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 café, 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.


  1. Great shots,always look forward to your updates you have certainly got a great collection of photos going by all of the ones you have put on your blog

  2. Thanks mate! Really enjoying digging up the memories. Cheers, Don

  3. cheers for the pics....I was a trainee engine man at Delec Enfield and went through the grades to become a class 5 driver. your pic above of 4499....I have the last coat of arms off both ends..a memento of my days on the rails. it was the last diesel I drove before going over to the electrics.

  4. Thanks! You must have many good memories of driving those Alcos.