Near enough to 38 years ago in November 1974 the Public Transport Commission decided to take pity on frequent travelers and rail tragics (like myself and the Senior Train Hunter) by introducing a new style of ticket – a 14 day unlimited travel rail pass known as a Nurail Pass. I am not convinced that it was ever widely popular, but the invitation to ride the rails intensively was an invitation too tempting to avoid occasionally.
What follows is a summary of 14 days on the rails – in the depth of winter, knowing it was likely to be the last time a Nurail ticket was worthwhile with impending cuts to the final mail trains rumoured to be effected by year’s end.
The odyssey commenced on Tuesday, 14 June 1988, with a day trip to Cooma and return aboard S37, the down Canberra-Monaro Express. Express it was not – it involved a seven car DEB set working to Canberra, with three cars then working south of Canberra to the eventual destination.
A 7:30am departure from Central produced a lunchtime arrival in Canberra, where a lone 442 was spied in the yard.
And then it was onwards to Cooma, where it wasn’t snowing but it should have been. While the crew reversed the seats on the train, we snuck out for a couple of photographs. Looking carefully at the photograph one can see that Cooma’s residents are a welcoming mob.
The following day was a more leisurely 7:55am departure on W27, the Central West XPT, with a 2:40pm arrival in Dubbo. As the following photograph shows, the Cooma weather had followed us north-west.
That afternoon we walked the railway yard and environs, trying to keep warm. While there we were lucky enough to see a western freight, going further west (this was not to last much longer). Sadly we were cutting across a car park when we saw this train, but you take ‘em when you can get ‘em.
The following photographs were taken around 4pm, with the 48 acting as yard shunter and then a light engine transfer surprising us from the east.
As the sleet set in we decamped to the club, and then it was back to the mighty BAM sleeper by 8:35pm to join this compact W58 West Mail consist to return to Sydney.
A branch liner, 4822, worked the train through to Lithgow. It was then the turn of electric loco 8635 to return we very few passengers to the metropolis.
Arrival in Sydney occurred on time at 5:50am on Thursday 16 June, enabling the Senior Train Hunter to return to the Illawarra on the 6:03am 6 car V set. He had the barest of time there, returning on the up 12:25 express out of Wollongong hauled by 42218 towing a Tulloch set.
By 3:15pm on the same day we were headed west once more, this time to Broken Hill. From car 14 of W1 Indian Pacific we had a good view of 8605 and 8635 taking us through to Lithgow, then being replaced by double 80s at that location. From Parkes (at around midnight), it was a single 80 class.
Friday 17 June 1988 brought us to Broken Hill at 8:38am. I was immediately entranced by the exoticism of seeing double back-to-back GMs being coupled to the train. Well, it was something for a boy from the Coast!
To return one to Indian Red normalcy, 4910 was the burbling shunter.
Enough of them locos! It was time to explore the numerous art galleries in this bohemian city… err, no... actually, it was off to the loco depot. And as these were the days where a polite request almost always guaranteed a ‘yeah mate, just be careful and don’t drive them’ from the local-powers-that-be, such inspections could be wonderful events. And so it was…
Inside the loco shed, 8007 and 8042 lingered at rest.
Alongside these Alcos, another vintage GM sat.
GM18 even had its door open, giving full view to the Spartan accommodations provided to crews. It was even lacking a 5-stack CD player!
Outside the shed was no different. Here sisters 606 and 607 were at rest, sporting quite different liveries.
Later that day we did actually see a few things move, like this east bound freight headed by 8007.
But perhaps the most out of place item was this lonely little S wagon, its days plying rails well and truly over.
That evening we withdrew to the nearby Crystal Motel, as the following morning involved a 5:00am departure on W46 Silver City Comet. From seats 39 and 40 on car 3, we heard DP103 lead our consist at great rate of knots.
There are a few indelible memories of that morning. The cold and dark leaving the Hill, the red ball in the east at dawn, the roos and emus making great hast near the line and the humungous plate of baked beans served for breakfast, laying across four slices of white toast. No pesto in sight. I also remember valiantly trying to study for a contracts law exam, which I ended up getting 51% for so every rail joint was worth it. I did take a break at Parkes to snap the Comet resting in the platform.
Another was taken at journey’s end, around 4:30pm at Orange.
From there it was once more into the modern but utilitarian comforts of W28 up Central West XPT, for a 9:30pm arrival in Sydney that Saturday night. The Senior Train Hunter then departed on a 4 car interurban V set to the coast to arrive just prior to midnight.
And that is where Part 1 ends! Stay tuned for travels to the north, north west and back to the south in part 2.