Australia's Rail Gauge Disgrace

 
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
What loading gauge issues? I'm told that even three-rail dual gauge track is not possible in the Melbourne City Loop due to similar clearence issues.

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  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

There is also dual gauge track both in Queensland and Western Australia, some of it on both the Brisbane and Perth Suburban networks, and most certainly with standard T-section rails. Can the speed limits be higher than on Victorian dual gauge track?

As Cape gauge differs from standard by more than the width of the rails, is it true that converting from Cape gauge to standard would be less complicated than converting from Victorian gauge to standard?
Myrtone

Converting narrow gauge to standard gauge is far, far, far more complicated and expensive than converting broad gauge to standard gauge. First of all the road bed has to be widened, then every sleeper has to be replaced. Many bridges may need to be replaced as the decking may be too narrow for standard gauge sleepers or transoms. Platforms, parallel lines may not have sufficient clearance and will need to be replaced or removed. The list goes on and on. The most recent narrow gauge to standard gauge conversion cost $3-million per kilometre, compared to the $440,000 per kilometre the Murray Basin standard gauge project is costing.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
But surely the roadbeds could be widened and sleepers replaced section-by-section, it wouldn't be a case of shutting down an entire network while it's done. And once it's done, dual gauge track is possible. During fleet renewal, cape and standard gauge trains would share this dual gauge track. Remember that Cape and standard gauge differ by more than the rail width.

While the road bed might not need to be widened to convert from Victorian to standard gauge, sleepers still need to be replaced and more importantly, the line being converted may need to be shut down during the conversion. Three-rail dual gauge track is not possible without narrow footed rails are not permitted where the speed limit is greater than 80km/h.
True or false? The interconnected nature of the Melbourne suburban and many regional lines in Victoria would mean shutting down pretty much the whole network during conversion.
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
I agree there are similarities between the USA and Australia but totally unlike here, they were built by private enterprise.
These 'Entrepreneurs' had no hesitation in using every method available to get what they wanted built where they wanted it.
Outright thuggery, bribery, coercion were the order of the day.
The 'Railways' needed the State and Federal Governments of the day to pass Laws allowing the take over of lands needed for the Right of way and the State's needed the railway to open up the Country for settlement.
Look at the history of the long Cattle Drives from Texas to Chicago, how long it took and at what cost.
At least you can walk cattle and they can feed on the way but try that with fresh vegetables and grains and see how far they would get loaded onto Horse drawn wagons.
Here in OZ, the Railway was built by the Government for the betterment of the Country, in the US it was for PROFIT first...........
  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

But surely the roadbeds could be widened and sleepers replaced section-by-section, it wouldn't be a case of shutting down an entire network while it's done. And once it's done, dual gauge track is possible. During fleet renewal, cape and standard gauge trains would share this dual gauge track.
Myrtone
No.

You would organise for the rolling stock fleet to be changed over at the same time that the line is closed for the track to be rebuilt, and not use dual gauge track. Being able to walk and talk at the same time is a key skill for a project manager - you get the job done in one go.

Mucking around with dual gauge track is a pain in the rear end, and is consequently only used when necessary for a link line to a major passenger or freight terminal.

While the road bed might not need to be widened to convert from Victorian to standard gauge, sleepers still need to be replaced and more importantly, the line being converted may need to be shut down during the conversion.
Myrtone
The amount of time (and money) needed to convert a given length track to a narrower gauge (e.g. 1600mm to 1435mm) is always shorter than that which would be needed to completely rebuild the track for a wider gauge.

It gets even easier if parts of the route already have gauge-convertible sleepers. This was part of the strategy for the Adelaide-Melbourne standardisation in the 1990s, large sections of the route

Three-rail dual gauge track is not possible without narrow footed rails are not permitted where the speed limit is greater than 80km/h.
Myrtone
If the length of dual gauge track is enough that the 80 km/h line speed is an issue, you are already doing something wrong.

True or false? The interconnected nature of the Melbourne suburban and many regional lines in Victoria would mean shutting down pretty much the whole network during conversion.
Myrtone
FALSE.

A comprehensive network would actually tip things in favour of breaking the job up into a small number of large segments, as freight could be diverted to use other routes. In the case of the standardisation of the Adelaide-Melbourne interstate mainline in the 1990s, the broad gauge network in Victoria allowed most of the route to be converted without suspension of services thanks to there being other broad gauge routes covering all but 95km of the mainline.
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
What type of sleepers do they use on dual gauge track, narrow/standard  or standard/broad or narrow/broad??
Do they make steel or concrete to suit or are they timber?
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

In Queensland and Western Australia most narrow/standard dual gauge sleepers are now concrete, although timber has previously been used.
  tazzer96 Deputy Commissioner

I'm pretty sure there has been dual gauge steel sleepers in queensland.   However I believe its now all concrete except for some sections around roma street which use the new composite sleepers around points.
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
You would organise for the rolling stock fleet to be changed over at the same time that the line is closed for the track to be rebuilt, and not use dual gauge track. Being able to walk and talk at the same time is a key skill for a project manager - you get the job done in one go.
justapassenger
But a large fleet would only be renewed a little at a time, with the old and new fleet sharing tracks during the renewal. And what does "being able to walk and talk at the same time" mean in this case?

Mucking around with dual gauge track is a pain in the rear end, and is consequently only used when necessary for a link line to a major passenger or freight terminal.
justapassenger
Surely not if the gauges differ enough that three-rail track can be allowed regardless of the speed limit, dual gauge track being possible with standard T-section rails.

And to change gauge a little at a time, which is the only way to do so on a large network, there has to be dual gauge track during the conversion period.

It gets even easier if parts of the route already have gauge-convertible sleepers. This was part of the strategy for the Adelaide-Melbourne standardisation in the 1990s, large sections of the route
justapassenger
But what about the disruption? In that case a single line had to be shut down for an extended period of time. This wouldn't do on a large network where track replacement is only ever done a little at a time.

If the length of dual gauge track is enough that the 80 km/h line speed is an issue, you are already doing something wrong.
justapassenger
What would that be? And narrow footed rails are also an issue regardless of length.

A comprehensive network would actually tip things in favour of breaking the job up into a small number of large segments, as freight could be diverted to use other routes. In the case of the standardisation of the Adelaide-Melbourne interstate mainline in the 1990s, the broad gauge network in Victoria allowed most of the route to be converted without suspension of services thanks to there being other broad gauge routes covering all but 95km of the mainline.
justapassenger
I don't get most of this but what are these other broad gauge lines. The interconnected nature of a large network may mean that gauge can't simply be changed line-by-line, dual gauge track would still be needed to store, maintain and get trains into and out of service.

On a large Russian Island called Sakhalin, railways have recently been converted from Cape gauge to Soviet gauge, and they did have dual gauge track during the conversion. See the photo below.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
What type of sleepers do they use on dual gauge track, narrow/standard  or standard/broad or narrow/broad??
Do they make steel or concrete to suit or are they timber?
gordon_s1942
Don't forget Plastic sleepers, which can be drilled like timber sleepers, but which don't rot.

(See IIRC recent Track & Signal magazine).
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
On a large Russian Island called Sakhalin, railways have recently been converted from Cape gauge to Soviet gauge, and they did have dual gauge track during the conversion. See the photo below.
Myrtone
What about a picture of a Dual Gauge turnout, which are more complicated that plain track?

Note that the third rail (BG) doesn't seem to have any clips?

Russia has/is building a rail tunnel to connect this island to the main Russian network.
  M636C Minister for Railways

In the case of Queensland, an opportunity was lost in the conversion of the Mt Isa Line from pioeer line to heavy duty in the late 1950s/early 1960s and with the building of the Moura Short line in the 1960s.

Both of these lines could have been converted or built to standard gauge with little effect on the rest of the QR network.

Compare this with the Western Australian adoption of SG in the late 1960s.

In both cases, Commonwealth funds would have been available for standard gauge conversion.

The Mt Isa line introduced knuckle couplers and multiple unit operation of diesel locomotives which had not been seen in Queensland before this. To use SG it would have been necessary to put dual gauge on the North Coast Line as far as Bowen and convert the line west to Collinsville. But very little change would have been needed. The Inlander could have been converted to SG and still would have connected with the Sunlander. The vehicles, both freight and passenger, could have had bogies changed to run back to Brisbane when needed for maintenance or for the occasional through freight load.

The whole of the Central Queensland coal network could have been built to standard gauge, with dual gauge required only on the North Coast between Rockhampton and Gladstone and the Central line as far as Emerald. The Central line could have been converted to SG as well with no more conflict than Mt Isa. Again, the Midlander could connect with the Sunlander without problems.

Then, if the North Coast Electrification were still to go ahead, that could have been SG as well. The additional cost would have been relatively small, and mainly concerned with clearances. So much of the electrified line is new on a new alignment and so much upgrading done on the rest that it might not have taken any longer.

The suburban lines could have remained NG as in Perth.

The Western line could have remained NG until the Inland Railway paid for the conversion...

Peter
  neillfarmer Train Controller

The building of an isolated SG network in CQ - NQ makes no sense unless it connects to the National SG. Even now it makes no sense to convert the Mt Isa line to SG. The NG lines in Qld do all that is required of them and are all interconnected for operating flexibility. having two gauges would only lead to more complex management and operating issues.
To suggest that this should have happened back in the 1950s and 1960s takes no account of the railway and Government finances at the time and the low traffic levels. Yes the lines were vital, but tonnages were not high.
  raymond Deputy Commissioner

Location: Gladstone, Queensland
Moura line was built to standard gauge loading gauge so it could be converted in the future,all bridges and other structures are done.




RAYMOND
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
What loading gauge issues? I'm told that even three-rail dual gauge track is not possible in the Melbourne City Loop due to similar clearence issues.
Myrtone
The existing BG tracks are presumable in the dead centre of the MURLA BG tunnels, unless they are offset to allow for footpath(s) (walkways) on one side.

The difference in the gauges BG to SG is 6.5 inches.

With a third rail on one side, the difference between the track centres is "only" half 6.5 inches or 3.25 inches. Can this be accommodated in the existing tunnels?
  Z VAN Locomotive Fireman

M636C sums it up.
Missed opportunities abound and we still get the comments it would have created an isolated system converting/rebuilding the Mt Isa line and later on the Coal Fields lines.
It becomes academic, what if?
I cannot resist a small comment. They have in reality become isolated lines due to traffic destinations, commodities carried and new bulk ports created since 1961.
Queensland suffers the same Capital Centric vision as all other States.
Currently the Murray Basin Project in Victoria is proceeding thankfully and by the very nature of this project it has/will focus our attention to the Murray Goulburn lines that will now have to be converted to Standard Gauge.
Why? Because once you start you create momentum and the folly of 1854 has to be addressed later than earlier but at least we are heading for a common goods lines network in Victoria.
Forget Suburban lines, they are thrown up to confuse the issue and make it completely uneconomic to change over.
There will be never a call for Super Freighters to run to the Gold Coast or between Ferntree Gully in Victoria.
PTE.
  M636C Minister for Railways

The building of an isolated SG network in CQ - NQ makes no sense unless it connects to the National SG. Even now it makes no sense to convert the Mt Isa line to SG. The NG lines in Qld do all that is required of them and are all interconnected for operating flexibility. having two gauges would only lead to more complex management and operating issues.
To suggest that this should have happened back in the 1950s and 1960s takes no account of the railway and Government finances at the time and the low traffic levels. Yes the lines were vital, but tonnages were not high.
neillfarmer
Neill,

My understanding is that the Federal Government would have supported the conversion of the Mt Isa line to standard gauge, so it would not have cost the Queensland Government significantly more. Thiess Peabody Mitsui wanted to build the Moura line to standard gauge, and that wouldn't have cost the Queensland Government any more.

The Federal Government paid for the conversion of the Mount Gambier line to broad gauge with the intention of it being converted to standard gauge later, which sadly never eventuated. So it is clear that funding was not restricted to links between state capitals, although that aspect gained all the publicity.

The WAGR ended up with both standard and narrow gauge lines to Kalgoorlie, with branches north to Leonora and south to Esperance. They converted the branches to standard gauge, and lifted the parallel narrow gauge to Kalgoorlie. There was no traffic to justify the conversion, just simplifying operation. Subsequently, the Kwinana iron ore traffic went away (after nearly destroying the interstate standard gauge link, built to inadequate standards.) The mine at Koolyanobbing changed hands and ore was exported through Esperance for more than twenty years, providing a good income to the WAGR and its successors until the recent announcement of imminent closure.

The sequence of events I outlined would have provided a progressive change to standard gauge in Queensland, starting with Bowen and Collinsville to Mt Isa, then the new Central Queensland coal lines including Emerald-Rockhampton-Gladstone as dual gauge. The North Coast electrification would have linked Brisbane to Gladstone by 1988. Rockhampton Bowen could have followed some time in the last thirty years.

Then there would have been standard gauge from Brisbane to Townsville, and real open access would have provided competitive services on that network. Townsville to Cairns would have followed.

In the mean time, the Sunlander could have swapped bogies at Townsville, as could any significant through freight traffic.

Importantly, the construction cost would not have been significantly higher than that expended in the many upgradings carried out to date, but the advantages for open access would have been very significant.

Peter
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
What loading gauge issues? I'm told that even three-rail dual gauge track is not possible in the Melbourne City Loop due to similar clearance issues.
Myrtone

Assume that the BG track is perfectly in the centre, with the same distance to the tunnel walls on either side.

If a third SG rail is installed, its centre will be 6.5/2 inches = 3.25 inches (165mm/2 = 83mm offset to the BG track centre. Can the tunnel clearance tolerate this reduction?

All important ISO Shipping containers are only 8' 0" (2.438m) wide. Are VR passenger wider than this, and if so how wide are they?

Different types of wagons may well be narrower than passenger cars, and if at least 3.25inches less, would fit the SG on the third rail in the tunnels.

Does anyone have a book on the Goods Rolling Stock on VR?
  Myrtone Chief Commissioner

Location: North Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
Fact is that Victoria's railways (including the Melbourne suburban) are quite interconnected. Take for example the sections of double track each shared by suburban trains on two different routes, like the one through Yarraville (shared by the Williamstown and Weribee lines during the busiest times), the one through Richmond and Collingwood (shared by Hurstbridge and South Morang lines), and indeed the double track to Dandedong, shared by Pakenham and Cranbourne lines.
In addition, suburban trains to Sunbury, Craigieburn and Pakenham each share tracks with VLine regional services. Trains to Weribee shared tracks with VLine trains to Geelong until the regional rail link was opened. In fact, trains all the way to Adelaide also shared tracks with suburban trains to Weribee until the line to Adelaide was shut down for conversion to standard gauge.
And let's not forget the City Loop, with four tracks on two levels. The Caulfield and Burnely loops are each shared by three different routes, the Burnley loop by four of them during the busiest times. The Northern loop is also shared by four different routes, but at all times.
So what would happen if parts of the Melbourne suburban were shut down for re-gauging while other parts continued to operate?
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
For a number of years prior to the introduction of the Standard Gauge, bogies were exchanged to allow wagons from one system to operate on the other without unloading the content.
What I dont know was this restricted to certain wagons or not?
Depending on that question, this would indicate wagons had no problems with clearances on either system.

As for disruptions to current services would depend on what is proposed and how well its implemented but its not realistic not to expect delays during any constuction works.
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

For a number of years prior to the introduction of the Standard Gauge, bogies were exchanged to allow wagons from one system to operate on the other without unloading the content.
What I dont know was this restricted to certain wagons or not?
Depending on that question, this would indicate wagons had no problems with clearances on either system.

As for disruptions to current services would depend on what is proposed and how well its implemented but its not realistic not to expect delays during any constuction works.
gordon_s1942
Freight cars with an X painted on them were suitable for bogie exchange.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
Moura line was built to standard gauge loading gauge so it could be converted in the future,all bridges and other structures are done.
raymond
And similarly the original Qld South Coast line, so as to allow extension of the Casino-Murwullembah into Qld.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
My understanding is that the Federal Government would have supported the conversion of the Mt Isa line to standard gauge, so it would not have cost the Queensland Government significantly more. Thiess Peabody Mitsui wanted to build the Moura line to standard gauge, and that wouldn't have cost the Queensland Government any more.

The Federal Government paid for the conversion of the Mount Gambier line to broad gauge with the intention of it being converted to standard gauge later, which sadly never eventuated. So it is clear that funding was not restricted to links between state capitals, although that aspect gained all the publicity.
M636C
When abouts was this @M636C?  Im assuming some time ago?
  M636C Minister for Railways

My understanding is that the Federal Government would have supported the conversion of the Mt Isa line to standard gauge, so it would not have cost the Queensland Government significantly more. Thiess Peabody Mitsui wanted to build the Moura line to standard gauge, and that wouldn't have cost the Queensland Government any more.

The Federal Government paid for the conversion of the Mount Gambier line to broad gauge with the intention of it being converted to standard gauge later, which sadly never eventuated. So it is clear that funding was not restricted to links between state capitals, although that aspect gained all the publicity.
When abouts was this @M636C?  Im assuming some time ago?
james.au
Off the top of my head late 1950s.

The complete rebuilding of the Mt Isa line completed in the early 1960s

Peter
  M636C Minister for Railways

All important ISO Shipping containers are only 8' 0" (2.438m) wide. Are VR passenger wider than this, and if so how wide are they?


While this width applies to international containers, containers for use in Australia are usually 2.5 m wide.

The very small increase allows Australian standard pallets to be stacked side by side.


So all containers longer than 40 feet are probably 2.5 metres wide




I think VR suburban trains are 9'9" wide about 2.96 metres.


Peter




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