Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nurail travels Part 2

On 12 November I started a recount of a two-week odyssey on NSW railways in the depths of winter in June 1988, using a Nu-rail pass. Part 1 of that story covered the first five days of the tour, which resulted in trips to Cooma, Dubbo and Broken Hill.

After these strenuous travels, we took Sunday 19 June 1988 off – after all, it is supposedly the day of rest.  However, we did rendezvous that evening for 9:55pm departure from Sydney in car 1 of N7 North Mail, which was composed by 8625, our MCS, MCS, BAM, BAM, MCS and an LHO guards van. I have no idea why we didn’t book a sleeper that night. It was a rough, cold, noisy and thoroughly unpleasant trip.  I am still in therapy and physiotherapy from it, decades later.

Somehow the 44 which had replaced the 86 at Broadmeadow was gone by the morning – presumably at Werris Creek and replaced by double 48s at that junction.  It was Moree a bit after 9:30am when we ventured out for a shot at the station of the two steeds - 4885 and 48100.

Then we left the rails to head east at 10:15am in R.15N – a mini-road coach which brought us to Inverell by noon.  After three hours of nothing – except photographing the water tank many times, we then joined R.44N road coach to arrive in Grafton in the dark a little before 5:00pm. 

Tuesday 21 June was a planned day of line-side photography, and it started very well with a visit to South Grafton station in time to see 8048 and 4875 head north on a freight.

Things got even better an hour later in clearing weather when 44237 and 48117 trundled by on freight at South Grafton. This train also deserves two photographic commemorations, so here they are.

In what probably wasn’t the smartest tactical move, we decided to walk a couple of miles out of town in the hope of picking up a few freighters on some of those delicious reverse curves which surround Grafton.  Of course, whilst in transit 44233 roared through with a north bound freight. I managed a poor photo across a vacant allotment.

Then, naturally, nothing came through for the next four or so hours!

It wasn’t until late-afternoon that we returned to the station, where we found 4458 readying for the evening trip south on N6 North Coast Overnight Express.  Apart from the 44 class, the express was composed by a five car set and a FAM sleeper.  

I don’t recall much of that trip, except that 8645 replaced the 44 class at Broadmeadow for the final part of the journey. 

Arrival in Sydney at 5:35am gave the old bloke a chance to return to the South Coast in time for a breakfast arrival.  I decided to take my breakfast on the nearest XPT I could find – it being NT23 Northern Tablelands XPT, which left Sydney at 8:50am.

An on time arrival at Tamworth just before 3:00pm allowed me plenty of time to snap the steeds responsible for the journey, and then to look around.  

I do recall the increasing cold from about 4:30pm, which forced me into the local hostelries for warmth and sustenance. By the time that I left Tamworth just after 10pm on (N8) Up North Mail the temperature was at least five below.  Up front was another trusty Alco – 4465 – with a BAM, MCS, FS and LHY in the consist.   

Sensibly I had paid a small premium, which got me berth 13 in the BAM sleeper.  In fact, if I recall correctly, it was my personal carriage that evening.  Perhaps the lack of passengers – or the knowledge of what lay ahead – led the guard to offer me four or five blankets for the berth. They were received gratefully, and put to good purpose throughout.
I woke just as we were arriving into Sydney at 6:30am on Thursday 23 June, with 8626 at the head of the train.  And I think I’ll leave it there, as part 3 can cover the last two great trips.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from Port loco!

Sitting here in Sydney on this rainy Christmas afternoon in 2012 I was reminded of another rainy, rail-related Christmas.  Turns out exactly 20 years ago we on the eastern seaboard of Australia were spared another scorcher, and it just so happened that I happened upon a sleeping Port Kembla locomotive depot that day too.

At the front of the depot one could always find X101 with her dress off, and it was no different that Christmas.

Then it was time for a wander in the rain. One string of stowed locos stood out in the weather, headed by 4889.  Keen observers will note that a single loco – 42201 on an adjacent road – was the sole evidence of life that day.

Tucked in behind 89 were two of its more elderly sisters – 4848 and 4849.

And down the line were two newer and bluer locos - 42218 and 8024.

And then, just like now, it got too wet to continue.  So, from Port loco and 20 years ago, Happy Christmas and thank you for popping by during 2012!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

There is an S in Hamilton

Well, technically there is no 'S' in Hamilton but on Wednesday this week (5 December 2012) when preoccupied in thought and waiting for a train to Sydney, I looked up expecting to find a spark arriving from Maitland.  Instead I found a wonderful yellow S idling into the platform.

These days, the occurrences of a loco appearing in the stretch from Islington Junction to Newcastle proper are fairly rare. And an S class being that loco probably compounds the rarity. Still, I am sure its happened before and it will doubtless happen again.  

But S317's arrival was a nice 'gift' from the railway gods so the camera was grabbed immediately and a photograph was taken.

At this point the camera battery expired, so the raining shots were taken with the trusty Samsung mobile phone, so please excuse the quality.

I took the next shot specifically to frame the Hamilton signage... then again, I could have just photoshopped it in there (if I knew how).

And as soon as it arrived, it was off again.

So, I will get back to describing some Nurail travels soon enough... but I trust at least someone else will get some enjoyment out of an S being somewhere a bit unusual.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nurail Travels part 1

Near enough to 38 years ago in November 1974 the Public Transport Commission decided to take pity on frequent travelers and rail tragics (like myself and the Senior Train Hunter) by introducing a new style of ticket – a 14 day unlimited travel rail pass known as a Nurail Pass.  I am not convinced that it was ever widely popular, but the invitation to ride the rails intensively was an invitation too tempting to avoid occasionally. 

What follows is a summary of 14 days on the rails – in the depth of winter, knowing it was likely to be the last time a Nurail ticket was worthwhile with impending cuts to the final mail trains rumoured to be effected by year’s end.

The odyssey commenced on Tuesday, 14 June 1988, with a day trip to Cooma and return aboard S37, the down Canberra-Monaro Express.  Express it was not – it involved a seven car DEB set working to Canberra, with three cars then working south of Canberra to the eventual destination.

A 7:30am departure from Central produced a lunchtime arrival in Canberra, where a lone 442 was spied in the yard. 

And then it was onwards to Cooma, where it wasn’t snowing but it should have been.  While the crew reversed the seats on the train, we snuck out for a couple of photographs.  Looking carefully at the photograph one can see that Cooma’s residents are a welcoming mob.

The following day was a more leisurely 7:55am departure on W27, the Central West XPT, with a 2:40pm arrival in Dubbo.  As the following photograph shows, the Cooma weather had followed us north-west.

That afternoon we walked the railway yard and environs, trying to keep warm.  While there we were lucky enough to see a western freight, going further west (this was not to last much longer).  Sadly we were cutting across a car park when we saw this train, but you take ‘em when you can get ‘em.  

The following photographs were taken around 4pm, with the 48 acting as yard shunter and then a light engine transfer surprising us from the east.

As the sleet set in we decamped to the club, and then it was back to the mighty BAM sleeper by 8:35pm to join this compact W58 West Mail consist to return to Sydney. 

A branch liner, 4822, worked the train through to Lithgow.  It was then the turn of electric loco 8635 to return we very few passengers to the metropolis.

Arrival in Sydney occurred on time at 5:50am on Thursday 16 June, enabling the Senior Train Hunter to return to the Illawarra on the 6:03am 6 car V set.  He had the barest of time there, returning on the up 12:25 express out of Wollongong hauled by 42218 towing a Tulloch set.

By 3:15pm on the same day we were headed west once more, this time to Broken Hill.  From car 14 of W1 Indian Pacific we had a good view of 8605 and 8635 taking us through to Lithgow, then being replaced by double 80s at that location.  From Parkes (at around midnight), it was a single 80 class.

Friday 17 June 1988 brought us to Broken Hill at 8:38am.  I was immediately entranced by the exoticism of seeing double back-to-back GMs being coupled to the train.  Well, it was something for a boy from the Coast!

To return one to Indian Red normalcy, 4910 was the burbling shunter.

Enough of them locos!  It was time to explore the numerous art galleries in this bohemian city… err, no... actually, it was off to the loco depot.  And as these were the days where a polite request almost always guaranteed a ‘yeah mate, just be careful and don’t drive them’ from the local-powers-that-be, such inspections could be wonderful events.  And so it was…

Inside the loco shed, 8007 and 8042 lingered at rest.

Alongside these Alcos, another vintage GM sat.  

GM18 even had its door open, giving full view to the Spartan accommodations provided to crews.  It was even lacking a 5-stack CD player!

Outside the shed was no different.  Here sisters 606 and 607 were at rest, sporting quite different liveries.

Later that day we did actually see a few things move, like this east bound freight headed by 8007.

And Silverton’s shunting loco – 29 – was captured shuffling around the yard.

But perhaps the most out of place item was this lonely little S wagon, its days plying rails well and truly over.

That evening we withdrew to the nearby Crystal Motel, as the following morning involved a 5:00am departure on W46 Silver City Comet.  From seats 39 and 40 on car 3, we heard DP103 lead our consist at great rate of knots.   

There are a few indelible memories of that morning.  The cold and dark leaving the Hill, the red ball in the east at dawn, the roos and emus making great hast near the line and the humungous plate of baked beans served for breakfast, laying across four slices of white toast.  No pesto in sight.  I also remember valiantly trying to study for a contracts law exam, which I ended up getting 51% for so every rail joint was worth it.  I did take a break at Parkes to snap the Comet resting in the platform.

Another was taken at journey’s end, around 4:30pm at Orange.

From there it was once more into the modern but utilitarian comforts of W28 up Central West XPT, for a 9:30pm arrival in Sydney that Saturday night.  The Senior Train Hunter then departed on a 4 car interurban V set to the coast to arrive just prior to midnight.
And that is where Part 1 ends!  Stay tuned for travels to the north, north west and back to the south in part 2.