Thursday, January 26, 2012

Candy on the Hill

Twenty two years ago today I was a worried man.  Rumours of the withdrawal of the 44 class abounded and I was anxious to capture the last of these beasts before their collective demise.   

At this time (it was 1990 for the mathematically challenged) 44s and 45s could be found working grain trains from southern NSW to the Illawarra, using the Moss Vale to Unanderra railway line.
This line, known as ‘The Hill’ is steep, windy and picturesque. Sadly, some of its beauty had been lost due to earthworks associated with an abortive attempt at electrification several years earlier.  This loss had a countering benefit – access roads were much-improved on the earlier efforts.  This made it possible to get access much further up ‘The Hill’ to photograph trains in action. 

So, with the promise of diverted coal trains from the west adding to the supply of grain from the south, expectations were high.  The following is a snapshot of what was ‘collected’ that day in the crosshairs of the Pentax.  First up was 8147 on an empty coal train returning to Tahmoor.

Next up was 8167 and 8163 on up coal, inching their way down the Hill.

This was followed by 8176 & 8154 on another up coal.

And then something from the other direction, 8162 heading back up the Hill.

Then it was time for... you guessed it... double candy 81s on a coal crawling down the Hill

Finally, relief arrived from the candy 81 parade.  This time it was 42211 & 42204 on the limestone.  Yep, not a real lot of difference – baby 81s in the same livery with the same style hopper.

The last train of the day was captured near where the first train had been caught.  This time it was the coast’s glamour freight – the steely – hauled by the two locos off the first coalie - 8167 and 8163.

A bonus was hearing, long before seeing, the hardworking banker – 42214.

And that was about it. I recall being fairly filthy that we’d seen nothing but candy 81s, which could be found everywhere in those days.  I was particularly disappointed that nothing had eventuated of the southern grain trains with their elderly Alcos.  Still, looking back, I quite appreciate the homogeneity of that day’s offerings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

High summer in Bundanoon

As its mid-January, there’s still time for a couple more January family holiday stories.   At least issuing these stories encourages a few family members to log on to see how they are being committed to posterity.  

 It also gives me a chance to remember what summers used to be like... caravans so small the rest of the family had to stand outside if one wanted to get changed, Toranas so hot you couldn’t sit on the back seat in your stubbies and, well, you know the rest.

About 31 years ago one of my family members decided we should go on a holiday in January, to the airless Bundanoon.  That summer was one of those summers.  For the most part it was too hot to photograph trains during day.  It was even too hot in the evening to walk down to the station to have a chat to the signalman in his box to see what was coming. Anyway, here’s a small selection of what we saw those few days...

One of the loveliest combinations on the main south at that time was an Alco double-header.  When we scored 4405 and 4516 on a goods it was never going to get better.

This next photograph has been retouched slightly, in an attempt to lighten some detail on the lead unit hauling an Inter-Capital Daylight Express service to the southern border.  While the second unit, a 42 class, is clearly visible, unfortunately the 442 leading the train remains persistently dark.  This shade is not entirely the fault of the photographer – 442s seemed to be regularly doused in coal dust or some such blackening agent in those days!

OK, so there was one loco combination possibly better than double Alcos – and that was double GMs.  So when 42109 and a 422 trundled through one morning on an up limestone, it was very pleasant indeed.

I said earlier that the evenings were more bearable for humans than daytime, which probably explains why I can proffer a few more examples of rail workings at this time of the day.  First up is 44237 on a down wheat train.

Then it was time for a number of the ‘name trains’ – the expresses working the south of the State.  From the north 4461 arrived on a down Southern Highlands Express.

We also usually hung around for the Riverina Express.  On this day it hadn’t succumbed to the heat and was heading to Sydney just as it was starting to get really dark.

Finally, here’s a train that ran in the dark through Bundanoon for probably ten months of the year.  It was the all-stations sweeper from Goulburn.  The benefit of photography in high summer is that even after the sun had gone, one could still snap 44223 humming whilst passengers embarked and alighted.

All in all, a terrific holiday!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Down Mexico way...

Apologies to those who may have logged on earlier today.  I was experimenting with the use of scheduled publications of blog posts and it seems that I have some more experimenting to do to before it works out properly.
Now, time for a re-posting - this time hopefully slightly more intelligible....
After a hectic Christmas I have found a bit of time to sneak another post for 2012 into the blogosphere before returning to paid employment. Lets travel back to the near future, or the near immediate past - to 29 years ago.  That Christmas in 1982 was very special as I had just taken possession of the keys to my first car, a maroon Holden Gemini with the ominous number plate ‘MAL’.  Having survived that Christmas, I decided to take the Gemini on a solo shake down cruise to Albury. 

My enthusiasm for the new car and this venture saw me setting out from Wollongong in the pre-dawn hours on 27 December 1982.  That was my first mistake. 
My second mistake was to set an unrealistic goal - to get to Goulburn in time to capture the Spirit of Progress.  Well, bad weather and over optimistic navigating got me nearly to Goulburn just in time to see the Spirit depart northwards.  Hoping that the darkness would lift, I paddled back to Marulan just before 6:00am.
I did have time to set up for a shot which I knew wasn’t going to work, and it didn’t.  Still, 29 years later, if you look hard, you can work out that that the Spirit was truly once a majestic train being hauled by a 422 and a 42 class combination, making up time.

 Having stuffed one photograph at dawn, I should have headed for home.  Instead I pressed on to Goulburn for the second time that morning.  Pleasingly, 42106 was in charge of an up morning passenger.  Here it sits in Goulburn station, about to haul two nicely repainted carriages as part of its consist to Sydney.

So far we have two photographs - one blurred, the other with a pole growing out of the centre of the train.  Did I mention that I’m not good in the mornings?
Pressing on southwards, nothing was running at all, it seemed.  Arriving at Cootamundra at least the loco depot had some interesting exhibits. 

Apart from the 600 class diesel train, the 421, 48 and 80, lurking down the yard was CTH trailer No. 55 and a 600 class trailer which I think was numbered 728 as it was the only ‘candy’ member of its class at this time.  Here’s a closer snap of the pair.

I am not sure just why I didn’t stop at Junee on the southward journey.  Youthful inexperience I suppose.  Anyway, I pushed onwards towards my destination and was mighty pleased to see a blob headed my way near Henty.  The blob turned out to be the Intercapital Daylight Express, with 42207 and a 44 on the front of a power van, eight passenger cars and two vans.  A very tidy load, even for holiday times.

Because its such a mixture, Mr Smarty Pants must have decided to take a second shot of the rear end.

As I had my passport I crossed into Wodonga where a reasonable stable of fine blue beasts were corralled, as evidenced in the next four snaps.  First up, a couple of Y class shunters, Y138 and Y170.

The next steed was S302, sadly quite as a mouse.

A couple of T classes rounded out the depot’s allotment - T351 and T366.

Although it was only late afternoon, I was stuffed from my early start.  Lodgings at the Albury Caravan Park were secured, and then it was back out to North Albury to catch a glint shot of an under-threat South Mail.  Although it was well into the twilight, magnificent light streamed across the fields until two minutes before 42211 appeared in charge of its train.  So, the day finished much as it started, in the dark – curses!  So, 29 years later I present a ‘post glint shot’.

And then, owing to my first mistake of the day, I fell very fast asleep for about 12 hours.
The return journey was similarly bereft of trains.  I did capture two of note.  The first was 42108 and 4431 on a Sydney-bound freight, carrying a load of bulk paper bound for use in the newspaper or magazine industry.

The second train was 42202 on a rake of empty steel wagons heading north from Junee.  I tried to chase it, but lets just say that its crew were even more keen to get to civilisation than I was.

I arrived in Cootamundra, still with hours to go, the weather closed in completely.  As my nice new Gemini was getting pounded with wind and rain, I gave up on photographic pursuits in favour of a nice sedate return to the Illawarra.
I really learnt a lot that trip, about driving long distances, believing bad weather forecasts and staying at home, the futility of chasing trains between Christmas and New Year and the limitations of 4 cylindered cars on the Hume Highway.  Still, rack it for experience and move on, I say...