Vale Bill Gilchrist

Mitchel Hanlon
Written by: Mitchel Hanlon

This week, Hanlons lost one of our family members. Bill Gilchrist was our first railway Surveyor and track design expert. In 2004, Bill, like many regionally-based Railcorp surveyors, was made redundant when the NSW state government leased out its regional rail network. It was assumed that surveyors could be contracted on an as-need basis. The result was a wild-west period where contractors with little understanding of the complexities or risks of the rail sector were undertaking the majority of rail projects. 

I was introduced to Bill through a mutual friend and asked him to help with a subdivision where we had to direct trunk drainage through an original brick culvert on the Main North Railway line in Tamworth. Gaining site access required submitting Standard Operating Procedures and Quality Assurance documentation. Bill assisted with this process which ultimately allowed us to take on more extensive and complex rail work. Bill helped us enter the rail market and we wouldn’t be where we are today without his guidance and expertise.

In the following years we were successful in winning more survey and track design projects in the northern NSW regions around Wee Waa, Moree and Tamworth with Bill leading the projects.

Now and again, I'd ask Bill to help on a boundary job. To him, boundary surveying was illogical. It had geometry but nothing as elegant as rail geometry. For Bill, railway surveying was more than a job, it was a vocation with his HP 48 and HP 50 programs still being used by many rail surveyors and track designers today.   He was a subject matter expert and taught many university graduates ensuring his vast railway knowledge continues on in our future generations.

His assistance and mentoring of our young graduates, with design work in particular, will always be remembered.

He saw the rail network as both a social and economic benefit, especially in regional communities. His values aligned strongly with the company's values and his respect had to be earned. 

We’ve lost a good bloke, a great railwayman and I'm proud to say a mate.

Rest in peace Bill. Our sincere condolences to your family and friends from all the Hanlons team.

You will be greatly missed.

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