Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

Parkes Freight (Chasing 48’s) – 13th to 15th December 2012

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?


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