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!

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