On June 02, 2015 I made mention in a post of a grain silo operation close to the CBD in Melbourne, Victoria that allows for interesting operation, and would keep a model railroader busy and interested for the length of a short operating session (around a half an hour).
Image 1: G529 stabled in the dead-end siding at Kensington. The grain hoppers and the switch engine are down by the flour mill (courtesy of wongm’s rail gallery – LINK)
A little background
For those of you not in Australia let me give you a little background on the site from image 1 above. The photo above is from the grade (level) crossing at Kensington station. The station buildings are directly behind the photographer. G529 is sitting at the north end of the site on a dead-end siding used for second units or for red-carded (bad-ordered) cars.
The two lines under wire are the UP (left-hand line to Melbourne) and the DOWN (right-hand line from Melbourne) lines to the outer suburban terminus of Craigieburn, a fast growing suburb 26 Km to Melbourne’s north. Grain trains come north from Tottenham Yard and back into the sidings. When they leave they have to do a long looping route north, then west before returning to the yard once more. A fair bit of this is on the suburban Craigieburn passenger line. This situation occurred because of changes to rail lines for the Regional Rail Link that has taken freight lines out of service.
The single slip allows access into the site from the DOWN line. On the mill site there are two spurs with the left road running over the under track unloading auger; the right is a passing siding. The switching problem on this site is that the turnout at the end of the two roads only has enough room for two grain cars, and one locomotive at a time.
Image 2: An overview of the site (courtesy of Bing – LINK)
Generally the train has two locomotives. While a single locomotive can handle the work, and would be easier on the crews when switching, the extra power helps clear the path for the passenger services on the Craigieburn line. Melbourne’s rail network is greatly used by the it’s citizens and the infrastructure is congested requiring new signalling to allow greater train density. Anything that holds up one train has knock-on effects that can and do regularly impact on the rest of the network. So any freight movements using passenger routes tend to be over-powered.
Image 3: A track diagram showing the grain siding and signalling at Kensington (courtesy VicSIG)
The shift begins with the loaded grain train arriving early on the north-bound suburban tracks. The train pulls into Kensington stations up platform road, before informing train control that they are ready to reverse into the facility. Train control (under CTC) unlocks the shunt signal 7, switch 8 and switch 9 to allow the movement and the train reverses into the site, putting the grain cars onto the ‘left-hand’ unloading road. On completion of the move the crew contacts train control once more and the switches and signals returned to normal.
2. Set up
The crew has to unload one of the locomotives. Without the room to run the power around at the switching end on the unloading road one loco is usually parked on the ‘B’ siding at the north end of the site. Image 2 below shows the problem on-site with the short headshunt (switching lead).
Image 4: The switching problem – the short headshunt (courtesy of wongm’s rail gallery – LINK)
3. Switching / Shunting
Prior to unloading beginning the mill staff remove the metal grate covers to allow grain to begin unloading into the under-track auger. With only one loco for shunting (switching) the operation is fairly straight-forward:
- The first two cars unload at the under-track auger
- When unloaded the train pulls forward to two car lengths to begin the unloading process again and handbrakes are applied
- The loco cuts off the two empty cars, pulls them to the headshunt, before pushing back onto the passing siding
- Handbrakes are applied on the two empty cars before the loco cuts off and moves back to the headshunt
- The loco reverses onto the loaded cars, and the cycle repeats until all the cars are empty.
With all the cars emptied the mill workers cover the auger pit with the metal covers. The loco eases off the unloaded cars, runs into the headshunt, and backs through the unloading road back to siding B. Here it picks up the previously stabled locomotive and once MU’d they back onto the empty cars; with the air pumped and they wait for train control to authorise their return to the running lines.
Operation of this layout design element offers a lot of opportunity. Whether a small train or a large one the work to be done, including air brake operations and taking time to switch back and forth would give a lot of interest for those so inclined. I can see this being a great industry especially for the modular railroader. Across two or more modules, you’d have the best of all worlds with action on the main, and then a lot of switching action on the modules.
Being self-contained the industry is a real winner and could be transplanted anywhere.
There are a couple of videos available below for you to get an idea of the action at Kensington.
In the second video you can see the operation under way with the switching in this case being handled by BL class # 32.
You can find out more about the locomotives using the resource links below:
- V/Line G Class Locomotives: Link
- Australian National BL Class Locomotives: Link
- V/Line X Class Locomotives: Link
If you have information that you can share about operations at the site, please let me know. I’ve found everything that I can about the site and its operation, but there is nothing like a driver or someone else knowledgeable of the site sharing what they know. Leave a comment, like and subscribe to the blog if that suits you.