Porter Press Extra: Ben’s Rail & Civil

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: AJM Photography

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Excavators

[SPONSORED CONTENT] I’m lucky to have caught Ben South for this story when I did: it turns out he’s heading away just a few hours after I speak with him to Casino, about an hour inland from Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, for eight days’ work.

In addition to the 13.7-ton Hyundai R140W-9s, South also runs a Hyundai R235LCR-9 tracked excavator for non-rail-based work

Thing is, when South says he’s going out to the worksite for a few days, you’ll be lucky to find him in a hurry. One ‘worksite’ his company was recently engaged on was 20km long.

Ben’s Rail & Civil Pty Ltd has been in existence for around a decade now, although Ben himself has been involved in civil contracting for closer to 20 years. It was when working on rail remediation and trackside maintenance work for a previous employer that he discovered a speciality discipline he could really get his teeth into.

"It’s challenging work because of the distances involved and the quick turnaround deadline-driven nature of the projects we’re engaged to complete, but I love it," he says.

The scale of the work is huge, with this particular project 20km long

"We work with some very good people and working along the rail corridors you get to see parts of the countryside that very few others do. We’re often working in very remote spots a long way from the nearest settlement, so our team of eight certainly gets around."

For various rail clients such as the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), John Holland, Laing O’Rourke and others, South covers the entire New South Wales rail network, as well as Southern Queensland.

The scope and scale of the work is mammoth: that 20km-long stretch of line mentioned earlier was out near Broken Hill, while South has only just had a crew return from Tamworth where an intense ballast replacement job had them working around the clock as part of a wider Hunter Valley rail shutdown.

"There’s no extensions on that sort of job: you just have to go hard and get it done. It doesn’t matter about adverse weather or anything like that. The line can only be closed for engineering work for so long, so you need sound logistics in terms of the materials you’re using on-site, and above all you need reliable men and machinery."

The South family in front of the fleet


With three low-loader transporter trailer units at their disposal, the Ben’s Rail & Civil team truck all required mobile plant trackside before heading out onto the line, utilising hi-rail configurated excavators to access areas needing to be undercut for sleeper, rail or ballast replacement work, along with other line maintenance.

Specialist work such as this demands specialist machinery. Or rather, machinery suited to the task already, with minimal need for modification. South says Hyundai’s wheel excavator range suits his needs perfectly.

"We have a fleet of five Hyundai R140W-9 wheel excavators, which give us the nimbleness, reliability and fuel efficiency we need for this type of work," he says.

"Three of the wheel excavators are configured as hi-rail units, with a fourth currently in engineering getting kitted out for hi-rail work too."

South has been buying Hyundai equipment since 2012 and reckons the wheel excavator line-up is the perfect tool for a variety of jobs.

The speed and manoeuvrability of the Hyundai R140W-9 makes clearance work quick and simple

"They’re so reliable, which is really important to me. They also give you absolute bang for your buck: you can pay more for similar sized machines, but I don’t know what extra you’re actually paying for when you see what the Hyundai excavators give you. They come with everything you need already in them."

In addition to the 13.7-ton Hyundai R140W-9s, South also runs a Hyundai R235LC-9 tracked excavator for non-rail-based work, and a smaller 8.2-ton Hyundai R80CR-9 tracked excavator, which stands out as the only crawler machine on the fleet also configured as a hi-rail unit.

"The occasional project task requires a smaller machine, so the eight-tonner comes in handy. We complete a reasonable amount of bridge replacement work where a compact machine is needed because the working parameters are that much tighter.

"For the most part though, the wheel excavators work brilliantly because they are fast to shift between specific tasks," he continues.

"We might be working on one stretch of line replacing sleepers, for example. We can then get back to our access point out onto the roadway, drive further down the road – all our machines are road registered as well – and get back in to the line and up to the next section that we need to work on really quickly. It just makes the entire project more efficient when the clock is ticking."

The 23-tonner is averaging around 15 litres/hour in fuel use


Because his operators might spend long periods of time working in their machines, South says the fact that Hyundai offers cabs with reliable air conditioning and heating is important to him too. Whether out on the central plains of New South Wales or in the steep, rainforest terrain of Southern Queensland, he and his crews have a comfortable retreat from the elements, whatever the season.

Ben’s Rail & Civil also has a foot in the more conventional side of the civil game, taking their wheel excavators beyond the rail network and into places like avocado farms, where once again the speed and manoeuvrability of the Hyundai R140W-9 makes clearance work quick and simple.

"You also can’t overstate just how efficient the Cummins turbo-diesel engines in these machines are; even in the bigger Hyundai R235LC-9. I was running a machine from another manufacturer a couple of years back and I remember burning diesel at a rate of around 30 litres/hour. With my 23-tonner, I’m averaging closer to 15 litres/hour, and that’s not me going lightly either; that’s really working it. I’m very impressed with that."


Newcastle-based, South says the support from Hyundai distributor, Porter Equipment, has been second-to-none. While he’s quick to point out he hasn’t had anything major go wrong with his Hyundai fleet in seven years, it’s good to know he can call on solid expertise if needed.

"I have been really impressed with the Porter Equipment people’s machine knowledge; they really know their stuff. That could come in very handy if we ever had to diagnose an issue remotely, because our machines spend a lot of their working lives a long way from base.

"So far, though, we’ve had a very good run," he concludes.

And with that, I better let him go. He’s got ballast to move and a six-hour haul to get there, not counting the time he has to spend on-track.


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