All railway lines north of Sydney have been completely shutdown this weekend (13/9 and 14/9) so various items of trackwork can be carried out. This is not limited to on-track work either, some of the things noted today (or told about) include the cleaning of windows on Railway Tower at Chatswood, construction/maintenence work on the station building at Lindfield, OHW maintenence at Hornsby, bridge works at Chatswood and Hornsby, involving cranes on the track (among others), work on substations at Waverton and Hawkesbury River, as well as a lot of other little things that are also done.
Interestingly, the North Shore, Newcastle/Central Coast and Northern lines are all shut down this weekend, as well as all trains between Scone/Dungog and Newcastle being replaced by buses. This is a complete shutdown, as Northern Countrylink services have also been replaced by roach coaches! The reasoning behind this would extend up and down the line, as a complete shutdown allows for a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time, rather than working in between freights and/or Countrylink services. Continuation of the resleepering program on the short north between Strathfield and Newcastle continues, as Railcorp are intending to have the majority of the network on concrete sleepers by 2010. This will in turn reduce the number of shutdowns required for track maintenence, as well as providing a smoother and more reliable service on all lines.
Obviously trackwork is not going to be popular – today, where people would have been seated on an air conditioned train, a lot of trackwork buses were hot, crowded and uncomfortable, but these shutdowns must be carried out to ensure a safe and reliable network for both passenger and freight transport. Essential maintenence must be done, and better to have it done on a weekend (where possible) rather than during busy peak hours on weekdays!
The main advantage of trackwork, for the enthusiast, is to catch unusual sightings of locos working interesting trains, from railsets and sleeper trains to spoil and ballast trains. A number of locos can be seen in unusual places, such as 81 Class on the North Shore, or a T Class on the East Hills Line. Indeed, a number of locomotives only seem to come out for infrastructure work – Southern Shorthaul Railroad is a major contractor for works trains on Railcorp and ARTC trackage, as well as Independant Rail (MZ Class are frequently sighted on the suburban platforms at Central during Operation CBD shutdowns), Pacific National and even 3801ltd.
Indeed, trackwork should be seen less as an inconvenience, and more as an oppertunity for the weekend buff to get out and see some things they might not normally see!