And so while it is true that along the eastern seaboard of Australia the number of rail operators is increasing, traffic volumes are continuing to grow and new rail lines are being planned, I hold concerns for the long term viability of the larger part of the Australian rail freight industry. These concerns are based on the loss of traffic sources - mostly as a deliberate decision not to compete against road freight.
Anyway, this is neither the time or place to wax on about about such things; lets take a look at 10 commodities the railways no longer carry in NSW...
1 - Bulk fuel
A relatively recent loss of traffic in NSW, though it seems an age since the junior train hunter captured 8143 and 48158 taking this bulk load of fuel through Picton in January 2003, headed to Bomen.
2 - Bulk milk
Probably thanks to all those soy milk drinkers who just didn't exist in the 1970s, we no longer have beaut little trains like the afternoon milko running on the south coast. Here is 48120 doing the honours on one such train during that decade.
3 - Beasts of all types
In this case it was cattle. I usually associate stock trains with bucolic branch lines, but on a hot day in February 1985 8001 and 8022 were discovered refuging their down stock train at Yass Junction.
4 - Coke, and not the coke that is the real thing or adds life...
We are talking here coke coke. The small black stuff that made furnaces burn brighter. During the 1970s the NSW railways were even obliged to hire D42 from BHP to haul local goods trains, like this on down coke train captured at North Wollongong around 1978. No need these days..
5 - Bulk timber
Most of NSW's rail haulage of timber was confined to the north coast after 1960, such was the extent of logging during the previous 100 years! One pleasing attempt at obtaining new timber traffic (logs for export) was made by private operator Austrac and later taken up by Freight Victoria/Australia in the late 1990s. Next is a shot of Austrac's 1872 on log train at Mt St Thomas in 1999.
6 - Bulk and loose mail
For 130 years bulk and loose mail formed the basis of NSW's country rail system, augmenting passenger revenues. Only last week I stood at this very spot where an ATP was being loaded in the early 1980s, just as the junior train hunter asked what went on around here. Its difficult to contemplate the loss of logistical capacity associated with the demise of this freight traffic.
7 - Fresh fruit
In this case in particular, bananas! Here at Coffs Harbour X214 was found shunting a GLX into position to receive another load of Woolgoolga's finest - headed for Flemington later that 1980s day.
8 - Rutile
I have next to no idea what rutile even is, and I am certainly sure that I would prefer to stay ignorant than to go onto wikipedia to find out, but I think its white and used in cement, and I think that the first wagon behind 5490 as it passed by Enfield loco depot in the mid-1960s was a rutile hopper. Just a guess really.
9 - Money!
And it was carried to the thousands of railway employees in these cute little railway pay buses, such as this day in 1982 in Grafton.
10 - And interesting stuff...
One thing the NSW railways did really well for a very long time was the unexpected but important socio-economic and community-building stuff - like better farming trains, baby clinics and dental trains, hospital trains during the war, 'reso' trains, coronation trains and just 'interesting stuff' trains stocked with semi-valuable curios from museums (the real valuable stuff was never let out).
And even if you couldn't see in, the carriages were always painted in an interesting way, like these depowered Tulloch carriages which were co-opted into the NSW Exhibition Train in the late 1970s.
There are many more examples of commodities lost to rail over the last four decades. Hopefully one day I can do a splob on 10 things now on rails, one day soon.