Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dead 70s society

In the late 1980s the Illawarra’s most secret society– the dead 70s society – could be seen at only one place.  This was the rotten row to the east of Port Kemble loco depot.  Its members were the discarded, worn-out and redundant class members of the once very useful class of NSWGR diesel hydraulics. 

The following photograph shows those forming the society around 1989.  In attendance that day were 7005, 7006, 7003, 7004, 7010, 7001 and 7007. Only 7002, 7008 and 7009 were elsewhere, presumably working.

When sent to rotten row, the members of the class appeared in reasonable condition, at least externally.

However, once consigned to this location, the prospects of a return to service were dim.  The environment was certainly not conducive to preservation – the location mixes salt air with acidic discharges from local factories.  And then there was the attraction of these beasts to the local hoodlums… another factor mitigating against longevity.

Still, once sent to rotten row, it did not mean the end of the journey.  The following photograph records the fact that at least once the line of locos was shunted westward under the road bridge.  The observant will observe the steady deterioration of the locos.

Most of the deterioration was as a result of wanton acts of stupidity – 7001 bears testimony to the idiocy of the locals.

Other deterioration was due to some with more pure motives.  7003 became a parts donor for its still operating sisters.

But there was only one of the class to escape this ignominy.  The mighty 7006 has been restored to working order and now resides away for the sea air at Thirlmere with others from the NSW Rail Transport Museum.  Here it is, quietly awaiting its great escape to the highlands.

Perhaps one day 7006 will be joined by its sisters 7007, 7008 and 7010, which currently lurk in the rain at Dorrigo as part of the Dorrigo Steam Railway Museum. 

And only then will the less-than-dead 70s society reconvene...

Monday, April 16, 2012

The aura of the Aurora!

OK, someone had to do it tonight.  Salute the Southern Aurora, that is, and all those who thought that Australians would embrace inter-capital luxury train travel in the post war years, including the mighty Billy Wentworth.  

And it is also time tonight to salute those staff and volunteers from the NSW Rail Transport Museum who have laboured over recent to restore the Museum's now heritage fleet of stainless steel carriages.  The 50th anniversary re-enactment Southern Aurora looked magnificent tonight in platform 1, as I pulled into Central on my spark at 6:15pm.  I was even prepared to ignore the brick on the front of the train (44211) - masking the art deco elegance of 4490 and 4306 back to back.  Someone had even taken the time to thoughtfully pipe the Joye Boys' classic - Southern 'Rora - though the station intercom.  If you want to feel really good for the next 2 minutes and 48 seconds, click on the following Youtube link.

Anyway, as I am one of the Southern Aurora Kids - those kids who were hoisted by their fathers into the cabs of express locomotives at Central in the hope that the dads would also be invited aboard - I figured I could not let tonight pass without blog comment.  

I should point out my earliest recollection of being on a diesel was such an incident.  It may not have been a 44 class, and it could have been the lesser Spirit of Progress instead of the Aurora, but I definitely recall being dressed in pyjamas, dressing gown and sleepers on platform 1 one evening.  Just the sort of stylish attire that a young boy who was farewelling his grandparents should be seen out on the town in.  Yep, I reckon I have years of therapy to go to overcome that childhood trauma...

So to the memories of the mighty Southern Aurora.

The following photograph dates from early 1963, when the Aurora was a novelty.  This sign conjures up notions of unattainable luxury, fostered (I guess) from those trips to Sydney in Hillmans of various vintage to farewell relatives travelling to Victoria.

The next photograph was taken around the same time, showing the 'up' Aurora at its destination.

The Aurora was never going to be one of those trains I would have lots of photos of, as I was/am generally lousy at time lapse photography and not much of an early riser.  But here is one of the train arriving into Central in 1983, with 8104 doing the honours.

During an early part of my 'career' I was obliged to do a fair bit of travel to Melbourne.  Most of my compatriots chose the TAA option, but I risked life and limb to travel on the Aurora (and later the combined expresses).  Risk life and limb? Well, on more than one occasion we'd stop in Goulburn to see what I thought was someone being released from detention (perhaps Goulburn Goal) onto the train.  Moments later I would hear the cabin door open and a shadowy figure would take up residence in the top bunk.  I dunno what life is like 'inside' but these blokes all seemed pretty adept at manoeuvring themselves in the dark, in very confined spaces.

However, more often or not, I was risking only loneliness.  While I was committed to enjoying the delights of the Aurora, not too many others were.  If you want to know why the Southern Aurora no longer runs, the following two photographs give you the answer.  Some weeknights I not only had the cabin to myself, I had the whole carriage to myself.  And often I would be the only passenger at breakfast.  Grim times for the accountants no doubt.

The other perilous aspect to the Aurora was those times when you were lucky enough to get booked into a single-occupancy room - from memory it was called a 'roomette'.  There was always the possibility of getting the toilet bowl and the wash basin confused...

And the stagger from the lounge car along the zig zag centre hallway needed careful negotiation, especially after a time spent imbibing an amber liquid or two in the lounge car.  The next photo is blurry, but in my defence I may have been too at the time it was taken.

So, its late here as I type.  If I was in a roomette on the 'Snora' now, I would be deep in thought watching the darkness of the NSW southern highlands flash by.  Occasionally and momentarily a north-bound freighter would startle me as it passed by my window.  And I would know that at 6am tomorrow I would be woken by an attendant carrying a weak milky coffee and two biscuits wrapped in plastic.  But tonight I am not there, and so I am going to leave this blog where it started, with a snap of that sign, taken only just tonight. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

421s galore!

So far on this blog I’ve recalled times and events and places and trips – all incursions into the railway world.  Have done little in the way of themes to date; suppose they will come with maturity or the need to conjure a meaning through a seemingly random selection of photographs. 

The other is, of course, catalogues.  In a way the previous two posts are catalogues as well as events occurring on a specific date – listings of trains entering and leaving a particular station.  Anyway, I thought I would try my hand at another sort of catalogue – a photograph of every member of a specific class or type of machinery.  So here goes… for my first attempt I nominate 421 class locomotives!

421s... hmmm… Perhaps the ugliest cousin of all General Motors’ locomotives? 

When GM aficionados gather, I hear them speak of the thoroughbred lines of NSW’s 42 class, the sleek look of Victoria’s S class locos or the handsomeness of the Commonwealth’s GM class locos (until painted in a florid green).  Occasionally one hears approving commentary about the Victorian B class and even the latter-day CL progeny.  But no-one speaks fondly of the 421 because, quite frankly, its got a pretty big bum.

Until now… 

I reckon the 421 has an attractive utilitarian look about it.  This degree of utility has probably resulted in 70 per cent of the 10-membered class achieving 46 years of service across the eastern seaboard of Australia. However I do appreciate that, like many ugly beasts, a measured introduction is perhaps best.  So lets start with the class leader, 42101, showing its best and most rugged side.

This photograph was taken during a January 1982 trip to the end of the line – the South Coast’s Bomaderry end of the line.  While I photographed 42101 in fading light from every angle that summer’s evening, I am only prepared to show you a close-up of its pock-marked right cheek.

Now for the rest of the class…  A semi-blurred, distant shot always worked for Doris Day, as it did in 1979 when 42102 was caught heading 4205 and 48148 on a south-bound freight through Picton.

42103 had escaped the clutches of government ownership and the scrapper’s oxy torch by 1996.  Two years later it had scored a new coat of paint and a place in the sun – in the sun on the Murwillumbah branch line in harness for the Northern Rivers Railway to be precise.  Here it is working a freighter with its more attractively liveried sister, 42107.

These days 03 also sports an attractive livery, courtesy of the ochre of Queensland National. 
On this next photograph, you are just going to have to believe me.  This is 42104 (as far as I know), working through Port Kembla on a Sydney-bound passenger service in 1985.  It was snapped by the Senor Train Hunter and is your first view of the #2 end of a 421 on this blog – and worse still, its coated in a drab brown! Novices, please sit down now.  And remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

From the morning backlight on 42104, to the evening glow on 42105 in Albury loco depot.  It certainly looks glamorous!

And now to 42106.  This valiant steed drew me from the wilds of NSW’s Southern Highlands (Moss Vale actually, from where the next shot was taken) back to the cradle of all existence, the Illawarra.  The necessity for its journey that day in February 1985 was entirely attributable to the frailty of another GM product – a Holden Gemini which had tangled with a wallaby on the Hume Highway at 3am.  But that is another, ugly, story.

So to 42107.  A sneak peak of this loco was possible in the photograph of 42103.  So here it is – a decade later, in another State, working for a government again (albeit a different one).  This particular photograph was snapped by the Junior Train Hunter in between Facebook sessions.  Yes, its 42107 light engine at Middle Footscray in April 1998, whilst in the employ of the then publicly-owned Queensland National.  And it still looks good!

We are close to the end now – only three to go.  And the saddest of the class to deal with… 42108 was just 21 years of age when withdrawn, and it was scrapped just the age of 25.  Perhaps reflective of its early and imminent demise, here’s a photograph of 42108 contemplating life one glum Sunday afternoon near the Wollongong turntable in early 1985.

Now, back to happier times.  Here is the second-youngest of the class at the home of passenger trains, and at the head of one of them too. Its 1981 and 42109 is ready to head down the coast with an evening commuter train.  Three decades later it wears the gaudy bouquet of the Northern Rivers Railway in the service of QR National, the second time it has been privatised.  Rumours have it resting, stored, in 2012.

And so we are to the last of the class.  The baby. 42110.  And the least of the photographs too.  Blurry, indistinct, going away from the lens, drab day, and a nothing-special passenger service.  Sorry about this, but here we are aiming for completeness in the catalogue and not a O Winston Link.  And it was in 1985, from Wollongong. Still, five years later this loc was turned into a dog food can, so I am glad to proide evidence of its existence.

And on this slightly deflated note, I bid adieu to 421s and to those reading this blog. Thank you for popping by.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday 1981

Staying with the theme of the last blog on this site, Easter, Sydney Terminal and holiday loadings, I thought I would venture back 31 years this time. 

Intuition would suggest that the end of a holiday period would be nearly as busy as the start of a period, with returning Sydneysiders mixing with people who had holidayed in that location moving off to their country abodes.  Still, Easter Monday never seemed to get the bad wrap from the NSW Railways that Easter Thursday received.  I guess the peak period was dissipated somewhat.

Regardless, I can’t remember the precise reason why the Senior Train Hunter and I attended Central on Easter Monday 1981, but I am pretty glad we did.

The train-watching started well enough at 5:00pm with 4486 doing the honours on the down evening Newcastle Flyer with Set 119 in tow.

Thirty minutes later it was time for 44238 to leave with the down Southern Highlands Express to Canberra.  It took Set 131 along for the ride, composed by a HN, SCN, SCN, FRN and a HN at the rear.  Once again, I think the lure of the railway meat pie may have grown too strong as there is nothing written by way of a sighting for an hour after this train let.

At 6:30pm the first of the big trains left.  On this evening 44204 and 44231 hauled the Brisbane Limited Express away from platform 1.  At 13 carriages – a PHS, NAM, LAN, NAM, PAM, SDS, ADS, OFS, RDX, SBS, SBS, SDS and MHO – it was truly a big train.

Ten minutes later a 442 led a 44 out on the Gold Coast Motorail.  This train was composed by two MBYs, a PHS, LAN, NAM, NAM, NAM, SDS, ODS, RBS, SFR, SBS, BH, BH, MHO and then a KB for good measure.

While I didn’t record the interurban trains generally, one I did note was the 7:10pm Lithgow service.  It was composed by a 46 class and Set 111, with a FG tucked in behind the locomotive.

At 7:40pm the first of the mail trains rolled out of the Terminal.  44207 hauled the seven car strong North Coast Mail – FS, FS, TFX, MBE, TAM, KP and a MHO – out of the station right on time.

It was but an entree for the diesel-hauled train of the night – the combined North Mails.  Just ten minutes after 44207 had left with its mail, another 442 (supported by a 44) hauled an eleven-car train out to Redfern and then to points north.  The first five carriages were headed to Moree – an FS, XFS, BS, MCE and MHO formed this part of the train.  

Lets just pause here to contemplate the MHO.  Take a good look at the following photograph.

Yes, its a fairly standard, fairly bland guards van. Just take another peak inside that open sliding door.  OK, its Easter Monday so there is a bit of additional traffic, but the street box mail hasn't been collected for a few days.  The MHO is chockers - stacked to the roof line. Lucky the railways didn't consider that this sort of traffic and revenue was valuable to them, because it was gone within a decade, which enabled the administrators to also cut the associated overnight passenger traffic.
But I digress... The citizens of Armidale were getting a real treat with their part of the North Mails – tucked in behind the BAM sleeper, the passengers were given the option of a ride in an ACS – where it was possible to find 1st class luxury, 2nd class austerity and sleeping berths all under the same (carriage) roof.  The rest of the train was a fairly bland combination of BS, XFS, KP and a MHO.  The ACS was so exotic, I even took a photograph of it.

The night only got better with the departure of the Southern Aurora at 8:00pm, led by 8024 and 44204.  On this particular night it was constituted by two MBYs and 14 carriages.  Shortly following the Aurora was 8026 and 4439 on a twelve car Spirit of Progress. While the following photograph is a tad overexposed, at least it gives some idea the writing on the back wall of the cab of the 80 class.

Just when the night seemed like it was winding down, in through the yard strolled the wheezing blackness of Rosie – 5367 with a water ginty, L wagon and Set 107.  Welcome to Sydney!

Admiration for this steamy veteran distracted me from the arrival of 42214 from Canberra at 9:30pm, though I looked away long enough to note that its trains was composed by an MCE, TBC, BS, FS, BS, FS and a MHO.

The last three mails of the night were headed west, west and south respectively. 

At 9:55pm double 46s were scheduled for the West Mails.  Like the North Mails earlier, this was a combined train due to be split at Orange.  In the first part, a MFE, MCS, MCS, SFX, TAM, KP and MHO were headed to Dubbo.  The remainder of the train – a FS, MCS, BAM and a MHX were off to Forbes.

Another 46 was also rostered for the west-bound Mudgee Mail.  4627 had the light duty of hauling a single MCS and ATP across the mountains.

The final train for the night was the South Mail.  I had left the station by the time it did, but the cars in the platform for the service were a BS, BS, ECM, XBS, TAM, KP, MHO and another ATP.  Of course, I had left before the final departure because I had work the next day, which I have tomorrow so its time to end this missive.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Black Thursday 1986

I am not so old that I can remember Sydney Terminal as a steam-dominated terminal yard.  However, I can remember the appearance of busy-ness created around the place in the 1970s and 1980s when diesel locomotives dominated the workload.  This sense of urgency seemed greater into the early evenings and at holiday times – somewhat unsurprisingly. 

For a period in my life an almost annual pilgrimage was made to Central (as the station is known popularly) on Easter Thursday, just to absorb this urgency.  Such was the urgency this day was known colloquially as ‘Black Thursday’ for the demands it placed on the Railways in those years. One such occasion towards the end of this era was Easter Thursday, 1986.

I recently found a scrap of paper with my hand-written observations of the trains at Central on that evening, which was 27 March.  Included in those sightings were 8645 and 8641 on the Gold Coast Motorail, which left platform 1 promptly at 6:30pm.  The train’s composition not noted.

While an XPT left for Canberra five minutes after the Motorail departed, I was probably pre-occupied hunting down a meat pie for dinner. 

At 7:24pm, four minutes late, double 86 class electric locos hauled the North Coast Mail off platform 5.  Call me quirky but while I didn’t record the loco numbers, I did record the impressive train composition.  An FS sitting out of the platform headed 11 other carriages, in order - MFA 2708, FS 2116, FS 2130, MCE 396, MBE 839 BS 1685, MFH 2705, MFA 2708, MFA 2704, MH 2701 and guards van LHY 1613.

Approximately 30 minutes later the third north-bound passenger of the evening, the North Coast Overnight Express, trundled off to Grafton. Again, double 86s did the honours, with 8607 the second loco.  This evening the train composition was PHN, AN (sic – my handwriting is appalling), BDS 2269, TDS 2242, ODS 2267, a RoA diner, SBS 2243, TBS 2256, PFZ 2219, MCS 652, MCE 582 and MHO 2607 against the buffer stops.

The name train of the evening was always going to be the Southern Aurora, coming off platform 1 at 8:00pm.  This night it was 8144 leading two MBY car carriers, then PHN 2369, LAN 2344, NAM 2338, LAN 2348, NAM 2367, LAN 2376, BCS 2356, RMS 2359, DAM 2334, LAN 2351, NAM 2342, NAM 2375 and MHN 2365 in the rear.

As its a blog I suppose I should throw in at least one photograph - here's one of 8144 waiting for the road that night.

Nearly 20 minutes later (9 minutes later than its scheduled departure) 8151 headed the quite beautiful  Spirit of Progress southwards off platform 3. This night it was composed of a PHN against the loco, then NAM 2340, LAN 2354, VR 2nd class, VR 1st class, VR 2nd class, VR buffet, VR 2nd class, VR 2nd class, VR 2nd class, SBZ 2241 and MHN 284(x).  Victorians offended by my poor recording of Victorian carriages do not despair – I was merely in awe of the art deco elegance it exuded.

A quarter hour after the Spirit, 44224 raced off to Moss Vale with only three carriages - FS 2017, MFE 1855 and HFE 927.  Doubtless this would have been a very fast trip!

I did not stick around to see the last three country passenger trains I noted that night, though I did do my best to record their compositions. 

The first train the North Mail waiting on platform 8, headed by class leader 8601.  This Mail was composed by FS 2098, FS 2084, FS 2093, MFH 2719, BAM 1748, ABN 2194, SCN 1710, SCN 1739 and MHO 2626.

No loco had arrived for the Cooma Mail resting on platform 3 for its 9:35pm departure.  The train was XBS 2158, XFS 2014, XFS 2018, XFS 2001, XCM X114 and the very cute ATP 1000.

My final sighting was the Glen Innes Mail, set to leave platform 1 at 9:50pm.  That night, 26 years ago, it was to be MFH 2175, FS 2124, FS 1651, FS 1653, MCS 1900, MCS 705, BAM 2189 and MHO 2630.

I didn’t see the carriages arrive for either the South Mail or the West Mail – damned shame.  Still, I hope you enjoyed this brief trip back to Easter Thursday, 1986.