Savannahlander Goes for a Spin!

Prior to the Kuranda Range being reopened after the landslide, there was a risk assessment workshop attended by the various interested parties, whose purpose was to fully examine the safety implications of the incident. The hazards and risks to public and operator safety were analysed and a range of controls were suggested to manage those risks down to the lowest possible level.

While it is all very well theorizing over a range of scenarios and controls, they need to be given exposure to the real world to see if they are actually going to work. So once the controls were agreed upon, a set of field testing was planned, where different types of trains were run up and down the range to determine the merits of what was proposed. The Savannahlander was invited to attend.

These trials were programmed for a Thursday. Anyone familiar with the Savannahlander timetable will know that the railmotors are somewhere between Almaden and Forsayth on that day, and therefore we only had one spare unit available at the depot in Cairns.  As a single unit, it needs to be turned before it can return back down the range and the nearest turning facility that we normally use is at Mareeba, some 40 km beyond the trail destination of Kuranda.

There is a very under-utilised turntable at Kuranda, however, we have never used it, and weren’t sure if the RM’s would fit. Measurements were taken, and yes we would fit (with a couple of feet to spare), and the boys from QR agreed to help us operate the table.

On completion of the run to Kuranda, we cautiously backed onto the table. The rails were not quite aligned, but we eased the unit on gently and without trouble. The turntable is air operated – a locomotive nominally supplying the air from its compressed air system. While we have an air system, it is nothing like the capacity of the big locos, but we gave it a go anyway. Trouble was, that of our connections, only the one from the emergency reservoir would fit on the motor hose. The emergency reservoir has only limited capacity, and is regulated at a lower pressure, but none the less it got us around the first quarter of the trip. After that, it was determined to be quicker to use the manual crank and do it the hard way. It all ended up happening very smoothly, and we were ready for the return trial trip in plenty of time.

The photos show a sequence of the rare event, however the photographer could not get any ‘action shots’ as he was on the table and therefore rather fenced in, during the (r)evolution