Sunday, February 23, 2014

South Coast steam tours

This is another in the series of blogs which cover photographs taken just south of North Wollongong station, at the location of my paternal grandparents’ former home.  

After diselisation of the line in April 1964, the steam kept coming… in the form of tours. Apart from its inherent scenic beauty, the proximity of the Illawarra to Sydney (50 miles), its beaches (Austinmer, Wollongong), seaside villages (Kiama), steelworks (Port Kembla) and scope to head up the ‘Mountain’ to Moss Vale and then to loop back to Sydney made it a popular destination for tours.

Most of our family’s collection of steam tour photographs was taken at Wollongong, where the locomotives were watered, or at Famborough Heights where the trains climbed up the escarpment.

Returning to North Wollongong, here’s a broadly representative sample of a wider collection of tours from the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Starting off with the ridiculous, here are two 19 classes, back to back, on a RTM tour on 19 October 1963, headed to Thirroul.

Around the same time, the stately 3810 headed a tour with more comfortable rolling stock northwards.

In an act of painted exuberance, specially-adorned 3830 and 3313 return to Sydney after a tour to the Illawarra on 10 October 1965.

In the opposite direction about ten years later, green classmate 3813 raced through one Sunday morning.

If it wasn’t 38s, it was 32s. Showing Shelleys advertising signs and the coke works’ stacks in the background, on 28 January 1973 3203 steams through North Wollongong on a tour to Kiama. 

Shortly before it was hit with the maroon paint brush, 3214 got a run down the coast on a beach tour. 

30 class locos were regulars on steam tours, but usually arrived in the tender version – 3001T and 3028T being regular visitors in the 1970s. It was not until the late 1980s when 3112 got a dinky little ginty that 30 class tank locos got more familiar with their old stomping grounds.  Here 3112 was captured on 9 April 1998.

Another regular visitor has been the 36 class – with 3616 and 3642 making numerous trips down that way.  Less frequent was 3644 – principally because it met its fate at the scrappers’ torch less than a decade after this photograph was taken.

I am finishing on two immigrants to this country.  The first came and stayed, the other for just a season.  The first came from the Land of the Free – the 59 class were imported from the USA in the early 1950s.  It is fair to say that have spent more time on the Illawarra on tours than in regular service, with 5910 and 5917 being frequent attendees. Here the former heads to Wollongong in 1985 to work a weekend of shuttles to Thirroul.

And finally, a loco which came in 1988 and did not conquer. Its large driving wheels made short work of the flat sections of track between Thirroul and the Gipps Street level crossing at North Wollongong but struggled on the grades elsewhere.  So, it is with some irony that the final photograph is of the Flying Scotsman held at the signal immediately preceding the by-now extinct level crossing, meaning that any momentum it had for the climb up the bank to Wollongong had evaporated.

Still even more to come so please stay tuned!

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