Monday, July 23, 2012

Them XPTs don’t run around here no more

I have long looked for a chance to vent about XPTs. Try second rate, 1960s technology, ill-fitting to Australia’s climate, trackage and even political environment.  Don’t get me started…

Introduced in 1981, XPT train sets were even then just a cheap clone of the English HST – which was by that time very much yesterday’s model in the UK. God forbid, don’t look at what the other Europeans were up to at the time.  It leads to just one conclusion, Neville Wran apparently walked past the Chevy on the showroom floor and bought a Vauxhall Viva.  Still, for a populace less than a decade from riding behind 1892 technology, it must have seemed good at the time.

I suppose that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the XPT.  It is designed to run best on flat, smooth track, in a coolish climate.  Suppose its just unfortunate that we don’t have much of that in Australia.  About 65 kilometres of it to be precise.

I also suppose I will outlive them, maybe, XPTs that is.  I am in good health, but these things look positively ruddy in bloom.  OK, they dribble oil incessantly, but they have proven to be virtually indestructible.  A bit like me really.

The many articles in the railway press foreshadowing their demise are surely written by eternal optimists.  Even accounting for the fact that most things wear out eventually, there is little evidence of authorities being committed to more than bandaging any breakage.   

There is certainly little evidence of wising to invest in long distance rail passenger transport, which these days resemble a mobile nursing home in this writer’s observations. 

Finally, to those optimists I say, ‘remember every other bit of rolling stock every bought by the NSW Government Railways’.  I mean, these people believe in total depreciation of assets.  Apart from the D58 class of locomotive, every item of rolling stock purchased for the NSW railways was completely superannuated when finally withdrawn.  Stick the XPT in with 44s, 42s, 32s and 19 class locomotives, and its reasonable to conclude that XPTs have not even reached their half life.

Sigh… lets get to some photographs.  I must first admit to not having too many photos of XPTs as I consider them to be the long distance equivalent of the Tangara.  So, instead of reeling off a dozen perfectly composed portraits of XPTS, lets celebrate the luck of those who no longer have to put up with the drone of an XP locomotive dragging a gaggle of superannuants in superannuated carriages… lets look at XPTs in places where they don’t run round here no more (apologies to the Long Ryders).
First up, a place where they never ran at all, in regular revenue service… the south coast line.  Here is an XPT approaching Wollongong on a publicity train in 1983.

If they rarely ran on the coast, they were less likely to run and run well on the steeply-graded Unanderra cross-country line.   For a while XPTs could be found at places like Farmborough Heights see next photo) whenever track-work on the Main South dictated a diversion.  These days, passengers get tipped into luxury coaches with the promise of spending quality time on the M5 instead. 

Next up? Yes, you can still see more venerable versions of XPTs at the following location near Campbelltown.  But you can’t see them going to Canberra, like this one was in the early 1980s.  And this is a personal favorite… it takes a special talent to position a seven car XPT behind five poles for a photograph.  Its what makes this blog so different to others.

This next yer’all jist plain can’t git to see no more… yes, it is in Tamworth. Photographed on 22 June 1988.

This one you can see to this day, but not as this train.  In July 1994 a XP is caught in angular profile on the up Riverina XPT at Goulburn.  I personally feel aggrieved that I am not able to say to another human (truthfully) ‘there goes the Riv’, but I suppose therapy will help me adjust.

Next up, an XPT at Central.  How is that special?  Well, this time it really is Central – not Sydney Terminal.  In the days before cross-harbour diesel trips were part of the track-work avoidance strategy, XP2006 cruises into platform 16 on 1 October 1994.

This next one? Well, its sort of no longer possible.  Here we have an XPT set about to head off to Sydney.  Can you see an XPT at this location? Yes, but they no longer leave from Spencer Street station, as this one did on 4 August 1994.  These days, one leaves from Southern Cross.

The next snap is really in the ‘what might have been’ category.  In 1995 the NSW Government was thinking about replacing the XPT, and was actually thinking about up-grading rail passenger transport! A tilt train was imported for demonstration purposes.  To provide necessary haulage capacity and to remove the need to turn the train regularly two XP cars scored a repaint into tilt train livery to perform these roles.  On 20 March 1995 the Tilt train and the relief XPT car sat for a while at Goulburn.

Now, I’ll admit that you can see this next one several times, every day of the year.  However, you will never see an XPT set in this location, this clean.  On 24 April 2006 a publicity event was held at Sydney Terminal to commemorate the new Countrylink livery.  These days, XP2004 and others carry great oily streaks along their car bodies.

And finally, a pretty poor quality snap from the early days of XPTs.  This is thought to be from 1981, at the newly-opened XPT Service Centre at Meeks Road.  Yes, you can still see XPTs there all the time, 31 years later.  However, you can’t see them at this specific spot as there is a huge shed covering the tracks.  So, unless you are invited into the inner sanctum of the XPT temple this scene is no longer available to you.

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