Victorian Railways in the Moomba parade

Back in 1955 the Victorian Railways entered the first annual Moomba parade with a large-scale model of diesel electric locomotive B60 ‘Harold W Clapp’ – the pride of their fleet. Sixty years later, a photo of the same parade float has been doing the rounds of the various ‘remember when’ Facebook groups, ripped from the Victorian Government’s ‘Culture Victoria’ website – so what is the story behind the scale model?

Victorian Railways float in the 1954 Moomba parade
State Library of Victoria. Image H91.330/4268

Built to 1/3 scale, the model of B60 was constructed by Victorian Railways apprentices at the Newport Workshops, and was unveiled in 1954 to celebrate the centenary of railways in Victoria. It then went on display on the main concourse at Spencer Street Station.

Model of diesel locomotive B60 on display at Spencer Street station in September 1954
Public Record Office Victoria. VPRS 12800/P1, item H 2664

The 1955 Moomba parade commenced somewhere on St Kilda Road.

Victorian Railways float in the 1954 Moomba parade
State Library of Victoria. Image No: A29530. Accession No: H91.330/4252

These first two photos appear to show the start of the parade.

Victorian Railways float in the 1954 Moomba parade
State Library of Victoria. Image No: A29554. Accession No: H91.330/4277

Note the Victorian Railways staff riding on the float.

The official photographer then skipped ahead to Flinders Street Station to capture the parade.

Victorian Railways float in the 1954 Moomba parade
State Library of Victoria. Image H91.330/4268

They then turned around and captured a quick parting shot of the railway’s float continuing up Swanston Street.

Victorian Railways float in the 1954 Moomba parade
State Library of Victoria. Image H91.330/4268


The ‘Flinders Street Station’ website has more on the construction of the model, as well as some photos:

In 2011 Malcolm sent me some photos of the patternmakers who built the B60 diesel loco at the Newport Workshop that was to be named ‘The Harold Clapp’. Malcolm was a 3rd year patternmaker apprentice in 1954 and along with patternmakers Max Small, Merv Williams and Anderson, constructed the model out of timber under the direction of Foreman Pattern-maker, Davey Yates.

Surprisingly enough, the model of locomotive B60 still exists today. By 1990 the model had been put into storage at the Newport Workshops, but it since been relocated to an enclosed shelter in the main workshop car park.

Large scale model of B60 near the administration offices

If you visit the North Williamstown Railway Museum, the model is visible when you peek through the cyclone fence into the workshop proper.

Another copyright infringement story

The other week I was trawling the internet as I usually do, researching a future blog post, when I stumbled upon a very familiar looking photo on Wikipedia.

Copyright infringing photo on Wikimedia Commons - 'Hitachi at Richmond station'

There was a good reason for that photo being familiar – I took it at Richmond station back on October 13, 2005.

Tail end of a Hitachi at Richmond Station

Over the past few years I’ve uploaded hundreds of my photos to Wikipedia – over 500 at last count – but the photo I found had been uploaded by someone else.

Incorrect date and false declaration of 'own work' on Wikimedia Commons

If pinching my photo isn’t enough, the thief had also gotten the date taken completely wrong – by October 2013 the remaining Hitachi fleet had all been stripped of the green and old ‘PTC’ livery when they received a minor refurbishment in 2007, followed by a Metro Trains sticker job in 2009.

Hitachi 275M and Siemens 705M stabled for the weekend at North Melbourne Sidings

Rather than clean up the mess of copyright infringement, the simplest way to fix it was a deletion request – just navigate through the byzantine speedy deletion request page and it is deleted!

Copyright infringing image deleted on Wikimedia Commons


The bureaucratic processes of Wikipedia have been flagged as the biggest risks to the growth of the free encyclopaedia – both Slate and MIT Technology Review have written on the topic.

Cracked rails across Melbourne’s railway tracks

Back in late 2014 the decaying state of Melbourne’s railway network hit the news again, when Channel 9 news looked into the plague of cracked rails. So how long have the railway tracks been in this state?

Temporary rail joint on the suburban tracks at Footscray

The Channel 9 piece had the following to say:

Melbourne train drivers fear poor maintenance of rail lines will lead to derailments
November 2, 2014

Transport experts have raised serious concerns over track maintenance on Melbourne’s Metro rail network.

In an exclusive investigation by 9NEWS, they claim faults on the ageing infrastructure could lead to derailments if more testing is not carried out.

On the Belgrave line, near Heathmont station, yellow markings show several faults in the track.

Cracks are graded from minor to large, the worst of which must be replaced with 72 hours.

The Age picked up the story later the same month.

Patchwork train tracks a Metro derailment waiting to happen, MP alleges
November 25, 2014
Adam Carey

Australia’s rail safety watchdog is looking into allegations raised in parliament by a federal MP that Metro’s track maintenance standards are so shoddy it is putting public safety at risk.

Western Australian Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan alleged on Monday night that Melbourne’s rail operator had let the city’s railway tracks fall into such a dangerous state of disrepair a train could run off the rails.

She told parliament she had called on the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to investigate, and had supplied the watchdog with images of degraded rails around the Melbourne network.

Ms MacTiernan accused Metro of “sweating” the rail infrastructure to maximise its profits, rather than spending money for necessary maintenance. Metro has leased Melbourne’s publicly owned railway network under a franchise agreement with the state and is responsible for its upkeep.

“There we have in Melbourne a classic case of a very poor privatisation which really very much allows an asset to be ‘sweated’ and safety compromised,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Fairfax Media has also spoken separately to a range of sources concerned about rail safety in Melbourne, some of them long-serving Metro staff unable to speak publicly.

They allege maintenance standards had deteriorated since Metro took over the network five years ago, with hundreds of sections of damaged rail patched up with emergency “fishplates” instead of being replaced.

Spokeswoman Larisa Tait said the company spent $75 million a year on average renewing and maintaining tracks.

Emergency fishplates could be left in place “indefinitely”, depending on the severity of the flaw, she said. Metro inspects faulty tracks every 28 days to see if the condition has deteriorated, replacing them when needed, Ms Tait said.

“Through our regular inspecting, testing and monitoring regime of the track, the chance of a derailment on the network will remain as low as reasonably practicable,” she said.

Looking for faults

The temporary fishplates mentioned in the article are painted bright yellow, and can be found all over Melbourne.

Pair of temporary fishplates bolted to a flawed rail

Pair of temporary fishplates reinforcing a rail at Watsonia station

Note that the fishplates are called “temporary” for a reason – leave them in place without regularly inspecting them, and then can break like any other section of track.

Fishplate on a siding completely broken through

Waiting on repairs

Back in November 2011 the track through my local station developed a flaw, so a pair of temporary fishplates were added to the rails so that train could keep running.

Temporary fishplates bolted to flawed rail at Ascot Vale

Metro Trains must be running quite the maintenance backlog, as the ‘temporary’ fishplates were still in place in February 2013 – over a year later!

'Temporary' fishplates applied to flawed rail at Ascot Vale

Eventually in March 2013 the flaw was fixed – the damaged section of rail was cut out, and replaced by a fresh piece.

'Temporary' fishplates over flawed rail finally replaced by a new length of rail

On close inspection of the welded join I can see “24/3/2013″ – the date that the repair was completed.

Date marked beside a fresh rail weld: 24/3/2013

What do the standards say?

How often do the rails need to be visually inspected? The former Public Transport Corporation used to manage the tracks of Melbourne, and their engineering standards have the following to say:

2.3 Suburban Passenger Lines

2.3.1 Suburban passenger lines, including each track of multiple tracks must be inspected either by train or by foot from Mondays to Saturdays inclusive, unless otherwise directed by the Manager, Metropolitan Track.

2.3.2 Foot inspections of all crossing work must be carried out weekly and the whole of the patrol section must be walked at least once every three (3) weeks.

2.3.3 All curves must be inspected in detail quarterly and curves less than 380m radius to be inspected monthly, particularly checking gauge and cant.

In addition to the visual inspections, ultrasonic testing is also used to detect any invisible flaws.

Rail on the mainline metro network is also currently reviewed on a six-monthly basis (previously annually) using ultrasonic testing. This allows the tester to detect flaws within the rail head that are not visible to the naked eye and aims to prevent these flaws from developing into large cracks and failure of the rail

As to how long until the flaws get fixed, I can’t find a copy of the Victorian standards, so here is a copy of the standards that apply to the New South Wales country rail network – ‘Rail Defects and Testing’ document CRN CM 224.

CRN Engineering Manual CM 224 - Rail Defects and Testing requirements

Note that ‘plate within’ refers to the installation of a temporary fishplate, ‘remove within’ relates to when replacement of the flawed rail should occur, and ‘TSR’ is the speed in km/h that trains have to be restricted to until the flaw is fixed.

Some statistics

Finally, how often do rails break on the Melbourne rail network? Transport Safety Victoria is required to be informed of any safety related incident, and publish incident statistics – here they are for 2009-2013.

Track and civil infrastructure irregularity – broken rail by region for the 2013 calendar year

Region 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Metro 41 35 46 67 67
Regional 77 103 56 57 55
Total 118 138 102 124 122

Broken rail statistics - Victoria 2009-2013

Thankfully the statistics for 2012-2014 seem to be improving.

Track and civil infrastructure irregularity – broken rail by region to 18 May 2014

Broken rail statistics - Victoria 2012-2014

The recent plague of temporary fishplates combined with a downward trend in broken rails suggests one thing – Metro have finally pulled out their wallet to make sure that any flawed rails are discovered before they break.

However it does raise more questions – how long until the flawed sections of rail are replaced, and will it be a complete replacement of worn out rail, or just a patch up job.


Regarding the photo of the snapped fishplate – thankfully it was on a disused freight siding, so no trains were running over it!

Upside down wheelchairs at Melbourne stations

Melbourne’s trains haven’t always been the most accessible for wheelchair and scooter users, but Metro Trains has made some recent changes – some of which seem a little odd.

Train driver assists a scooter user board the train via the portable ramp

Public Transport Victoria has this to say on their website:

The driver will help you board the train by placing a ramp between the platform and the first door of the front carriage.

Customers who need help boarding trains should wait on the platform near the front of the train.

When you reach your destination station, the driver will use a ramp to help you off the train.

At most stations there is a wheelchair waiting area at the end of the platform for that express purpose.

Wheelchair waiting area and rubber platform gap filling strips at the down end of Mitcham platform 2

In addition, at a number of stations the relevant section of the platform has been raised.

Wheelchair ramp added to the Parliament end of Melbourne Central platform 3

This provides ramp free access to the train.

Ramp free access for wheelchairs at the east end of Flinders Street platform 1

A more recent change is adding directional signage at station entrances, directing wheelchair users to the end of the platform.

Backwards facing directions to the wheelchair waiting area of the platform at Seddon

Unfortunately the people doing the work were given dodgy instruction – the signs face a wheelchair passenger that has fallen onto the tracks!

'No bikes in first carriage door' notice at the end of the platform

Thankfully someone in charge noticed, as more recent additions now face in the correct direction.

'Wheelchairs here / no bikes first carriage door' sign at West Footscray station


Note the addition of the ‘no bikes in first carriage door’ signs – it has been a rule for many years, but the only way passengers would know about it was if they went digging on the PTV website:

Bikes can be carried free on metropolitan trains.

You cannot board at the first door of the first carriage, as this is a priority area for mobility impaired passengers.

Make sure you keep passageways and doorways clear and try to avoid busy carriages when travelling with your bike.

How much did the City Loop cost to build?

One might think that finding out how much Melbourne’s City Loop cost to build would be a simple task, but with so much conflicting information out there, it was much harder than I expected. So where did I have to look?

Comeng arriving into Melbourne Central platform 4

I started off at Wikipedia, and they put the final cost as $500 million, citing a Metropolitan Transit Authority publication from 1985.

I then stumbled upon the annual reports of the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority, the government body responsible for planning, financing and constructing the Melbourne underground rail loop. Their 1971-72 annual report had the following to say on the cost:

The engineering consortium of John Connell- Mott, Hay & Anderson, Hatch Associates Inc., and Jacobs Associates was commissioned in August 1971 to prepare a pre-design report for the construction of the Loop.

The Consultants presented their report in February 1972. The report was comprehensive and confirmed the basic concept of a four tunnel, three station system. It also included a conceptual design of the Loop and detailed cost estimates therefore, possible variations of the plan (the cost of which does not materially alter the total cost estimate) and detailed proposals for project management under the Authority’s direction.

The construction cost estimate of the basic plan adopted by the Authority is $117.23 million excluding land acquisition which may be separately financed, signalling and communications (which will largely be Victorian Railways’ matters), and administrative and service costs including consultancy fees and interest on monies borrowed. This estimate is based on prices current in the last quarter of 1971.

As early as 1974 concerns had been raised about the completion date being delayed.

In its initial 1971 planning the Authority scheduled the completion of the Loop for mid-1978 to accord with the expectation indicated by the Minister of Transport when the Authority was formed. That completion date was dependent upon the Authority’s loan allocation in each year being sufficient for its planned works programme. Limitations on the Authority’s loan allocation for 1972/3 and 1973/4 have resulted in the date for completion of the Loop being re-scheduled for the end of 1980 – with provision for the first trains to run through it by December, 1978.

The cost of the project had also started to climb.

Due largely to the increases in price of materials and labour that figure has now increased to $162.78 million based on April 1974 prices.

In each of the years that followed, the estimated cost increased and the opening date was moved further back – by mid 1977 the authority was now aiming for the first train to run in late 1979.

The Authority experienced a year of vigorous progress in all sections of the loop. The program was maintained providing for the opening of the Burnley loop and Museum Station in December 1979 and completion of all works in 1982. The estimated cost of the project rose 9% to $328 million reflecting the overall inflationary trend.

As for the cost increases, these were attributed to an increase in project scope, as the 1977-78 MURLA annual report details:

The revised construction cost estimate of the basic plan adopted by the Authority in 1972 (then estimated as $117.23 million at last quarter 1971 prices) is $252.7 million updated to June, 1978, prices. The revised basic construction cost includes the cost of technical improvements including a high quality track support system to minimise vibrations transmitted through the ground to nearby buildings.

Within the provisions of the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Act 1970, as amended, various changes have been made progressively to the scope of the project which was adopted in 1972. The cost of these items, together with the cost of land acquisition, signalling and communications and administrative and service costs including consultancy fees, updated to June, 1978, prices, is estimated to be $114.3 million.

Both construction and other costs continued to increase in the following years – with the 1979-80 MURLA annual report pushing back the first train even further.

The loops scheduled to be ready for operation in 1980 concurrently with Museum Station are the Burnley and the Caulfield-Sandringham. The Clifton Hill loop / City Circle and Parliament Station are planned to be available for operation by the end of 1981 and the North Melbourne loop and Flagstaff Station by the end of 1982.

In their 1980-81 annual report the authority celebrated the opening of the first part of the loop, but also pushed out the completion date of the remainder of the project.

The west booking hall of Museum Station is planned to be operational in the second quarter of 1982, followed by the south booking hall of Parliament Station in the third quarter. Flagstaff Station and the north booking hall of Parliament Station are planned to be transferred to VicRail during the first quarter of 1983, and the remaining loop for the lines through North Melbourne is planned to be transferred by mid 1983.

In 1983 the new Transport Act was passed and the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority was merged into the newly created Metropolitan Transit Authority, so the 1981-1982 MURLA annual report was their last – construction cost estimates being as follows:

The revised construction cost estimate of the basic plan for the construction of the Loop adopted by the Authority in 1972 (then estimated as $117.23 million at last quarter 1971 prices) is $287.20 million updated to June, 1982 prices. This estimate and the earlier estimate exclude land acquisition, signalling and communications, and administrative and service costs including consultancy fees.

Within the provisions of the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Act, as amended, various changes have been made progressively (as previously reported) to the scope of the project which was adopted in 1972. The cost of these changes and the exclusions stated above (but not including the cost of land acquired specifically for redevelopment) is currently estimated a $178.90 million. On this basis the total estimate as updated to June, 1982, prices is $466.10 million.

The previous completion date of mid 1983 came and went, so it was the Metropolitan Transit Authority that took the credit in their 1984-85 annual report for the opening of the final stage of the City Loop – only seven years behind the initial estimates made in 1971!

Highlights this year included the opening in May 1985 of Flagstaff, the final station to be completed in the 18km of rail track in the underground Loop. The $650 million Loop project, one of the largest undertakings in Melbourne’s history,carries more than 600 trains per day.

So in the end I’ve got something resembling an answer – the City Loop cost between $500 and $650 million to build at 1985 prices, the exact figure varying if land acquisition, signalling and communications costs (funded by the Victorian Railways) and administrative and service costs (such as consultancy fees and interest on monies borrowed) are included.

A comparison

Run the construction cost figures through the Reserve Bank’s inflation calculator and the City Loop cost $1.3 to $1.7 billion to build at 2013 prices – about the same as adding a lane to the Monash – CityLink – West Gate Freeway corridor between 2007 and 2010.

However a simple indexation won’t tell us how much it would cost to build the City Loop today – construction expenses have risen much faster than inflation in the past decade, which would put the final dollar figure far higher. Alan Davies delves deeper into the issue in his blog posts “Why is infrastructure so bloody expensive?” and “Why do subways cost so much more here than elsewhere?“.

Tracking the cost increases

I have tabulated the “construction” and “total minus interest” figures from each Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority annual report – all figures are in $ millions, and have not been adjusted for inflation.

Year Construction only Total, minus interest
1972 117.23 ?
1974 162.78 ?
1975 192.6 255.6
1976 226 301
1977 244 328
1978 252.7 367
1979 260.7 398.4
1980 273.7 426.82
1981 279.4 446.08
1982 287.2 466.1