Downloads and ideas

In this section you can view and download PDF diagrams of South Australian Railways track -- broad gauge and standard gauge.

Some of the diagrams cover specifications of what ought to be followed by engineers and track foremen. Others show some of the many actual departures from the specifications that occurred with timber-sleepered track in the days before machine-laid track became the norm. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, various modellers joined together to measure the differing characteristics of SAR primary and secondary mainlines, developmental lines, sidings and yards to capture the scene before closures and mechanisation obliterated the "hand crafted" track.

The panels of track that were measured were carefully selected to capture the full spectrum of track characteristics from good primary mainline; through well-maintained secondary mainline; through tracks that were supposedly secondary mainline, especially in mallee country; to passing sidings and yard track. Although that succession may imply successive reduction in track architecture, especially increasing distances between sleepers, in practice it didn't quite follow that path. If you really think that "track is a model too", you'll find the information interesting -- whether you model broad gauge to scale or only simulate it, which is discussed in our FAQs.

Why the difference between specifications and actual? Reasons include the robustness of the line as built; deterioration of ballast support and the degree of rail creep that pulled sleepers away from the perpendicular, then maintenance budget constraints against correcting it on that particular line; how long it was since the last maintenance; the vigilance of the track foreman; and so on. You’ll see that spacing of sleepers and their perpendicularity did not correlate much with the amount of traffic on a line. That makes this information all the more valuable to modellers who consider “track is a model too”.

Covering article for the track drawings

A huge amount of information related to the track drawings and full-size track characteristics is in the free downloadable article ‘Let’s make models of South Australia’s track’ (1997), made available by kind permission of the organisers of the 'Modelling the Railways of SA' Convention.

This article and all the diagrams listed on this page are freely reproducible under an “open content” licence, Creative Commons CC-BY-3.0 AU.

Track drawings for 1435 mm standard gauge

Track specifications -- standard gauge, timber sleepers

If you have similar information for other states -- or would like to know how we went about measuring track -- we’d be delighted to hear from you. We're specially looking for Victorian Railways broad gauge, but are interested in collaborating to provide a free source of track information about all other Australian and New Zealand railways. For the methodology we followed, please see page 10 of this article.

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Implementing the track info

The best way to reproduce the sleeper placements of the track in the chosen diagram is to photocopy it and use the image to make a template that has the required sleeper skews and offsets. Once you make the jig, track-laying really speeds up. In the jig shown here, the gaps are the light-coloured balsa, varnished to harden them and to provide a good surface for a strip of masking tape to pick up the sleepers and retain their positioning. The slots in which the sleepers are dropped are made very slightly wider than the sleepers to avoid a too-tight fit. The sleepers as laid are substantially over-length to provide plenty of lateral leeway when laying the rails (using track gauges). Finally both ends of sleepers are trimmed to protrude the correct distance from the rails.

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