Inland Rail: Telescopic switch handling machines help complete Tycannah crossing loop works

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Construction crews use telescopic switch handling machines to complete Tycannah crossing loop works for Inland Rail’s Narrabri to North Star Phase 1 alignment.

While undertaking work to finalise the Tycannah crossing loop installation in April, Inland Rail contractor Trans4mRail employed insect-like machines to move two preassembled turnouts into place to connect a new crossing loop track and siding to the upgraded mainline.

Crossing loops along the Inland Rail alignment consist of a 2221 metre section of track that runs parallel to the mainline with two connection points, or turnouts at either end. The turnouts allow a train to roll off one track onto another.

The motorised handling gantries (MHGs), used for the first time on the Inland Rail project, are also known as telescopic switch handling machines or, colloquially in Australia, turnout jacks. They enable jobs that typically take days to complete, to be done quickly and safely in just a few hours within tight track shut down / closure periods. Seven MHGs, worked in unison to lift and move 80-plus metre sections of track from beside the mainline into their final positions.

The MHG’s are controlled on site by remote control and use telescopic arms to lift an otherwise cumbersome structure. It then moves it horizontally before placing it down about a half a metre closer to the new location. The machine repositions itself and begins the process again.  These precise and coordinated steps are repeated until the turnout is perfectly in line with the two pieces of track it will connect.

The works occurred partly in conjunction with an existing Hunter Valley network shutdown between 3 and 10 April, and after consultation with local grain customers to minimise impacts. During this time passengers on the regional XPT Explorer service between Moree and Narrabri were bussed around this section.

Prior to the shutdown the Tapscott Road level crossing was also closed and all traffic diverted via Burrington Road to allow signalling at this level crossing to upgraded.

Narrabri to North Start Phase 1 Project Director Peter Borrelli was pleased with how well everything came together.

“The job including all signalling, testing and commissioning was completed 15 hours ahead of schedule without any safety or environmental incidents and any community complaints.  Without the help of the MHGs, work would have taken much longer, causing more disruption to the network,” says Narrabri to North Start Phase 1 Project Director Peter Borrelli.

Significant preplanning was undertaken for the shutdown, requiring a coordinated effort across several teams.

“The Inland Rail Narrabri to North Star Phase 1 project team (design, delivery and signalling RCP systems teams), ARTC Operations, Interstate, Hunter Valley Network and Customer Service divisions and our contractor Trans4m Rail including specialist signalling subcontractors Aldridge Signal Infrastructure and Green Aspect Consulting came together to make the closure a success” says Narrabri to North Start Phase 1 Project Director Peter Borrelli.

The Tycannah crossing loop is one of five along the Narrabri to North Start Phase 1 alignment and will allow trains travelling in opposite directions to safely pass each other.

Source: Copyright 2023 Inland Rail

Image source: Copyright 2023 Inland Rail

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