Sunday, October 14, 2012

The last P class

Disappointments, I have had a few. 

One occurred about 40 years ago on 14 November 1971 when standing at Farmborough Heights, waiting for 3229 to lead 3526 ‘up the mountain’ on a tour.  My disappointment was manifest when 42103 hove into view in the front of 3526.

 Apparently the P class had failed just prior to the tour.  It had been a bit of a celebrity during 1971.  Most notably it had headed a tour to Canberra in March of that year with 5212. 

3229 had spent the majority of the year as the shunter for Goulburn and had been used in June 1971 to work to Crookwell after 3642 had brought a tour from Sydney.  It was also the last P class in service, so it was a precious little thing.

Still, with every disappointment there is usually scope for a new opportunity.  And so it was, in 1971 at the end of steam, that the Illawarra got its own little P class for just a little while. During the week after the tour, repairs were made to the little 4-6-0.  Soon it was well enough to be steamed up at Port Kembla.  

Shortly thereafter, it was well enough to make that trip up the hill to its home on the southern highlands.  This trip was made mid-week, so another disappointment ensued for this school boy who was not permitted to see the following scenes.

And then there was the final disappointment.  By Christmas 1971 3229 had been withdrawn and the P class were gone in their 80th year of service.  3229 made one last trip the Illawarra the following year, and it too was an unhappy one.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


A certain car race, such as the one happening this weekend, is not the only thing that happens in Bathurst. Internal combustion engines of another type are regularly found down at the station, so lets have a look at a few I have found there over the years.

First up, a class of loco that was synonymous with Bathurst from its introduction in 1960 through to the late 1980s, the 49 class.  Here 4910 shunts near the old loco shed in 1980.

A couple of years later 8021 and 48122 were being held in Bathurst's platform road, waiting for the go-ahead for Lithgow and points east.

The previous two photographs were taken in January 1980 and 1982 respectively.  Slowly this photographer learned to visit Bathurst outside of the heights of summer and the depths of winter.  In a much more benign month in 1983 it was possible to walk over to the loco depot to get a close-up of 4917 at rest.

As stated earlier, Bathurst was a 49 class town.  Here are a couple more shots from the 1980s of this fact. In October 1985 4913 was the duty shunter for the Labour Day long weekend.

By the late 1980s, the class had commenced receiving the 'candy' livery.  When it faded, it was less than flattering on the GMs.

Bathurst wasn't always the abode for 49s.  Occasionally those pesky Alcos would appear - as 4891 did in 1994.  Though it was parked in a fairly surreptitious position.

Now, for more than a subtle change in locomotive types - here is a Dubbo-bound XP power car in its original livery in 1982.  From memory, the uniformed gentlemen at the end of the platform are not about to jump on the XPT, but are the crew for the 44 class which is awaiting the departure of the XPT.

Lets get to more modern stuff.  Perhaps the most exotic creatures to visit Bathurst these days are the 'Helgas' - ex-Danish Railways NOAB locomotives now carrying the MZ moniker. In June 2010 MZ 1434 waited at Bathurst to follow the east-bound West XPT towards Sydney.

A much more prosaic version of the same train  was worked by 8164 in September last year.

Container freights can be found regularly in the environs of Bathurst, such as this one with GLs 105 and 104 in December 2010.

And finally, it always pays to take a good look in every corner at Bathurst as it has always been used for the storage of wagons.  There has been a motley collection of freight wagons at the eastern end of the yard for years.  Tucked in behind them is a series of storage tracks which are rarely used these days.  However, perhaps due to the shade offered by the substantial gum tree in that part of the yard, it has become a bit of a parking spot for locos on the rail trains.  Below, B65 cools its heels in November 2011.

Back to that car race!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Northern Rivers

As its been, according to my notes, precisely 15 years to the day that a brave rail transportation experiment was attempted in northern NSW.

On 2 October 1997 42107 and 42109 hauled the first revenue-earning freight service for the Northern Rivers Railroad. The private company had been formed sometime earlier, with the intention of operating a passenger service for the tourist market along the Casino to Murwillumbah branch line.

However on this day 15 years ago,freight services were also commenced along this very picturesque railway.

I only happened to see the NRR (as it became to be known) in operation along this branch once, so you are going to have to put up with a few shots of the same train as part of this salute.

To set the background for this, it was no rail chasing weekend.  I had been in the north on business and just 'accidentally' drove by Murwillumbah station on my way south on 30 September 1998 - so the NRR was just about to celebrate its first anniversary of freight haulage.  

I was very heartened to find 42103 at the head of a short freight, idling in the station... 

And even happier to find a gleaming 42107 tucked in behind it...

Soon enough, the chase was on.  All I had with me was a $50 Instamatic camera of 1980s vintage, loaded with 100 ISO film.  Still, it was better than nothing I reasoned.  The following photograph, taken near Burringbar, tested the old Instamatic to a bit beyond its boundaries.

At Byron Bay, a slowly accelerating train gave the camera a bit more latitude.  42107's emissions were another form of latitude.

My final snap came on the outskirts of Lismore.  It was a trailing shot of the two locos making good time, as they had done the entire journey.  

This photograph includes the supposed Achilles heel of the branch line - its aging timber bridges.  These structures were used as the reason to close the entire branch within a decade, by which time the freight service had also succumbed to road freight competition.

Nonetheless, the NRR livery still treads the east coast on its former locomotives.  And none looked better than the 421 class in this startling coat of paint.  So, thanks for trying NRR!