-week frequent train operations over steep grades and sharp curves. On the few straight sections of track, allowable speeds can be as high as 20mph or 32km/h (as defined in the recently reprinted and revised book “Speed Limit 20”, dealing with the four 2’6” gauge lines at one time operated by the Victorian Railways).
Pete’s Hobby Railway does not equate to “Puffing Billy” and has no intention of being so, despite outside tourism pressures. PHR’s top allowable speed is a more sedate 6mph/10km/h or a little faster than walking pace… and this can only be done upgrade on one section where the curve radius permits. Our longest straight section of track will be along the back fence (when completed) and will be about 50 metres in length!
With curve radius down in two locations to an extremely tight 17 metres, PHR’s concern is more around maintaining the gauge and super-elevation.
With sufficient of the works completed to Gordon’s satisfaction, all was in order for the operation of trains on Saturday 30th June for the official opening of the new waiting shed on Loftus platform. My sincere appreciation to the volunteers who gave up a couple of days prior to the official opening so that the essential trackworks could be undertaken.