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.