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Rail service crane on the Sydney Harbour Bridge

A red and white crane placed on a big truck

Rail maintenance requires absolute precision and is often subject to tight time constraints… there is no room for error. But when the job is on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, these pressures increase tenfold. Can you imagine the impact of unplanned disruptions to public transport or the traffic chaos if a crane was holding up the morning commute on an iconic landmark?

When Transport NSW and Sydney Trains need rail service cranes to perform intricate track maintenance, they know that Two Way Cranes provide the best lifting solutions. Our safe, certified and specialist services cover every stage of project planning.

Les Shepherd, one of our Project Managers, discusses the rail work we completed in January 2021. He highlights some of the challenges we faced and how we found unique solutions to make sure we achieved the best results.

Track work project

The scope of the project included significant track work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We needed to lift prefabricated concrete track panels from an adjacent freight train, replacing the ageing 555-metre timber deck on the northern and southern approaches of the bridge. Les explains:

“We used two cranes for the job: a 60 tonne Liebherr positioned at each end of the bridge. We drove them along the tracks as we worked with the freight carriage alongside us on the parallel track.

We lifted the concrete panels and put them onto the track in front of the crane, then once they were in place, we would drive the crane along the panel so that we could be positioned for the next lift.

The process was to lift, lower into place and move forward… a seemingly simple task but, in reality, it was a real nail biter. It took months of planning to make sure everything went smoothly. We couldn’t risk any issues, so we made sure we had the perfect plan in place.”

Two red cranes parked on harbour

Unique challenges

Working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is exceptionally difficult, and we had to be thoroughly prepared in order to complete the rail maintenance project. We spent months preparing and planning, obtaining all the necessary approvals and testing the process to make sure it was right. Les continues:

“This was a really high-risk project, and it was on a very tight schedule. The whole job had to be completed within 10 days. But one of the main challenges we had to overcome was just getting the crane to the site. You aren’t meant to have an all-terrain crane on the Harbour Bridge!

Because the bridge is a steel structure, you can’t just put pressure on it… so in order for us to get approval from the authorities, we had to submit extensive details about the weights and kPa pressures. Our draftsman scaled the project and set out all the plans for us to demonstrate that we could safely complete the job.

One of the other challenges we knew we were facing was the jewellery on the tracks. The jewellery holds the track in place, but there are bolts that stick out from the top that would have punctured the crane tyres. For us to be able to drive the tracks, we needed to create a custom solution.

We were able to do a lot of planning and testing at the railyard facility in Chullora. We had a mockup of the crane job where we could do a dry run and we built timber panels that would cover the bolts and allow the crane to drive over the tracks safely. Because it worked there, we were confident it would work on the bridge.

Onsite we had to dismantle the fence and fill the train line full of ballast so that we could drive the crane onto the tracks… and then as soon as the freight carriage arrived, we got to work. We placed our custom timber planks over the jewellery, then as the crane drove forward, we had to move the timber from behind the crane round to the front to keep moving – like ancient civilisations did when they were transporting heavy stones for construction – as the crane moves forward to place the next panel, we’d move the timber along.”

Liebherr’s performance

The Liebherr was the perfect crane for the job because of its Vario Base technology… without this system the lift would have been near impossible.

Two way red crane parked in front of the warehouse

“The Vario Base helps crane performance in constricted areas. It means that when a crane is working over its rear, even with the outriggers at minimum spread the capacity will not change from the chart.

If the crane slews 10 degrees past centre, the crane will calculate the short outriggers and come to a stop, until the crane operator brings the crane back on chart, then he can continue slewing.

In layman’s terms, with a normal crane, the computer would have said ‘your outriggers aren’t out’ and it wouldn’t have let you work. This new technology allows us the flexibility to get the job done safely and efficiently.”

Red cranes and a truck parked outside the warehouse

The right team for your job

Here at Two Way Cranes, we have over 20 years’ industry experience. We can manage every step of your project, including risk assessment, CAD drawings for crane position and full documentation.

And we equip our fleet of mobile all-terrain, crawler, city and Franna cranes with state-of-the-art technology, including GPS tracking for real-time visibility, and Asset Hire system access for up-to-the-minute project specifications.

Our qualified and certified team is ready to help you today. Contact us to find out more about our complete lifting solutions.

You can also read about our work in the Cranes and Lifting industry news.

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