Trackside 2.0

It seems fitting that for the year of 2020, we should revisit Trackside. Perhaps we could call it “Trackside 2020”. Perhaps we shouldn’t though, because this year has been an abomination for so many people. Should we wait until 2021? Perhaps not.

Why not simply, Trackside 2.0?

As has become the new norm, personal asides and stories will be found on my other blog, Beyond A Thousand Words (who comes up with these awful names, anyway?)

If you’re interested in stories “from the front lines” (of the war on train photography?) and other such personal nonsense, I’d suggest clicking over there. Instead, I’d like Trackside 2.0 to become a companion to my Flickr site, specifically the place to find information and background about locomotives, operators and even some more interesting trains.

Will I attempt to compete with the likes of Wikipedia in the level of depth of railway knowledge and know-how? Not a chance, it’s likely this won’t even come close. But hopefully it will inform as well as entertain, and also provide some much needed background to the hobby that I enjoy so much.

If you’re new to Trackside, then welcome. If you’re a reader from years past, then welcome to Trackside 2020. I mean 2.0. Oh bugger it.

Hunter Valley Observations – September 2020

9031 at East Maitland
9031 passing East Maitland with MR926 loaded coal. Despite having been in service for some 35 years, the 90 Class are still important to the Hunter Valley coal network.

Sometimes it’s nice to not have a specific goal in mind, a specific train to chase or a specific location to shoot at. It is with this idea in mind that frequent companion Todd and I found ourselves touring the busy Hunter Valley coal network on Sunday, no clear goal in mind, just the idea that we wanted to see what we could see.

As my last visit to the region was in April 2019 for Steamfest, and as I’d missed out on Steamfest 2020 thanks to Covid-19 (there’s a phrase we’re unfortunately slowly getting used to, but I digress), it was interesting to revisit the area and compare notes on both visits to see what has changed.

Continue reading “Hunter Valley Observations – September 2020”

A Surprising Return – The NSW 86 Class

Electrifying Event

In October 2018, Sydney Electric Train Society locomotive 8606 surprised enthusiasts by running a railset from Clyde to North Sydney. Crewed by Pacific National as part of their Sydney Trains maintenance contract, this was the first electric traction on freight traffic since 2004. Before we can look too far towards the future however, perhaps it’s important to first look at a brief history of electric traction within NSW.

Continue reading “A Surprising Return – The NSW 86 Class”

Horsepower Roundup – The 47 Class

4701 at Sydenham
4701 at Sydenham.

Editors note: This article originally appeared on Trackside in 2012. It is presented here in mostly original form although with more recent updates to the operational 47 Class included as of September 2020.

The 47 Class – Problem Children

The final bastion of steam in NSW would be the Hunter Valley coalfields. With increasing tonnages of coal to be transported, the NSWGR required a class of branchline locomotives capable of treading lightly on some of the more unfriendly colliery branch lines in the region. While modern coal trains are hauled by the heaviest power in the state, this was not always the case, with lightly laid track and short trains calling for a different approach.

Continue reading “Horsepower Roundup – The 47 Class”

Horsepower Roundup – The 45 & 600 Classes

Obligatory Roster Shot
602 at Wellington Station in 2020.

The 45 Class – Early Life

The New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) ordered a total of 40 DL531 locomotives from A.E. Goodwin/Alco, Auburn NSW from 1962. Mechanically very similar to the DL500 “World Series” 44 Class that predated them, the 45 Class were of a hood design rather than a full carbody, with the goal of reducing turnaround time for maintenance.

The 45 Class debuted on express passenger working including the prestigious “Southern Aurora” train before eventually settling into Northern and Western division working. Like most of the NSW Alco fleet, they saw their final years out at Broadmeadow before being superseded by the newer 82 and 90 Class, with the exception of 4525 which was written off in an accident at Robertson in May 1972.

Continue reading “Horsepower Roundup – The 45 & 600 Classes”

Staff and Semaphore

Early in the morning of Wednesday, June 18, the Miniature Electric Staff (MES) system of safeworking in operation between Kiama and Bomaderry was suspended and replaced with Pilot Staff Working (PSW) to permit the miniature electric staff instruments to be removed, with the system of safeworking to be replaced with Rail Vehicle Detection (RVD). This would be the final step in replacing all MES sections on the Sydney Trains (formerly RailCorp) suburban and intercity network. Continue reading “Staff and Semaphore”

Just Run With It

Given our recent performance, there’s plenty of reasons to just stay home and watch the cricket. Having said that, when the opportunity to chase a Qube Logistics freighter during daylight hours on the west arises, it’s a convincing case to get off the coach and get a plan in motion. This was how, when many were settled in front of the TV, we found ourselves peering over a cliff into Glenbrook Gorge, looking for trains.

We arrived at the gorge at a little after 2pm. Content to laze in the shade (occasionally panicking when we imagined we heard a family of brown snakes stealthily moving towards our position) and watch the NSW TrainLink Blue Mountains services drifting down the mountain. Finally, as the clock approached 5pm, some action! A diverted (and delayed) 7SP5 Pacific National superfreighter to Perth was photographed grinding up the grade towards Glenbrook Tunnel behind NR Class locomotives 67, 23, 76 and 116.

Continue reading “Just Run With It”


GM22 leads four other streamliners through Cowan with M820. This train experienced delays further north, and would continue to be delayed before it could reach Sydney (see below).

On a day in which many people filled The Gabba in Brisbane to watch Day 2 of The Ashes series, passengers and train crew on the Central Coast line (known as “The Short North” to railfans and railwaymen alike) were having a less than exciting day. Problems seemed to come thick and fast disrupting both NSW TrainLink passenger services and freight trains in both directions. Myself and a handful of other enthusiasts gathered at Cowan Station to bear witness to the proceedings.

The troubles began at Wickham early in the morning when a motorist damaged level crossing equipment at Wickham (Newcastle). Train services were suspended in both directions between Broadmeadow and Newcastle and buses were called in to replace (and later to supplement) train services. This then had a flow on delay to freight services heading south from Broadmeadow yard, as they were unable to leave on their paths – forced to wait in the yard for the late running passenger services to pass, to permit the slower freighters to follow. Continue reading “Cowan”

CM3301 “Red Handed” Delivered

CFCL Australia have accepted the first delivery of their new “CM Class” locomotives from MotivePower Inc. The first of the class, CM3301 “Red Handed” was delivered by FL220 to Goulburn on July 27th, 2013, having been unloaded at Port Kembla the day before. Running as train number 9271, FL220 hauled a covered CM3301 and wagon NOGF 5251. The train departed Port Kembla Inner Harbour at 1700, bound for Goulburn via Unanderra and Moss Vale. CM3301 is not the first of CFCLAs locomotives to carry the name “Red Handed”, with this name previously being carried by RL301.

This was not the first interesting train to traverse that line today, with 3642 having hauled a tour train to Robertson earlier in the day. The newest, and one of the oldest locomotives in the state passing through the same town within a matter of hours? Couldn’t plan that better if you tried!

Click on any image below to view a larger size (link opens in a new window).




With thanks to Richard Whitford for his assistance.