Study Launched to Upgrade the South Western Line to Thallon

 
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

On the back of the likely impact of the Inland Rail project on the existing narrow gauge network in the Queensland border region, the Federal Government has initiated a study into upgrading the 176km of QR's South Western Line between Kurumbul (27km east of Goondiwindi) and Thallon (149km west of Goondiwindi) as part of its "Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program". The study will "assess and fully cost upgrades to existing infrastructure to accommodate heavier trains and rollingstock."

There's no indication the study involves standard gauging, but an "interface" with the Inland Rail probably dictates a gauge change.

Currently the line is laid with 41kg and 47kg rail on 1 in 2 and 1 in 4 steel/timber sleepers and is rated for a 15.75-tonne axle load. Elsewhere in Queensland 20-tonne axle loads have been achieved with the same track structure. There are 17 timber trestles totalling 549m and one four-span concrete bridge of 40m west of Goondiwindi.

https://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/story/6713806/goondiwindi-aims-to-become-the-grain-gateway-to-a-golden-era/?cs=1451&fbclid=IwAR1y-0Wo0VIwwDVTpe7u89CtX3oR_mEBb6vXdu98uL3t6GmaG9TMICxeM-M

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  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
On the back of the likely impact of the Inland Rail project on the existing narrow gauge network in the Queensland border region, the Federal Government has initiated a study into upgrading the 176km of QR's South Western Line between Kurumbul (27km east of Goondiwindi) and Thallon (149km west of Goondiwindi) as part of its "Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program". The study will "assess and fully cost upgrades to existing infrastructure to accommodate heavier trains and rollingstock."

There's no indication the study involves standard gauging, but an "interface" with the Inland Rail probably dictates a gauge change.

Currently the line is laid with 41kg and 47kg rail on 1 in 2 and 1 in 4 steel/timber sleepers and is rated for a 15.75-tonne axle load. Elsewhere in Queensland 20-tonne axle loads have been achieved with the same track structure. There are 17 timber trestles totalling 549m and one four-span concrete bridge of 40m west of Goondiwindi.

https://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/story/6713806/goondiwindi-aims-to-become-the-grain-gateway-to-a-golden-era/?cs=1451&fbclid=IwAR1y-0Wo0VIwwDVTpe7u89CtX3oR_mEBb6vXdu98uL3t6GmaG9TMICxeM-M
Sulla1
Very interesting.

An upgrade can only include for gauge conversion followed by closure of the Qld SW line, hopefully a final heritage run is allowed prior to last train.

I think upgrade Goodnwindi is pretty much a no brainer and will easily happen, although the argument may also be trucking 27km isn't a drama either but would require new silo's etc. the railway upgrade is probably cheaper if no major bridges. Goodi yard will likely be cut back to just a loading loop, much longer than current and perhaps a siding for track machines.

Thallon, will depend on freight volumes, I understand its not small, but is it big enough and could it be more with a better rail connection? The wooden bridges will I assume all need replacing with modern concrete to get the axle load, but also suited to the wider gauge??? Are there any active loops between Goodi and Thallon?

The sleepers will all obviously need 100% replacement but as you say the rails likely reused, just need 200,000 steel sleepers and some ballast.

While the loss of the SW line will be another piece of railway relegated to history I cannot help feel this is so long over due and hopefully leads to significant increase in grain and maybe other freight from the SW and other SW grain lines affected.
  Sunbird Locomotive Fireman

Yes my thoughts exactly RTT.
It's obvious the unspoken justification for converting the line from Kurumbul to Thallon over to standard guage is that it would allow the closure of all the 3.5 foot track south of Toowoomba.
Making the decision now would save the extra cost of dual guage between Kurumbul and Inglewood.
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Dalby Qld
An upgrade can only include for gauge conversion followed by closure of the Qld SW line, hopefully a final heritage run is allowed prior to last train.
RTT_Rules
The only heritage operations west of Warwick for some time have been an annual SDSR run to Goondiwindi. If convenient the 27 km from Kurumbul to Goondiwindi could be DG to allow Heritage specials to access Goondiwindi platform. Otherwise close Warwick to the Inland Rail. Another consideration is that Watco have the grain contract and have NG rolling stock, guess they might need to run to/from Thallon!
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Dalby Qld
It's obvious the unspoken justification for converting the line from Kurumbul to Thallon over to standard guage is that it would allow the closure of all the 3.5 foot track south of Toowoomba.
Sunbird
Watco are based in Warwick and have all NG rolling stock to service the grain contract. Closing everything South of Toowoomba might be a problem for them! Also SDSR use Warwick - Wallangarra, Warwick - Toowoomba and Warwick - Goondiwindi.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Three of GrainCorp's seven Primary Grain sites in southern Queensland are on the section, Goondiwindi West, Talwood and Thallon. To the best of my knowledge Goondiwindi is the largest grain storage site in Queensland, so not likely to be easily moved or abandoned in the case of the line not being upgraded at least as far there. This section most likely carries the highest grain tonnages of any grain line on the QR Network.

Crossing loops include Kurumbul (697m), Carrington Cotton (707m), Namoi (940m), Goondiwindi (826m & 821m), Toobeah (413m), Talwood Grainco (723m), Gradule (411m) and Thallon (351m).

In 2017 Thallon loaded 300,000-tonnes of grain for the season.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
The other thing with Thallon is if it is upgraded to better TAL a port shuttle for cotton (and perhaps some other stuff) might make more sense to run from there.

Id of course prefer SG and if theyre going to be upgrading TAL surely the SG investment is largely covered?
  Dangersdan707 Chief Commissioner

Location: On a Thing with Internet
The other thing with Thallon is if it is upgraded to better TAL a port shuttle for cotton (and perhaps some other stuff) might make more sense to run from there.

Id of course prefer SG and if theyre going to be upgrading TAL surely the SG investment is largely covered?
james.au
gotta redo the loading gauge, don't forget the need for wider curves with a wider gauge! how many slews, realignments, permanent way enlargements, bridge replacements or deviations are needed to convert a 3'6 line to the NSW gauge? Easier said than done.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

The other thing with Thallon is if it is upgraded to better TAL a port shuttle for cotton (and perhaps some other stuff) might make more sense to run from there.

Id of course prefer SG and if theyre going to be upgrading TAL surely the SG investment is largely covered?
"james.au"


Thallon was the primary loading site for cotton grown around St George in the 1980s - most of that region's cotton moves by road via Dalby these days, but the tonnages are definitely rail friendly in most seasons, and the right pricing could put cotton back on rail at Thallon. In 1985 I saw more than thirty wagon loads of cotton containers added to the Dirranbandi Mail on one trip.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
The other thing with Thallon is if it is upgraded to better TAL a port shuttle for cotton (and perhaps some other stuff) might make more sense to run from there.

Id of course prefer SG and if theyre going to be upgrading TAL surely the SG investment is largely covered?
gotta redo the loading gauge, don't forget the need for wider curves with a wider gauge! how many slews, realignments, permanent way enlargements, bridge replacements or deviations are needed to convert a 3'6 line to the NSW gauge? Easier said than done.
Dangersdan707
Id think that for this line the cost of loading gauge adjustments would be much less than lines with say lots of passenger stations.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Another proposal is  "to upgrade and reopen the existing Western/West Morton Rail System and the South West Rail System, Queensland"

This could be the catalyst for broader investment in the area of a more wider concept.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
An upgrade can only include for gauge conversion followed by closure of the Qld SW line, hopefully a final heritage run is allowed prior to last train.
The only heritage operations west of Warwick for some time have been an annual SDSR run to Goondiwindi. If convenient the 27 km from Kurumbul to Goondiwindi could be DG to allow Heritage specials to access Goondiwindi platform. Otherwise close Warwick to the Inland Rail. Another consideration is that Watco have the grain contract and have NG rolling stock, guess they might need to run to/from Thallon!
Graham4405
The issue with DG to Gooddi is that there will be no DG on the interstate south of Gowrie and the SW line will be closed. Which means the only heritage operations to Goodni once the inland is in will be SG equipment, although I agree its not QR heritage.

Once the inland is complete, commercial NG operations south of Toowoomba will likely cease! WATCO will need to gauge convert or fund the NG line themselves which is unlikely to be viable as the SG corridor is alot shorter, faster, allows longer trains and heavier axle trains.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
It's obvious the unspoken justification for converting the line from Kurumbul to Thallon over to standard guage is that it would allow the closure of all the 3.5 foot track south of Toowoomba.
Watco are based in Warwick and have all NG rolling stock to service the grain contract. Closing everything South of Toowoomba might be a problem for them! Also SDSR use Warwick - Wallangarra, Warwick - Toowoomba and Warwick - Goondiwindi.
Graham4405
Once the Qld govt pulls funding for the line, it will be either closed or handed over to Watco to fund themselves.

I don't see Watco staying at Warwick beyond the Inland opening or at least the Inland and gauge conversion of the line to Goodni/Thallon.

They will no doubt relocate closer to the Western line for their NG operations and likely also operate SG trains as well. So Gowrie/Toowoomba area. Perhaps if coal remains significantly curtailed compared to today, they can move into the Toowoomba coal depo/station area.

Decision time for SDSR is going to come soon enough, how much track are they willing to take on. Toowoomba - Warwick which is what about 75km, I think Toowoomba - Stanthorpe would be nice, but at around 120km, is this too much? Could they could on so local funding and increase frequency of services?

A little off track, but I've said it before, the unused section of the New England railway both sides of the border would make a world class very popular rail trail feeding into any passenger rail operations at either end if operating. For example from Sydney, put your bike on the Armidale train like Dunedin Gorge Railway. From Qld side, SDSR is in a good position to also support.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
The other thing with Thallon is if it is upgraded to better TAL a port shuttle for cotton (and perhaps some other stuff) might make more sense to run from there.

Id of course prefer SG and if theyre going to be upgrading TAL surely the SG investment is largely covered?
gotta redo the loading gauge, don't forget the need for wider curves with a wider gauge! how many slews, realignments, permanent way enlargements, bridge replacements or deviations are needed to convert a 3'6 line to the NSW gauge? Easier said than done.
Id think that for this line the cost of loading gauge adjustments would be much less than lines with say lots of passenger stations.
james.au
Regarding curves on the SW line from the expected junction on existing line to Thallon, perhaps look at a map as this lines would be one of the straightest in the country. Bridges will likely need replacing, however I wonder how many would be replaced with culverts?
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Three of GrainCorp's seven Primary Grain sites in southern Queensland are on the section, Goondiwindi West, Talwood and Thallon. To the best of my knowledge Goondiwindi is the largest grain storage site in Queensland, so not likely to be easily moved or abandoned in the case of the line not being upgraded at least as far there. This section most likely carries the highest grain tonnages of any grain line on the QR Network.

Crossing loops include Kurumbul (697m), Carrington Cotton (707m), Namoi (940m), Goondiwindi (826m & 821m), Toobeah (413m), Talwood Grainco (723m), Gradule (411m) and Thallon (351m).

In 2017 Thallon loaded 300,000-tonnes of grain for the season.
Sulla1
Thanks
300,000t would probably be considering marginal with what 1-2 trains per week, but if long-term secure then lower risk. Plus options for other traffic.

Any idea on Talwood loadings?

Is Thallon a balloon loop loading arrangement?

Likely all those other loops even if still operational would be closed with passing loops limited to Talwood and Goondiwindi only.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Three of GrainCorp's seven Primary Grain sites in southern Queensland are on the section, Goondiwindi West, Talwood and Thallon. To the best of my knowledge Goondiwindi is the largest grain storage site in Queensland, so not likely to be easily moved or abandoned in the case of the line not being upgraded at least as far there. This section most likely carries the highest grain tonnages of any grain line on the QR Network.

Crossing loops include Kurumbul (697m), Carrington Cotton (707m), Namoi (940m), Goondiwindi (826m & 821m), Toobeah (413m), Talwood Grainco (723m), Gradule (411m) and Thallon (351m).

In 2017 Thallon loaded 300,000-tonnes of grain for the season.
Thanks
300,000t would probably be considering marginal with what 1-2 trains per week, but if long-term secure then lower risk. Plus options for other traffic.

Any idea on Talwood loadings?

Is Thallon a balloon loop loading arrangement?

Likely all those other loops even if still operational would be closed with passing loops limited to Talwood and Goondiwindi only.
RTT_Rules
A Port of Brisbane doc from 2103 I have shows Graincorp Talwood at 35kt of rail hauled grain to PoB in 2013.  The same year saw 176kt from Thallon.  Grain production in that area is very volatile given climate (compared to other places, tho arguably the whole industry is wildly volatile).

The road haul breakdown is not provided. But Graincorp in the same year sent 784kt by road and 600kt by rail from the whole SWQ region to PoB (including Thallon, The Gums, Meandarra, Miles, Talwood, Dalby West and Malu, which were the named rail haul points, the other being road).  If that 784kt can be converted to rail that would be a huge reduction in truck traffic, (approx 17400 45tonne B-Doubles worth).

Goondiwindi export containers by rail were 7329 TEU in the same year
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Also worth remembering Thallon is only 40km from Mungindi by road, and a large surrounding NSW catchment with GrainCorp as a common grain handler. The shorter distance to the Port of Brisbane rather than Newcastle may further enhance Thallon's value to rail transport.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Totally.  In my view the inland is going to change grain export flows from the North of Narrabri.  Newcastle will be less attractive than Brisbane for sure though this will probably help with allowing more coal paths.
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Dalby Qld
Once the Qld govt pulls funding for the line, it will be either closed or handed over to Watco to fund themselves.
RTT_Rules
If I was Watco I'd be ropable if this was the case. They have won the grain contract from Aurizon, invested in both new and second hand locomotives, new grain wagons Warwick depot and accreditation. Have negotiated usage on the network only to be told "sorry, we're closing this line down". I suspect they'd have the Queensland Government/Queensland Rail in court with a pretty solid case.

With regard to SDSR, give them the track from Warwick to Wallangarra and hope they can maintain it, which is doubtful given that they have no current income!
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Once the Qld govt pulls funding for the line, it will be either closed or handed over to Watco to fund themselves.
If I was Watco I'd be ropable if this was the case. They have won the grain contract from Aurizon, invested in both new and second hand locomotives, new grain wagons Warwick depot and accreditation. Have negotiated usage on the network only to be told "sorry, we're closing this line down". I suspect they'd have the Queensland Government/Queensland Rail in court with a pretty solid case.

With regard to SDSR, give them the track from Warwick to Wallangarra and hope they can maintain it, which is doubtful given that they have no current income!
Graham4405
If Watco want to take on the line, I'm sure they can ask for the lease, the issue will be if there is a more viable alternative then why wouldn't Watco embrace it? Should the Qld taxpayer be forced to fund this 19th century railway when they have just co funded the $10B alternative?  Regardless we are talking 2025 or slightly after.

The Qld govt previously announced it was to off load ownership or something, not sure of actual detail of the SW line to the feds, which said to me its future is very limited. Overall I think we are kidding ourselves if we think the outer half of SW line has a future beyond the Inland and with it the inner half unless there is another customer.

I very much doubt SDSR can fund over 200 km of railway maintenance. Its a matter of when not if they will need to make a judgement call on what they are willing to take on, although they probably have nearly 10 years before the Qld will come. Toowoomba Warwick is likely a viable section, unfortunately Stanthorpe is likely too much and Wallangarra is history.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Three of GrainCorp's seven Primary Grain sites in southern Queensland are on the section, Goondiwindi West, Talwood and Thallon. To the best of my knowledge Goondiwindi is the largest grain storage site in Queensland, so not likely to be easily moved or abandoned in the case of the line not being upgraded at least as far there. This section most likely carries the highest grain tonnages of any grain line on the QR Network.

Crossing loops include Kurumbul (697m), Carrington Cotton (707m), Namoi (940m), Goondiwindi (826m & 821m), Toobeah (413m), Talwood Grainco (723m), Gradule (411m) and Thallon (351m).

In 2017 Thallon loaded 300,000-tonnes of grain for the season.
Thanks
300,000t would probably be considering marginal with what 1-2 trains per week, but if long-term secure then lower risk. Plus options for other traffic.

Any idea on Talwood loadings?

Is Thallon a balloon loop loading arrangement?

Likely all those other loops even if still operational would be closed with passing loops limited to Talwood and Goondiwindi only.
A Port of Brisbane doc from 2103 I have shows Graincorp Talwood at 35kt of rail hauled grain to PoB in 2013.  The same year saw 176kt from Thallon.  Grain production in that area is very volatile given climate (compared to other places, tho arguably the whole industry is wildly volatile).

The road haul breakdown is not provided. But Graincorp in the same year sent 784kt by road and 600kt by rail from the whole SWQ region to PoB (including Thallon, The Gums, Meandarra, Miles, Talwood, Dalby West and Malu, which were the named rail haul points, the other being road).  If that 784kt can be converted to rail that would be a huge reduction in truck traffic, (approx 17400 45tonne B-Doubles worth).

Goondiwindi export containers by rail were 7329 TEU in the same year
james.au
Thanks,
So with a more attractive railway with lower access and running costs, then potentially 1mtpa is not inconceivable for rail. Around 2 movements a day.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Once the Qld govt pulls funding for the line, it will be either closed or handed over to Watco to fund themselves.
If I was Watco I'd be ropable if this was the case. They have won the grain contract from Aurizon, invested in both new and second hand locomotives, new grain wagons Warwick depot and accreditation. Have negotiated usage on the network only to be told "sorry, we're closing this line down". I suspect they'd have the Queensland Government/Queensland Rail in court with a pretty solid case.
Graham4405
Go tell that to QUBE and Pickerings et al who invested in an intermodal terminal on the basis it was going to be SG only for it to have to be done in BG (Murray Basin project).
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Three of GrainCorp's seven Primary Grain sites in southern Queensland are on the section, Goondiwindi West, Talwood and Thallon. To the best of my knowledge Goondiwindi is the largest grain storage site in Queensland, so not likely to be easily moved or abandoned in the case of the line not being upgraded at least as far there. This section most likely carries the highest grain tonnages of any grain line on the QR Network.

Crossing loops include Kurumbul (697m), Carrington Cotton (707m), Namoi (940m), Goondiwindi (826m & 821m), Toobeah (413m), Talwood Grainco (723m), Gradule (411m) and Thallon (351m).

In 2017 Thallon loaded 300,000-tonnes of grain for the season.
Thanks
300,000t would probably be considering marginal with what 1-2 trains per week, but if long-term secure then lower risk. Plus options for other traffic.

Any idea on Talwood loadings?

Is Thallon a balloon loop loading arrangement?

Likely all those other loops even if still operational would be closed with passing loops limited to Talwood and Goondiwindi only.
A Port of Brisbane doc from 2103 I have shows Graincorp Talwood at 35kt of rail hauled grain to PoB in 2013.  The same year saw 176kt from Thallon.  Grain production in that area is very volatile given climate (compared to other places, tho arguably the whole industry is wildly volatile).

The road haul breakdown is not provided. But Graincorp in the same year sent 784kt by road and 600kt by rail from the whole SWQ region to PoB (including Thallon, The Gums, Meandarra, Miles, Talwood, Dalby West and Malu, which were the named rail haul points, the other being road).  If that 784kt can be converted to rail that would be a huge reduction in truck traffic, (approx 17400 45tonne B-Doubles worth).

Goondiwindi export containers by rail were 7329 TEU in the same year
Thanks,
So with a more attractive railway with lower access and running costs, then potentially 1mtpa is not inconceivable for rail. Around 2 movements a day.
RTT_Rules
The killer for rail at the moment is the TAL.  15.something.  Madness.  Even an increase to only 19TAL would make a difference (lets hope they go for 21TAL though.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

[/quote]The killer for rail at the moment is the TAL.  15.something.  Madness.  Even an increase to only 19TAL would make a difference (lets hope they go for 21TAL though.[/quote]

The problem is, the axle load issue can almost be directly related to the Inland Rail Project - the whole QR network west of Brisbane has been largely in an infrastructure paralysis for the last twenty years as the dream of a new national rail link to replace most of the existing infrastructure has sat on the table. It would be a reasonable assumption that if the Inland Rail concept had never existed, axle load and capacity upgrades would have eventually occurred on the West Moreton, Western and South West systems as had happened on the rest of the Queensland mainline network  during the 1990s.  

As it stands, the West Moreton system between Brisbane and Toowoomba, with 50kg and 60kg rail on concrete and steel sleepers has sufficient rail and sleeper structure in place to support axle loads up to 26.5-tonnes. The South Western system south of Toowoomba to Thallon has 41kg and 47kg rail on mixtures of all steel, one in two steel and one in four steel, a structure that in North Queensland has been used for 20-tonne axle loads with track speeds of 80km/h. So the track isn't the problem with higher axle loads.

Bridges are no doubt a substantial issue, the South Western system (444km Toowoomba to Thallon) has 119 timber trestles (4053m), 14 steel bridges (573m) and two short concrete bridges (45m). Compare that to the 340km Townsville-Cairns section of the North Coast Line, which has had a 20-tonne axle load since 1996, and you'll find 70 timber trestles (2344m), ten steel (961m) and 94 concrete (4650m). The large number of concrete bridges to Cairns bely the $300-million spent on the section between 1993 and 1996 as part of the Main Line Upgrade Project - a large scale project that has never been replicated west of Brisbane despite three times the tonnage moving over the Toowoomba Range compared to the Cairns section of the NCL. That being said, the large number of trestles still in place between Townsville and Cairns more than prove that the identical bridges south of Toowoomba should be able to sustain a higher axle load than the current 15.75-tonnes.

There may also be a more insidious reason for the lower axle loads - pricing. The Maryborough Branch remains a 15.75-tonne axle load line, but has been carrying 20-tonne axle load locomotives without incident since 1999. How is this possible? Apparently much higher "special access" fees are charged for these overweight movements - so this is one line in the QR Network, built to the same standards as the South Western System, that is "safe" to carry higher axle loads if the price is right rather than being physically constrained to lower axle loads.

I would not be surprised to learn that some lines in the QR Network retain a 15.75-tonne axle load due to bureaucratic intransigence rather than any other better engineering reason.
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Dalby Qld
I very much doubt SDSR can fund over 200 km of railway maintenance. Its a matter of when not if they will need to make a judgement call on what they are willing to take on, although they probably have nearly 10 years before the Qld will come. Toowoomba Warwick is likely a viable section, unfortunately Stanthorpe is likely too much and Wallangarra is history.
RTT_Rules

Warwick - Wallangarra is about 100km. Almost all SDSR runs are Warwick - Wallangarra, Warwick - Hendon or Warwick - Clifton, with annual runs to Goondiwindi and Toowoomba. The Warwick - Wallangarra trip is the spectacular scenery run, with the added bonus of wineries! I'd expect this to be the preferred route to remain if at all possible. Perhaps the wineries could help with funding.

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