Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Day tours

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!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rozelle shunters in the 1990s

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent times; I have been touring Japan and its amazing railways.  I fear it may be necessary to amend the title of this blog to the 'NSW and JR (Japan Railway) Rail Rambler' fairly soon as there is much to be impressed with in the Japanese version of railways. Still, those stories are for another time....

Its time to wander back 20 years to a bridge over the Rozelle goods yards, when it was still a goods yard.  In the early 1990s I was living in Glebe.  While the glory days of the Rozelle yard were well and truly over by then, it was still worth taking an intermittent peak at proceedings.  

A semi-regular Saturday jaunt for me was to head across to the White Bay area via Blackwattle Park, so I could enjoy harbour views from either the road bridge or the pedestrian bridge which still gives spectacular views to the west and the east ends of the yard.  Often my trusty Canon Instamatic travelled with me.

I have a slew of photographs from the 1990 to 1994 period, when the yard had a rostered shunting loco.  Quite often the same loco appeared as the rostered shunter for weeks at a time, which discouraged train hunters such as your correspondent from too-frequent visits.  

So, lets have a look at just some of the locos rostered to perform those duties during those five years.  In particular, I wish to show a subset of the photographs taken from the two aforementioned bridges.  I suspect that the crews tried to park their trusty steed in the shadow of the road bridge, especially during summer.  This made certain photographic contortions to be attempted, resulting in a pleasing range of angles when a photograph was possible.

First up is 4894, parked in an orthodox position (near the crew cars) just to the west of the road bridge.  This photograph was taken on May Day 1990, certainly justifying the long march to White Bay.

I guess my interest in Rozelle yard was really sparked when a workmate who lived near Rozelle arrived in the office one day in October 1990 to say that a green locomotive was shunting the yard.  It turned out to be the lovely 4902.

Its younger but equally colourful classmate, 4916, made an appearance on the 29th of the same month.

While the lusty General Motored 49 classes held sway in late 1990, over the course of the following twelve months Alcos reasserted their dominance.  In particular, 48s abounded.  Three examples from the second half of 1992 were indicative of this dominant role.

48102 appeared regularly in July and August 1992, including on the 23rd August.

Towards the end of August the very elderly 4818 arrived for service.  I hope you appreciate the weird angle at which this was photographed.  I have no idea why I did it this way... perhaps it was my arty phase.

4881 also got into the act towards the end of 1992.

Occasionally, very occasionally, one could be unlucky enough to get there when the shunter was working.  On one Saturday afternoon, I sprung a dilapidated 48 (thought to be 4819) ambling down the yard.  I include this photograph to show that I do photograph moving objects, sometimes.

Just when you were getting really bored with things, the old RailCorp could spice things up a bit for you, like they did for me in 1993 by sending a warhorse in the form of 4512.  Throughout the greater part of 1993 it showed that there was masculine life possible in Rozelle.  4512 also demonstrated that (for the modellers of that era anyway), no weathering project was too over the top.

Still, it wasn't all 45s and grunt.  48s still got a regular gig, probably while some poor apprentice was trying to kick-start the 45 back into life over at Chullora.  On 16 June 1993 I discovered two locos shunting - 4810 and 48101 - here's proof!

And just to finish off, it wasn't all Alcos in those latter days.  In August 1993 I discovered 42213 masquerading as a shunting loco instead of the mainline unit that it was.

So, I hope you have enjoyed this vignette as much as I enjoyed hanging over the edge of those bridges a couple of decades ago!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


The Senior Train Hunter (STH) spent most of the last week in the Gloucester to Bulliac region armed with a paper version of the working timetable and camera.

The traffic reports I was receiving throughout the week weren’t good - indeed not many of them could even be printed. Trains were running early,  others running late, some not turning up at all and then others appearing where they shouldn’t be.

These days if you aren’t hooked into the 21st century through an Ipad or Iphone, hunting for trains can be problematic. Of course arming oneself with such beasts takes all the fun and the expectation out of train hunting. Yes, it also removes the frustration too!  So today I am going to wind backwards out of the 21st century, back to the good old days.

I should clarify - in the really old days one could approach the guys in the local signal box to get the good oil on what was coming or what you missed.  After the signal boxes were bulldozed, paper timetables and the very rare landline telephone call were all you had.  However, as was shown over a three-day period in February 1993, we did OK. 

The purpose of this particular trip was to capture some of the final workings of 44 and 442 class locomotives on mainline interstate workings. At our first stop at Dungog for lunch we scored the mightily pleasing combination of 4466 in candy livery and 4481 wearing the red terror livery heading north on a freighter.

We also stuck it out for the arrival and departure of the local passenger, worked by a two car diesel set.

Travelling north, we set up at Stroud Road in time to have 44229, 44237 and 4498 race through at speed.

This particular afternoon and evening were taken at the north end of Gloucester railway yard, adjacent to the bridge over the Avon River flood plain.  The following photographs were taken on this evening and the next evening. Even though it was February, we experienced deteriorating lighting conditions which eclipsed the capacity of the camera I was using. So apologies for the muddiness of the photographs, but I decided to post them to show the bleak conditions of many of these locos and the varied freight task being handled.

First up, a shortish Sydney-bound freighter rattled across the bridge, led by 44218.
But in the evening the real action came from the south - the afternoon procession of freights leaving Sydney for Brisbane. 44240, 44226 and 4495 led the charge.

They were followed by veterans 4463 and 4470.  Its just great to think - 18 years later – that 4463 can still be seen around Sydney, though not heading too many interstate freights.

The following night we were lucky enough to arrive at the yard just as 44223, 44201 and 44227 went through.  Triple Jumbos!

It was followed within the hour another set of triple Jumbos arrived.  This time 44233, 44219 and 44215 headed northwards after the first set of Jumbos.

By this time of evening there was no way the camera could capture a passing train.  So when 44238 and 4401 led a train north, this was the best that could be done to capture the scene.

On the second day, while it remained fine we did a side trip to Bulliac. Deciding to set up just south of the tunnel, we suffered through 9 million blowies to get the following trains. First up again was 44219 and 44215.

Then it was time for the steel train, on this day with class leader 4401 in the shafts following 44205.

While we were there predominantly for freight trains, there was one very special daylight runner worth waiting around for - the old North Coast Daylight, though by this time it ran under some other nonsense moniker.  Although I had been hoping for a 44 up front, it was not to be with 44210 doing the honours on this day.

The final one at this location was also a beauty - 44202 led 4473 through the level crossing with a short up freight.

And around then it was about time to return to work and the real world.  Within 12 months most of these workings had gone, enveloped into the National Rail Corporation with its interest in fewer, longer trains with more powerful, newer locomotives.

There is nothing wrong with progress, apart from the loss of character that ensues from a reduction in diversity. This was one such case.

But before I wrap up this post, its time for one more photograph.  The only time the STH and I scored triple 44s over these three days was at Stroud. 4479 led two sisters north at speed. Interestingly, the second locomotive appears to have been a reverse-liveried version of the class. Sure, I didn’t write the numbers down, but enjoy anyway!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Instead of a locomotive or a train, this time a location.  Having done a little spiel on Sydney's major railway station, its time to move down the line to little old Redfern.

Redfern station is a much unappreciated piece of railway and urban architecture.  Sure, the 'improvements' of the past two decades have done little to improve its aesthetics, but there is an underlying character almost impossible to rub out.

Instead of posting numerous shots of suburban and interurban electric trains, the following collection come from basically just one afternoon in November 1982.

The first is a snap of 3214, when it was the leading P class offering of the NSW Rail Transport Museum.  Here it is working a shuttle in honour of the re-opening of Central Railway Station, just a kilometre away.

If the loco or the stylish Pullman carriages is not your style, just revel in the advertising hoardings on the building in the background.  Some of these painted signs can still be seen 30 years later! 

The Southern Aurora passenger car in the western dock was a favourite place to park carriages which had received attention at the nearby Elstons sheds.  Sadly, I deemed it too unimportant to photograph these exhibits, though a DR carriage off the Silver City Comet caught the Senior Train Hunter's attention when it lay there around 1980.

While we are on the Senior Train Hunter, he is the suspect for the following classic, showing 3830 working its train towards Central.  This train probably emanated from Macdonaldtown
carriage sheds

To quote a phrase I hate... 'moving forward' its time to return to the 1980s and indeed the same day that 3214 had been photographed.  The first is 48160 trundling a milk pot and a louvre van towards Darling Harbour.

Shortly after, 4509 surprised yours truly by appearing from the north.  Surprised, because by this time Darling Harbour was basically dormant on weekends, and this was a Saturday from memory.  Check out the 80s fashions on the style-master on the stairs - this would still be acceptable in these parts today!

By the 1990s Darling Harbour railway yards had disappeared, so Redfern lost its supply of goods trains... almost.  The odd spoil train (well, its technically a goods train) still sneaks through, such as the one headed by 8007 in 1992.

Still, the 1990s were full of interesting trains passing through Redfern's platforms, even if they didn't stop.  Here a DEB rail car set sets off for the South Coast.

Freight locos still get the odd trip through Redfern, usually at the head of one of the few remaining locomotive-hauled passenger trains such as the Indian Pacific.  In 2004 NR70 and DL43 almost managed to nip by one Saturday afternoon.

As noted above, spoil trains are semi-regular visitors to and through Redfern.  In 2003 44206, then monickered as JL402, sat at the southern end of Redfern station for most of one weekend.

However, 99.9 per cent of the time, its sparks, sparks and more sparks...  here's just one from last year.  Pretty things, aren't they?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hauling the Cocky!

The last posting made mention of 4833's role as a stalwart of the Cockatoo Run, known affectionately as 'the Cockie' or 'the Cocky' (depends on whether you had an expensive education, I suppose).  The Cocky is operated by 3801 Ltd, one of the more innovative heritage outfits in Australia

The Cocky has featured plenty of interesting motive power over the years.  While it commenced running around 1995, the concept was a tourist train emanating from the Illawarra, climbing into the NSW Southern Highlands towns of Robertson and Moss Vale, using the Unanderra to Moss Vale line. 

I should do a free plug for the Cocky right now - it runs through incredibly beautiful countryside, including some of the last remaining patches of tropical rainforest on the eastern seaboard of Australia.  Travellers get to see beaches, rolling surf, lakes, farmland, rainforest, landslides, deep gorges and you can end up in Robertson, home of the Robbo Pub.  But don't take my word for it - book yourself a trip here.

While there is a remarkable amount of interesting countryside to journey through, putting any service regularly up one of the steepest pieces of mainline track in NSW adds another dimension to the interest.  It has also certainly added to the locomotive attrition rate over the years!  

In the early years, when steam was not generally available, 3801 Ltd relied on their two 73 class locomotives.  For former shunting locos, mainline operation on a passenger train was a pretty novel experience.  Here, in 1996, 7333 and 7344 (the green frog) head up through Farmborough Heights.

The initial idea was to haul the Cocky using vintage steam, which was a very good idea if one had a reliable, tough vintage steam locomotive.  Former South Maitland Railway Pty Ltd's No 18 - known to all as 'Bob' -  was two out of those three.  Reliability wasn't Bob's strong point, which added to the charm of the journey.  Bob could be reliably counted on to run out of steam pressure mid-climb, so that the entire train sat stationary until Bob's steam pressure improved.  The next photo show Bob in a foggy Robertson, awaiting passage of the mighty 3801 on another tour train in 1997.

On  many occasions Bob was just not available, so when steam was required, 3801 did the honours.  The lack of turning facilities at Robertson usually meant that the train went through to Moss Vale to be turned on a triangle at that location.  On at least one occasion, this was not possible, as the following photograph shows.

3801 wasn't the only member of the 38 class to get in on Cocky duties - 3830 did a fair number of trips too before the Powerhouse Museum decided that the best place for a steam locomotive was under cover, away from the weather and certainly not in steam.

In the late 1990s, vintage steam gave way to vintage diesels.  While a number of 44 class locos have worked the Cocky, fittingly it was class leader 4401 which made the early appearances.

In the final period of being a purely Illawarra based operation, 3801 Ltd started leasing 48 class locos from FreightCorp.  Two Port Kembla-based locos which got a fair amount of work on the Cocky were 4862 and 48121 - both shown in the following pictures performing Cocky duties.

Somewhat ironically, both of these locomotives have failed to endure to the age of the heritage locos they replaced - in 2011 48121 is stored at Werris Creek and 4862 is a memory, having met the scrapper's torch in 2010.
Having tried vintage steam, mainline diesels and leased locos, in 2000 3801 Ltd managed to secure two dilapidated 49 class locos - 4908 and 4918.  The following photograph shows their good side!

Both locos were cosmetically restored as quickly as possible.  4908 received the 3801 Ltd's corporate livery and 4918 scored a coat of black, with red bands - echoing 3801's livery of the same period.  Regardless of what one thinks of either livery, they were certainly much needed.

4908 was the first to emerge with its new livery.  Over the summer months the Cocky struggled for patronage on its usual route, so instead attempted to lure patrons with a trip to the Central Coast or to Kiama.  On an absolutely stinking hot summer's day, on 21 January 2001 4908 is returning through Woy Woy with a Wollongong-Gosford Cocky.

It was around this time that the decision was made to centralise 3801 Ltd's tour operations - meaning the end of the Illawarra-based Cocky runs.  On its last time out of Port Kembla on 25 January 2011, 4908 did the honours.

So, for the last decade, the Cocky has been a Sydney-based operation. While this has altered the premise upon which it was established and added 160 kilometres to the excursion, opening itself to the Sydney tourist market has probably ensured its survival.  

Operating from Sydney on a 9:05am departure time ensured that for many years I never made it to work before 9:15am on running days.  It also guaranteed that I would leave work around 6:00pm on these days, in time to catch the return!

I have too many photographs to post, mainly bleary morning shots of a three or four car train and a bunch of meandering tourists.  Of the locos, apart from those mentioned already I have witnessed 4473 and 4486, 4514 and 4501 as regulars.  Thanks to the Lachlan Valley Railway, steam has made an appearance intermittently.  I have a recollection that the Cocky was worked by 5917 in 2009, and 3237 certainly made an appearance in 2010, as the following photograph shows.

While I could prattle further, I am going to finish with two shots of the Cocky's

And, fittingly for the final shot - long after the tourists and the mug punters have left for the day, the train crew and volunteers have to stick it out, waiting for a path back to base at Eveleigh.  By 2008 4918 had been returned to its original NSWGR Indian Red livery as it sat waiting for a green light.
Long live the Cocky!