What could possibly go wrong?

On the 2nd and 4th of August we had ‘back to back’ charters booked by two different groups. With the spare unit already positioned in Mt Surprise, we planned to drive out to Mt Suprise on the 1st and run it over to Forsayth, as is our usual procedure.

Unfortunately, there was a ‘communication break down’ that resulted in a bunch of track machines being left in the section – that means stored on the mainline along way from any convenient sidings. Adding to the complication, the blokes that left them there had ‘blown’ their hours and were not permitted to get them before 0600 the following morning.

They were the better part of two hours out from any siding. The charter was due out at 0900 the following morning so it was going to be a late one. Fortunately we were able to get onto the charter group at Cobbold Gorge and advise them of the problem. They were okay with it because they had no committments at the end of their trip on that day. So we got to stay in Mt Surprise

By 0900 the next morning we were on our way over to Forsayth – 122 km away, but five hours travel on that old line. Arrival in Forsayth was not without incident, because as we were turning the unit, there was a loud bang and a bump from the back. But everything smoothed out and we were rolling okay so we completed the move and stopped back at the stationm facing the correct direction for the return trip.

Investigating the ‘bang’, we noticed suspicous scuff marks and the rail and a distinct lack for decent sleepers over a short section of it. Seems that our mate the sleeper shuttle had been at work and spread the rails here. Our unit dropped a wheel into the ‘dirt’ but climbed back up again.

The local ganger was duly informed and he set to work rectifying it before our return the next day.

The charter trip was not totally without incident either. Not far from Einasleigh there was a huge buckle in the track. Tyre marks next to it told the story – a 4WD using a track next to the line and done a three point turn, with his tow bar or rear bumper catching the track and pushing the buckle into it. We crept around that – lucky it was sited in time – and continued on, giving the local ganger yet another weekend job. After that we got back to Mt Surprise with no further incident.

On the Sunday (3rd) it was back over to Forsayth, and yet more fun and games. This time a broken rail about 14 km past Einasleigh – our suspect again being the sleeper shuttle. We again had to creep over this defect, which was duly repaired behind us.

The following day, on our way back to Forsayth with the second charter group, I was told by control that the shuttle had caused some damage to a bridge near Forsayth. As this happened behind us, this was more of a concern for the regular train crew coming out a couple of days later. And this machine is out here to fix the track?