Today’s mention in a number of news groups of the NSW Rail Transport Museum’s (RTM) triple-header New Year’s tour to Grafton reminded this old timer of the halcyon days four decades ago when this same organisation ran steam-hauled day tours to the Illawarra on New Year’s Day.
From what I recall, plus what the Roundhouse publication recorded, I am pretty certain that these tours ran from 1968 to 1975, each year using a different steam locomotive. The tour called for a leisurely mid-morning departure from Sydney, which allowed many to disembark at Austinmer beach around lunchtime. Almost every year the train would continue through to Wollongong for servicing. If I recall correctly, on a number of years passengers were given the option of being bussed to North Wollongong beach for the afternoon. The return trip was made at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, I have very few photographs available of these tours, for a reason I will explain later. But, back to the trains themselves...
I think that the first such tour was on New Year’s Day 1968, when black streamliner 3803 ran the beach tour down the coast. The following year, the tour was a complete contrast, this time worked by branch-liner 3090T.
From 1970 onwards, the Museum used its own locomotives to work the tours. That year 3642 worked the tour, while New Year’s Day 1971 brought 3214 down the coast. In 1972 3616 ran the tour through to Wollongong. While not entirely sure, I believe that this photograph, shot on a Kodak Instamatic, records this occasion.
1973 was a tour with a twist. 5910 worked the tour to Wollongong and in the process managed to break a spring which gained this locomotive an overnight stay in Wollongong yard. Unfortunately I do not know what motive power was called on to perform the return trip. A reasonable guess would be a 48 class!
The first day of the following year (1974), brought 3526 to Wollongong on the tour.
The final year that I understand that the tours ran was 1975. On this occasion, 5910’s earlier disgrace was forgotten when it again ran RTM’s tour. So, if my records are correct, 5910 was the only locomotive to be honoured as a dual visitor to the Illawarra on these tours, as well as being the only locomotive to make a New Year’s Day tour last 48 hours.
The paucity of photographs in the collection from these tours is not just reflective of a time when fewer photographs were taken. For a number of these years, the Illawarra Group of the RTM hosted a late afternoon repast for beach-goers from these tours at the Illawarra Liver Steamers Park in West Wollongong.
As the Senior Train Hunter (STH) and Mrs STH were/are civic-minded types, they would ‘man’ the BBQs and salad bowls at this event. This gave me a wonderful couple of hours lining up for free rides behind live-steamers of the type shown in the following photograph of a triple-header 32/38/59 combination. A great start to the year for a young lad.
Happy New Year to all!