Thursday, May 24, 2012

The small stuff - short cements

Instead of waxing on about overtaxed locomotives straining to keep overloaded and over-length trains to overly ambitious timetables, its about time to celebrate the shorter freights in life. And in particular, cement trains, just because cement wagons are usually more interesting shapes than the locomotives hauling them.

So, whether you are a rail photographer searching for that quintessential iconic freight photograph, or a model rail aficionado seeking to capture the essence of a NSW freight train, consider for now the short cement train...

First up is our little friend 4833 on a very short cement, coming out of the Maldon Cement Works.  The companion photograph has appeared earlier in this blog in the collection celebrating this little Alco’s 50th birthday.  Here is another shot of the same train, showing it being monstered by a 7 car DEB set on Maldon Curve.

This next photograph is an inspiration to Alco-holics, and to people who hear a loco whistle while still in bed.  Yes, in March 1992 I was bunked in a local Tamworth motel, only to hear a 48 class call to me.  So it was up and at ‘em, in the words of Atom Ant.   I caught 48136 and 48153 in glorious morning sunlight approaching Nemingha  about ten minutes later.  Thank you, Mr 48 Class Driver, for laying on the smoke too.

In 1983 the Senior Train Hunter captured 4609 and 8614 at Katoomba on a very lucrative freight run…. Well, it would have been lucrative if the wagon was full of gold flakes.

The next three photographs are from a short-lived and probably not all that profitable foray into southern NSW by Freight Victoria (later Freight Australia) during 2002.  Still, it made for good train hunting.  First up is EL61 and EL51 heading north through Werai in March 2002.

On another weekend in the dead of that winter, EL51 appeared once more – this time with T408 as a travelling companion.  Thankfully it arrived at Moss Vale just after the sun did that morning.

And just as the sun left the Southern Highlands in October of that year, G535 stormed through Bundanoon at speed.  It is getting a tad long to be described as a true short freight, I suppose…

So its back to the short stuff.  On one of its first forays into the general view in its new and still current livery, in 2004 I braved the elements which always seem to appear whenever I reach for a camera.  On this day 8113 paired with BL27 at Warrabrook.

And finally, the shortest of them all.  Just don’t bother with a loco at all.  Just get a tractor and shunt cement wagons up and down the track, as evidenced in the next photograph from Wauchope in 2006.

So folks, chase the small stuff in life!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alcos at Maitland

I acknowledge the validity of others’ views that Maitland is a ‘hack spot’ unworthy of the serious attention of rail photographers.  But I respectfully disagree.

To this day, Maitland provides two elements of rail photography atypical of most locations across NSW – this first is quantity of offerings, and the other is quality of offerings.  Explaining the first – unlike most NSW locations, there is a steady flow of rail traffic in both directions.  Explaining the second – I disagree that all you see at Maitland is coal trains – sure, there are plenty of those but there are also other gems.  Grain trains, container traffic, passenger trains of every ilk and even rail maintenance trains can be seen in abundance.

And have I mentioned the amenities?  These days I would recommend the burgers at the station’s cafĂ©, the provision of undercover seating and the regular station announcements to warn photographers and travellers alike of approaching events. 

In previous times I could also vouch for the hospitality of the Great Western Hotel, just across the road.  It may still be a great place for lodgings, a cracker jukebox and refreshments (a pie warmer behind the bar).  However it has now lost the one element which made it particularly valuable – train crews.  Even well into the 1990s one could sit in the front bar with a full view of the railway, and listen to the stories of railwaymen as they relaxed after a shift.  Random drug and alcohol testing of train crews seems to have diminished this practice which, on balance, is probably a good thing.

As a result of my affection for Maitland, I am sure that this location will grace this blog on more than one occasion. But now lets start with 22 August 1992 – nearly twenty years ago as this issue goes to cyberspace. 

I journeyed to Maitland on this occasion to photograph the ever diminishing numbers of 45 class and 44 class locomotives.  Of the former I was totally unsuccessful, and in relation to the latter the final score was marginally in the positive.  Still, I had a mighty good time perched on the flood gates at the western end of the station precinct for the majority of the time.  The following are some of the photographs taken that day. 

I will get the only non-Alco shot out of the way up front.  Despite the derision of others and the cost of film, I always photographed the two car diesels which were ubiquitous at that time.  After 20 years and countless shuttles between Newcastle and Telarah, they are no more.

Early in the day (OK, I start later than most) I was pleasantly surprised by triple jumbos on an up interstate container freight.  On this occasion,  44239, 44220 and 44226 were doing the work.

There wasn't much longer to wait before their slightly older brethren - 44212 and 44207 headed northwards with another container train.

While I wasn't getting to see what I had traveled 100 miles for, there was plenty of Alco product in evidence. Mostly the examples were little Alcos in charge of big coal trains, lashed up into groups of three or four.  The first set was the all-red-terror combination of 4864, 4868, 4873 and 4880 heading to the port of Newcastle.

Get ready, alcoholics - there are another four sets of these unit coal trains to come!  Next up was 4860, 4876, 4874 and 4878.

Then it was the turn of 4885, 4868, 48152 and 4886 - the middle two units wearing the first and the last liveries worn by this class of locomotives whilst in public ownership.

Is if to test my patience at observance of these rugged little units the great controllers in the sky (at Broadmeadow Control, of course) sent 4899, 4854, 4856 and 4893 and their train away from the port to return to some non-descript colliery up the Hunter Valley.

Then, finally, what I had come for, actually arrived.  Off the 'Coast' came a burbling 4499 with another container train. 

And then it was back to... you guessed it... 48s!

This time it was another all-red-terror combination -4899, 4854, 4856and 4893 working their way back up the Valley.

By mid-afternoon the bright lights of the big city of Sydney beckoned figuratively, so I headed back to platform 1 for the trip home.  And then, just before my passenger train arrived, two more of the Alco world series arrived - 4482 and 4481 trundled through with a general freight - a bucolic conclusion to a fairly interesting day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tumut town

It is about time to offload a few more photographs into cyberspace.  This time it is the turn of the picturesque village of Tumut in southern NSW.

In May 1981 I was (notionally) busy studying for the NSW Higher School Certificate.  To remove myself from the distractions of the two television stations broadcasting into the Illawarra (yes, children, two channels – not 200), a mate and I decided to head south to his Aunt’s place in Tumut for a week.

We booked seats on the South Mail from Sydney, with a rail-motor connection through to Tumut.  While I didn’t record the event, I do remember my surprise at arriving at Central on a very chilly Friday night to find that we had been booked into a blue Victorian Railways carriage, which was on hire to the NSW Railways.  I also remember that a 421 class had the responsibility at the noisy end of the Mail.  

By far my most vivid memory was the cold in the carriage’s compartment that night as we travelled through the southern highlands.  The cold did not seep into the carriage; it poured in through gaps around the windows and doors.  I swear that every time the 421 class accelerated, the carriage grew a little longer as the gaps widened. 

It was probably escaping from the cold that made the large plate of baked beans at Cootamundra’s Railway Refreshment Rooms perhaps the most memorable dish I have ever tasted  - Okay, so that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it came pretty close.   

Staggering out of the Rooms, we discovered that our connection to Tumut had been cancelled owing to flooding and washaways along the line.  At this time there were real questions as to whether the whole branch line would be abandoned, so this was a blow I felt particularly keenly.  The replacement bus gave us a good view of the damage to the line, especially around Gilmore.

Knowing that the branch line was out of action reduced the number of times that the station was visited that week.  The dull weather was certainly in evidence on the first day that I ventured to the station, as shown in the following photographs.

The dog was a stray, but we got to know and respect each other soon enough.

I spent a considerable period of time that morning walking the yard, sketching the lay of the land as best I could.  Then, of course, I went up onto the station platform to find that the job had already been done for me.

While the engine (loco) shed and the car shed had vanished, the goods shed and yard crane remained.

So did the rather substantial dairy factory, though it was well under threat at this time.

At the other end of the yard there was the rustic 50’ Sellars turntable.

Further along, sitting quietly, was some rather unique rolling stock.  The dentist was in town! 

And so, just as I was getting ready to head back to my lodgings, there was a very, very familiar noise.  Although it was only mid-morning, through the gloom CPH 16 hurtled into the yard at a full 20 kph.  Apologies for the slight blurring of the shock – it was a combination of the dull day, my utter surprise at seeing a train moving on the branch line, and the usual incompetence at estimating focal length and F-stops on primitive SLRs.

After the half-dozen passengers disembarked and disbursed, things went quiet once more.  Rather curiously the CPH was stowed just out of the station, possibly as an anti-vandalism measure?  Anyway, it cast a nice touch against the poplars which framed the yard. 

I don’t remember much else about that holiday, apart from the enduring cold.  We also got a ride in CPH 16 later in the week, resplendent in its silver trim.  I recall sitting next to the driver, peering out at the rough ride back to Cootamundra, and the constant roaring of the little rail-motor’s engine as it climbed hill and dale over the couple of hours it took to return to the mainline. 

It was the first and last time that I got to travel that branch-line, and it remains a very fond memory.   All in all, a very enjoyable week!