Railway maneuvres

Victorian Goldfields Railway volunteers have begun dismantling the old Castlemaine-Guildford railway track before re-using the rails to upgrade the Castlemaine-Maldon tourist railway.
The project that started last week opens up interesting questions as to the future of the Castlemaine-Guildford corridor and, more pointedly, the currently disused Castlemaine-Maryborough passenger line that it’s part of.
Starting at the Guildford end last Tuesday, VGR volunteers began the heavy six-month job of taking up the total 9.1km of Castlemaine-Guildford track that VicTrack has allocated to the VGR.
VGR civil engineering project manager John Shaw said that once removed, the track was destined to replace far older and very worn track on the Castlemaine-Muckleford section of the tourist line to Maldon.
“It’s part of a bigger project with federal and state government grants to upgrade the (tourist) line and having the rail is a key part of that,” VGR president Steve Strangward said.
To fork out for brand new rail would be cost prohibitive for the volunteer-run VGR.
“The rail is about $4000 a tonne and we need about 800 tonnes of just the rail,” Mr Shaw said.
“We couldn’t buy these rails,” Mr Strangward said.
The VGR volunteers are also taking up the old railway sleepers, which are generally not of a quality suitable for reuse and are instead expected to be made available for community group projects – or possibly even firewood.
The state government owns both the local tourist railway and also the long-closed line from Castlemaine to Maryborough, with VicTrack the landlord.
The railway to Maryborough was closed to trains 16 years ago and since then it has suffered from lack of maintenance and washaways.
The Midland Express understands that any future re-opening of the line would require a major track rebuild to modern standards with heavier rail, possibly sitting on concrete sleepers similar to that used for the recent Ararat-Maryborough line reopening.
Eight years ago the rail line between Maryborough and Castlemaine was publicly described as the biggest challenge in then-mooted plans to return passenger trains between Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
In June 2013, the then Coalition state public transport minister, Terry Mulder, released findings of a feasibility study into returning passenger trains between the three regional cities including details of re-opening the track between Castlemaine and Maryborough that runs via Guildford.
The Midland Express has now lodged enquiries with VicTrack as to possible future plans for the Castlemaine-Maryborough line and is awaiting a response.
But converting the Castlemaine-Guildford corridor into a rail trail once it’s fully cleared has also been suggested.
And in an additional twist to the current project of taking up the old track, Mr Strangward said a little extra funding was all that was needed to enable the project to double as a valuable means of training local indigenous residents to gain industry qualifications in rail infrastructure as part of an initiative involving the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative.
“All we need is an additional $30,000 every six months for two and a half years to employ a supervisor,” he said.

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