Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Tram Works

While we weren't home a lot over easter, we spent a  lot of time on the balcony watching the tram works below with the fascination of a child. It was marvellous orchestration of workers knowing the jobs well and working with others who's expertise was in another area. It was so well co-ordinated, it was like watching a fine machine work.

The preparation started the week before and in the early hours of Friday, we were trapped on the western side of St Kilda Road by fencing. 

Seven o'clock the concrete breakers started. They worked in pairs spaced less than one hundred metres apart.

Long lengths of track had already been welded into even longer lengths and in the early hours of Friday morning they had been partly assembled ready to slide into position.

Noisy? You betcha, horrendously so, but by 4pm they had finished concrete breaking near the highrise.

The broken up concrete went into trucks. I wasn't home, but R said the line up stretched even longer at one point. 

Once the concrete was removed, the remaining base was smoothed and compressed.

 Darkness did not stop the work. Floodlights were set up where necessary.

Saturday morning we awoke to find the tracks had been dragged into position.

Then some base material arrived and was dumped by trucks.

More trucks lined up to dump more base. A welder is grinding a weld smooth with a spectacular display of sparks.

On Saturday night the base is spread and rolled.

The kept working all Saturday night.

Sunday morning we awoke to find the base was nice and smooth and where cars cross the track, rough concrete had been poured.

Over the concrete, a layer of asphalt was spread, by the machine with a blade to spread. Where concrete wasn't placed, there were two layers of asphalt spread, but by a trailer behind a truck that spread and smoothed and rolled the asphalt.


The concrete has been asphalted over and there is another layer of asphalt to still lay. A road sweeper has been cleaning away dirt and debris non stop

By Tuesday morning the second layer of asphalt has gone down, road marking done, road loops cut, cats eyes placed and the intersection is open for cross traffic and pedestrians.

Supporting overhead cross wires were strung before the works started. Now new wires are being attached to the cross wires.

I did not take a photo when it was absolutely finished. The road opened and the trams started running on Thursday. While our part seemed to be finished quite early, perhaps to get the road crossing open, work continued elsewhere until the dead line.

I awoke Thursday morning listening for the rumble of trams passing but there was nothing. How do I know the world is right before I get up if I can't hear the trams running? Even when on the balcony, they glide past silently. They don't crash around the curve anymore nor bang their way over broken track joins.

Passengers may or may not notice the smoother and quieter ride but it is probably a case of noticing things when they are wrong, not when they are right. Generally they would have no idea of the huge logistical exercise that happened over the six days or the preparation in the week before. We witnessed something that we may never see again, assuming they did a good job, unlike when it was last relayed in about 1995 by the Kennett government seemingly 'on the cheap'.

The works must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Buses replaced the trams for the duration and we used them a couple of times and even that seemed to work well. Absolutely ten out of ten to all involved.

Official Yarra Trams photos can be found here.


  1. Hello Andrew:
    What a feat of engineering and what a splendid sequence of images, by day and by night, of the work in progress.

    We imagine that you are delighted to have smooth running trams once more journeying past the High Riser.

    Kellemes hétvégét!

  2. The company involved would have charged an arm and a leg, possibly in the tens of millions :-).

  3. ooh yes it is fascinating. I loved the bits on The Tube when they showed the work groups replacing tracks overnight. Working to such tight schedules would be daunting.

  4. Impressive and fascinating at the same time. But I would probably miss the noise. There's something comforting and reassuring about the sound of a tram screeching around a corner.

  5. I love our trams.

    There are some European cities that still have fabulous trams, but not too many left in the English speaking world.
    Silly old them.

  6. Many years ago all the major cities had tram networks. Then the trams were gone, the rails ripped up and cars took over, then busses tried to do the work that trams had done, but they were in the midst of traffic flow, so bus routes and timetables have never been successful. Now the roads are being ripped up to replace the tram lines and the trams are being brought back.
    I think this is a great idea, but only if the trams eventually have an extensive network that covers most suburbs to and from the city centres.

  7. Thanks JayLa. I certainly was a feat of engineering. It is all about the amount of resources used.

    Windsmoke. I don't know who oversaw the project but there were many many different contractors involved.

    Fen, in The Tube, they do like to create some tension. The works surely happen often and they know what they are doing. However, I know of tram and train projects here that haven't finished on time.

    FC, well I thought I would miss the noise, but some days later, I am not.

    Hels, if you watch backpackers on our trams, you can sometimes pick the ones that come from non tram countries. Most Euro backpackers are quite blasé about them as there is no novelty value.

  8. River, and your town is a prime example. Interesting that a tram to Port is being considered, but I expect that is only because the existing one is pointing in that direction and it would not be a hard line to create. Not the best transport policy. Looping back into the city as per another plan would be useful and fares need to be charged within the city.

  9. I noticed the track undulations in the open cut section of one of the Yarra Trams photos. That pic certainly helped illustrate to me why there are some bumpy points in journeys.

  10. Victor, I think these Euro trams with the fixed wheels are causing premature damage to the track. The wheels don't swivel when the tram is going around a curve, but just grind away at the side of the track.

  11. Sometimes they really do amaze - (not all that often) and the architect of this well organised job needs congratulating