'Buses will replace trains' is a familiar refrain for commuters on the greater Sydney rail network when essential track maintenance is programmed. And so it was for Philip's Creek, when the decision was made to replace two points in the middle of the yard area.
The two original Atlas points had been in place since 1997 but the electrical connection on one had failed. The points provided an essential loop for shunting operations but the electrical fault, combined with the large isolated frog on both, had made these actions difficult for most locomotives.
This was a job that had been planned for some time. Having originally used Code 83 track, I decided to purchase two Peco Code 83 electro frog points as replacements. This was done about a year ago, but I held off commencing the project because of its impact on operations. There was no bypass and trains would have to cease operations. With my very recent retirement from the workforce, it was now or never for the project.
The job had several complications. The points were located in the oldest section of the layout and, consequently, the area that had been the subject of significant landscaping and detailing. Power poles, buildings, the fettlers' work area, a water column, fences and a war memorial all had to be negotiated during the repair activity.
To lift the old points, I saturated the old ballast with very hot water and some kitchen detergent and removed all of the track pins and cut the track in appropriate locations. I then used a paint scraper to ease each point out. The first came off as anticipated but the second proved to be a little more difficult and lifted the surface of the original homasote roadbed as well.
The new points were significantly shorter than the original Atlas points and it was necessary to add additional short lengths of track to span the gaps.
The process took much longer than planned as I had to recall a number of skills that have not been used for some time, as well as negotiating all of the scenery obstacles. Furthermore, I hate crawling underneath the layout to finish the wiring, so additional prefabrication work was necessary to minimise this part.
The work is now about 90% complete. The point motors have yet to be connected and I am going to hold off the final ballasting until I am sure that there are no problems with the new arrangement.The repairs to the landscaping including something to cover the polarity switches will be completed after the ballasting.
But now at least, trains are again running through the Philip's Creek station and yard, and the buses can now be sent back to the depot.