To get to site, I catch a 2 hour flight from Perth to Port Hedland on Monday mornings and return Thursday evenings. I’m currently doing a 5/2/4/3 roster (5 days on, 2 days off, 4 days on, 3 days off). The company is really embracing flexible work which allows me to work every second Friday from the Perth office. The work is diverse, ranging from reviewing standards to designs and calculations. There is a good balance between office and site time; on this particular day, I’m spending some time with the rail track team in Redmont (~2.5 hour car ride from Port Hedland).
Beep Beep…Snooze (x2)
Get up, get dressed (it’s great having a uniform – I don’t have to plan what to wear), slap on some moisturiser and sunscreen (the weather can be pretty harsh) and make my way to the mess to have breakfast and pack crib.
Daily pre-start meeting with all the work crews to raise any hazards identified the previous day and to discuss the current works planned for the day.
Quick time to catch up on some emails before heading out on track for the day.
Track inspections – first we have to put down leads on track so Train Control (remotely operated from Perth) can identify our location to ensure we are protected by an electronic block in the train control diagram and not at risk to oncoming trains.
Once we’ve been given confirmation by Train Control and the wheels of the Hi-Rail vehicle have been put down, we’re ready to start rolling. Today, we’re inspecting about 120km of track. Some of the main things we look out for are rail surface defects, broken/damaged sleepers and level crossing conditions.
Temperatures can reach a scorching 46 degrees during this time of the year; to prevent dehydration, we make sure the vehicle is stocked with plenty of iced water. Wildlife (particularly snakes, cattle, dingoes) are also another hazard that we constantly have to be vigilant about.
Sometimes the traffic on track gets congested and priority has to be given to trains. In the meantime, we have a quick bite to eat whilst waiting for trains. It’s common to see other rail mounted equipment, like this Track Condition Monitoring Vehicle. Once traffic has cleared and we’ve been given the all clear by Train Control, we’re ready to resume again.
Lunchtime! Usually, we pull up on the side of the road for a quick bite.
Get off track and travel along the access roads to conduct some switch inspections. Some of the main things we look out for are switch blade/stock rail wear and the condition of rail joints. The tracks receive about 20,000 impacts per day so it’s important to observe how the tracks respond when trains are in action.
Head back to the office to input all the paperwork into the system.
Back to camp for dinner and a quick stroll around camp, it’s surrounded by beautiful valleys and hills.
Head back to my room to shower, catch up with family and friends and wind down with a book or some TV.
Lights out, ready for bed to do it all again tomorrow.