Sidings. I have known a few. I am just returned from three weeks in the southern USA, largely not train watching (in fact, I had a remarkable ability to only maintenance work being undertaken) and the rear end of trains disappearing into the distance.
From the little I saw I was reminded just how much industry was still served by rail sidings, compared to what I have become accustomed to here on the eastern seaboard of Australia. It rubs against my preconceived ideas of the lean, highly competitive stripped-back US rail freight business, with big, long unit trains. In the southern US states (at least) most towns had at least one operating siding. Lots of tanker (oil and gas) and ‘box car’ loadings. This brought with it a fair smattering of what I call conglomerate trains – that is, not a uniform or unit loading. This traffic was not the sole province of short line operators either – I managed to see BNSF, UP and Norfolk Southern operating trains which carried grain, auto-racks, flats, boxcars and gondola traffic, all in the single train. It was most refreshing!
Sadly, in New South Wales, this sort of traffic has gone to road and it unlikely to ever return due to our predilection to rip up infrastructure and to straight-rail sidings. Even the trains we classify as ‘shunts’ like the Harefield shuttle and the Grafton/Coffs Harbour cement are trains carrying one or two types of commodity (containers and sugar/cement, respectively).
Bringing this ramble back home, it got me thinking about sidings. I didn’t make a practice of photographing sidings as a youngster and I kick myself now, for the Illawarra was rich with them. Apart from colliery and quarry sidings, there were coke sidings, co-op sidings, milk sidings, general goods, fuel depots and probably others I can’t recall. Anyway, I have gathered a few snaps from around the State of NSW where the focus wasn’t on the main line. So here goes…
Here's a siding I photographed deliberately - the United Dairies siding at Lithgow 3 October 2002.
Sticking with the milky theme - Tumut in 1981.
Another sort of dairy siding (I love milk) - Gloucester 12 February 1993.
A siding for another sort of liquid - Armidale fuel siding on 9 July 1994.
Happy to be corrected but I think Unanderra had the only cattle race in the Illawarra by the 1980s. Not the finest shot!
Further south, Bomaderry had 48127 attending some wagons in one of its sidings on 28 July 1993.
Back up north, 48140 and 4475 are about to leave Ardglen's ballast quarry siding on 25 October 1991.
And then to Barraba, where 4861 was heading a container train out of its siding in 1977.
And lets wrap up with a black & white photograph of a loco that did its best work in a siding... X202 at a busy Yass Town in early the 1970s.