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!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy 50th 4833!

The announcement of 4833's 50th birthday on the Goodwin Alco blog this week prompted me to think about its role in sustaining one of NSW's longest running mainline tourist operations - the mighty Cockatoo Run.

Quite self-evidently, 4833 arrived on NSW rails in October 1961.  It spent nearly all of its years in public ownership allocated to either the Junee or Broadmeadow depots. This meant that I rarely saw it trundling around, which didn't distress me entirely as there was always another 164 examples of this class of locomotive to catch one's attention.

The first time that this particular member of the 48 class moved into my Praktica's cross-hairs was in 1983, when a nicely-candied 4833 dragged a South Coast passenger into Central.

A half dozen years later the Senior Train Hunter (STH) remained sufficiently alert as 4833 headed south through Maldon curve with three empty cement wagons.

It was nearly another half dozen years before 4833 drew its existence to my attention - this time very early one weekday morning at the now defunct Rozelle yard.  4833's load this appearance was composed by empty grain wagons collected from several now-closed inner city grain receival facilities on the now-closed Metropolitan goods line (seeing a pattern here?).

Around this time 4833 was regularly performing the duties as the ACDEP shunter at Eveleigh, which was a prescient responsibility for later years.  However, in 1994 4833 was almost at the end of its tenure within public ownership.  

A period of uncertainty existed until it was purchased by the private consortium, Goodwin Alco, who have operated it ever since from their base at Eveleigh.  

In many ways, 4833's later years have certainly been more interesting than the time that it spent under its original owners, as the following photographs show.  One of 4833's enduring relationships has been with 3801 Ltd, and especially with the haulage of the Cockatoo Run to Moss Vale via the South Coast.  Here it is captured in 1998 running around its train.

Not all activities in private ownership have been glamorous - in 2001 4833 was shoe-horned between three Silverton 442s on freight duties as it reversed at Sydneham station to be fuelled at Meeks Road XPT depot.

Another relationship of note has been with Countrylink.  4833 has spent time as the XPT Depot shunter, which includes the important role of conveying XPT passenger cars for attention at Chullora or Flemington.  On one such trip, the loco is hardly taxed as it rumbles through Canterbury in 2005

By the mid-2000s the Cockatoo Run emanated from Sydney.  This day in 2007 saw 4908 getting ready to drag its slightly more elderly cousin and four passenger cars out through the yard.

These days 4833 remains a resident of Eveleigh, continuing to desport the livery it wore for its first two decades.  A year ago it was found by your correspondent in residence alongside another Goodwin Alco restoration effort.

So, 4833, happy birthday!  Here's to the next 50 years.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nearly the end of the line

In the mid-1990s I was studying at the University of New England at Armidale.  As this was distance education, I had the joys of attending this rather delightful town when it was at its best - that is, when all the 'real' students were on holidays.

These were pre-family days and Countrylink had just introduced its Xplorers, so it was almost mandatory that I force myself to endure very pleasant rail trips to and from the campus.  Sadly, during most of these trips I was almost totally pre-occupied with trying to catch-up the lessons I had neglected thus far. 

Still, when one arrived at Armidale the certain bucolic charm of the city reduced the stress levels to such a degree that I spent most of my time in lectures, very fast asleep.  Or so my fellow students would often allege. How would I know, as I was always asleep?

Anyway, at the end of a hard day at the books I always seemed to find a bit of time to wander over to the railway yard.  In the first week of July 1994 I even scored an afternoon off, which resulted in the following foray - which could well have been my last.  

Approaching the railway yard from the south you can tell from the following photograph that I was exercising appropriate safe practices. No, there was no hi-vis vest...

Once in the yard I would often just wander around, marvelling at the beauty of the station building.

I always slightly preferred the northern end of the building, as it had a lovely little art deco extension for the signal box.  Well, sort of art deco....

Even the non-railway side of the station had its charms, with a fairly extensive collection of per-way equipment, including trikes.

Even away from the station, there was fun to be had in the railway yard.  One could play on the stock races, in amongst the red-bellied black snakes....

Or choose to take the very dilapidated turntable for a spin - of course, being a respectable uni student I never did, but I heard stories of this happening...

Even the Shell fuel siding caught my attention.  For those who model the NSW railways, surely there is no simpler weekend modelling proposition than the Armidale fuel siding? Especially if you decide that your gravity-fed fuel tanks are 'off layout'?

Because i had an entire afternoon off to study for an exam the following day, I decided to go for a wander south.  Armidale itself is nearly 579 rail kilometres from Sydney.  Rail kilometres are of course the same as ordinary kilometres, its just you need more of them to get anywhere because every rail line in NSW was built to a swirly, squiggly design.

Anyway, I went for quite wander, as I made it three kilometres south of the station whereupon  I sat down to remove the ballast from my boots and to take this photograph.

Yes, as you can see I was still observing world's best practice in relation to occupational health and safety laws - walk down the centre of the track to avoid all snakes.

As I was returning to town I was berating the transport policy failings of successive NSW administrations which would permit a viable transport mode to by so under-utilised that it would only serve a single passenger service daily - uni students berate themselves about this stuff all the time. 

Anyway, some public servant in the then-still-public Railcorp decided to teach uni students a lesson about this transport mode, the wisdom of walking along railway tracks without paying attention and the NSW fertiliser industry by sending the very irregular fertiliser special from the real end of the line at Dumaresq (look it up, its just north of Armidale) in my general direction.  Don't believe me, here's proof....

Luckily I was paying enough attention to get out of the way as these little beasties were stopping until they got to Werris Creek, from the determination shown by the crew in trying to run me down on my own railway line.

Amazed, I reeled off another photograph as they sailed past at 18 miles per hour....

So there you have it.  8 July 1994... the day that a fertiliser train from the end of the line nearly made it the end of the line for this blogger. The ignominy of being collected by 48137, 48160 and nine tatty 'blacks' is too much to consider. I just had to graduate as fast as I could and leave town, which I did.

As I left, I did manage to snap one last shot... its the way I like to remember Armidale, with nothing happening...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Central's 73s

In my last post I mentioned that 48 classes did more than any other class of loco to dieselise the branch lines of the NSW railway system.  Sure, 49s removed the need for many mainline and branchline steam locos and 47s were the locos which removed the very last of the steam, but it was the 48 class which did the damage.

While 48s removed steam from branchlines, it was the 73 class shunting locomotive which removed steam from shunting yards (metropolitan and regional) across the state.  It must have been a great relief for loco crews to learn that their 60 to 100 year-old locomotives were being replaced by shiny, clean, urbane diesels.  

Long after steam had been removed, a squad of 73s could still be found wandering around Sydney Terminal.  Again, as they were so ubiquitous at the time, it was rare that I would waste precious film on a mere shunter.  This attitude changed slowly, with the result that I have very few photographs of shunting in Sydney yard until the very late period of their operation.  Anyway, lets have a look at a few which did not manage to hide behind a pole or a mainliner.

Here is 7346 in the early 1980s, displaying its initial, rather pleasing livery.

In late December 1983 7311 and 7310 (in the 'SRA Candy' livery) were stowed between platform roads, awaiting the next call to duty.

By 1988 those 73s still carrying their inaugural livery were starting to look slightly weathered.

Around this time I moved to Sydney, which meant more opportunities for nocturnal forays along the platforms.  These trips were usually to discover which mainliner was at the head of the Southern Aurora, the Spirit (of Progress), the Brisvegas Limited or the Gold Coast Motorail.  However, sometimes 73s jumped out at you, like this night in 1988 when 7339 trundled out of the western carriage sheds as I stood on platform 1.

While the tuscan/indian red livery always photographed rather blandly under lights, the candy livery was the opposite. Indeed, as displayed by 7302 just after dusk, the candy livery seemed to work better after the sun went down.

By 1990 it was clear that the need for these little locos to haunt Sydney yard was dwindling.  Fewer and heavier loco-hauled passenger trains reduced the need for light-weight shunters.  Still, one could often catch a glimpse of a 73 having the honour of shunting the motorail wagons onto the Indian Pacific twice-weekly, as 7307 is doing in the following photograph. Observant readers will notice that 07 is carrying the 'yellow reverse' livery, designed to improve the visibility of the locomotive to photographers (and railway workers).

I think that the final time I saw a 73 performing the Sydney year duties on a regular basis was in January 1991 when 7344 seemed to be the loco of choice.  7344 carried an experimental livery which made it extremely easy to spot from a distance. Apparently these livery ensured that it received the appellation - the green frog.  Regardless whether the livery was flattering, over two decades later it still adorns this locomotive, though much weathered.

During 1991 the 73 class seemed to make an unheralded exit from Sydney yard.  They were replaced by, not unexpectedly, those bl**dy 48 class locos!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chasing 48s

Every author and blogger over 30 years of age will have tales of when they didn't photograph 48 class locos, simply because they were so ubiquitous, only did the mundane jobs and were generally despised for being the loco most responsible for the dieselisation of NSW's branch-lines (read 30T killers).

Well, if you lived in the Illawarra in the 1970s, if you didn't photograph 48s you had lots of leftover film.  And, if you saved up all this film and went on holidays, just about everywhere you went you got to see... 48s.  But not the south coast 48s, so that was OK.

I was thinking about this earlier today when I was talking to the Senior Train Hunter (STH) about fuel tanks on 48s. Yes, life can be that exciting. Anyway, STH was holding forth about the differences in fuel tanks and their relative capacities.  To make this discussion a little more colourful, I thought I would post a couple of snaps of colourful 48s.

The first is from an excellent afternoon spent at North Wollongong station with STH in 1981, as we feared the effects of encroaching electrification and the demise of loco-hauled passenger trains.  

While we were there to see tuscan-liveried locos hauling tuscan-liveried trains (call them brown, maybe, but almost no-one knows what you are talking about when you call them Indian Red).  Then, along came 4836 - all decked out in its novel green livery in honour of the 125th anniversary of NSW Government Railways the previous year.

Yes, the photograph needs a Photoshop bath but when it gets it, I certainly won't be removing the pall of pollution gasped by this little bottler as it accelerates up to 25 mph away from North Wollongong.

The second comes from a decade later, and it features the last of the 165 48 class locos.  

Yes, it is a little over-exposed, but not as much as you would believe.  The Bicentennial livery did not wear well, and this particular day had that blinding white light which encouraged good photographers to put away their cameras. I was deputised by the STH to snap this shot from the door of a carriage as we sped past.  So I decided to add my signature touch - slightly lopping off the extremities of the No. 2 end.

So STH and all other readers, click on the photographs and study those fuel tanks up close.  I hope everyone gains the insights I gained today.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Getting started...

Not content with failing to post regularly on my other blog (Eumungerie Rail), I have decided to divest my collection of rail stories and photographs on an unsuspecting public.  

So, get ready for the greatest collection of photographs featuring blurred locomotives, trains with poles growing out of them and stories of how, if I had only got there five minutes earlier, I would have got the money shot.

Just to start things off, lets have a look at 4812 which was photographed by yours truly one Sunday afternoon in spring in 1980.  Here it is, dead, sitting just off Wollongong turntable, looking a little worse for wear.  

Yep, I somehow managed to slice off the No. 2 end buffer plate but I did manage to catch the local admirer - complete in Wollongong's official flanels.   

The back story is that I also managed to miss the reason for my trip to Wollongong loco depot that afternoon - shortly after taking this shot the bloke in the flannel shirt wandered over to tell me that a 'black steamer' had just been through, headed north. Oh dear....