Australia – December 2012
A fantastic trip, the planning for which started some 18 months before we actually went, mainly to figure out when would be the best time to go to maximise the amount of Alco’s we could do. It turned out that December was by far the best time with all the leading mainline operators running Christmas specials leading up to the festive season. Unfortunately the one with the biggest selection of different Alco types, Heritage Express, were unable to run due to track works taking place in December; which can only mean a return trip some time in the future……..
We did travel behind Alco’s with:
3801 Limited (Sydney, NSW – Cockatoo Run, twice)
Canberra ARHS (Canberra – Christmas Diner Train)
SteamRanger (Mount Barker, Adelaide – Twilight Christmas Special)
Don River Railway (Devonport, Tasmania – Private Charter)
Further to the trips with Alco’s we also managed to fit in some of the main line stuff in the country, namely V Line in Melbourne, Country Link XPT’s and Great Southern Rails “Overland” from Melbourne to Adelaide, and even found time to do some good old home-grown English Electric stuff at:
SteamRanger (Mount Barker, Adelaide – Private Charter)
Don River Railway (Devonport, Tasmania – Private Charter)
Tasmania Transport Museum (Glenorchy near Hobart, Tasmania – Private Charter)
Bellarine Railway (near Geelong, Melbourne – Private Charter)
Each part of the trip is split into its own section for ease of viewing.
3801 Limited operate regular main line runs from Sydney Central to Moss Vale, picking up and setting down at various places along the route. They also run other main line trips throughout the year with both steam and diesel. Their staple power for the Cockatoo Run is their GM 49 class, 4918, with 3 coaches. We’d reached agreement before we went out for the 49 Class to be replaced by a 44 Class on the first weekend we were to ride with the train Sunday 2nd December, for a fee, however due to a group booking being made in the meantime it resulted in the train having to be run as load 6 and rostered for a 44 Class anyway, saving us some cash as well. Anything above load 3 is too heavy for the little 49 to pull through the hills.
The second date we’d planned to travel with 3801 was Sunday 16th December, this being the 3801 Limited volunteer Christmas Special and was rostered to be load 6 at least and a pair of Alco’s namely a 44 Class & 45 Class, 4501, which it had been for the previous two years also. All we had to do with this one was book on it.
The guys in the 3801 office at Redfern looked after us very well indeed, keeping us up to date on everything we needed to know; it was a pleasure to deal with them and making a group booking over the internet was easy. Tickets for the trains were held on the train for us to collect on the day.
3801 Limited’s Loco Fleet was in the following status during our visit:
4401 – out of service pending work on its wheelsets; had been so for almost 2 years
4464 – out of service with traction motor problems; sustained 2 months prior to us going out
4473 – in service
4486 – out of service pending rectification work to its generator having suffered problems while working a charter on 25th November
4501 – in service
4833 – in service; hired out for EMU moves in the Newcastle area
4918 – in service
Sunday 2nd December 2012
Arrival into Sydney Central gave us plenty of time to mill about and get ourselves to the end of the platform to photograph the empty stock coming in. We already knew the train would be worked by 4473 (see loco status above) and that 4501 was out on ballast work for the weekend, and it arrived promptly with 5L20 0831 Eveleigh Shed – Sydney Central, blunt end leading into Central. The train was load 7.
Our tickets were with the steward for our coach, which were handed to us as we were greeted onto the train and shown to our seats. Unfortunately we were situated in the middle of the train as the three extra coaches for the group booking were between us and the loco on the front. It didn’t matter though as with all the windows open 4473 could be heard 4 coaches back well enough.
The run through the Sydney suburbs was great, plenty of stopping and starting for the Alco to deal with and then came the surprise at Unaderra, where the climb through the hills really starts. Having been held at the bottom for almost an hour waiting for a freight train to come down we were treated to nothing but pure unadulterated 12 cylinder Alco thrash for the next 45 minutes or so, while 4473 got to grips with the train and the 1:33 gradient, up which we never got to much more than 25kmph. Despite the lateness, having missed out a stop at Summit Tank we arrived into Moss Vale right time. The train runs into a reception road round the corner from Moss Vale and then reverses in to avoid the need to run round, thus keeping the train in the same formation for the return journey.
Moss Vale has a few places to eat on the main road outside but nothing major. There were a few bits going on in the station but we would be the only passenger train to actually arrive and/or depart that day as the main line from Sydney to Goulburn was closed throughout for engineering works with buses replacing trains; something we had to look forward to that night as our XPT was a bus from Sydney to Goulburn.
Having killed the 90 minutes we had the run back to Sydney was a bit more relaxing than the outward, probably because a lot of it was downhill and we even had the windows closed at one point due to the mist in the hills as we headed back.
The train was early back into Sydney Central, with no delays en-route back at all. A thoroughly enjoyable day out it was too and we were already looking forward to the same run again but with a pair of Alco’s on 16th December. At that point though all we had to immediately look forward to was the bus replacing out XPT to Goulburn as we headed south to Melbourne that night.
Wednesday 12th December 2012
Although we weren’t allowed to travel on it we did manage to time our arrival into Sydney Central, more due to late running than anything else, to see 3801 Limited’s “Christmas Special” run in conjunction with other railway parties for children with learning difficulties. It ran from Sydney Central to Rosehill & return with steam loco 3016 leading and Goodwin/Alco DL541, 45 Class, 4501 on the rear to assist where needed.
Sunday 16th December 2012
There had been some debate during the week in that 3801 were hiring out locos for track work over the weekend of the 16th. This was due to a de-railment on the line between Werris Creek & Narrabri which had not only resulted in a bridge being partially destroyed but it was also responsible for us re-planning the final week of our trip as we’d planned to attempt to chase 48s on freight trains at Werris Creek (see Parkes section for details). It didn’t stop there as 3801 were hiring out their locos due to 9 locos being stuck the wrong side of the damaged bridge, resulting in there being a shortage for the upcoming track works that weekend. Initially 3801 were to hire out 4918/4501 in a pair, this leaving 4473 for the Cockatoo on its own, again, not the best for us. Thankfully what actually happened was 4918/4473 were hired out for the rail train they were to work that weekend and 4501 was held back for the Cockatoo Run on the 16th, only a single Alco rather than the pair it should have been but it was well worth it being!
As the train was effectively a staff Christmas Special that was open to the public to travel on, it was quite empty and we had the whole front half of the front coach to ourselves all the way out and back. We got to meet the top man at 3801 Limited as well as the guy I’d been dealing with in their commercial department for the last 18 months. Everyone was very friendly and helped us out in any way they could; including getting 4501 onto the train vice 4473.
The run with 4501 on load 6 was probably better than 4473 on load 7 two weeks previous, mainly due to being in the front coach, right behind the engine. 4501 certainly didn’t let the side down as far as the thrash stakes went and I think it was better than 4473. The crew on the footplate this time having over 100 years driving experience between them and had been driving since before 4501 had been built, in 1962! The weather was excellent through the hills this time, no mist, no rain, no coldness, just plenty of sunshine and the roar of 4501.
The train terminated at Robertson, this was where the staff went for their pre-booked Christmas lunch, all but the drivers who had lunch brought to them in the cab before heading off to Moss Vale to turn the set and loco. Running long hood first isn’t practice used in Australia due to the poor visibility. In fact it was apparently quite rare to have 4501 on its own for that very reason as it is usually used in a pair with something else when a run round is required.
With just over three hours in Robertson it allowed for Sunday lunch in the pub up the road from the station, which looked straight onto the railway line. We saw 4501 arrive back from Moss Vale and were also treated to a Pacific National freight heading towards Sydney with an 81 Class leading and a pair of 48’s inside, which we were all regretting not getting out of our seats and going out to photograph; of course not expecting 48s to be involved.
The return journey was just as enjoyable as the outward and once at the bottom of the hills 4501 gave a good display when starting away from stations as it set down en-route back into Sydney Central, where we arrived early again.
This was the end of the road for the whole trip too, it having started and finished on a high for me with some of the best thrash of the trip. What better way to celebrate than with a few beers before we all headed off our different ways to get home, me via India, two via Malaysia, one via Korea, with only one sensible person among us taking the direct route home……..
Having arrived on the overnight XPT from Sydney, via a bus to Goulburn, I was feeling less than fresh when I met up with three other guys and a local Australian crank in Melbourne to head off to the Bellarine Railway near Geelong.
We’d arranged a Private Charter at the Bellarine Railway on which we’d utilise their 3 English Electric locos:
Ex Tas Rail X Classes – X3 & X20
Ex Queensland 1600 Class – 1604
We’d hoped for a bit more than we actually got and things seemed to have gone a bit awry with what was actually possible shortly before our trip. We originally expected to have a return trip over the full length of the line from Queenscliff to Drysdale with the X Classes and a return trip from Queenscliff to Lakers Siding with 1604, what we actually got was 1604 from Queenscliff to Lakers Siding then the X Classes Lakers Siding to Drysdale and return all the way to Queenscliff. Strangely though the stock came and returned empties to Lakers Siding but we weren’t allowed to drive down there to board due to it being restricted to staff only.
All the above aside we at least got all the locos we paid for and plenty of photo stops and run-by’s en route in both directions. The stock was load 6, the same set that the railway used on their Blues Train.
Having not had much English Electric stuff outside of the UK, just a few bits in Portugal & Malaysia, I was quite surprised at the noise that came out of 1604, and only from 6 cylinders as well. It was a shame it was only on the train for just over 4km.
At Lakers Siding, in the middle of nowhere, 1604 was shunted off the train and into the massive new shed that had been erected to house the Bellarine fleet. Inside the X Classes were already marshalled together and mutli’d up, all they needed was starting.
The X’s didn’t sound anything like as meaty as 1604 had, no matter how hard they tried. there wasn’t much scope to give them a good hammering along the line anyway, with just one gradient, where they tried, bless them. They looked the part in the pristine red livery they carried, unfortunately the sun didn’t so them any justice until we arrived back into Queenscliff at the end of the run.
We did attempt to get the railway to give us some runs off their shunter fleet but they were unable to do so as they needed permission to move anything on shed. It had been a decent day, nothing to write home about thrash wise and we’d paid a fair amount for the privilege too but one out and back had sufficed really, being able to have ridden from and back to Lakers Siding would have been a lot better though. By 1500 we were heading back into Melbourne for an afternoon spin on the V Line Bacchus Marsh commuters.
We didn’t get as much exposure as we’d planned to V Line stuff, mainly due to the de-railment on the Werris Creek – Narrabri line resulting in us having to re-plan the back end of the trip which meant we had to head back to Sydney a day earlier than originally planned, resulting in our overnight stay in Bacchus Marsh being dismissed towards the end of the trip.
Travelling on V Line is easy enough ticket wise but effectively you’re not allowed to get on trains coming into town at suburban stations where the Metro serves, likewise going out you can’t buy tickets to the same places. In practice you can do both, although it is very prudent to have a ticket valid to the station where the train was last booked to stop, just in case.
V Line return tickets are valid as a day pass between the two points and are also then valid on the Metro in zones 1 & 2 all day. Myki cards, a bit like the UK Oyster card, is topped up and used within the relevant zones you want to travel in by tapping in/out as appropriate. The only line the Myki is of any use on is the Bacchus Marsh one where zone 2 extends to Melton, the shack before Bacchus Marsh. The difference in fare from a return to Bacchus Marsh and the Myki extending to zone 2 is only 90c though.
The status of the V Line Fleet during our trip was as follows:
A60 – Standby
A62 – In traffic
A66 – In traffic (though didn’t turn a wheel in the three weeks we were there)
A70 – In traffic
N451 – N475 – All in traffic (N453, 469, 470 Standard Gauge)
P11 – In traffic
P12 – In traffic
P13 – Standard gauge joko
P14 – In traffic
P15 – In traffic
P16 – In traffic
P17 – In traffic
P18 – In traffic
Y129, 156, 161 163 – Broad gauge jokos
The following were the Bacchus Marsh Line commuter turns:
1615 – A Class (returns 0612 ex Bacchus Marsh)
1645 – N Class (returns 0650 ex Bacchus Marsh)
1713 – P Class T&T (returns 0731 ex Bacchus Marsh)
1726 – P Class T&T (returns 0743 ex Bacchus Marsh)
1751 – N Class (returns 0703 ex Bacchus Marsh)
Monday 3rd December 2012
Having been at Bellarine Railway in the morning we made it back into Melbourne for the evening P Class diagrams on the Bacchus Marsh Line and managed to cover both sets along with the N class on the 1751 ex Southern Cross for a DMU back into town before heading off to the pub.
The following worked that evening on the Bacchus Marsh Line:
1713 – P12/15 T&T, 1726 – P18/17 T&T, 1751 – N464
Tuesday 11th December 2012
A full day in Melbourne allowed for a bit of V Line action, although not a full evening covering the commuters on the Bacchus Marsh line as we had to be on the overnight XPT to Sydney that night. In between photting at Bunbury Street and doing the XPT I managed to do an early afternoon run out to Wallan on the Shepparton line with N Classes before covering the A & P Class turns in the late afternoon.
The following were observed:
N475 – 1252 Shepparton
N463 – 1300 Warrnambool
N462 – 1520 South Geelong
N468 – 1250 Ex Shepparton
A70 – 1615 Bacchus Marsh
P15/12 – 1713 Bacchus Marsh
P18/16 – 1726 Bacchus Marsh
Our transport from Melbourne to Adelaide was provided by Great Southern Trains in the form of their “Overland” service, departing Melbourne at a sociable 0805 and booked to arrive Adelaide Parklands Terminal at 1750. Tickets were booked through their website before departure from the UK. The seating on board is very relaxing indeed, and that was in economy class. The restaurant car on board was pristine and had a great selection to choose from. The journey in all was great from start to finish and with a Pacific National GE, NR53 at the helm, what more could you ask for….
On arrival at Adelaide we were met by a local Australian crank, originally from the UK but had been living in Australia since the age of 4. I’d been in contact with said person for a year or so, mainly in relation to my Mozambique trip earlier in 2012, without actually realising he lived in Adelaide. It was only right that we met up when I went out there, and to be honest he became our guide for the three days were spent chasing trains out there. The main point of which was actually to chase the G&W Broad Gauge “Stonie”, which didn’t let us down, although we were very lucky as the two days we chose ton chase it happened to be the only two it ran that week!
Tuesday 4th December 2012
Having been picked up at Parklands we were soon heading off towards places we’d never heard of, which would eventually become second nature once we’d got our heads round the geography of Adelaide’s railways. Firstly we stopped at the level crossing just beyond the station, hoping to get some photos of PN’s last serviceable PL Class Alco, PL1, which is used as carriage shunt loco at Parklands. There was an Alco there alright but even our resident crank was surprised to find it to be 80 Class, 8046 and not the usual PL1, the latter being nowhere to be seen.
Our trip round Adelaide that evening took us through the sprawling city and eventually to Adelaide Freight Terminal, where we found nothing and eventually ended up at Islington Shops where Patrick Portlink Alco, ex 45 Class, #103 with its cut down nose, was sat waiting possibly for overhaul. Also present was Bluebird Rail English Electric, 500 Class, #53 fresh off overhaul.
With the light fading we did manage to catch a couple of freights departing the freight terminal that evening, a PN one headed by NR’s 92/68 with S Class S307 inside for extra help and also an SCT train with a pair of SCT GT46C-ACe’s SCT013/008 heading out of town. Once the light had really gone we headed off to our hotel to prepare for a day chasing the “Stonie” the following day.
Wednesday 5th December 2012
Once I’d got over my schoolboy error that morning, having not changed the time on my phone which resulted in me getting up at 0540 instead of 0610, we were on a roll. It took me having a shower and getting dressed to realise mind! And we didn’t end up on the road until 0815 either; our lift being stuck in the Adelaide rush hour traffic.
The plan for the day was to head up to Penrice Soda and chase the stone train that ran back to Osborne, locally known as the “Stonie”. First port of call en-route was Dry Creek Motive Power Depot to get pictures of the Alco’s that weren’t on the train, on shed. These being 830 Class, 843/844 meaning 700 Class, 704 & 830 Class, 841 were out on the “Stonie”, or so we hoped anyway. Also at Dry Creek were GM45, GM46, FQ03, DL39 and GWA Alco 701 was in the yard.
It only took about 45 minutes to get into the Barossa Valley and as we pulled up alongside the weighbridge at Penrise Soda the conveyor belt delivering the product to the train stopped, the last wagon having just been loaded. The guy in the weighbridge told us he expected the train to be away by 1130; GWA Alco’s 704/841 were stood running, their train being in two parts.
We didn’t have long to wait at Nuriootpa, the location we picked to start our chase, the train turning up at 1135, 704 leading 841, the former not appearing to be doing a great deal. From then on there was no time for messing about, the car always being positioned for a quick getaway when we stopped. It seemed that the fact that 704 didn’t seem to be doing a lot helped us out a bit. At most of the places we stopped the train was climbing and down to 20kmph at most. The chase wasn’t that hard, although it does help to know where you’re going, which our driver did. the main road follows the railway quite a lot of the way though so it is quite easy once you get out of Nuriootpa.
Once on the outskirts of Gawler the train has to wait a path to fit in with the Adelaide Metro service, which is where the chase ends. We did stop at Gawler station to get a photo though, where I very nearly made a right fool of myself as the train approached behind me, 841 on full power I might add, the noise of which was blocked out by the DMU idling beside me, all while I was attempting to send a text message. The fact that I managed to run faster than it to the end of the platform and still get my photo tells just how slow it was going, and my phone and bag were still on the bench when I got back too.
While the train headed back into town we took the fast way back and headed it off at Port Adelaide, hoping to get shots of it coming over the new flyover into the Port area. It took a while to actually figure out whether we could get to it of not initially but once we’d found a parking space at the side of the road we then walked down the pathway that leads down the side of the flyover at the Port end, which then opens up allowing you to walk underneath it giving way to a cracking view of any train heading into the Port; the sun even having made an appearance too.
We waited, and waited, and waited some more. If it had been up to the other two we’d have gone a good hour before I started to think that maybe they’d been right all that time ago. Still I was adamant we’d beat the train, in which case it had to turn up. Just before 1500 a PN NR Class, NR35 headed out of the Port with a short train, shortly after which the signal at the Port end of the flyover changed to green. 25 minutes later the orange paintwork of 704 could be seen in the distance as the train began to climb the flyover, behind the warehouses at the opposite side of the water. 841 was doing all the work as the train staggered up the gradient towards the peak. the sun had gone that far round since we’d been waiting that the money short was actually after the train had got to the top and started descending the other side, but on the opposite side of the flyover to where we were. As it was going so slowly we had no problem legging it underneath to get a whole new set of photos as 841 eased off coming down the ramp at the other side. It was well worth the wait in the glorious afternoon Adelaide sunshine but boy was I glad I’d taken my hat out of the car with me!
A great day’s chase, the prominent bits of which were all discussed over a beer and “barbie” that night.
Thursday 6th December 2012
Another 0830 start and a long day ahead, although it wasn’t as long as we’d originally expected in the end. The plan being to head up t Whyalla, where GWA had some Alco’s of the 830 & 900 Classes working on their narrow gauge system, which may well be displaced by new build stuff during 2013. It was a 382km driver to Whyalla, which ended up taking us almost 5 hours in the end.
En-route we saw two freights, one an SCT northbound ore train with new Chinese locos CSR002/008. This cost us a bit of time as it went into the loop at Snowtown and blocked us wrong side of our car, which was still running and unlocked as we walked round the back end of the train to get to it. We ultimately came across the southbound train it was waiting to cross only a few miles north, a PN container train with NR Classes NR69/14 at its helm. That was all we saw until we got to Whyalla.
In the PN marshaling yard on the outskirts of town there were a couple of NR’s shunting a train together, when we pulled over to investigate there was actually a GWA 900 Class attached to the rear, seemingly attaching more traffic. By the time we’d parked and got out it had been detached and done one back towards the steelworks, never to be seen again! It looked like 907.
The GWA stabling point near the pellatising plant in Whyalla was more promising where we found another 900 Class, 901, with two GM’s 1302 & CK3. All were running but with no crew anywhere to be seen. I had to scale a fence to get a photo of them as even though my camera had a flip out screen I wasn’t tall enough to be able to point it over the top so the old school method of overcoming such obstacles had to come into effect.
Just outside Whyalla is a loop where a set of wagons was stabled and nothing much else. We sat under a tree contemplating what to do, while out driver attempted to ring someone to find out what trains were running and what traction they had on them, which came to nothing unfortunately. Just as we were about to head out of town to head off anything heading back into Whyalla we spotted a headlight in the distance and there was also a shunter at the points to let the train in. while the train was approaching he confirmed that there was another train heading back in about an hour behind the one just arriving, whcih was just as well as the one approaching was GM’s, not what we’d driven all that way to photograph! Once 1301/CK4 had run by us we set off in search of the following train.
It was only 20 minutes before the headlight could be seen in the distance. Once we’d stopped and positioned ourselves that familiar GM rasp carried through the airwaves and sure enough GWA’s GMs 1304/1907 ran past with the 3rd and final train of the day. It looked like 901/CK3/1302 had arrived shortly before we’d got to Whyalla, with 901 leading too, and had we been a bit earlier we’d have got the photos we’d driven up for. As it was we headed back from Whyalla having taken a gamble, which in this case hadn’t quite paid off. Had we not actually seen an Alco at all it would have been a disaster of a day.
En-route back we stopped at Port Augusta Yard, present were GWA006/002, NR89, SCT005 & NR40/6, the latter shunting a train together, while the rest were stabled up. On our way to Whyalla we’d been able to see a couple of GM Classes in the yard, which had obviously departed with a train.
On the journey back south to Adelaide we soon came across a headlight coming towards us, this turned out to be GWA010 running light engine to Port Augusta. We then came across the rear end of a southbound ore train, again with new built Chinese locos, this time CSR010/004, easing their way through the countryside at a steady 100kmph. We did manage to get a few shots as the evening sunshine sank out of the sky; before the tracks disappeared into the hills away from the roadway.
Despite the lack of Alco’s it was a decent day out with plenty of variety and we managed to make it back for a beer too. Our driver deserved one I have to say, he did a sterling job!
Friday 7th December 2012
A second day of chasing the “Stonie” this time with a full car of 5 now we’d all be reunited again. The stop at Dry Creek Motive Power Depot revealed only three engines on shed, all GWA ones at that, 700 Class, 701, along with 830’s 841/844, meaning that 704 was out on the “Stonie” again, this time with 843. It was quite ironic that a Downer EDI shed should be full of Alco loco’s.
Again we managed to get to Penrice Soda as the train was almost fully loaded and again we were told it would be away by 1130. Our wait in Nuriootpa was a little longer on this occasion, than the last. The train not turning up until just before 1200 and this time 704 seemed to be doing something, although not for long.
By the time we’d overtaken it, just up the road, it was again evident that the 830 Class was doing all the work with 704 being along for the ride. The train was going that slow in places that it was down to walking pace and seemed like it would stall at any point. Hat off the the little 830 though, it kept the train moving, just. One thing the staggering train did do for us was allow for more points to stop as it was taking so long to get anywhere. It was a more intense chase that the previous occasion, more stopping and more people to get in/out of the car I guess.
At Gawler this time we waited for the train on the footbridge rather than the platform, which was the right thing to do as there was a train in again when it turned up. As we had other plans for the later afternoon we headed to Dry Creek rather than Port Adelaide this time. The train has a crew change there, which we could see taking place from our vantage point, a pile of ballast, where the line to the Port branches off. Once a PN train had cleared it’s path 704 led the way across the main lines and onto the branch, very evidently being pushed along by 843 and as it hammered off into the distance that was the end of our Adelaide photographing experience. Somebody at GWA must have figured out that 704 was in a bit of a state as the “Stonie” was worked by 3 x 830 Class the following two days it ran, Saturday and Monday.
From Dry Creek we were Mount Barker bound, via Islington Shops for another peek, to SteamRanger Heritage Railway to sample some good old Alco DL500 thrash on an evening special.
SteamRanger Heritage Railway operate between Mount Barker and Victor Harbor, although not very often in one go. They operate a very regular service all year round and being owners of an operational Goodwin/Alco DL500, 900 Class, 958, we had a very good reason to make contact with the railway to see if would be operating when we were in the country.
The long and short of the 12 months of contact prior to our trip was that we’d plan to visit the railway twice, once on Wednesday 5th December when they agreed to use their English Electric, 500 Class, 507, on their regular “Cockle Service” between Goolwa & Victor Harbor and again on Friday 7th December when they’d be running a “Twilight Special” from Mount Barker to Strathalbyn and return with Alco 958.
Unfortunately EE #507 developed a problem with its injectors just after we’d arrived into the country and had to be taken out of service and moved to Mount Barker for repairs so that put pay to the Wednesday visit. In hindsight it actually got us something else out of the Friday visit.
Friday 7th December 2012
Upon arrival at Mount Barker we were greeted by the guy I’d been in contact with for the past 12 months. Alco 958 was on shed, coupled to two coaches for the “Twilight Special” that evening and next to it were English Electric “350” #350, coupled to EE 500 Class #507. In conversation during the week the guys had agreed to give us a run on the EE’s in station limits, just so we could get them in, and that’s exactly what happened. A few round trips from the shed to the end of the platform including some positioning for photographs, swapping over cabs half way through.
After our jaunt we were shown round the site, where there are plenty of steam locos stored pending possible work, or not as the costs may dictate, along with another DL500 #963, this being under cover, windows plated over and never likely to work again. Strangely 963 had worked the last “Overland” from Melbourne to Adelaide before the broad gauge was changed over to standard gauge. It had been dumped inside a tunnel, out of the way, where it was unfortunately vandalised before SteamRanger took it on and effectively saved it from scrap.
Steam Locos present were:
F Class – F251 stored
520 Class – 520 stored
RX Class – 224 undergoing extensive overhaul
620 Class – 621 operational
RX Class – 207 operational
1830 came round very quickly that evening and at twilight our “Twilight Special” departed with 958 and load 2. the train was usually load 3 but due to low bookings with the train running on a Friday vice the usual Saturday they’d reduced the load. Still the driver knew exactly what we’d come for and didn’t disappoint with the power handle. We were given front coach seats in both directions, with the outward run being the first time I managed to clap eyes on some kangaroos.
At Strathalbyn the trains passengers head off to a local haunt for a Christmas evening meal, which was very Chistmassy and even had crackers and hats. I have to say it was very strange trying to get into the Christmas spirit with there being nothing but glorious sunshine on most days.
The run back down the hill into Mount Barker was nothing like the way up but was nice and relaxing after a few beers and a large meal. A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an evening, Alco, beer & food!
Canberra Heritage Rail is the Canberra (ACT) division of the Australian Railway Historical Society. They operate main line trains using historical steam and diesel locomotives, the diesels they currently operate are solid Alco with the choice being DL500 44 class, 4403 or DL531 48 Class, 4807. During the run up to Christmas, generally in December, the group run Diner & Dance trains from Canberra to Tarago and return, 2012 being no exception, in fact they were so popular in 2012 that an additional train was put in at late notice to run on 30th November.
When the trains are well loaded they often have to use both the 44 & 48 to get up the 1:40 gradients towards Tarago so before we headed out a polite question was asked if this could be the case on the day we’d picked to fit the train into our schedule. The answer being a very positive one indeed.
Saturday 8th December 2012
It had been a morning of flying, bizarrely to get to Canberra for any sort of reasonable time in the afternoon we had to fly via Sydney or Melbourne. The first direct flight Adelaide to Canberra not getting there until after 1600, which was a bit too tight for our 1815 departure from Canberra that night. At least we had time to nip into town and sample a few beers before the train that evening with flying via Sydney.
We were back at the station for about 1745 where people were already waiting for the train, dressed in some sort of fancy dress type gear. It turned out these folk were the entertainment on board and at Tarago so we’d not missed any memo! The stock was just being shunted out of the museum area, over the back of the station, 4807 leading 4403 and load 10. As had been the story of our trip thus far it soon became apparent that 4807 wasn’t doing anything during the shunting, something we all thought, or hoped more than thought, would be due to it being switched out to save fuel or something along those lines. The driver unfortunately confirmed otherwise. 4807 had suffered a burst cylinder liner which was chucking out oil quite badly when under power. As a result it would remain on the train but switched out, just in case the 44 didn’t make it up the hill to Tarago on the heavy load. Only if it slipped to a stand would the 48 be used to help over the hills.
Of course we were all a bit disappointed at not having the 48 but hope was still on our side. Little did we realise just how hard 4403 was going to have to work to get to Tarago. We’d been allocated the compartment right behind the locos, with opening windows and barn door style doors at the front. The train was a diner so food would be served at our seats, in between us being constantly up and down to listen to 4403 hammering away on the front.
At times 4403 was flat out on full power, doing nothing more than waking pace, for 10 minutes at a time. It slipped a few times on the dry rails, each time I thought the 48 would surely be switched in but no, the driver confidently fanned the power handle and sanded as he needed until he regained control and then left 4403 wide open again until the next time it slipped. It was nothing short of cracking driving and one of the best runs I’ve ever had off a 12 cylinder Alco. You could tell just how hard 4403 was being worked when we went through tunnels, the exhaust being too hot to contemplate keeping your head out. Unfortunately my bellowing came to a rather abrupt end and I was confined to keeping my my head inside due to a very untimely bout of sneezing and eye watering; hayfever! The thrash up to Tarago was definitely worth the consequent evening of suffering. A few cold beers helped ease the situation when we got there though.
Before departure we tried to talk the General Manager into allowing the 48 to be used on the way back, just between two points, but he just wasn’t willing to risk it and quite rightly so; you don’t get if you don’t ask though. Another place where a return looked likely……..
The run back into Canberra that night was a lot quicker than the outward run. It was a late arrival back though, after midnight, but luckily we’d seen sense to book a hotel as close to the station as we could get. The lay in before our flight to Hobart in Tasmania the following morning was going to be a very welcome one.
Having flown from Canberra to Hobart the previous day, collecting separate hire cars at the airport, we’d driven the short distance to Glenorchy and stayed a short distance from the Tasmanian Transport Museum, in preparation for a long day in Tasmania the following day. We’d paid for our own Private Charter so the Museum knew we were turning up, and during our visit we’d be utilsing their English Electric X Class, X1 & Y Class, Y4 on passenger stock.
Monday 10th December 2012
The Tasmanian Transport Museum only have approx 500m of track to operate a train over but they did a sterling job during our visit, even so. We were greeted at 0930 prompt by a couple of their volunteers and given a short site brief. X1 & Y4 were in the platform waiting for us. As the Y Class is hardly ever used they had to use the X Class to jump start it. Something they thankfully held off until we’d had a scan round the site and a run up to the headshunt and back with the Ruston they had, which had to shunt the stock out of the way to allow the Y Class to get out anyway. Present on site were the following:
Vulcan Foundry 4-8-2 H Class, H1, statically restored
Perry Engineering, 4-8-2 Q Class, Q5, statically restored
Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn M Class, M5, operational
Beyer Peacock C22, operational
Dubs & Co 0-4-2 rack tank #2, statically restored
Climax Mfg Co B Type Climax No 1653, statically restored
Waddingtons Rail Motor No.15
When the Y Class did start it sounded very meaty indeed; more like a 12 cylinder than a 6 cylinder EE. There was no whistle from it while idling either, just a proper growl. The only thing I can actually compare the noise to was Alco DL500 A302 in Greece the first time I had it, it revved up as though hunting, creating a growl every time it did so. Not bad for an EE I have to say.
With the X shunted out of the way our morning of cranking commenced with Y4 doing the honours. Despite the line only being 500m long the driver did give it a bit of thrash, it sounding like a Class 37 on full power, and only from 6 cylinders……
Of course our running was limited with the short line to operate over but we sorted out with the crew exactly what we wanted to do and where to position the train for photo stops and run-by’s very early on, thus making everyone’s life easier right from the start. Basically we did two runs out and back each time, firstly with Y4, then with X1, followed by Y4 & X1 both on the train, albeit with X1 only there for show. Photo stops were done at the end of the line and beneath the signals at the museum end, followed by a run-by from a standing start, on each occasion. Everyone was happy and the guys knew what they were doing; even the weather was good to us.
During afternoon lunch, that the railway provided for us, one lucky member of our group got to be interviewed by the local Hobart News crew, the footage of which would be aired shortly afterwards. The museum’s manager had asked if we’d do it before we’d left the UK, it being a big thing for them with a group travelling so far just to visit their site; something they deemed newsworthy. And something they could make a bit of publicity from as well no doubt. It was all harmless fun and hopefully they did get some publicity from it, they treated us well during our morning visit; everything going as planned with Y4 being the star of the show. It was just unfortunate that we were on a tight schedule and with a three hour drive ahead of us had to rush off to the other side of the island to Devonport and the Don River Railway, where we were expected at 1500; our second Private Charter of the day.
TomTom was pretty much spot on after we’d left the Tasmanian Transport Museum and we arrived at the Don River Railway in Devonport within minutes of the arrival time we’d been given 3 hours previous. We hadn’t stopped anywhere en-route but were in sheer awe of the scenery the whole way. The drive across Tasmania offered by far the best scenery we’d subjected ourselves to on the whole trip.
The guys at Don River were expecting us; we’d been keeping them updated on our arrival time while en-route. We’d also paid to have our own Private Charter at the railway and once pleasantries were out of the way we were on the platform watching the guys shunt a coach onto the rear of the passenger set, which should have departed at 1500 but had been held for our arrival. At that point we hadn’t realised what the coach on the rear was for but it would offer a very unexpected surprise.
Our plans were to get all the working diesels the railway had in at some point during the evening, the following were in service:
English Electric, SRKT, X Class – X4
English Electric, SRKT, Y Class – Y6
Goodwin/Alco, DL531, 830 Class – 866
Shunters – U6, V2 & Ruston #2
EE’s X4/Y6 did the honours with the first run from Don Village to Coles Beach over the 4km line. They were in multi and the crew certainly knew how to drive them. We’d been told that we probably wouldn’t get much thrash at the Don River; how wrong that quote turned out to be……..
At Coles Beach the Tas Rail main line runs right by the Don River station but unfortunately there would be nothing due until after we’d departed that evening. While the crew seemed to take their time in un-coupling the EE’s we had plenty of time for photographs, then came the surprise. Just as we were beginning to think it was going to be one of those days, and everything was going to take ages, Alco 866 appeared from around the corner having followed us down from Don Village. We’d been expecting to have the Alco but only in the station limits at Don Village due to the track not being in a fit enough condition to allow it down the length of the line. It turns out that since we’d booked out charter the railway had been working towards getting the bits of track upgraded that needed doing, using our visit as the deadline date, and they’d managed to get it done too. The coach they’d shunted onto the rear of the train at Don Village before departure was the only coach the Alco could couple to, which was why the additional shunting took place.
866 did not disappoint either, it did what every Alco should, clag, make noise and look the part. That was all proved during a false start at Coles Beach, when even the EE’s had their attempt to out-clag 866 too when they brought the train back for us to board.
We’d had grand plans of swapping locos about and having different combinations but by the time we arrived back into Don Village after the first run it became apparent that there was absolutely no need so all we asked of the crew was that the train formation remain as it was with the EE’s on one end and the Alco on the other, and we did two more round trips, the latter two actually being our own private charter. There were photo stops where we needed and run-by’s as well. It actually being a lot more productive with the train being T&T.
Our jaunt finished at about 1900, the train crew couldn’t have done enough for us, they were friendly, conscientious and very cranked up, which all added to a cracking afternoon of thrash, photography and fun but it wasn’t over at that point. Upon arrival back, and while the drivers prepared the shunters, we were given a tour of the shed, inside which were the following:
Dubs & Co 2-8-0 No.8
Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2, M Class, M4
Walkers Ltd, 10 Class, 1002
John Fowler & Co 0-6-0T
Beyer Peacock 2-6-0 “CCS” No.23 (undergoing a major overhaul)
Beyer Peacock 2-6-0 “CCS” No.25 (undergoing some major work also)
Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2, MA2
Outside by the turntable were the following:
Vulcan Foundry H Class, H7
Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2 M Class, M3
Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 4-6-2, MA4
Stored in the yard was:
English Electric SRKT, Y Class, Y8
There was also some very well overhauled heritage stock in pristine condition inside the shed, which has won awards for it’s restoration and presentation.
Shed tour complete we walked out of the other end to find shunter V2 already up and running; the desert……
All three shunters, U6, V2 & Ruston #2, were used in one way or another to “tidy up” in some way, shape or form and we utilised this tidying up to get a ride behind all three. Strangely the Ruston sounded the best of the three even though it looked like it was better suited to a garden railway.
We eventually left Don Village just after 2000 having had a thoroughly enjoyable time. We split into two groups again at that point, one remaining in Tasmania, while two of us headed back to the mainland the following morning for a few days of chasing Alco’s on freight. Our overnight that night was in Launceston, very close to the airport, thankfully.
Courtesy of Virgin Australia we had to get out of bed at 0445, having only got into them at 2230 the previous night. They’d moved us from our nice sociable 0950 Launceston – Melbourne flight to a rancid 0600 flight instead. The check-in staff told us it wasn’t a regular thing but it was the only time they’d done it that week; the 0950 flight being cancelled outright. We only found this delightful news out a few days before the trip, by which time it was too late to re-book with Qantas. Being deposited into Melbourne at 0645 did have its advantages, although we weren’t looking forward to our overnight XPT to Sydney that night.
As we’d had to change our plans due to the derailment between Werris Creek & Narrabri our time in Melbourne was cut short by a day so we had to make the most of it. A quick exit from the airport onto the very frequent Skybus to get into the city, handily dropping off at the bus station attached to Southern Cross, allowed for breakfast while we came up with a plan of action for the day.
We’d originally had grand plans of going out to Geelong to attempt to photograph some El Zorro trains and then trying to get to Dynon shed but out of all the plans photographing from Bunbury Street with the Melbourne skyline in the background was our priority. I used a V Line ticket, which I’d use to Wallan & Deer Park later, on the metro to Footscray. Myki cards are also handy to get there, it wasn’t worth me getting one though as it wasn’t valid to Wallan.
We spent 2 hours at Bunbury Street, overlooking the City. Unfortunately only one freight came out of town, while three went in, the rest of the traffic was light engine’s coming onto the bridge to reverse back into Dynon. The better shots are in the afternoon when the sun is behind the tunnel exit portal and on the City; beggars can’t be choosers though and we had to make do with what we got.
I chose to spend my afternoon doing a V Line trip out to Wallan, unbeknownst to me I managed to chose the 1 hour of the day to fester there when the only freight train of the day would run back towards Melbourne down the main line. A very kind member of railway staff, who looked like she was acting a COSS for some platform works, gave me the tip-off it was coming once she’d had the gen over her radio to stop work.
The train was 9340 Sunday Creek – Kilmore East “Apex” Stone train worked by a pair of PN X Classes, X49/42 which hammered through Wallan and off into the distance. Not bad for GM’s I have to say.
Back into Southern Cross I made the 1520 to South Geelong by seconds and had decided I was going to have another crack at Bunbury Street, the sun being almost perfect by that point. I was meeting my mate on the V Line A Class turn, the 1615 Bacchus Marsh so had 55 minutes between trains at Footscray. I technically wasn’t valid on the 1520 South Geelong to Footscray as it’s pick-up only, the next stop being beyond the Zone 2 boundary, but there wasn’t a grip so nothing to worry about.
Just as I got to the bridge there were a pair of QRN locos heading over it, unfortunately light engine. They were the only locos I saw coming out of town by the time I had to make a move back to Footscray station. CFCLA’s T Class T371 had run back into town but that was it. The weather was perfect too.
I’d been talking to a local “gunzel” on the bridge and no sooner had I turned my back and started to walk away as he walked to his car, did he shout me back. He’d spotted something coming out of town, which by the time I’d got back to the bridge was just approaching on the City side. It was only a T Class with a trip freight but it was glorious and nothing short of perfect and had the guy I’d been talking to not shouted me back I’d have had a pretty disappointing 45 minutes waiting for nothing that afternoon and feeling very pleased with myself I headed back to Footscray station to see what V Line would offer up on it’s evening commuters.
The best place to photograph Alco’s in Sydney has to be the Botany Freight Line. We chose one of two locations we chose for the day, the first being Alexandra Canal, where the railway runs over adjacent to a public footpath, the second being Master Siding, a short walk down the road, closer to Botany.
A stroke of luck on our part took away most of the planning for this day’s photographing as the Australian Railway magazine “Motive Power” had an article in their September/October issue solely on the Botany Line freight services, listing the current timetable of daytime trains and how to get to the prominent photographing locations. As the magazine is available to download it made life very easy indeed and without this article we’d have probably stuck to photographing from stations, or in the vicinity of them.
Wednesday 12th December 2012
After arriving Sydney Central off a rather rubbish XPT overnight from Melbourne we dumped our bags in the left luggage office on platform 1 and headed off to Mascot via City Rail for a walk to the Alexandra Canal location, where we arrived by 0830 to be told by another photographer, who was actually photographing planes coming in to land at Sydney Airport, literally over the road, that we’d just missed a train go by. We had no clue what it had been but within the next 45 minutes both the inbound Botany Trips had gone over, both running about 40 minutes early and probably about as close as they could get to each other time wise. Both were solid Alco as well:
T280 Yennora – Botany was DL500’s 44209/4463
T250 Minto – Botany was T&T DL500’s 4458 leading, 4488 trailing
With both the inbound trips in we walked the 10 minutes or so round to the footbridge vantage point over Master Siding and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon there. During which time we saw 6 trains, 4 of which had Alco’s on with a total of 9 Alco’s involved:
8164 Dubbo – Botany was GE GL109 (ex Alco 44229) & GT26C VL358
T287 Botany – Yennora was a mixed bag of CE615 8049, DL541 603 & GE EL58
T251 Botany – Minto returned with T&T DL500’s 4488 leading, 4458 trailing
T281 Botany – Yennora return with solid DL500’s 442s1, 4463 & 44209 (the former being added to the set at Botany for the return working)
An unknown empty container set arrived into the Loop to run round as there was no room at Cooks River with PN 81 Class, 8155/8111
T288 Yennora – Botany was last but not least with DL541 602 & DL500 4471
With the last one gone into Botany we were treated to a run down by a local gunzel to get an idea of the size of the container port and also for a much needed drink at the local golden arches. Make sure you have enough water for the day and a decent sunhat as the bridge at Master Siding is not very well sheltered at all from the sun.
A cracking day, which produced more Alco’s than we’d ever expected and what better way to celebrate than with a few beers in the pub near the hotel…….
Monday 17th December 2012
Our last morning in the country, we’d be flying home that afternoon. What better way to finish than by killing time photographing Alco’s on the morning Botany trips?
With our luggage in tow we weren’t as adventurous as the previous time a week ago and opted to use City Rail stations to conduct our photographing from before heading to the airport. Canterbury was the eventual chosen spot but not before checking out Dulwich Hill, which unfortunately proved to be a disaster for us. As we were between the two on a City Rail train a freight overtook us with a pair of ex Silverton 48’s leading an RL Class, the photograph through the window of the train not proving too great, it was quite dull. Still both the inbound Botany Trips produced Alco types so our mistake didn’t prove to be too much of a disaster and Caterbury was a far better location for trains heading to Botany than Dulwich Hill was.
While at Canterbury we photographed the following in a 90 minute spell:
???? Trip with 48s33, 48s34 & RL??? (through the train window as we arrived…..)
Track Inspection EMU (twice)
T285 0820 Botany – Yennora with DL500’s 4497/44208
T280 Yennora – Botany with DL500’s 44209/442s1
PN Coal train eastbound with G540, 8168, 8101 & 8104
PN Coal train CA69 westbound with 8254, 8217, 8181 & 8238
T250 Minto – Botany T&T with GE EL58 leading & DL500 4488 trailing
A decent morning! We had hoped the trips would be early again to allow us to nip an photograph 3801 Ltd Alcos 4501/4473 working the track inspection train south to Goulburn but it had already set off by the time we’d finished and the next train to Glenfield would have missed it by a good half an hour. So instead we went back into Sydney and straight to the airport; and there ended a very enjoyable trip indeed.
Our original plan had been to head up to Werris Creek to try and catch some freight action with PN’s Goodwin/Alco DL531 48 Class but that plan was thrown into chaos when a freight train derailed, a few days before we arrived into Australia, betwen Werris Creek & Narrabri, the very two places we were going to “hunt” between. Having been given some very good advice and armed with quite a bit of info relating to train running on the days we’d be there, coupled with a bit of inside information of what trains were being worked by 48’s at the time we headed out to Parkes via the daily Country Link XPT to Dubbo.
Thursday 13th December 2012
Bizarrely our first glimpse of a 48 happened to be at Sydney Central before we’d even gone anywhere! The Dubbo XPT had been worked by a single power car for a couple of days in succession, this day being no exception, due to a power car shortage. The stock had been hauled into Sydney Central by 48130. We hadn’t witnessed it ourselves but the train crew confirmed it. By the time we got to the train 48130 was just backing onto the top of an empty XPT set in platform 1. We guessed that rather than take the 48 back to shed and come back in by road it was just easier for the crew to drag the XPT back with 48130. The downer was that we only had a couple of minutes before the Dubbo XPT departed so didn’t have time to leg it to the end of the platform and get some decent photographs. Despite being on one power car, although the load was reduced to 4 vice the usual 5, 2017 got us to Orange right time. From there we walked a few hundred yards up the road to collect our hire car from Hertz and drove the 100km or so forward to Parkes. We were told that the next train to touch Parkes with 48’s was out at Condobolin loading so we had plenty of time kill, checking into our hotel in the meantime and it wasn’t long before we found the Engenco Shed between Parkes station and Goobang Jct, where a rather knackered set of Alco’s were rotting away:
Goodwin/Alco DL531 48 Class, 4842, Comeng/MLW CE615 80 Class, 8023, 8021, Goodwin/MLW DL500G 442 Class, 442s3, Comeng/MLW CE615 80 Class, 8038 & Goodwin/Alco DL531 48 Class, 48s37
Off we set towards Condobolin, checking out various photographing locations en-route. All was going swimmingly and we were making good progress until we managed to get a puncture near Yarrabandai. Just what we needed, to change a wheel in 35 degree heat with no shelter from the sun at all. And all that could have added to that misery would have been the train we’d been heading off hammering past us. Thankfully it didn’t and thankfully we made a very good decision once we’d got on the road again, to cut or losses and wait at Ootha for it to come to us. We waited 3 minutes!
48163, X46 & 48162 headed 8832 Condobolin – Manildra and we chased it quite easily back to Parkes, although after Gunningbland we headed back into Parkes on the main road to head it off at Goobang, not wanting to risk another puncture on the dirt roads otherwise that would be it for the afternoon and the following morning, until we got another wheel!
Parkes Shed was full of various bits and bobs including the following 48’s that evening:
48161/138, 48122/139 & 48213, 127 & 215
Further to that in the yard was train 8832 with 48163, X46 & 48162 and even more promising the following:
48202, 217, 216, 206 about to depart with 8823 1936 Parkes – Condobolin, which we had known about in advance.
The light was cracking when the quads departed Parkes but unfortunately they were held on the curve approaching Goobang Level Crossing for 40 minutes. In that time 48139 had shunted off shed, ran via the main line and round the curve to get in front of the quad set during which time, unfortunately, the sun had disappeared completely. When the quads did set off though there was plenty of Alco clag as they got to grips with the heavy train. There was no use chasing it with the light fading fast so we gave up for the evening at that point and set about planning the following day based on what we’d already been told.
Friday 14th December 2012
The morning started with a trip to the Parkes Sub Terminal where the following were to be found:
48165, 123 & 121 loading with 8835 Manildra – Parkes, the loads would then return to Manildra that afternoon as 8836 at 1630
It didn’t take long to get bored waiting and we got all the photos we wanted anyway. On this day we made it all the way to Condobolin, our next port of call, where the following were loading:
48162, X51, 48163 having arrived with 8823 0310 Manildra – Condobolin to work back as 8834 1330 Condobolin – Manildra
The chase back was quite easy despite the train keeping up a good 80kmph average throughout. It got hammered after Yarrabandai though having to wait for 6SP5 Sydney – Perth PN train, which we photographed at Gunningbland while waiting with NR Classes NR36/72.
At that point though we had a decision to make, wait for 8834 or head straight back into Parkes to photograph 8836 1630 Parkes – Manildra with 48121, 123 & 165 returning after loading at the Sub Terminal. We chose the latter and photographed the following as they passed Parkes Sub Terminal on the main line:
8177 leading 48121, 123 & 165 836 1630 Parkes – Manildra
8177 had topped the triple set to Parkes Sub that morning then run light to shed, it was ex works so was maybe having a test run or even being run in. It wasn’t what we’d wanted and it obviously mean’t we wouldn’t be chasing the train towards Manildra.
Our afternoon was free until the following arrived back into town:
48127/139 with 8832 Nevertire – Parkes at around 1900, bang on time
I’d been watching 8832 all afternoon on the Train Tracker website so we knew exactly when we needed to be back at the station, where we photographed it arriving from the station footbridge. A cracking decision it was too as the driver had pulled up a bit short and to prevent himself stopping he gave the power handle a good swing straight into notch 8, the 48’s responding magnificently with two plumes of thick black clag emanating from their stacks.
Light stopped play again, although with nothing else to chase it didn’t really matter. Whatever we did the following morning though we’d have an early start based on what we’d been told would be 48’s……
Saturday 15th December 2012
Up at 0545 we had the choice of the following:
48127/138 with 8832 0545 dep to Manildra for offloading
48165, 123 & 121 with 8837 0555 dep to Trangie for loading
48216, 217, 202 & 206 with 8825 0630 dep to Parkes Sub Terminal for loading
48162, X51 & 48163 with 8831 0640 dep to Condobolin for loading
We’d planned to chase 8831 to Condobolin but were told that 8832 hadn’t departed for Manildra when we got to the station at 0615. It would be doing so once 48162, X51 & 48163 had arrived off the single line from Manildra with 8831. As we’d not chased to Manildra yet it seemed like the right thing to do so once we’d photographed 8831 arriving over the crossing at the east end of Parkes Yard we headed off to Bumberry and waited patiently on the road bridge where the line runs underneath.
There we waited for just over two hours, the only thing we saw bounding down the tracks in that time was a kangaroo, it looking as confused as us as it did so. 8832 wasn’t showing up as having left on Train Tracker but there was a Sydney – Perth train in the vicinity which might explain why it hadn’t turned up. Still unsure and once the Sydney – Perth was on the doorstep we chose to head back into Parkes to see what was going off, stopping in at the Sub Terminal on the way to photograph the quad set, which had shown up on Train Tracker as arriving there.
The Sub Terminal was devoid of 48’s and Parkes Yard was devoid of train 8832. Our questions were answered though; it turned out that 48127 had failed en-route to Bumberry and the quad set had been dispatched from Parkes Sub Terminal, about 10 minutes before we arrived back into town, to push 8832 to Bumberry. The drive back to Bumberry was a frantic one but we still ended up waiting for 45 minutes until the growl of various DL531s could be heard over the hills.
Having staggered into Bumberry Loop, where we followed them to, the Sydney Perth was then allowed past them, it having been held for over an hour waiting their arrival. We then headed off to find the next location between Bumberry & Manildra, hoping that the quad set would run round and work forward. Of course they didn’t, only the rear loco 48206 was run round to top 48127 and work in multiple with 48139 forward to Manildra. We chased them forward to Manildra where 8832 arrived at 1245, some 5 hours late. At that point we called it a day, not really wanting to drive back to Parkes for not a lot, and headed onward to Orange to deposit our rather scruffy hire car, still devoid of a spare wheel.
A well deserved pub lunch was dealt with in Orange before our XPT back into Sydney Central, this time with two power cars and the correct amount of coaches. Which was actually a shame as we’d been looking forward to photographing the 48 that night as Sydney with the ecs. It wasn’t to be though and it allowed us to make a timely escape straight to our hotel at St Peters.
The derailment north of Newcastle looked to me like it had done us a massive favour. Parkes had produced exactly what we’d gone there for, we literally couldn’t have asked for more and the help we’d been given made it all the more easy. Some of the train crew were telling us that the 48’s were slowly but surely being replaced by bigger traction at Parkes, so maybe we’d gone just at the right time?