The Pakenham level crossing removal project has recycled more than 5000 concrete sleepers and associated ‘jewellery’ – metal clips which connect rail to the sleepers – with a mega delivery from Pakenham to the Yarra Valley Railway in Tarrawarra.
The Yarra Valley Railway (YVR) is a local community organisation run by around 500 volunteers who are currently restoring the former railway line between Healesville and Yarra Glen, which ran freight and passenger trains from 1889 until the last service in 1980.
The group’s work saw passenger train services from Healesville Station to Tarrawarra Estate re-commence in 2010 – the first passenger train service in over 30 years. The volunteers are now focused on restoring the remainder of the rail corridor, from Tarrawarra Estate to Yarra Glen, a distance of approximately 10km.
The Yarra Valley Railway volunteers receive surplus construction material from projects all over Victoria and store them at the yards in Tarrawarra, which sits between Yarra Glen and Healesville.
Volunteer Caleb Fielding has been with the organisation for 4 years and finds the work incredibly rewarding.
“I’ve been volunteering with Yarra Valley Railway in our reconstruction project and mechanical maintenance teams since 2019. I feel lucky to be part of our team, working on Australia’s largest volunteer infrastructure project," he says.
The sleepers from Pakenham are being progressively installed at Tarrawarra to create part of the new section of track. On a good day, the volunteers can lay around 150m of track, but it’s slow and steady work.
“We’re grateful to receive these sleepers from Pakenham, an important contribution to this great community project,” says Caleb.
In coming years, the new Tarrawarra Station will be located here, which will be carefully crafted from part of the former Mooroolbark Station building, currently being restored by Box Hill Institute students at its Lilydale Campus. Once complete, it will be moved to the Yarra Valley Railway, where it will start its new life as Tarrawarra Station.
The station restoration project provides students with an opportunity to learn construction and planning processes, as well as how to recreate decorative timbers and joinery. The heritage station, built in 1887, was relocated as part of works to remove the Manchester Road level crossing and build the new Mooroolbark Station in 2021.
The concrete sleepers were moved from the former railway sidings located next to Pakenham Station, where a recent construction blitz saw up to 500 people each day working across the Pakenham site.
This year, crews at Pakenham have replaced 7000 tonnes of ballast under the rails, and removed more than 7km of old rail track, while installing new track at the eastern and western ends of the site.
With work well underway on the Pakenham level crossing removal project, which will see level crossings gone from Main Street, McGregor Road and Racecourse Road and new stations built at Pakenham and East Pakenham, the team has up-cycled railway infrastructure across the state.
Last year, 1600 wooden sleepers from Pakenham were delivered to the Walhalla Goldfields Railway for the ongoing track maintenance of their narrow-gauge heritage railway.
Over the coming months, the Pakenham team will continue installing concrete segments which make up the new elevated rail line, then they’ll shift their focus to completing the new stations ahead of opening next year.
The Pakenham line will be level crossing free by 2025, with 22 level crossings being removed on the line. Across Melbourne, 72 level crossings have been removed, with 110 to go by 2030, boosting safety and easing congestion.