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Matisa Tamper 7665 of 1967

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Status: Operational

Stone “ballast” is an essential item in railway construction. It forms the bed on which the track is laid, and allows moisture to drain away from the sleepers.  Over time, constant traffic causes “voids” to appear in the ballast which need to be filled to maintain the stability of the track.  In the past, this has been done using rail jacks and a hammer-headed pick-like device known as a “ballast pick”.  This is slow and labour intensive, as any of our volunteers who has swung a ballast pick under the Alexandra sun will testify. This job is known as “tamping” the ballast.  A tamping machine works by mechanically vibrating the ballast and forcing it under the sleepers.  These combined actions cause the ballast to form a close matrix which can support the track more effectively.

Material Industriel S.A. (Matisa) was formed in Switzerland in 1945 and pioneered the mechanisation of track-work, becoming famous world-wide for its ballast tampers.  This particular tamper, type BL09M and builder’s number 7665, was built in 1967 for the Australian Army.  It is not known where and if it saw use with the Army, but it spent most of its working life as part of the track plant at Cattle Creek sugar mill in Queensland.  It later spent some time at a tourist railway near Porepunkah before being purchased by the Alexandra Timber Tramway.  It arrived on site in September 2000.  The tamper is powered by two diesel engines which drive the tampers and the hydraulic motors which allow the machine to move along the track under its own power.