Wednesday, February 03, 2010


The last time I looked over the edge of railway bridge in South Yarra, I am sure there weren't concrete sleepers. I suppose the most rotted sleepers are the priority for replacement. I am not at all sure about having rotted sleepers holding our train tracks in place. Still, compared to the appearance of Melbourne's tram tracks, the train tracks look sound enough.


  1. At least you've got tram tacks in Melbourne. We've just got a big hole in the road at the moment in Fleetwood.

  2. Anonymous11:45 am

    Theire running out of decent timber for wooden sleepers, concrete is more stable, doesn't rot. Spikes(?) dont vibrate out when the timber gets old either. Same with power poles - no big (straight)trees left to cut down for concrete replacements used....
    We are still living on the invested capital of the 1930's, the last metro rail line (Glen Waverley) was built in 1935. Since public transport loses money, maintenance gets cut back (ie, its someone elses problem later on) - same with electricity, water supply, gas, sewerage, telecoms, aviation - no money in maintenance - no return to shareholders - ....all the things that distinguish us from the Third World. BUT - you do get some nice tax cuts in return so you can buy a new big TV... I suspect western civilisation has peaked, its a long , (and accelerating) slide downhill from now on, the cracks are starting to show if you know where to look.

  3. They have been replacing the sleepers on the line to Sydney too. Can't help but be sentimental, seeing big piles of old sleepers. I wonder who is getting them all?

  4. Wow, I used to look over that bridge every day, when I was at high-school. This photo gave me a surprisingly intense pang of nostalgia.

  5. So, now that they no longer need to budget for regular renewal of red gum sleepers we can expect the money to go towards new rail infrastructure, yes?
    Yes, I do have my tongue firmly wedged in my cheek....

  6. Anonymous11:44 pm

    Sorry Jayne - thats just more money they dont have to spend on maintenance, so dont expect very much. Tracks are basically stuffed now, eons of minimal maintenance...
    Old redgum railway sleepers....usually rotten by the time their replaced (ie, it broke) so not much use for anything....sigh....

  7. will the tracks warp less in the heat with concrete? I'd love to make some recycled furnitures out of that wood.

  8. Anonymous5:14 am

    Railways in Oz have been left to rot for decades. Some time in the 80s, I believe, some goods vehicles were derailed somewhere in far-North Victoria. Thing was, they weren't moving at the time, they were 'in storage' and the track simply died beneath them.
    So many rural railway lines got so bad their trains were permanently replaced by buses - Daylesford is an example, don't know if even yet it's been officially closed as a railway, though it may well be with the preservation group occupying the final few km into Daylesford, not to mention various road 'improvements' that have rendered much of the route unusable by trains.
    I used to live close to a railway line and could often scavenge broken bits of sleepers for my wood fire; they burnt well but tended to leave sticky deposits. While I wouldn't try to make furniture out of really rotten sleepers the last time I was in Oz you could get reasonably well-preserved redundant sleepers at places like garden centres - maybe you still can.

    Chris L - temporarily exiled in The Netherlands

  9. Redgum sleepers weather on the surface but are still sound (and red) inside. I found this out while cutting through some with a circular saw.
    The bigger landscaping places sell them. There was a yard at Brooklyn tip that had hundreds but I haven't been there for a few years.
    If you plane off the grey surface of old redgum fence posts you could make furniture with them, the grey is just discolouration; rot is usually below ground level. It's an amazing wood: dense, heavy, burns a long time.
    I'm always on the scavenge. I once scored old sleepers beside the lines near Bentleigh station after a morning of providing bargains to amazed customers at the carpark there: the Sunday market.

  10. Some exciting things are happening Brian, and wonderful for you as renewal will attract more visitors.

    Yes Michael, concrete is much superior. Surely logic dictates as Melbourne expanded, so should have its rail system. Depressing really. It was a while ago, but I was astonished at the area a Telstra technician has to cover. It is a wonder anyone's phone ever gets fixed.

    LiD, I think in the past they just got rid of them anyway they could, but I reckon since about the seventies, they have been able to make money out of them.

    Munkey, probably you and a few hundred thousand other school kids. Fun to watch the trains from there.

    Jayne, no.

    Michael, from what I have seen, there is very little good wood left in the sleepers.

    Indeed they do warp less Fen. While a bit of give is usually good it seems not to be for train tracks.

    Haha Chris. Stationary derailment. I think there is an historic train set up at Daylesford, but badly affected by last year's fires. Not sure about sleepers now, but did they not used to soak them creosote? Toxic if burnt, I think.

    You must have found some pretty good ones Robert. I have seem them rotted to pieces and still under tracks.

  11. You must have found some pretty bad ones. I have never seen any old sleepers rotted to pieces. You're wrong, 80% is good timber, where do you think Dattner got his recycled redgum?

    Ex-Premier Tommy Bent bought land around outer Melbourne and put railways through it. Smart man. He was a crook, but who isn't?

  12. Come to my place for afternoon tea, I've got sleepers backyard and front, one of them still has a metal spike in it, if you can pull it out I'll dub you King Arthur.

  13. When it comes to decay, redgum will outlast metal.

    Hmmm, how quaint, I call that immoral.

  14. Anonymous11:09 am

    Mmm, well, yes...I am presently cutting down redgum fence posts for a garden retaining wall - a lot of effort, hard on even a tungsten carbide tipped blade...its virtually impossible to get a long piece of redgum without faults, so its milled to short lengths, then glued and laminated to make.. tables, bench tops. Dattner made his money on using recycled Jarrah from the old wool stores in Perth/Fremantle(?), hes run out of it now, hence no more nice tables...there is a thriving industry in recycling timber, what was construction grade 100 years ago is now prime grade furniture timber...

  15. But not concrete RH.

    Michael, I cut a piece off a 4" x 4" piece of redgum with with a small Black and Decker jigsaw. It took about an hour. They don't make B&D like they used to. Timber recyling is great. It pains me to see timber thrown away.

  16. Moisture rises through concrete, it'll crack no worries. In horse and cart days they only took the best timber from forests because of the difficulty transporting it by bullock. Now they take everything. There's a lot of snobbery with power tools, I've found Black and Decker to be pretty good, my old buzz saw (Ryobi) has the same blade I bought it with twenty years ago, I don't use it often but it still gets through redgum pretty well. I used to see fence posts at the tip all the time, and other good timber too, it's a disgrace. When they knock a house down now they smash it to pieces, all that good timber. Seems it's the most cost-effective way. That's economics.


Whenever I wish I was young again, I am sobered by memories of algebra.