Extract from NEWSRAILOctober 1998
This article is dedicated in memory of my late uncle, Mr
John (Jack) Millard, the first Safeworking
Inspector attached to the West Tower and former Special Class Signalman, Dudley Street
Signalbox. This article does not in anyway purport to be a history of the Melbourne Yard
My first contact with this hive of activity came in February
1963, when I was employed as a number taker in the Yard, remaining there until
the November of the same year. It wasn't until September 1965 that I again
renewed acquaintances with the Yard, however this time it was in a totally
different role, that of a trainee engineman.
Names such as, Gravi, Per Shed, `A' Shed, Receivers, Bank, Group, Spion Kop, Electric Crane and New Yard disappeared many years ago, only to be replaced with A, B, C and D Balloons, Centre Yard, East Yard, Arrival Yard, Storage Yard, South Yard, West Yard and Canal Yard. The West Tower replaced Dudley Street Signal Box.
In 1900 the Melbourne Yard was opened on the present site and encompassed an area of 80 acres (32 hectares) and 33 miles (53 km) of track. This area was to become the hub, of the then Railways, freight sorting and marshalling operations for Victoria. The location was ideal - close to docks area, Melbourne city centre and the feeder lines for numerous small yards which existed within the suburban area
Dudley Street Signalbox in front of the West Tower 26-11-68 Daryl Dedman
The Yard did not undergo any major changes between its opening
(1900) and 1963, however, two additional sections were added in this period -
Cowper Street and the west yard in 1920 and the wash dock sidings (adjacent to
the original Dynon Road, now the site of TNT Contrans container terminal) were
constructed in 1943. This meant that the operation of the freight system was
being carried out in a Yard designed at the turn of the century. On occasions
trains could wait up to eight hours for entrance into the Yard. This delayed
locomotive turnaround times, delivery of freight to the customer and took
locomotive crews away from other duties, as they would need to be utilised to
relieve crews who were on long hours of arriving trains (It was not uncommon for
a crew to relieve on a train at the commencement of their shift and be relieved
again before it finally terminated at the yard). All trains headed to Melbourne
- through running was then an unknown term.
The situation was archaic by any means and needed to be rectified if the railways were to maintain a high standard of freight movement in Victoria. Senior officers were sent to observe freight yard operations throughout the world and it was on their recommendation, that an agreement was reached to construct a hump yard to eliminate the problems of the existing yard.
Although the yard was not fully automated to the extent of some of the larger yards in other countries, it was the type of yard which would meet the requirements in handling and sorting loading arriving into Melbourne. Unlike many overseas hump yards, where the hump is used for the marshalling of trains, the hump in Melbourne was used for the sorting of wagons arriving in Melbourne for distribution to areas around the city and metropolitan areas including the dock areas (Victoria, Appleton and Swanson), plus the inwards and outwards loading sheds.
COST AND STAGING
Because of the decision to construct the new hump yard on the existing site of the Melbourne Yard, it was necessary for
reconstruction to be carried out in stages so that normal operation of the yard could continue with minimal delay. The cost of the re-arrangement of the yard and construction of the hump was approximately $14 million. It took almost seven years to complete and was carried out in 39 stages. The Melbourne Freight Terminal (as it was re-named) consisted of four main areas - the arrival yard, man-made hump, sorting area of 32 tracks, divided into 4 balloons (A, B, C and D), eight tracks in each, and beyond the balloons (Flinders Street Extension end), the Melbourne goods area. With the withdrawal of all shunting staff from the Yard the name was again changed, this time to become Melbourne Sidings.
Four main buildings were constructed in conjunction with the Yard re-arrangement.
Signal panel in the West Tower Late J Millard
The West Tower is a four-storey building located off Dudley Street, West Melbourne and on its opening on the 30 November 1968 held as its occupants the manager, Melbourne Freight Terminal and the superintendent, Melbourne Yards. Also located in this building is a sub-station, points and signals relay room and workshop area. The control room located on the fourth floor contains the signalling panel and when it was operational, the retarder panel.
The control room was occupied by the yard master, safeworking inspector, signalman, block recorder and retarder operator. The yard master determined yarding priority of arrivals and the humping priority of occupied tracks in the arrival yard. The majority of staff have now vacated this building, with the signal person being the only prime occupant.
Three signal boxes faced their demise with the opening of this building. Dudley Street, Spion Kop and Gravitation. Dudley Street ceased operation on 28.12.68, whilst Gravitation and Spion Kop closed on 1.12.68 and 15.12.68 respectively. Due to the yard reconstruction being carried out in stages, yard movements were controlled between Dudley Street and West Tower for the first month of its operation. A special train which was controlled through the yard on its official opening was hauled by T412. This train was controlled from the viaduct arrival track up to the Spion Kop signalbox (the hump spur cabin now occupies this site) where it ran around and returned to the front of West Tower via the up outside goods lines.
This building was located at the north-west end of No. 2 shed and comprised five storeys.
The main occupant of this building being the assistant yard master who was located on the fifth floor. The assistant yard
master was responsible for train make-ups (departure) and clearance of the sorting tracks in the balloons. The East Tower was demolished during the week of 14-19 August 1997.
The staff centre was located in the south yard. This two storey building was the `hub' for all guards and shunters. Located here was the staff clerk, guards' roster clerk, shift clerk and storeman. The yard foreman for the south yard was located on the ground floor.
Locomotive crews had access to designated lockers located on the ground floor. Crews were normally rostered `staff centre pilots" for the whole week, under these circumstances, crews would sign on and off at South Dynon Locomotive Depot on Monday and Friday and at the staff centre on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The staff centre was demolished during the week of 26-30 September 1994. This area, together with the south yard and canal yard are now occupied by the National Rail Corporation steel sidings, the Great Northern Railway locomotive maintenance area and the BHP steel terminal. The area is now laid with a mixture of broad and standard gauge tracks. The National Rail Corporation officially took control of this area on 10.7.94.
The consist office was located at the east end of the arrival yard. This building housed the arrival yard shunters, train examiners and consist checkers.
The normal height of a hump crest above sorting tracks is approximately 4.6 m (15 ft.), however the height of the hump in the Melbourne Yard from railhead to hump crest is 7.6 m (25 ft.), this made an approach grade of 1-in-30. Two leads connected from the arrival yard to the hump crest, north lead, 1-7 arrival tracks whilst the south lead led in from 8-17. In 1996 to allow for construction of a track into the suburban train stabling sidings part the the embankment which formed the approach to the hump, facing the suburban lines was removed, this prevented any access to the crest from the arrival yard end. The hump ceased operation in September 1987, however, after about four weeks it was re-opened until finally closed in November 1987. The author is unable to obtain the reason for the re-opening.
For humping purposes, two locomotives in multiple unit were used. This was due to tonnages as high as 2000 tonnes being pushed at 3.2 km/h (2 mph) up the steep grade to the crest, and also for braking purposes. Trains were humped without any air brake connection and it was found that one unit could not hold the heavy tonnage if the train was stopped during humping operations. The hump units were originally delivered as locomotives T413 to T417. The number plates were removed and replaced with H1 to H5 respectively, thus designating them as hump units. (The number plates from T413 were later allocated to the T class obtained from the Fyansford Cement Works).
In the later years of operation the `lash-up' of two H class on a hump set was changed to be either a H and T or H and X combination, depending on the availability of H class locomotives. Locomotives used in this configuration were either H and T413, H and T345, or H and 2nd series X class (Nos. 37-44). 3rd series X class (Nos. 45- 54) were trialed for this configuration but were found to be unsuitable. The H class locomotives were ballasted to 80 tons (normally 68 tons) to give increased adhesion to the rail and the sand box capacity was increased from 16 cu. ft. to 24 cu. ft. In the cab of the locomotives on the control pedestal, a hump control rheostat was fitted to allow the driver to have more accurate control of low speed. The locomotives were also equipped with in-cab signalling and radio communication.
The hump locomotives were fitted with radio operated cab signals. The cab signal could only be initiated by movement of the humping units over a track circuit in the hump engine spur track which was located at the west end of the arrival
yard. When the cab signal was exhibited the driver was relieved of responsibility for observing any fixed signals when such were not in his view. Indications on the cab signal were treated by the driver as he would a hand signal, during the humping movement.
There were two different radio frequencies used should more than one set of hump units be required, which was normally the case on night shift due to the the large number of arrivals. An audible alarm would sound in the locomotive cab to alert the driver to any change in aspect, this was acknowledged by a push button. The aspect of the cab signal was also displayed on ground masts located strategically within the confines of the hump area. The aspects were displayed in a very simple but effective manner.
three white lights, horizontal and steady - stop
three white lights, vertical and steady - approach (maximum speed 10 mph)
three white lights, 45 degrees and steady - hump (maximum speed 2 mph)
three white lights, horizontal and flashing - set back towards arrival yard.
All lights extinguished - no humping movement in progress.
All humping operations were overseen by the hump foreman in an office located on the hump crest. Humping would commence with the night shift (23 00) on Sunday night and continue through until midday Saturday. There was normally no humping between 13 00 and 15 00 weekdays. This two hour period was used for the servicing of the retarders and other associated equipment. The movement of the trimmer pilot was the responsibility of the yard master. This locomotive stood on a spur track half way up the hump and was used should vehicles fail to roll in a sufficient distance or a miss drop occurred. Not all vehicles could be humped, car wagons, petrol tankers and LPG tankers would be removed from the rake by the trimmer pilot and then placed on the appropriate track normally after the rake had finished being humped. Trimmer pilot crews in the early stages sat on the locomotive for the shift, while in later years a trimmer cabin was built to allow crews to wait in until required. This cabin still exists at the time of writing, although in a very dilapidated state, as is the hump foreman's cabin.
The arrival yard consisted of 17 tracks, of which seven were wired for electric traction. Capacity ranged from 56 to 67 vehicles. It was enclosed on both sides by two wired up and down goods lines (inside and outside). The outside goods lines being the closest to Dynon Road. Tracks Nos. 1-7 were also equipped with fouling point indicators which displayed a white light and were applicable to trains arriving from the Dudley Street (East) end. The white light remained exhibited until the whole train was inside the fouling point. When the light was extinguished the driver would bring his train to a stand unless otherwise instructed.
The arrival yard went through a major transformation, when in May 1995 the suburban train stabling sidings and washing plant were made operational. The additional space for suburban train stabling was part of the de-centralisation of train stabling facilities to allow for construction of Federation Square, whilst the washing plant operation had been transferred from Jolimont to allow for further construction and development of Melbourne Park. The opening of both of these facilities reclaimed arrival tracks 7- 17. Arrival track 7 becoming the lead to the washing plant. (On Sunday 5 April 1998 and as per WON 14/98, the up and down outside goods lines and hump engine spur were abolished. This being done to accommodate bridge work on the City Link Project, in particular, the off ramp onto Dynon Road, city bound direction).
The hump warning siren was sounded at the commencement of each humping operation and again should there have been a reason to stop the operation after starting. The siren was the source of numerous complaints from nearby residents, especially when it was sounded during the night shift.
DRAGGING GEAR DETECTOR
Located on the approach track towards the hump crest. When it was fouled by any dragging gear or out-of-gauge equipment on a vehicle, the operation of the detector would immediately place all hump and cab signals to stop.
HUMP CREST RETARDERS
These were known as Strachan & Henshaw hydra- brakes. They effected a common breakaway point for all cuts of vehicles and caused a bunching effect on the head of the rake being humped to facilitate release of auto-couplers.
These were a braking mechanism attached to the rails and operated on the sides of the wheels for the retardation of vehicles. The retarders were 30.48 m (100 ft.) in length and constructed in two sections each of which could be manually controlled independently. They were operated by air pressure.
These were located towards the lower end of the balloons to prevent vehicles in the sorting tracks fouling slips or adjacent tracks. They exercised no more than a retarding effect so that vehicles could be hauled or propelled through them. After the closure of Melbourne Freight Terminal operations some of the inert retarder sets were removed and installed in Tottenham Yard. These have since been totally removed.
To publicise the hump on its opening, the then Victorian Railways, had a large sign placed on the suburban lines side of the hump proper, proclaiming: `Victorian Railways - First Automatic Hump Yard in Australia'. The sign remained in place for a number of years. On its removal it was stored in the North Melbourne truck shops. Its whereabouts now are unknown.
AN ERA ENDS
From the document, `Stage 3 of the Shunting Operations Review' a decision was reached to close the Melbourne Freight Terminal and cease all operation of the hump. Freight traffic operations being transferred to Tottenham Yard as from December 1987. Some functions of the Yard remained in operation, with trip trains operating between the two points. Aside from the Long Island steel trains of NRC, the last remaining regular V/Line freight service to operate from the Yard was the Maryvale paper train.
Shunters, guards, locomotive crews and all associated staff, will no doubt have many memories of the Yard, from making up trains on cold winter nights, taking truck numbers in the hot summer sun, trying to see a kerosene handlamp signal 50 vehicles away, or `chasers' trying to put handbrakes down as the trucks rolled off the receivers.
With the first sod being turned on September 24 1997 to signify the start of the Docklands Stadium, the Yard became what many people now only have of it - a memory. However, its finality became reality when on 10 August 1998 a circular (SW1123/98) was issued by VicTrack Access under the heading of
"WEST TOWER, MELBOURNE YARD ABOLISHED".
The circular had taken effect as from 09 00 hours on Monday, 3 August 1998.
Mr Norman De Pomeroy.
Victorian Railways hump working instruction manual.
Victorian Railways brochures and pamphlets detailing the construction of the Melbourne Freight Terminal Hump Yard, and Mr J L Millard for the inspiration.