WATCH: New rail bridge arrives on time
AFTER years of meticulous planning, and three continuous days of work to replace the rail bridge on Pound St, Grafton Bridge senior project manager Greg Nash wasn't hurrying off to bed as soon as work was completed.
"We finished up an hour or so early, around 12.30am on Tuesday morning," he said.
"I stayed to see the first train come through at 1.35am and the second at 2.55am. I really wanted to see those trains go across, it's all part of hitting that milestone."
The rail bridge was replaced in a three-day window as part of the new Grafton bridge project, with the new span allowing a five metre clearance for trucks to come under the new part of the Summerland Way, and Mr Nash said it was a very smooth operation.
The operation started on Saturday after 2am, with the demolition of the bridge starting in light rain, something Mr Nash said helped rather than hindered.
"Demolition creates a bit of dust so the rain and showers were good to help settle the dust coming off," he said. "I was actually happy with that."
Sunday and Monday presented more picture-perfect days, and the main 320-tonne lift was started at 7.45am Sunday morning and was in place by 10am.
The other spans were lifted into place by around 4pm and fixed into temporary jacks.
The bridge was then grouted and joined in, and the load transferred on early Monday morning.
From 10am Monday morning, the rail track, ballast and sleepers were then replaced and set in place with the final work completed around 12.30am Tuesday morning.
And then, Mr Nash said, he could take a breath.
"It's good to put that major milestone behind us," he said. "It was a complex operation, a lot of planning over a couple of years and brought together a lot of teams," he said.
"There were issues, probably one of the biggest was setting the stainless steel cover plates that go over the expansion joints.
"They were a bit more tricky setting them up, getting them fixed... and getting the waterproof membrane, and that took us longer than expected.
"But it was all within the timeframe of what we had planned."
While the rail bridge is operational, there's no time to rest on the bridge project, with work continuing on both sides of the river.
"We have night works this week, there's asphalt going down in Pound St, and work going on at Iolanthe St," he said.
"It's still very busy."
Mr Nash said they were still working towards a Christmas opening of the bridge, and thanked the community for their support.
"There was a big turnout of people, especially on Saturday and Sunday and it was really good to talk to them and hear some of the stories," he said.
"And we have to thank the residents of the area. They've put up with a lot of night work and it's a big impact on their area."