Sunday, December 7, 2014

A few bargains

Twenty years ago yesterday the NSW State Rail Authority auctioned locomotives which were deigned to be either at the end of their service life and/or surplus to current and anticipated requirements.  

In what became known as the Great Loco Auction, at Cardiff on 6 December 1994, 128 locomotives went over the auctioneer's block. Most were indeed at the end of their service life or incomplete, and were nothing more than fodder for scrap metal merchants.  But others were complete bargains, returning to service for the next two decades in various guises and for new operators.  Thought I would mark the occasion tonight by saluting a few of those bargains.

First up, 4814 and 4836 cost a certain Dr Sheerif a total sum of $34,000.  They became the backbone of Austrac's operations until its demise and have since performed sterling service for Junee Railway Workshop and various lessees. I caught them six years after their sale, when they opened up through Canterbury on a trippy in April 2001.

 Another Alco bargain was 4829, purchased by the (then-named) Silverton Tramway Company for $17,000.  It was nearly 34 years of age when purchased, but it received a pleasing coat of Silverton's yellow & blue and was renumbered as ST33.  Over the years it morphed into 33 and it now 48s33.  Only recently it escaped the fate of many former Silverton/Engenco colleagues to be rebirthed by John Holland.  I found it in Orange a couple of months ago whilst chasing an errant dog through a railway yard.

Larger mainline units probably constituted a slight majority of the locos on offer, including a number of 45 classes.  Unlike their near-cousins, the 44 class, 45s haven't prospered in private hands. One which has made it nearly all the way through those two decades has been 4503, although it had to wear the Patrick's 'Big Red Tomato' livery for much of the Noughties.  Here it is on May Day, 2006, at Marrickville. Not bad for an $18,000 investment!

Another to survive the two decades through a series of (ahem) novel liveries has been 4488.  It was purchased for a meagre $17,000. Currently it sits in Goulburn, wearing the IRA/Qube all over silver.  But upon restoration to service in private ownership it wore the lavender of the New Central Railroad, as captured here.

Not all locos were scrapped or went on to wear innovative liveries.  One of my favourites - 4473 - returned to its original kit.  I think I have posted similar shots in other blog entries but, as I said, 4473 is a favourite so here it is once more.  If I had had $16,000 laying around at the time I should have bought it - instead I got a Trainorama version from Tom's at 1/87th of the size and 1/107th of the price.

And now I am going to finish off with a video.  Here's a minute of two great survivors - 44202 and 44220 passing through Marrickville in May this year. These days 44202 wears the silver and yellow of Qube and 44220 is disguised in green and carries the moniker 442s1 as a testament to its Silverton days. Its dark and I have truncated the video to make it easier to upload, but I defy you to disagree that it wasn't worth $60,000 to still have these two darlings dribbling around Sydney's freight lines.

I have had a lot of fun working this blog up - primarily because I have drawn heavily from the most excellent Railway News CD released recently. Definitely recommended as a Xmas stocking filler and it carries a great report of the auction in its December 1994 edition.

Ciao for now!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Kids Special

Great work to 3801 Ltd and LVR for packing 10 cars on this year's special. It's going to be a great day for lots of kids and their carers.

More photos on my other blog, Eumungerie Railway.

Better get off to work

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Picton, Part I

Picton has been one of my favourite places. Apart from the Picton Magpies rugby league team, there always seems to be railway action. The hills around Picton give plenty of notice of this action too, particularly from the south.  And the generations of signallers in Picton Signal Box always seemed friendly, to polite train hunters anyway.

As I have assembled quite a few mediocre photographs at Picton over the years there is enough for a series. While it probably won't be chronological I am going to start off with the stuff that I certainly didn't take as it was nearly before my time. 

First up is 3638 looking resplendent with its red-lined tender, on a fairly humble goods.

Also from the sixties is 4001 with short up goods.  The train itself is as interesting to me as the loco.  Two then-new (I am guessing) CH bogie coal wagons have been tarped and are carrying wheat. These are followed by a series of tarped S trucks - presumably also carrying grain - and then what looks like to be a single load of tarped wool. All off to Sydney.

Taken in 1968 (according to the stamp on the slide mount), 3652 is wrong road through Picton station with an up goods.

Presumably taken on the same day is a light engine movement of a 59 class - which I think was 5914.

Time for a couple of tour photographs, starting with one which will be recreated in 2015 hopefully - 3526 taking water at Picton.

And one which may be emulated in 2015 or 2016, if not recreated - it is 27 October 1968 and 3809 and 6009 hauled a sizeable tour train out of the yard.

Time to finish off with an interstate freight.  This time it is 4408 leading a 45 through the main up platform at speed.

Ciao for now!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last ride on the West Mail

26 years ago this week the last mail trains ran in NSW. The Senior Train Hunter and yours truly had caught a fair few mail trains in the lead up to their cessation, including a number in July that year as part of a Nurail holiday which has been the subject of earlier posts.

As the time approached to their withdrawal, sensibly the administrators refused to expend scarce taxpayers' dollars on the upkeep of the superannuated rolling stock. This should have been a warning but instead I managed to convince my girlfriend of the time that a mail train would be a lovely romantic experience. She only fell for this once, but once was enough.

Concerned that I would be too late to get a berth or that she would change her mind, I remember rushing into the Central Booking Office the following day - only to find that I was the first to book on the sleeper scheduled to leave Central on Friday 18 November 1988. This also should have been a warning.

I don't recall the 46 class at the front of this august experience on the day in question.  I do however remember my companion's incredulous disbelief when I presented her with a three-car train - a MCS sitting car, a XAM sleeper and a LHY van. Her fantasy of an Orient Express experience was shattered.  

I also don't remember much of the trip. Having had a long week at work an no doubt something classy like a railway pie and a beer for dinner, I don't think I was awake at Blacktown. Like any gentleman I dispatched her to the upper bunk so I could check out anything interesting, like the loco change at Lithgow.  

So I don't really remember much at all... until Geurie about 5:30am the next day. I struggled to work out just what was up front. Turned out that there was a reason for this, as there were three Alcos hauling this massive service - 44217, 4808 & 4837.

Shot with the morning sun playing havoc with the shunter's vision, here are our trusty steeds having been detached from the train.

And now its time for a shot of the train itself.  Dubbo station is a bit of a tough place to get a decent wide shot, without a long walk around the yard and I had run out of credits so didn't even bother asking.  Instead I took a quick snap which highlights just why my travelling companion thought I had lost my mind when she first laid eyes on our carriage. 

It was none other than XAM 1888, survivor of the Sheffield Trike Challenge and still wearing its rather novel and striking livery.  As you may have guessed by now, it was hardly worthwhile suggesting further rail-related activities that day!

I did manage a snap of the XPT as it arrived later that day - the XPT was to return us to the big smoke that afternoon.  I managed to fluff the photograph, but have included it in this blog to show you just how tight the clearances were and may still be in Dubbo. 

And no, you don't need to ask - I wasn't encouraged to tour the Science Train parked in the dock!

Ciao for now!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Morriset, May 1969

In the May school holidays of 1969 we did a house swap with a family who lived in Morriset on the NSW central coast.  Unsurprisingly (not) for our family it had a prime view of the short north railway.

I don’t have dates for trip and not many photographs.  And I am not really sure that it was 1969, but it seems to make sense because I think we were trying out one of Dad’s great follies – a Ford Cortina which ended up having more clutches than the Queen Mother.

Anyway, back to the trains. I was ferreting through the sort of stuff that you get told deserves to be in a shed this afternoon and I found, amazingly, a list of the trains seen that week.  It was supposed to be a ‘family holiday’ but I think Dad had one eye looking out the window for the five days.

So here goes... it’s a bit Rain Man to just blog a list of trains from 45 years ago, so I'll just present the first weekend.  The list strikes me for the number of trains (40 in 9 hours on Saturday alone), plus the amount of steam still running on the line.  I’ll throw a few photos from the trip (at least I think they were) to spice things up… 

Friday arrived 5:30pm

5:30pm 40 class on air conditioned passenger set to Sydney

6:10pm 44 with FOs to Gosford

6:40pm 38 on a down Newcastle Express

6:45pm 4513 light engine to Gosford

7:05pm 60 class on goods to Newcastle

7:15pm 2 car diesel set, plus van to Gosford

7:30pm 60 class on a southbound goods

7:36pm 40 class with 9 heavies (passenger cars) to Newcastle

8:00pm Two 2 car diesels to Newcastle

8:15pm Double 44s on the down Brisbane Limited Express

8:25pm 44 on a south goods

8:45pm 44 on Brisbane Express to Brisbane – 3 LLVs, 7 heavies, 2 vans

9:00pm 44 on a southbound goods

9:10pm 43 class on a Mail headed north

9:15pm 44 on a northbound goods

9:20pm 44 and a 45 on a northbound goods

9:27pm 60 class light engine to Gosford

9:37pm 2 car diesel and van to Newcastle

9:50pm 48 on a southbound goods

10:10pm 44 on a north bound goods

10:15pm 38 class on a southbound goods

10:17pm Double 44s on a northbound goods

10:21pm 45 class on a goods to  Sydney

1:30pm 45/45/44 on a goods to Sydney. 


6:20am 59 class on a south bound goods

6:25am 6023 and 6002 on a goods to Broadmeadow, crossed the up Brisbane Express

6:35am 6008 on a northbound goods

6:40am 2 car diesel to Gosford

7:05am 3820 on a passenger to Newcastle – 10 cars

7:15am 4016 on a northbound goods

7:40am 3822 on an up Newcastle Express

8:00am 2 car diesel to Gosford

8:30am 44 and a 45 on a northbound goods

8:40am 2 car diesel to Newcastle

9:20am Double 44s on a southbound goods

9:25am Northern Tablelands Express – 7 car DEB set

9:40am 44 on the North Coast Daylight

9:40am 4441 and 4428 on a southbound goods

10:05am 2 car diesel set to Newcastle

10:35am 6022 on a goods to Broadmeadow

10:40am 2 car diesel set to Gosford

10:55am Two 2 car diesel to Newcastle

11:15am 44 on a down Flyer to Newcastle

11:30am to 12:30pm 5901 shunting the down pickup to Newcastle

11:55am 4415 on southbound goods

Noon 4515 and 4301 on southbound goods

12:45pm 6029 on southbound goods

1:00pm 2 car diesel to Gosford

1:15pm 4495 up interstate goods

1:20pm 48121 and 48122 on northbound goods

1:30pm 4417 and 4472 on southbound goods

<took a break from train hunting for a few hours, obviously>

5:20pm 44 on a goods to Newcastle

5:35pm 4002 on the up North Coast Daylight

5:50pm 4016 on up Newcastle Flyer

6:40pm 2 car diesel and van to Newcastle

6:55pm 45 and a 40 to Gosford (train unknown)

7:05pm 60 class on southbound goods

7:45pm 40 class on down Flyer

8:00pm 60 class on southbound goods

8:15pm Double 44s on the down Brisbane Limited Express

8:20pm 60 class on anther southbound goods

8:25pm 44 on a south goods

8:35pm 44 on Brisbane Express

8:40pm 44 on a southbound goods

8:55pm 4305 on a southbound goods

9:00pm 60 class on a goods to Broadmeadow

9:02pm 44 and a 45 light engine southbound 


7:50am 4010 on an up passenger

8:20am 4493 on an up Flyer

9:00am 4303 on a southbound goods

9:15am 44 and a 45 on a goods to Newcastle

<dragged away until nightfall >

7:15pm 43 and a 45 on a northbound goods

7:40pm Three 2 car diesels to Gosford (balancing?)

7:55pm 40 class on a Newcastle passenger

8:05pm 44 class on a Sydney bound passenger

8:15pm Double 44s on the down Brisbane Limited Express

8:50pm 44 on a passenger to Newcastle crossed by a 44 on a southbound goods

9:10pm 40 class on a Newcastle passenger

9:25pm 44 on a goods to Newcastle

9:35pm 48 class on a goods to Sydney

9:50pm 44 class on a goods to Sydney

Now for the photos... I think this 5901 on the Saturday pickup.

This is a photo taken later in the week - of 3813 returning to Gosford light engine. The photo was taken from the driveway of the place we were staying. Any trees between the house and the line may have been pruned by this time.

And here is a shot of a 43 going away on a northbound goods.  In the consist there appears what looks like a steam loco boiler...

I had better explain the colour versus black & white snaps - like many families we borrowed the 'family camera' from my grandparents which usually had colour slide film in it.  The Hanimex Instamatic (loaded with much cheaper Ilford black & white print film) did all the less important stuff - like family photos and diesels!

I am going off to type up the rest of the list - lots of 44s, 45s, 38s and Garratts. 

Ciao for now!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Comet

This is the 100th post for this blog, which is a bit of a milepost for me starting and sticking to the job. Gratifyingly, I seem to be rapidly approaching the 50,000 pageviews for the blog too (and not all of them are mine!).

Anyway, today is significant for greater reasons.  Twenty five years ago today (2 November 1989) the Silver City Comet ran its last regular revenue service, having commenced as Australia's first air-conditioned passenger train just over 52 years prior to then. 

While the Comet did a few years' service between Sydney and Newcastle, it spent most of its service life plying western lines - from Orange to Broken Hill and to Dubbo. And it is in this service that one of our first photographs of the Comet was taken in the mid-1970s.

I always thought that the previous photograph was at Orange, but am not so sure these days.  The large building in the background looks a bit like the Bathurst gasworks.

No doubt about this next one being in Orange - just out of it actually, on its way to Dubbo in 1977.

And when the Comet made it to Dubbo, it was parked opposite the station when I snapped it in December 1979.

The Comet's spiritual home will always be Broken Hill. Keen eyes will pick the tuscan EHO at the rear of the train.

For the greater part of its period of operation the Comet ran in a distinctive silver livery with blue lining.  In the 1950s it scored a tuscan and russet livery, which was replaced by a complete tuscan scheme.  The last non-silver iteration was the candy scheme, which was rather less than flattering.  Here is a 'Hill' bound service, in the middle of nowhere.

My last trip on the Comet was in June 1988, which required a 4:30am start in the Broken Hill.  Taken from the Comet as it stood at Parkes station, here is a view of the Comet depot/graveyard.

And shortly after we hopped off at Orange, the Comet was snapped basking in the late afternoon sun.

Appropriately these days the class leader may be found well cared for in Broken Hill.

I have a lot of fine memories of the Comet but none more than the breakfasts served in its spartan dining car. While quality was almost absent, devouring four slices of white toast completely submerged in baked beans at 100kph as the Comet raced towards the sun at dawn takes some beating.  Especially as when one looked out of the window, emus and 'roos could be seen taking flight from the railway right of way.

Ciao for now!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Travels with & in Uncle Sam

Over nearly a hundred posts on this blog I think I may have displayed a fairly parochial view of railways.  To recompense, it may be time to  display a broader horizon, starting with my various travels in the United States of America.

I have been there a fair few times - some might say a few too many times. Say what you want about the place, the central place of railroads in modern America has been a particular interest of mine.  The first trip I made around the States taught me a lot about how big and different railroads were over there.

Growing up accustomed to an hourly freight train being a good day on many NSW lines, I remember being gobsmacked at the Transcon in western California and Arizona when first there in 1990.  Seeing four, five and even six diesels sitting on 90mph pacing the Interstate was something you just didn't see anywhere in NSW at that time. With four mates, I did 4,000 miles over five weeks in December 1990. Scenes like the following were, to coin a phrase, a dime a dozen.

The States has many examples of railroad decay - though not as many in 2014 as they did in 1990. One Sunday morning in Alabama the rest of the touring party were in bed while I toured the former station at Montgomery - Amtrak had relocated to a utilitarian building adjacent to this majestic shed.
This was my first train trip in the States - 3 January 1991 on the Texas Eagle.  Over the next eight days I travelled from Texas to Chicago, then to Portland Oregon on the Empire Builder, then back to LA on the Coast Starlight.  A truly great experience, starting with this quick snap of me about to board in Austin on a freezing morning.

Later that day in Dallas I hopped off for a walk to find this crazy guy doing a few running repairs.

I actually managed to fluke a half decent shot of the Empire Builders crossing in the middle of Nowhere.

I saw the snow drifts build up to the window level, so the following shot was pretty mild.

Again, from the rear carriage of the Empire Builder... a view of Nowhere, next stop, Oblivion.

Will finish up with a couple of shots of the Starlight.  The first from Oregon and the second much closer to southern California.

So its been nearly 25 years since my first trip Stateside.  Over the next 100 blog posts I will try to bring you a few other half interesting shots from the Land of the Free.


Thursday, October 16, 2014


On hols at the moment. I checked out the wooden trestles at Lismore. Still there but unlikely to see a train tread safely over them.

Saddest sight in Bangalow must be the railway station. Once was one of the prettiest stations in NSW.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Go bunnies....

Its early Saturday morning, on the start of a long weekend which may see my beloved and most exasperating bunnies win a rugby league premiership for the first time in 43 years. To be honest, its not just the lack of success but the lack of a prospect of success for 41 of those 43 years - in only two years (1989 and 2012) could anyone say that Souths had a fighting chance.
Anyway, to give readers a sense of how long this really is, I thought I would trawl the annals for a few things that were happening the last time Souths played in a grand final.

Steam locos were still in regular serice, like 3102T at Dubbo...

Rail tours weren't called 'heritage experiences' or had diesels pushing from the rear, like this one to Kiama by 3028T in February 1971...

Or this one to Canberra by 3229 and 5274...

Even when they were added to tour trains it was only because a steamie had failed and diesels were then attached to the front of the train so the cinders from a working steam loco had no chance to lodge in the diesel's air intakes. Here was a nicely turned out 3526 at Wollongong, on its way to Joppa Junction in 1971.

And 1971 was a year of decay - most notably at Enfield where the rusting leftovers of 18th century technology awaited a date with an oxy torch, like 1948 and 1903 in the following scene

So I am hoping for a great game tomorrow night. Canterbury will be a formidable and worthy opponent. Win or lose, at least now I won't have to watch replays of the 71 grand final to remember what success means.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Epic fail at Waterfall

Time for a whimsical look at Waterfall, to give those IMRA folk something new to model...

There are many definitions of failure, and I have invented a few myself.  Here are a few at Waterfall.

First up, 3526 disgraced itself at Waterfall en route to Wollongong in the early 1970s.  I was pretty young and impressionable at the time, and was deeply affected by an RTM tour train arriving in Wollongong with a diesel at the front end.  But enough about me, Waterfall yard held the Nanny captive for a few days until it was towed back to Enfield.

Here's an epic fail of another dimension. Taken on the night of fires in the Royal National Park (with tragic loss of life) around 1979, it is less a photo about trains and more a photo about life's struggle in Australia.

Back to the rails.... the prosaic Metro coal scored a newly repainted 48119 at Waterfall in 1993 after the original combination of 4842 and 4839 couldn't do the job.

I think the failure in the following photograph will become evident in the next decade. As the Aussie dollar drops back to usual levels and world oil prices creep up again, we may be well be ruing the decision not to invest more heavily in electric freight traction.

Next one is an epic fail on my part - I actually drove to Waterfall in the early 1980s to photograph a V set on its trial.  Then, for the next 30 years, V sets ran through Waterfall about 50 times a day, every day.

Another loco is down... this time its 2005 and GM42 expired when on ARG's Manildra flour train. So it got a visit to the outer reaches of Waterfall's yard.

And finally an epic fail.  A shunting accident in 1995 left a substantially shortened version of a suburban carriage, so what was left was parked on the turntable, as one does.

So, Waterfall seems to be a harsh place.