Tramway Ave II – Street Track Relay

After many delays and years of planning, work has commenced on the next major track renewal project: the relay of the track in Tramway Avenue from the front gate to the scissors crossover.

This section of track was some of the earliest rail laid at the then “NEW SITE”, as it was commonly referred to, using rails then obtained from the former North Sydney tram depot when the shopping centre it housed underwent redevelopment. This rail was put in with second hand sleepers so the museum could open by early 1988 , with the intention of coming back post opening to relay the track. Like the best laid out plans, other projects took a higher priority and now 30 years later the infrastructure team has gotten back to finally relaying the track permanently in mass concrete.

Recovered tram rails from Anzac Parade, Kensington will be reused for this project. The plan is to take one track out of action at a time, resulting in single line working whilst each track is rebuilt. The first stage will see the western track relayed, with the second stage focusing on the eastern track. As has been done in the recent track relays, the rails have been pre-welded into long lengths prior to the start of excavation of the old track. Seven lengths of ex-Kensington 102lb grooved rail were cleaned of adhering concrete and welded into one long length with various ‘dings’ also repaired. Other works such as tie bars have also been prepared in the workshop by the museum’s infrastructure crew.

As this a long running project, jump to the start of the following months –

Western Track Relay

April 2020

25th April 2020

Works to prepare the current life-expired western track for excavation are underway, with old asphalt bordering the rails being cut up and removed, resulting in a nice clean finish.

May 2020

2nd May 2020

Removal of the original track has now begun with earth excavations expected to begin next week. Lengths of Kensington rail have been moved closer to their final position.

9th May 2020

The museum’s contract earth mover David Canini spent much of the day excavating the new track bed. The spoil was loaded onto the museum tip truck, and dumped in an area near the South Shed. Work was also undertaken to break up a worn section of concreted track south of the scissors crossover.

A time-lapse video of the day’s excavation work has been posted to the museum’s YouTube channel and embedded below for viewing.

Video: Matthew Geier

16th May 2020

Our earth mover was back to finish breaking up and excavating the worn section of concreted track south of the scissors crossover, with the old rails removed.

Some of the spoil has been reused in other areas to ‘tidy up’ (fill holes and dips) sections of land alongside the South Hill track. Most has been stockpiled for future use near the South Shed.

20th May 2020

The infrastructure crew spent much of the day cutting up sections of the old rails, in preparation for reuse as track drain covers on the new track.

June 2020

3rd June 2020

The track team continues to prepare the old rails for reuse as track drains and pit cover frames, among other uses.

13th June 2020

The new rails have now been laid, in preparation for their final positioning and connection to the existing rails.

17th June 2020

Work continues on welding the new Kensington rails, to the previously laid Bondi Junction rails at the Pitt St gate.

24th June 2020

The infrastructure crew continues to progress with minor works before concreting can begin. This includes adjusting the rails to the correct height and gauge, before tie bars and track drains are then fitted.

27th June 2020

Works have progressed on track re-gauging, as well as tie bar installation.

July 2020

8th July 2020

Mike Giddey continues to prepare the rails for the fitting of tie bars, as donated chunks of concrete are spread out along the line.

18th July 2020

Installation of track drains is now underway, as more lengths of Kensington rail are selected and laid to complete the gap between the previously laid track, and the scissors crossover.

22nd July 2020

The works team have begun to level and weld the two new sections of grooved Kensington rail, to the rest of the existing track.

August 2020

1st August 2020

The last of the tie bars have now been fitted, as progress continues on installing the track drains. Dents in the rails continue to be welded up as well.

Meanwhile, a section of the “four-foot” near the museum entrance, has already received a donation of surplus concrete.

6th August 2020

Another section of four-foot has received concrete, with the first of two track drains now locked into position.

21st August 2020

More surplus concrete has been donated, resulting in a continuous section of newly concreted track.

22nd August 2020

More sections of track are being marked and prepared for future concreting by the infrastructure crew. Also underway is the cutting down of a small section of concrete from a previous relay, so as to enable a new top layer to be poured. This will provide better connectivity between the old and new sections of concreted track.

29th August 2020

The museum received a 6.5 cubic metre load of concrete today, enabling the track team to make a significant amount of progress towards completion of the western track. Once the delivery was completed, the crew spent the entire afternoon screeding the concrete, in order to achieve a level and smooth finish before it began to cure. This task was finished by early evening.

September 2020

16th September 2020

Another donation of concrete arrived at the museum, allowing a section of four-foot just before the second track drain to be completed.

19th September 2020

Yet another donation of surplus concrete arrived, which was laid just south of the previous donation.

Meanwhile, Mike Giddey is in the process of repurposing more sections of old rails, for re-use as track drains in the future eastern track relay.

October 2020

3rd October 2020

The museum received a total of 3 cubic metres of surplus concrete at various points during the day; most of it being used to fill in more of the cess, however a further section of four-foot was also filled in.

Progress has also been made on the six-foot, with Ian Saxon continuing to dig a trench for conduits. Once this is complete, concrete will be received here as well.

Meanwhile preparation for the eastern track relay continues, as more sections of grooved Kensington rail is laid near the existing track for future welding and repairs.

17th October 2020

1.2 metres of concrete was donated to the museum today and poured in another section of four-foot. This leaves only a few more sections of track to be concreted before this portion of the relay is complete.

21st October 2020

Negative conduits were laid in the trench within the six-foot, as another donation of concrete was received. This was used to fill in a gap in the four-foot and cess, resulting in a continuous stretch of concreted track up to the second track drain. In addition, the first stretch of six-foot also received a layer of concrete.

28th October 2020

Another donation of concrete was laid in the six-foot. Despite a grim weather forecast, the rain luckily held off for most of the day, allowing the concrete to cure.

November 2020

4th November 2020

Work continues on preparing more lengths of Kensington rail for the future eastern track relay as dings and cuts are ground down and welded off.

Meanwhile, with enough of the western track now concreted, 42s was used for a short test run, making it the first tram to run over the new rails since they last saw use in 1961.

7th November 2020

More of the six-foot received a donation of concrete. In addition, a brick electrical pit is being built around the negative conduits, which will ensure future access is maintained post-relay.

18th November 2020

A total of 3m of concrete arrived at the museum, and was poured into another section of four foot past the second track drain.

December 2020

5th December 2020

The gap in the rails between the scissors crossover and the newly relaid track, has now been bridged with the placement of two small sections of grooved “closure” rail; resulting in a continuous stretch of track from the entrance gate up to the crossover and beyond. We await further donations of concrete to finish off this project.

19th December 2020

Mike Giddey continues to weld the “closure rails” between the crossover and new western track.

February 2021

6th February 2021

Works continue on the final stage of welding between the closure rail and the scissors crossover. With this task completed, we will be able to receive concrete again; completing the western track.

13th February 2021

Under very wet conditions, the last of the 4’ on the western track was concreted. The was smoothed out in between various breaks of rain with the wet concrete covered over with corrugated sheets of metal for protection. With this recent pour, we now have a continuous stretch of concreted track between the scissors crossover and the Pitt Street front gate.

20th February 2021

Mike Giddey spent the morning welding the street end of the 2nd track drain in place.

Meanwhile, with the western track now mostly concreted aside from the six foot and a section of cess, this has meant trams are once again able to operate along this stretch of track without much issue. As such, the opportunity was taken for Sydney scrubber car 134s, to clean the track in preparation for its use in traffic during the Vintage Tramway Festival on the 28th February.

Video: Michael Hatton

Once completed, the afternoon was spent hosing down the track to clear any remaining dirt.

April 2021

3rd April 2021

Work on Tramway Avenue has slowed since February due to other priorities, however progress has been made on overhauling the first set of points on the scissors crossover. The worn point blades have been removed for building up in the workshop, with the rest of the point mechanism and pit also receiving a routine cleanup. The remaining sets of points are expected to receive the same treatment.

10th April 2021

With the point blades now built up, work has begun on reassembling the north-west point pit, which has had all components cleaned up and primed for future protection. The timber covers are also expected to be renewed. Once reassembly is finished, attention will turn to the south-west pit, before work will move onto the eastern track relay and three eastern points.

17th April 2021

Mike Giddey continues reassembly of the north-west points, with only a few bolts left to be attended to.

24th April 2021

With the points now reassembled, work has moved onto renewing the pit’s timber cover, which has suffered from exposure to the elements in the past few years.

May 2021

1st May 2021

Progress continues on repairing the point pit covers. Rust proof paint has been applied to the metal frames whilst rotten timber is removed and replaced.

15th May 2021

A small mix of concrete was made up to fill in the gap surrounding the manhole cover. This task was completed in 10 minutes and will result in a much better appearance than putting new timber packing in the space.

The opportunity was also taken to clean out the grooves of the crossover, which had years of built up dirt.

22nd May 2021

Crumbling asphalt has been cut away as preparation gets underway for the last stretch of cess to be concreted. Once this and point cover is complete, the track can be reopened for traffic again.

26th May 2021

The remaining bit of cess was finally concreted; receiving a donation of 1.2 metres that was carried out in two pours. This means the entire western track along Tramway Avenue is completely encased in concrete and close to reopening.

29th May 2021

Welding continues to progress on the points whilst new concrete has been poured in sections of the track grooves where previous worn concrete was extracted.

Meanwhile, a new ground mounted tram stop post has been placed in the street footpath by CSO workers, opposite the ramp to the display hall. The post was made by Michael Hatton last year and replaces one previously located next to the signal box that had badly deteriorated.

June 2021

5th June 2021

Work on the North-Western points is complete as attention moves to a light renewal of the South-Western set of points.

December 2021

Works related to the western track have now been completed. Attention has now been diverted to preparing the eastern track and points for relaying and repairs

Eastern Track Relay

May 2022

28th May 2022

After months of delay, the museum infrastructure team has officially broken ground on the excavation and relay of the street’s eastern track. The crew – assisted by CSO workers and our contract earth mover David Canini – dug out trenches along the rail heads in order to remove dog spikes, fish plates and earthing cables. This will allow for the easy removal of the old rails and sleepers next week.

June 2022

3rd June 2022

The old rails have been lifted and put into a pile for future reuse elsewhere. Earth excavation will commence tomorrow.

4th June 2022

The museum’s earth remover David Canini returned to excavate the track bed for the relay, with spoil taken in our tip truck to a stockpile site on South Hill for reuse when the remaining part of South Hill is rebuilt. A trench is also being dug in the six foot the installation of more conduits.

Video: Danny Adamopoulos

11th June 2022

CSO workers have been focused on uncovering the street’s drain pits to allow for track drain extensions across the eastern track and six foot. Much of the works done have so far been on the northern track drain, with the southern drain to follow shortly.

15th June 2022

Short lengths of rail have already been placed into position at the crossover end of the corridor. Due to the discovery of worn rail head in some of the selected grooved rails, ordinary sections of t-rail have been used, with a bolt on groove to be added later. This will meet with good sections of grooved rail to be installed further down the line.

22nd June 2022

Ian and Mike have welded three steel sleepers from old recycled rails to the new track. It now awaits the installation of the bolt on rail grooves.

25th June 2022

The stretches of Kensington grooved rail previously welded up and set aside have been lowered into the trackbed. Works to properly align and gauge these rails will follow suit. Stretches of bolt on grooved rail have been sourced from our track pile as well, so as to provide a source of bolt on grooves for the recently laid T-rail. In addition, two short previously overlooked pieces of 102lb grooved rail about 3 metres long were also recovered, to be used as a means to “bridge the gap” between the long stretches of grooved rail and bolt on grooved T-rail.

29th June 2022

Despite Ian Saxon being the only one on infrastructure at the museum today, he still managed to arrange good sections of grooved rail retrieved last week and partially align them into place. They will still need cleaning, levelling and welding works before any concrete can be received.

July 2022

23rd July 2022

The CSO workers have completed cleaning off of the concrete on the recently retrieved short stretches of grooved track. These were aligned into position for future installation by Ian Saxon shortly after. The workers have also broken up small bits of concrete at the northern end of the four foot excavation, to facilitate the drainage of storm water when the new track drains are installed in the near future.

August 2022

6th August 2022

At the south end of the track, grooved rail panels have been cleaned and aligned to the T-rail for future bolting. At the north end, CSO workers under the guidance of Ian Saxon and Greg Sutherland have lowered and aligned the ends of the grooved rail to the previously concreted track. Ian has ground off the heads of the rails in preparation for future welding.

20th August 2022

CSO workers have built a trench for the extension of conduits across the eastern track.

October 2022

12th October

After delays due to poor health by Infrastructure Crew and wet weather, progress was achieved on the reconstruction of the museum’s eastern track, with Craig Parkinson assisting Ian Saxon with welding up the rails at the northern end of Tramway Ave.

19th October

More progress as four steel sleepers were welded into place, and a start was made on the holes in the rail web for spacers and tie bars.

February 2023

4th February

Work on this project has been essentially on pause for the last few months due to the absence of Infrastructure crew members able to carry out the work as a result of illness or other priorities. Most of them have slowly started to return this month, with Ian Saxon directing CSO workers to undertake short term maintenance and adjustments on the scissors crossover south-eastern points, allowing them to be used as locked in trailing points for traffic trams. This will create a short double track loop that will reduce the need for shunting during traffic days, whilst the eastern track is rebuilt.

8th February

Ian has begun assembling the rest of the northern track drain across the eastern track and six foot, in preparation for future welding works. The rebuilt electrical pit is also mostly complete, with only the lid to be installed. Once all drains, pits and track adjustments are completed, this area can begin to receive concrete.

11th February

The crew have continued to undertake maintenance on the scissors crossover south-eastern points. It was found that several bolts were missing on the hanging weights mechanism, resulting in the points not switching over correctly. This has been rectified with Ian Saxon and CSO workers installing new bolts. Further adjustments are to be made before these set of points are “locked in” as trailing points for trams returning from Sutherland.

The current status of track work shows more adjustment and alignment of the rails undertaken, with the northern track drain and sleepers still waiting to be welded. Further sections of rail will also be required to complete the gap currently in place, along with the installation of the remaining section of the southern track drain across the six foot and eastern track.

March 2023

11th March

Minor welding works at the north end of the eastern track have done, with steel plates welded between the “new” and “old” rails to bridge a gap between the grooved sections.

18th March

Welding works on the northern track drain along Tramway Ave have dramatically moved forward thanks to a CSO boiler maker that we now have on the team.

April 2023

15th April

The CSO crew continue to prepare the track for final concreting. Welding continues to be undertaken on eastern track’s rail joints and flangeways, with an earth strap still yet to be installed. Once this is done, the track will be levelled before the before the first 2-3 cubic metres of concrete is hopefully poured.

May 2023

6th May

The four foot at the Pitt Street end of the track has been levelled for the first few metres. Earthing bond installation has also been completed and bar dowels have been bolted into the existing concrete slab to provide a mechanical connection that doesn’t restrict horizontal joint movement. Reception of concrete is hoped to commence in the next week.

13th May

An order of 7 cubic metres of concrete arrived at the museum enabling the previously levelled northern stretch of four foot, six foot and cess to be covered. The infrastructure crew and CSO workers put in a mammoth effort afterwards screeding the wet concrete for a smooth finish, with work completed by lunchtime. This is the first delivery of concrete at the museum in two years.

20th May

A further 4 cubic metres has arrived onsite and poured in the six foot.

June 2023

3rd June

Another 5 cubic metres of concrete was delivered onsite in the late morning, and poured into a further stretch of four foot and cess. This was quickly screeded and smoothed by our infrastructure team and CSO workers. A further two trucks delivered extra surplus concrete after lunchtime, which was poured in more of the four foot to “lock in” the sleepers.

July 2023

1st July

Work is getting closer to the half-way point, with another 5 cubic meters poured.

29th July

An order of 6 cubic meters was delivered this morning, with concreting works now reaching the official halfway point. Stretches of buffalo grass have also been laid in an effort to beautify the area.

August 2023

5th August

An additional order of 5 cubic metres of concrete was poured in two stages between 10am and 12pm. The threat of rain was imminent so our Infrastructure crew worked hard after the pouring to screed everything off and get a smooth finish, before covering the wet concrete with old tin panels to protect it from the weather. This will be the last delivery of concrete for a while until the remainder of the track can be welded and adjusted to the correct dimensions.

12th August

Danny Adamopoulos made a great effort in welding the four foot and six foot southern track drain frame to the eastern track. Work on the cess drain frame will follow eventually.

November 2023

8th November

Despite work slowing down in the last two months, three tie bars have recently been installed in the four foot beyond the second track drain. The southern electrical pit has also been reconstructed and awaits concreting.

25th November

Previously installed T-rails south of the scissors crossover, which were planned for use as closure rail, were found to be inadequate and removed. Two new lengths of closure rail ex-Anzac Parade were retrieved from the stockpile as replacement; both in good condition and of suitable length (one rail will require bolt on grooves to be installed however). These rails will allow the eastern track to be reconnected with the crossover. Both rails have been approximately placed in their final positions, with welding to soon follow.

February 2024

4th February

Chris Olsen has welded the lid frames for the eastern track’s negative feeder boxes and is in the process of grinding down excess weld.

10th February

Communication conduits previously installed have been extended past the rails towards the electrical pit to avoid excavating the track in the future. Conduits for the eastern track earthing cables and drainage pipes have also been laid and locked in concrete, which doubles as a floor for the pits.

March 2024

23rd March

Welding of the last lengths of rail has commenced. Our CSO welder has already joined one rail to the rest of the track, with the other placed into position and will follow suit.