Engineering Week 2005: more engineering fun

This is an post from the olden days – read more about them here.

[Here is my update for THURSDAY just past, the 18th of August]

[TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!]

First off, I went to the Yarra Trams Fleet Control Room. It is here that Yarra Trams watches where all of their trams are (more stating the bleeding obvious)

Yarra Trams control centre in South Melbourne

Above image is from The Age

It is a big room, with a huge 5×3 metre TV screen showing various video feeds. (the guy in charge said that they DON’T watch normal TV on it, except during the overnight shift.

The centre only opened a few months back, as because of this, Yarra Trams do not have any of their own CCTV cameras yet. So they have to receive feeds from the VicRoads’ office.

If they want to change the view from the cameras, they have to ring up VicRoads and say "can you move the bloody camera. I can’t see any of my trams!" [VERY hi-tech]

There a six main consoles in use, each one having an operator. They have 4 19 inch LCD displays each, and each operator is in charge of around 100 trams from one depot (there are six tram depots in Melbourne)

Three of the displays show the fleet management software, which is a TWENTY-THREE year old system that runs on DOS! (but it still works perfectly!) The other is for radio communications and other normal computer stuff.

The fleet management software is designed so Yarra Trams knows where each tram is, and that it is following the timetable. It prevents tram getting "lost" or falling behind schedule. Also, if anything goes wrong, it means the driver can get help.

The system is also useful when kids steal trams to go joyriding, like a few months back.

The displays show a map of all of the routes that the operator is in charge of. On this display, each and every tram that is on the route is shown. Each tram is connected by radio back to the control room. Some of the data the operator can call up includes:

  • Location
  • Speed
  • If tram is on time
  • Driver
  • Ticket machine faults
  • Door status (open / shut)

The system also holds all timetable and rostering data, so the operator know who is driving which tram at what time. It also records all faults so they can be corrected later. The operator can also get on the radio and talk to the tram driver.

All in all, this place is very useful for Yarra Trams, but nowhere near as fun as the VicRoads’ control room.


Next place, Spencer Street Station. I pass through here twice a day, four days a week, so it isn’t exactly new to me. But I did learn some new stuff…

The Roof Framework – because we cannot defy gravity… yet…

This is the coolest looking, most expensive, and most time consuming bit of the station.

View south along Spencer Street

It is specially designed to extract diesel exhaust from the trains. On a calm still day, it can extract 8 cubic metres of air a second! As the weather heats up, or it gets windier, it extracts even more air. No need for any air conditioning.

It does this by having high points in the roof, that have an opening at the top. As you should know, hot air rises.

The roof is supported by Y shaped pylons that run down every second platform, and are spaced 40 metres apart. Between these pylons, a spine truss runs. This truss is made up of 20 metre long pieces, none of which are the same! In some places, these trusses run up to 30 degrees from the vertical, so steep you cannot climb up them without assistance. Then between these trusses, rafters run, spaced about two metres apart.

All of this steelwork is what made construction takes so long. The construction company only had a few each night to work on the roof. As soon as trains stopped at midnight, the power was turned off (which took half an hour) leaving only 4 hours to work before the power had to be turned on for the first trains of the day.

(I’m not a real fan of 1500 volts DC running through my body, so I guess he builders felt the same way)

The Roof Covering – a way to keep the water out…

On top of this steelwork, the roof covering itself is placed. A few thousand triangles, each about 3×2 metres in size are placed between the rafters, with each one being different. On top of this, the aluminium roof sheeting is placed. The gap between these two layers is what makes the exhaust rise out of the roof.

The roof sheeting is special aluminium that is made by a company in Germany. Yet again, each piece is unique. Each is made individually in a special rolling jig brought over from Europe, from computer diagrams.

The entire roof was designed on computer, with plans of almost a million parts drawn, and tested to see that it will join together.

Over the top of each spine truss, there is no metal roof. Instead, plastic is being used to let light in. Yes, plastic.

Two layers of special high-strength Teflon sheeting is being used as the roof. The two layers are sealed together, and then air is pumped in! This is the first place in the Southern Hemisphere it has been used. (The second is at Swinburne University in Hawthorn, where I attend!)

It is strong enough for a person to stand on, if it wasn’t for the fact that the super slippery surface would mean you would not be able to keep your footing! It is also able to withstand a knife being stabbed into it, as it is rip-proof (it is 20 metres up in the air, so someone knifing the roof is veryunlikely)

664 Collins Street – neighbour of the devil…

This building seem to be an ordinary eight storey office building, except for one this, it is 30 metres above a working train station!

The tower will be supported up above platforms 13/14 and 15/16 by a two rows of huge steel supports. On top of these supports, a concrete slab will be poured, and then the building built on top.

Starting work on the deck above future platform 15/16

And if you think that is amazing, the original proposal was going to have a THIRTY STOREY high building on the site!

And that’s about all that comes to mind right now…

Check out some of the pics…

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One Response to “Engineering Week 2005: more engineering fun”

  1. Nath says:

    Man, how do u know all that stuff about the pylon distance and degrees?!?! Crazy. Love the blog, keep the info coming

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