I have had two very nice days so far this June long weekend in Sydney, each capped off with a jaunt from Sydney Terminal to Clyde and return, courtesy of the NSWGR's last remaining nanny, 3526.
Like any 95 year-old it struggled a little with its footing in the rain today, needing assistance from a more junior colleague from the 36 class stables. However on both days its performed sterling service. Here's a shot from yesterday, when the weather was slightly better.
When 3526 was a much younger locomotive, it trod the rails of the north of the state. So it was only really 1967, when it was withdrawn from service to operate on tours for the Rail Transport Museum (RTM), that 3526 came into view of the family's cameras.
Probably the earliest photograph we have of this locomotive was shortly after its allocation to the RTM, when it worked a tour to the NSW southern highlands. Here it stands, taking a drink at Picton in 1967.
Some months later, 3526 scored a 'heritage' style livery, returning to a royal blue hue reminiscent of its 1930s Caves Express days. It was in this livery one rainy Sunday in Wollongong.
The next time it made an appearance on the South Coast was to collect 4203 as a consort before climbing the Ilawarra escarpment on its way to Joppa Junction.
There were to be a couple of years interregnum before 3526 made it into the family slide box once more. But this time was special, because we chased a train using a train. Having missed out on tickets for the RTM's tour to Newcastle on 4 April 1970, the family followed the nanny to that city by regular train.
I don't remember much about the trip to Newcastle, but we were obviously in Sydney to see the loco head north in its newer royal blue livery (with thinner lining).
And we were in Newcastle to see the nanny set off for its return trip.
While this was all very good and nice, the one thing I remember as a very impressionable 6 year old, was the very, very fast trip on the following passenger train - at least from Newcastle to Gosford. It was hauled by a 40 class - I think 4017 from family folk lore - and it was the fastest trip I ever got on a train in NSW until an XPT ride in the mid-1980s. This 40 class left nothing in the tank.
Four decades later, it is still one of the most exhilarating rides I have ever experienced. And it was all done in a clapped out Alco hauling a 10 car train into the fading sunset. And thankfully, the Senior Train Hunter was game enough to stick his head out the window.
But back to 3526. Its next appearance was a non-appearance. It was scheduled to haul a tour train to the South Coast on 11 January 1971. When a diesel arrived with the train, the passengers brought a story of a loco failure at Waterfall. The Senior Train Hunter set off in the Cortina to capture the loco in its disgrace.
Eleven months later there were happier times. In front of a crowded Farmborough Heights, 42103 pilots 3526 up the hill.
Its rather nice to reflect that nearly 40 years later, both are still plying NSW's rails. While both locos have made it, there was a very long time when 3526 didn't look like a museum piece.
In 1975 it steamed out to Thirlmere and then stopped - until its return service in 2004. Since then 3526 has been at the centre of most steam-related events in NSW.
In 2006 it ran shuttles in commemoration of the centenary of Sydney Terminal.
In April 2009 3526 ran shuttles as part of the Maitland Steam Festival.
As part of its current role to provide short distance passenger services, 3526 gets to run a fair bit backwards (tender first, that is). In fact, its probably done more miles in reverse since 2004 than it did in 50 years of NSWGR service. In honour of this, here's a photograph of 3526 setting off to Newcastle from its home base in the 2011 Maitland Steam Festival.
So that brings me full circle - to yesterday. Here's a half-hearted attempt at an art-shot. It is a reflection of 3526 in the window of a glass-fronted building near Burwood, as the loco trails 3642 out to Clyde.
Its a great shame that another member of the 35 class was not saved from the scrapper's torch, as the only thing better than one nanny is two!