Kilcunda to Wonthaggi by Rail - 1988


The Kilcunda line only had a short time to live ...

Some stills from the RT1 video
Click on any thumbnail for a larger version
Rex had heard the word from someone on the inside ... the Wonthaggi-Kilcunda line, already out of action for over 10 years, was about to be ripped up. So on a mild April Saturday in 1988, we made our first trip down with little Dino. This is Huey (Rex's dad) holding one side in place while Rex pounds another pin into place.
Rex's mum looks on while Rex patiently puts the last pin in place. The quality of these shots is quite limited, unfortunately - they're single frame "grabs" from the tape I shot with my old (1985) Sony Video 8 AF camera - strictly 200 line resolution. But doesn't that track look so beautiful as it stretches off in the east towards Wonthaggi?
Rex has a final look at the other side before the floor goes in ...
and - at last - we're off, toward Wonthaggi.
Now, it should be mentioned that Rex had already been down to have a look a month or so earlier, and he had mentioned that it looked as though one or two of the "Farmer Jones'" along the line had extended their fences across the track ...
Now, this was pretty rude, we thought - putting private fences across Government property like that, so as we came across each one, we ripped them out or cut 'em down.
But this one gave particular trouble ...
Not the fence itself, mind you ... it was easy enough to pull out of the way.
No, it was just that this particular Farmer Jones seemed to have decided that once a line closed, he was gonna make quite sure ...
... that any future trains that venture along the track are gonna have a really hard time of it.
Quite obviously, Farmer Jones had been in, oxy-cut the fish-plate bolts, tied the tracks up to his tractor (or bulldozer, or whatever), and just ripped 'em right out. Buggar! (As to why any idiot farmer would bother doing that was quite beyond us.) When you see this sort of vandalism, it almost looks as though some of our men-on-the-land are a little ... vandalistic?
This was making Wonthaggi look a bit difficult! Should we spend some time trying to make repairs to the track?
We tried lifting a length by hand (3 of us), but it was no use. The only other possibility would be to attempt to just drag Dino across, but even that would be next to impossible with this section of rail in our way. So we reluctantly turned around and headed back towards Kilcunda.
Reaching the road on which we'd driven in, we first had to set about exposing the track.
Then Rex had a brainwave - what about the whipper-snipper? We'd brought it with us to clear any light vegetation along the track - but who knows, maybe it'd work in clearing a road?
Well, Rex spent a few minutes trying, but it wasn't really much help, and we eventually had to return to the shovels and picks. We finally uncovered the track and rumbled on over ...
... and then it was on and up the hill, through the cutting ...
... and then onto a slight downhill grade. Rex was letting fly with the air-horn all the way down (but little did we realise the effect of this on the little old ladies in the town).

That's where we leave this first trip. There was a clump of dense undergrowth just around the bend, and then a sand dune which had buried the track. We were still digging when the last trace of daylight disappeared.


In the weeks that followed, Rex made some further modifications to little Dino (he was often perfecting and modifying it - especially the power drive system). At last we were ready to make another trip, so we dismantled Dino, loaded the pieces into ambulance, and headed down to Kilcunda again.
That's the Kilcunda tressle bridge, by the way - a shot taken through the windscreen of the ambulance. You might also note that Melbourne's weather is right down to its usual, foul June standard ...
And an hour later, there we were back at the track piecing it all together. Dennis (one of our elevator guys from field service) had joined us this time. Sitting across the track in the foreground is the train's roof. At least that damn rain had stopped (but still very cool).
This particular track from Wonthaggi into Kilcunda was only light gauge (17lb?), and had only been used by rail-cars in its last years. (Rail cars are little more than a bus on train bogies, and very light - they probably only weigh 5 or 6 tons.)
This is a close-up of one of the fish-plates at our loading-point. The situation with the bolts was puzzling ... what could this mean?
Anyway, we set about putting the train together. The front and back were already sitting on the rails, and the next job was to assemble the sides ...
This is Rex wielding the old ball-hammer to ram another pin in ... (you can tell he's an Electronics-type person)
Dennis didn't look absolutely confident as Rex went for this one ...
This is just one of my autistic shots (pity about the crappy, dull lighting).

And that rubbish over on the side isn't ours ...

One of the wheel nuts was a little loose, so Rex made a fine adjustment.
Then it was time to install the floor.
Now to give Dino a drink (and as you may be able to see, the rain hadn't completely cleared either).
Then it was all aboard for the first run. Rex let fly with the air-horn, Dennis hung on for dear life, and off we rolled toward the road crossing ...
This time we made sure that we dug ourselves a better ditch along the middle. On the last crossing, the chain drive had ended up getting covered in mud and sand - not very nice.
Anyway, up the hill and down the other side we went, heading towards the sea. You can just see the start of the undergrowth that covered a small part of the track in the distance (if you look closely and squint a bit).

Clickety-Click here for more ...

Some short MPEG movie extracts are also on line.

Last update to this page: Thurs 14th June, 2001