Track Upgrading Project 2007

After several years of planning, negotiation and funding discussions, the long-awaited upgrading of selected sections of Eyre Peninsula main line finally began in May 2007. 107 lb rail recovered from BHP's Coffin Bay Tramway is being used, along with new steel sleepers and fastenings, to replace the existing 80 lb rail in selected sections and allow higher speeds, especially on the difficult Pearlah Bank (between Coomunga and Wanilla). Recovered rail will in turn be used to upgrade other sections where track quality is poor.

The $30 million project is funded by contributions from the Federal $11m) and State ($2m) Governments, GWA ($11m), and grain growers ($2m). The work is being carried out by 'Trax', a project partnership of Transfield and MVM Rail.

Work will be carried out in a series of total possessions. The first of these is a 3 week possession, with work concentrated in the Pearlah - Wanilla section. No grain trains run during the shutdowns.

All photos by Peter Knife, Dec 2006, May and Sep 2007.

Rail stacked

In May 2001 the former BHP Coffin Bay Tramway was dismantled. The 107 lb rail was bought by ASR and stacked in the main railway yard at Port Lincoln in anticipation of it being used for upgrading difficult sections of the narrow gauge main line. Six years later the project is finally coming to fruition.

Rail stacked

The ex-Coffin Bay rail is transported to the worksites using a rake of four AKHX wagons, numbers 9, 20, 28 and 78. These wagons are new to Port Lincoln, being transferred from the national standard gauge network and mounted on narrow gauge bogies specifically for this project.

Recovered track panels

The old track is cut and removed in complete panels, and will ultimately be re-used elsewhere on the Peninsula. This stack is near the top of the bank at Pearlah. The freshly-ballasted new main line can be seen just beyond the stack.

New track

The old ballast is cleared away and the track bed prepared for the new track. The ex-BHP rail is welded on site and laid on new steel sleepers. This view near the bottom of Pearlah Bank shows a newly-laid section prior to ballasting, alignment and levelling.


The head of tracklaying at the bottom of Pearlah Bank, looking towards Wanilla. Sleepers are in place and some rails have been positioned but not welded. More recovered track panels can be seen stacked on the right.

Track machines

MVM Rail have supplied an array of modern track machines for the project. Two ballast regulators and a tamper are seen here receiving attention at Coomunga.

Ballast hoppers

Ballast for the project is being loaded at Grantham siding. In this view the rake of HBN ballast hoppers is in the siding awaiting reloading. The shed with signal lights to the left of the siding is the automated in-motion weighbridge which weighs loaded and empty grain trains. The open area to the right is the site of a Second World War bagged grain depot - the location was then known as Five Mile Siding.

859 and 906

859 and 906 are seen at Port Lincoln on 18 May 2007. They had been working the ballast train that day, and were returning to the workshops.

859 and 905

859 and 905 haul the rail train (AKHX wagons) through Coomunga on 14 September 2007.