Photos from ten years ago: January 2008

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is January 2008.

We start in the Geelong suburb of North Shore, where I found a Y class locomotive shunting a rake of loaded log wagons into the Midway wood chipping plant.

Y171 shunting the Midway siding

The logs were sourced from native forests in East Gippsland, loaded onto trains in Bairnsdale, transported to Geelong by rail, fed through a massive wood chipper, then sent to Japan to be turned into paper. The export of wood chips continues today, but the transport of logs by rail ceased in 2009, following the destruction of the forests in the 2009 Black Saturday bush fires.

Down the road at Corio I found another freight train – this time a load of export grain being hauled by a company called El Zorro.

GM36, T386 and GM43 on the up outside Corio

The company had been running trains for some time, but hit the big time in 2008 after winning a grain haulage contract from AWB Limited. For the next few years they were a railfan favourite, operating trains across Victoria using a hired fleet of locomotives, many of them ancient museum pieces, until the company struck financial difficulties and was wound up in 2013.

The return of grain traffic to the Victorian rail network also saw some much overdue investment on the railway line to Mildura, when $73 million was provided by the State and Federal governments to bring the line speed back up to 80 km/h – a task that required replacing two in every five timber sleepers along the 525 kilometre line.

Trackwork between Gheringhap and Bannockburn

Work started at Geelong then continued north, reaching Mildura by the second half of 2009. In the end this was only a patch up job – a decade later the $440 million Murray Basin Rail Project is rebuilding the line a second time, but this time with longer lasting concrete sleepers, and converted to standard gauge so that trains from anywhere in Australia can travel on it.

Meanwhile at Southern Cross Station, I was catching the last train of the night to Geelong.

Last train at Southern Cross

Operated by a single Sprinter railcar, a practice banned since 2014 due to level crossing activation issues.

Speaking of level crossings, this one west of Geelong at Gheringhap will never have any activation issues.

Level crossing at Gheringhap

Nor will this one on a freight siding – protected by a traffic controller holding a stop/go paddle!

Level crossing protection on the Grain Loop

But a decade ago the biggest concern regarding level crossings was trucks failing to stop at them – the 11 V/Line passengers killed following a collision at Kerang in 2007 still fresh in the public’s mind.

The solution – Active Advanced Warning Signs (AAWS) located on the approach to level crossings on major highways.

New Active Advanced Warning Sign (AAWS) at the Hamilton Highway, Inverleigh level crossing

These effectiveness of these additional warning devices in improving level crossing compliance was evaluated in 2009 – the verdict being ‘inconclusive’ due to limited data, but the rollout has continued.

Footnote

Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago

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3 Responses to “Photos from ten years ago: January 2008”

  1. Paul Westcott says:

    The cessation of log transport to Midway by rail was more to do with Pacific National’s unwillingness to continue it, rather than the 2009 fires. Freight Australia actively chased rail business on broad gauge, even introducing its RTL “locomotive” for the log traffic.

    PacNat has little interest in expanding, or even retaining, broad gauge freight. It increased its fee to Midway for the service, so the chippers turned to road. PacNat has now scrapped all the log wagons.

    Ironically, for many years before it paid for the construction of the dual-gauge siding into its site, Midway unloaded the logs on the North Shore yards and then trucked them the last kilometre to the chipper.

    The flashing light installation on the west (station) side of the disused Abery Road level crossing went missing a few years ago. For some unaccountable reason it was replaced last year. The system was being tested on a Saturday morning when I passed by. What for?

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