Walhalla Goldfields Railways cease pass services - bushfires

 
  gippslander Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Gippsland, Vic
Due to the presence of fires elsewhere in Gippsland (and extreme fire danger locally), on advice from the State Dep't of Sustainability & Environment, WGR has suspended operation of this weekend's scheduled services. Trains will not resume until the situation is clearer.

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  realmakoym8 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
I hope it all goes well. Good luck all!
  Adogs Chief Train Controller

The fire front in the Walhalla area was updated as follows on the CFA website an hour ago:

Urgent Update Coopers Creek Fire 5.50pm

Advise of update in wind change
14/12/2006

CFA advises that the fire front is expected to impact on properties in Walhalla, Coopers Creek, Maiden Town, Mormon Town, Happy Go Lucky, and Beardmore areas in one hour.

The fire continues to travel in a north easterly direction. Residents are urged to take all precautions against radiant heat.

Residents are advised that it is too late to leave the area.

Residents are advised to stay tuned into local radio.


If you're familiar with the area, Coopers Creek is just down the hill from where Platina station is on the former line, Maiden Town, Mormon Town and Happy Go Lucky are "suburbs" of Walhalla on top of the hills next to the valley.

I don't know where Beardmore is off the top of my head.

Doens't look good, probably hit town about ten minutes ago.  Apparently the fire went through Cowwarr and Toongabbie this afternoon and is headed for Heyfield.
  skitz Chief Commissioner

Beardmores is up adjacent to the Thomson dam wall on the Aberfeldy road.

Not good there at the moment, lots of friends in that area.

Screams arson that Coopers Creek fire.  Just like last years effort in the Hill End to Erica bush.  Someone asking to have their balls ripped out.  Same goes for the fire on the the Yinar side - very suss.

A Mate was telling me this afternoon that conditions were extreme with winds aroud the 60 to 70 k mark.  He was a former rail grinder operator with plenty of fire experience and the situation had him clearly nerved.

Hope someone is keeping an eye on the trestle bridges at WGR.
  18A Chief Commissioner

Location: On the tramway
The WGR has requisted Puffing Billy's Low Loader to have on stand by or to remove some rolling stock soon.  Given the status of teh fire at Coopers Creek i think it would be wise to try and get as much out as possible.  This has come from a confirmed source that the trailer has been requsited by WGR and is not a rumor.  Not sure if it has been moved from selby to the WGR yet, more info to come tomorrow.

Cheers, Stefan
  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
Stefan,

News tonight said people in those areas have to stay as its too late to move out - so maybe the window to move stock has gone?
  18A Chief Commissioner

Location: On the tramway
I think it may have.  The request was made around 10am i believe but no move had been made as of around 2pm.  I am just going by what i know.  Maybe the window has gone, but i dont know.  There is nothing on WGR's so we shall just have to wait till the morning.

I don't know where Beardmore is off the top of my head.
"Adogs"

It is north of Walhalla, and east of the Thomson Dam wall

Cheers, Stefan
  Adogs Chief Train Controller

Update this morning was that the urgent threat message has been lifted.  Still don't know how much was burnt and where.

On the radio last night they said the Coopers Creek fire was deliberately lit.
  18A Chief Commissioner

Location: On the tramway
Is all the rolling stock still kept at Thomson?  As i have noticed on WGR's website that it says all trains orignate and terminate at Walhalla.  Is some stock kept in the shed there or does it run light from Thomson?

Cheers, Stefan
  Capegauge Chief Train Controller

Maybe it would all fit on the Thomson Bridge  Wink  If the bridge doesn't burn or buckle, it would be safe.
  Capegauge Chief Train Controller

Maybe it would all fit on the Thomson Bridge  Wink  If the bridge doesn't burn or buckle, it would be safe.
  18A Chief Commissioner

Location: On the tramway
I was thinking the same thing, but then there is still a chance of embers getting to it on the bridge, and while its on the bridge there is no way of defending it.  Also while the bridge may have steel girders and concrete piers in the middle, it also has a timber decking, which if trains were parked on it and they burnt out would leave stranded on the bridge or would allow them to become unstable and fall off.

If you really wanted to make them safe one of the places could be to build a short spur line directly down the thomson river and park them on the beach down there with a couple of water pumps.

Cheers, Stefan
  skitz Chief Commissioner

The sheds at Thomson would be the best place to keep the rolling stock.

By the way nearly all rolling stock is kept at Thomson.  It would be a matter of pulling the Erica spur/storage siding items in the open ( they are in amongst the scrub usually where they live)   Maybe onto the loop at Thomson or the yard at Walhalla where there is no adjacent vegetation. You need to be there to keep an eye on things and put out any spots etc from flying embers.

The only outstanding thing would be to augment the weter supply from the river.

Thomson bridge would be pretty straight forward.   The timbers biggest risk if from fire below and clean up there would be priority and there is plenty of water if a fire pump is set up.  Fire from above (sleepers and exposed deck) could be controlled with simple patrol with a nap-sack.   Thomson bridge would be safe to patrol if a front cam through as well, easy to keep out of harms way there.

The bridges up the gorge would be a fair bit harder with access and personnel safety. If something really got going there would be nowhere to go and a serious personnel risk.

The only reason Craigs Hut burnt down is that there was no one there to defend it.  I am told only a small grass fire lead up to the hut where it started (so my informant tells me) that ordinarily could have been stomped out with your foot.

Wish every body the best of luck in Vic at the moment (says he who is stuck in WA)
  gippslander Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Gippsland, Vic
Have just returned from Walhalla where a CFA briefing was held for locals. The situation is presently under very close observation by the DSE/CFA, with a major firebreak being cut about 5km to the east of  Walhalla, to join the northern fire front. There are some very resourceful CFA & mining people at Walhalla who are well prepared, bearing in mind that weather conditions are favourable for the next few days.

The Henschel steam loco was removed this morning for safe storage elsewhere, and there are presently no plans to repatriate the WGR's rollingstock, which is nearly all stored in locked sheds at Thomson. WGR personnel have been carrying out fire prevention works on site during the week.

WGR's immediate and pressing concern is that it's income has ceased just before the busy Christmas holiday period. Standing costs like public liability, utilities and employee expenses keep ticking over.

Subject to the fire situation improving, the best case scenario is that trains could resume some time next week, the worst case might be that we lose all of January. Of course, all this assumes there is no fire damage to the infrastructure.  

My family has a 140 year old miners cottage at Walhalla which is also a major concern for me personally. Having seen the devastation of last Thursday, it's scary stuff. We just have to wait.
  skitz Chief Commissioner

Thanks for the update Rob.

40deg today in Perth, no cool weather on the way
  gippslander Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Gippsland, Vic
I spoke to the people at the Star Hotel at Walhalla at 2230hrs - the fire was only 1km to the east of the town at the suburb of Maidentown, where there are a few houses. The word was the fire is travelling quite fast, so it's looking like Custer's last stand for the old place. We will spend an anxious night wondering how the town (population 12) is travelling.
  Adogs Chief Train Controller

CFA website had an urgent threat announcement for Walhalla and Maidentown at 10.15am today saying embers would probably be arriving shortly and the towns could be impacted.

So maybe it hasn't moved much in the last 12 hours?  I can't imagine how you'd actually defend the town in that valley...  Back burn straight up the hillsides I guess, but you'd probably just wipe yourself out.

The town and people living in Walhalla are first priority, but does anyone know if the fire's been through the Stringer's Creek Gorge where the string of railway bridges are, or has it all been on the other side of the ridge?
  639 Chief Commissioner

Just saw the news they said water bombers were going to bomb the line to try and save it.

what will be the case if they don't save the line? will they re-build it?.

I really feel for the people in Walhalla at the moment such a great little town.
  Barrington Womble Photo Nazi

Location: Exit...Stage Left!
I would say 'yes' they would.
  6a Station Staff

hope they do rebuild/open it cause I'm travelling from Mackay to ride on this railway.
  skitz Chief Commissioner

The guys are a bit busy at the moment.

Got an email update today that basically says they have people n site assisting with back burning and asset protection along the Stringers Creek and the town itself.

WGR personnel on site to move trains as required and the email said some rolling stock spent the night on the thomson bridge itself.

When I get some firm details will pass it on.
  6a Station Staff

thanx  keep the news coming as i helped build the first few metres of that line b4 we went across the ditch
  Adogs Chief Train Controller

CFA website announced the immediate threat to Walhalla was over at 4am this morning.  Hopefully there's enough time between now and the next wind change to protect/move things/paint bridges with fire retardant/whatever they do.
  skitz Chief Commissioner

Here is part of one of the email updates I have been getting, seems it is a bit more reliable than the media by the comments.  It was sent from original source about 20:00 on the 20th Dec.  I dont think the owner would mind the names being left in.


All is well in Walhalla, which is not what may be portrayed in the media! We have had two losses, John Patterson needs to put a joiner in his poly pipe to the water tank (backburn melted it in one section) and a tent I think I mentioned last night.

Backburns were lit from the south end of town above the railway yard all the way behind the cemetery, above the hospital, allong Corination Tramway and then down the hill behind Linga Longa and the stone cottage (Right Hand Branch.) The locals are encouraging the DSE to do the same up the right hand side of the main road from the Star Hotel to the end of town but not sure if they will do this tonight. A dozer track has been put in from the bus turning circle up to Maiden Town Track to contain what is (back) burning and what is to be lit.

The WGR has moved all rolling stock into the Walhalla yard and backburning and tidying up has been done around the bridges. The fire has run down the eastern side of the gorge.

We have 16 DSE slip ons and crew, a CFA slipon strike team (5 vehicles) and 4 large Melbourne Water fire fighting tankers in town.

We are rather cranky with the media trying to sensationalise the fire. The reporters from the Herald Sun must have felt threatened at the town meeting at the pub as they actually shouted a round! The ABC radio actually announced the list of fire meetings and said that Walhalla's next one was on Saturday at 10.00 in the hall if we still had one. Rae Ann phoned in and went right off! One news crew actually stopped and filmed the fire creeping down around a street sign on the southern end. They did not say that it was actually the backburn! The media seem to interview everyone in town and only utilise the really negative points or cut and paste (not the right term but I'm tired!) to suit their needs.
  skitz Chief Commissioner

Latest update (about two hours old), some edits in there but you get the drift.......

Have just rec’d a call  ( 10 .20 a.m.), from over nite caretaker driver from Walhalla station.  

Advised that the small flat top has been coupled up and used to transport small CFA/ DSE tanker unit to the area around bridge 6.

This is to allow the DSE/CFA to protect our infrastructure

This is where the fire is up to at present, some in controlled back burning, some from “spot Fires” so we are grateful of the efforts of our dedicated members and that of the Volunteer C F A personal, and DSE,  all  providing a valuable service.

This area is steep and hostile, and hard to access,

The Sky crane (Malcolm) & or the choppers cannot be deployed as the smoke is too thick to allow for their safe operation.

Today seems to be the “danger day “ so we trust that there are no ’Fire storms” that create havoc to the fire effort.

Please also note that the WGR Office is closed from today 21/Dec/06 until 8/Jan/07. All enquiries to  Dianne on 03 5668 2148 .

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