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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Maffra Line - Creek Crossing near Tinamba

I took these two shots to illustrate one of the problems with rail trail creators. This is a very small creek crossing that originally would have had a wooden bridge across it, but the bridge structure has been ripped out and cast to one side, and the trail has been made across the creek using concrete pipes to allow the water through.

This view shows the dip in the trail where the bridge once stood.
And this is all that remains of the timber bridge that once stood here.

Maffra Line - Bridge over Boggy Creek at Tinamba

The Maffra Line crosses Boggy Creek just slightly south-west of Tinamba. The original bridge had lost its deck over time, only the trestles remaining. A new deck of steel longitudinal sections has been installed, and a section that was missing has been spanned by an inverted Howe Truss of identical design to the one at the Latrobe River bridge.

During the re-building works, the rail trail was diverted to one side, and this roadway still exists for vehicle and horse access. The bypass can be seen to the left of this shot, taken looking west across the bridge deck.
The eastern end of the bridge with new steel sections sitting on the original wooden trestles.
No attempt has been made to straighten the piles on the far side of this trestle, but given the weight that the bridge is now expected to carry, it probably matters not.

The western end, where the bridge was incomplete, now spanned by a Howe Truss.

The truss is in two sections, bolted together, with a central supporting steel post on a concrete foundation.
View of the full bridge, taken from the western end.


Maffra Line - Thomson River Bridge, or lack of!

A quick look at Google Maps shows that the bridge over the Thomson River is missing completely. The aerial view appears to show no sign that a bridge even existed. For this reason I did not bother to visit the site. The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail is also missing in this section.

However as is often the case, Google images are often well behind, so I will make the walk into the site at a later time to see if anything remains.

This is what is looks like from Google.

Maffra Line - Bridge over Rainbow Creek at Cowwarr

This bridge is a good example of what happens when you are too late and the original bridge gets replaced by a completely different structure.

On the northern outskirts of Cowwarr, after the station, the line crosses Rainbow Creek. Upstream from here there is a weir across the Thompson River, with Rainbow Creek also controlled by the weir. This is to create an irrigation feed to the farming properties on the plains. However Rainbow Creek can, at times of flood, become quite a beast, and the original wooden railway bridge was destroyed by floods some years back.

There is a rather nasty bend that causes severe scouring of the creek on the southern side, so to get the rail trail across the creek, a completely new, single span steel bridge was put in place. There is no trace left of the original wooden bridge, however we are lucky to have a photo of it from Darren Hodges.
Photo from the Darren Hodges collection

This, on the other hand, is it's rather ugly replacement.


Maffra Line - Toongabbie Railway Station Site

The Toongabbie Railway Station site is now a long park in the middle of the township, with little to show that once there was a railway here. There is a mound on the north side of the line, and a somewhat modified and 'restored' buffer stop. Given the alignment of the buffer stop with the mound, there are a couple of possibilities.

Firstly, the buffer stop has been moved into its current position, as it is in line with where the track would have been alongside the mound, and the line did not terminate here, it was a through station.

The other possibility is the mound is from a goods platform, and the buffer is in its original position. The main line would have presumably been on the left side. Note the appearance of Georgie, the Photobombing Cocker Spaniel.

This photo is from Darren Hodges, taken before it was prettied up. Judging from this photo, it looks as if the buffer is in its original position.
Photo from the Darren Hodges collection

And the buffer stop today, taken from pretty much the same angle.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Maffra Line - Bridge Number 4 over the Latrobe River.

This is a seriously impressive bridge, and I may be doing it an injustice by calling it Bridge Number 4, as it is described in the book 'Wooden Wonders' by Don Chambers, as Latrobe River No.2.

By my reckoning, this is the fourth bridge from the start of this railway line, but the reason for calling it No.2 may be because the bridge over the Latrobe River just east of Rosedale may be considered the first bridge over that river, this one being the second. Darren Hodges suggests that the No. 3 bridge over the small lake may originally have been across an arm of the Latrobe River, therefore taking the title of Latrobe River No.1.

In any event, the bridge was in a parlous state a short while ago, as revealed by this aerial photo from Google Earth:
Image courtesy of Google
The section pointed to by the arrow is missing entirely, 4 piers gone, and the bridge is complete un-decked. Unlike the previous 3 bridges, this one needed a lot more work to be able to use it for a rail trail. The deck has had to be added for the full length of the bridge and a lightweight inverted Howe truss section inserted to span the gap.
This bridge is 6.35 Km from Traralgon, and is 245 Metres in length. It is a transverse deck design with longitudinal wooden beams. It bridges the Latrobe River, which can break its banks under flood conditions, and also bridges an adjacent billabong. At the time I was there, we had just had a lot of rainfall in Gippsland and the river was full and fast. The billabong was also full, with treacherous currents going into it and out again. This photo shows the river on the upstream side of the bridge, with the entrance to the billabong at left of the photo.
The missing section of bridge was over this billabong section and Darren reports hearing of an act of vandalism about 4 years ago when the section was deliberately burnt. The truss section sits on the remaining piers and seems to be of fairly light construction, as shown here.

Normally the area under the bridge would be dry, but with the rains it is very full.

It is almost impossible, because of the surrounding trees to get a shot of the entire bridge, so I took it in sections. This is the first section from the Southern end:
This end has had a lot of sand washed up around the piles, so quite a lot of the lower part of the piers is now submerged in a sea of sand and new grass.

This shot shows the remainder of the bridge:

This is a little further along the bridge:

And this shows the centre section. Note the eddies around the piles caused by the swift current.
This shot is one of my usual views, but this time it reveals that the existing bridge is not straight, in fact far from it. I suspect that this is because the bridge has been washed away in the past during times of flood and each time new piers have had to be placed in a slightly different place to the damaged ones. This would be particularly true of the original piles were broken off at ground or water level and the new piles could not be driven on top of them.

This view shows that the crosshead was placed in 1936. As well, you can clearly see the new deck above it.


Maffra Line - Bridge Number 3 over a small lake.

This bridge piqued my interest after seeing a photo on Google Earth taken of it from up high, showing an Aerochute passing over it. The bridge is 70 Metres long with 15 openings, and bridges a small lake at probably it's widest point. The lake appears to be the remains of a creek that changed it's course way back and left it stranded. It is also possible that this may be a remnant of the Latrobe River in an earlier time.

It is almost a pest, in that it sits squarely in the relentless path of the straight-as-an-arrow railway line. You feel it might have better been filled in rather than wasting a perfectly good bridge on such a small lake.

On the other hand, the lake does mean that you can view the entirety of the bridge without any annoying vegetation getting in the way.

The bridge itself is in fairly good condition, even the two refuges are still in position, although there are no railings left. It has a transverse deck with wooden longitudinal beams, in common with bridge 2. But oddly, there is a single shaped Corbel hanging off the side part way across the bridge, with no suggestion as to why it is there. Most of the piers are 4 pile with outboard stay piles, although the last pier on the North end appears to have lost its stay piles, or perhaps they were never there.

As with the other bridges, the safety fence and new deck is simply sitting on the old deck, and probably the remaining ballast is now at the bottom of the lake. It was certainly evident of the aerial photo.

Unfortunately, the sky became quite dull when I reached this bridge, so I must apologise for the dull appearance of the photos. You can only Photoshop so far.. The good news was that the sun reappeared for the next, and very important bridge.

Looking South across the deck.

View from the North East quadrant.
 Slightly wider view.

A full shot of the entire bridge.
One of the two remaining refuges, this one on the West side.

Maffra Line - Bridge Number 2 over Loy Yang Creek

The second bridge on the line is located 5.01 Km from Traralgon Station, only a short distance from bridge number 1. It is 70 Metres in length with 14 openings. It crosses the Loy Yang Creek proper, although the creek seems to be mostly a slime covered, water weed infested backwater.

It is a transverse timber deck construction with longitudinal wooden beams, and strangely odd in context because the first bridge, only a few metres away and much shorter, is of steel beam construction.

A further interesting feature is that several of the centre piers, including one standing in the creek itself, have 6 piles while all the others have 4 piles each.

The deck on the bridge looking South towards Traralgon.

This view illustrates that the bridge has had little remedial work done on it, they simply plonked a new deck on top of the existing one.

Wide view taken from the North East quadrant.

A somewhat closer view taken from the same area. Note you have an interesting view through the bridge to the pasture on the other side. This should not be a clear view, there is something missing?

OK, here is another clue. The braces have been cut through, but for what reason is a mystery. The cuts are clean and recent. One of the 6 pile piers can clearly be seen beyond the pier in the foreground. Again the piles of old ballast are seen under the bridge.

View from the North West quadrant.
Looking up at the bridge from below. It is in reasonably good condition despite all those years of neglect.
The following group of four photographs were all taken of this same bridge by Darren Hodges back on June 28, 1992. It is interesting to note that it must have been during a dry year, by the colour of the grass, and also to note the relative lack of trees and scrub around the bridges.

This is not unusual, I tend to find a lot of bridges are surrounded by scrub these days whereas they were not back then. My theory is that the area surrounding the bridges was carefully cleared back then and not in modern times.
From the Darren Hodges collection, used by permission.

From the Darren Hodges collection, used by permission.

From the Darren Hodges collection, used by permission.

From the Darren Hodges collection, used by permission.

Maffra Line - Bridge Number 1 over Loy Yang Creek

Today I started on a new line, the Maffra/Briagolong line that branched off the Gippsland line at Traralgon, then re-joined it again at Stratford Junction. The line split away east of Maffra and veered off to Briagolong, where it terminated, having done enough veering, thank you very much.

I should correct myself here, as the line from Traralgon to Maffra was initially meant to be the main line to the East, but there was much work by interests in Sale to construct the main line via a more direct route, and Traralgon - Maffra - Stratford became a secondary route in the end.

The old ROW has been converted in recent times to the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail, and this has meant that some of the bridges have been partially repaired to carry the trail over creeks and rivers, but fortunately the bridges have not had massive work done to them to the extent it would ruin their appearance.

In the case of the first 4 bridges, the repair work has been limited to placing a new deck on top of the existing deck, and fitting a railing and picket fence on either side for safety. The deck surface has been coated in bitumen with gravel added for traction. Because little else has been done, the weight carrying capacity has really not been improved, and therefore this section has a ban on horses being ridden along it, whereas they are permitted on other sections.

In the weeks to follow, I will gradually work my way along the old line and photograph the remains of any bridges I can identify. I would like to thank Darren Hodges for his contribution of photos taken of some of these places before the rail trail was created.

The line parted company from the Gippsland line about 1.6 Km east of Traralgon Station, heading a little east of North along the Eastern verge of the Traralgon - Maffra Road. The first bridge on the line is in this early section, 4.87 Km from Traralgon Station. It is 30 Metres in length with 4 openings.

Strictly speaking, this first bridge is not across Loy Yang Creek, but a small tributary of that creek, but it is un-named and so I shall call it Loy Yang Creek for want of a more accurate name.

This first shot looks back along the deck towards South, or Traralgon. Note the picket fence is significantly narrower than the real bridge deck.

Side view of the bridge, again looking South. This shot clearly shows the amount by which the safety fence is set in from the deck edge.
I regret that on this trip I did not have my powerful flash with me. It is very handy for filling in the shadows on bright days such as this. Unfortunately the areas in the sun are well overexposed. View to the South of one of the central bridge piers.
View underneath the deck. This bridge is almost identical in design to the Powlett River Bridge, with vertical piles, cap plates, steel I-beam crosshead and 4 overlapped steel I-Beam girders. You can also see the cross bracing a little further into the bridge.
View from the West side looking South. Again the exposure has sacrificed the vegetation in order to expose the bridge elements.
The Northern end abutment. The piles of ballast have been created by the rail trail construction crew simply pushing it through the (previously) rotten deck timbers to land below the bridge.