After Tropical Cyclone Grant in 2011 had dumped over 400mm of rain in the Katherine area over one particularly wet night, a 20-carriage freight train was swept off the bridge, in the process collapsing the structure. Apparently the driver had attempted to cross in the dark, not realising that the bridge was by then covered in floodwater and impossible to traverse. A scene of devastation ensued. Carriages were swept away downstream, and several attempts had to be made by helicopter to locate the train crew before they could be successfully rescued.
SMS was contracted to take part in what was an urgent repair operation – an exercise which demanded significant innovation in terms of systems and approach, not least of which as a result of a particular observation by team members.
Working on the Edith River Rail Bridge in the Northern Territory provided an additional hazard, one that teams hadn’t previously experienced in servicing mine sites around the Pilbara and Goldfields.
Having noticed unwelcome guests in the swirling waters around the remaining bridge supports, the foreman sent a brief but disquieting text message back to the office: “Scaffolding activity paused. Crocodiles occupying work site.”
There’s no doubt that at times SMS Group Services scaffolding crews have to operate in tough and demanding conditions. The ability to toil outside in the baking heat – while dealing with the perils of snakes, sandflies and in this case, crocodiles – is just part of the everyday skill set of a good Aussie scaffolder.