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!