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.

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