“My other car is a hi-rail excavator”

Right now works are underway across Melbourne to remove level crossings from Melbourne’s rail network, resulting in busier car parks as commuters try to avoid rail replacement bus services. However the vehicle I found in the temporary Blackburn station car park takes the cake.

Hi-rail excavator parked in the Blackburn station's temporary replacement car park

It’s a hi-rail excavator – a piece of standard heavy construction equipment, fitted with a set of fold down flanged wheels that allows the machine to roll along railway tracks.

Hi-rail excavator parked in the Blackburn station's temporary replacement car park

During major trackwork projects, you can find hi-rail excavators all over the tracks.

Excavators at work at Bowen Hills during trackwork

Rail wheels make moving to the work site easy.

Hi rail excavator speeding along the tracks between work sites

And they can drag a trolley of equipment if needed.

Hi-rail excavator rolling along the tracks towards Tarneit at Dohertys Road

With a standard bucket fitted, the machines can be used to dig up existing level crossings.

Excavator digging out the old road surface at the Station Street level crossing at North Shore

Or dig up ballast beside the tracks.

Hi rail excavator at work on the SG line at North Shore

Heavy concrete railway sleepers can be moved using a forklift attachment.

Hi-rail excavator dropping off sleepers beside the tracks at Jordanville

But a specialised claw attachment allows eight sleepers to be moved at a time.

Hi-rail excavator unloading another 8 concrete sleepers

Once the sleepers are beside the tracks, an excavator with a tie inserter attachment can place them into the tracks.

Excavator with a tie inserter attachment stabled at Caulfield

Then freshly ballast can be added.

Hi-rail excavator tweaking freshly laid ballast

And to finish the job is another specialised accessory – the ballast tamper attachment.

Hi rail excavator with tamper attachment about to get to work

The metal tines are pushed into the ballast and then pressed together repeatedly, packing the freshly laid ballast around the newly laid tracks.

Hi-rail excavator mounted tamping attachment

Can you imagine having to do the same tasks with just a pick and shovel?

Footnote

Here is a video of a hi-rail excavator rolling along the then-new Regional Rail Link tracks at Tarneit – they can zip along rather fast if need be!

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