Early timber tramway construction methods questions


As part of a broader archaeological/cultural heritage assessment of
an area at Apollo Bay in Victoria, I am investigating a possible
timber tramway alignment. The only evidence we have at this stage is
an old, undated map (thought to be c.1890s) that has "old tramway"
marked on it, although there is also the possibility there may be
some evidence still visible on the ground. Norm Houghton has
identified three timber tramways in the general area, none of which
he places within this immediate area. Of these three, two were still
operational around the time the map is supposed to have been drawn,
so we can probably eliminate them (there is other historical evidence
to eliminate them from the equation as well). This leaves the
possibility that there was a fourth timber tramline, that the early
(1853-c.1864) tramline was located along a different alignment than
shown by earlier research or that an error has been made in the
To assist me in determining if a tramway did exist along this
alignment I am wondering if anyone can help with the following
questions regarding early timber tramway construction. Please forgive
me if I use the wrong terminology in posing these questions (and
please point out the correct terminology).
• Presumably the gauge would have been 30 or 36 inch – to carry
such a gauge, how wide would the roadbed have to be?
• With a bridge across the river being necessary, would this be
likely to be the same width as the roadbed or wider – if so how much?
• Presumably horse-drawn and carrying rail sleepers for
shipping off for construction of the Victorian rail network, I
presume that sleepers to support the rails would have to be laid in
such a manner and the spaces between filled with earth to provide a
suitable track for the horses – How far apart would these have been
likely to have been laid and would this distance be different if
steam engines had been used as motive power?
• How would the wooden rails have been fastened to the
sleepers? Bolts? Nails? Dog spikes?
• Crossing a flood prone floodplain, is it probable those who
built the tramway would have constructed an earthen embankment to
raise the line above flood levels? Or are they more likely to have
constructed the line on the other side of the river on higher ground
(where Norm Houghton puts it)?
I am planning to conduct field investigations during the last week of
November so any early replies would be appreciated. And if any one
can think of any other physical signs that I should be looking for,
please feel free to add to my list. The area has been cultivated on
and off during the last 140 years.
Thanks in advance
John Hyett

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