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.
I’m just going to apologise now for the puns in the title. I’m sorry. Can we move past it now? There, now let’s move on.
With booked annual leave for a cruise to New Zealand that was cancelled (ah, Covid-19, the gift that just keeps on giving, am I right?), there was nothing left to do but pick up the camera and head for the sunset. Or whatever railway line got us as close to the sunset as possible.
Long time friend and fellow photographer Greg and I have been discussing the idea of an overall look at the railway lines that straddle the border between NSW and Victoria. Aside from the “North East line” that encompasses the mainline between Sydney and Melbourne, there are several locations where the broad gauge not only approaches, but even has the audacity to cross the border and enter NSW territory. It’s not a stretch in these current times to imagine VR classics like X and S class working their trains into NSW, but to picture them on slightly wider rails? The very idea!
Having not visited Cringila at Port Kembla since the heady days of Pacific National operating a full fleet of English Electric locomotives with BHP heritage, the recent handover of the steelworks contract to Watco gave me the motivation to drop in and check what had changed since my last visit.
Arriving a little after 3pm on Monday the 10th of January, our group was greeted with a fairly common sight – an 82 Class locomotive with short string of 100t “bomb bay” hoppers (in this case, NHSH 3-packs) rolling slowly down towards the blast furnace from the nearby Dendrobium mine. Ten minutes later, one of the NREC genset shunting locomotives (PB3) rolled by on a light engine movement towards the loco depot at Port Kembla North. I’d seen the PB Class shunting around Lysaghts and Cringila fairly often whilst at work on NSW TrainLink services to/from Port Kembla, but only pointed my camera at them once before. It was pleasing to see that not much had changed since Watco took over – a few Watco stickers to cover up the Pacific National logos and not much else was different.
It took another hour before anything else happened, and it barely registered. 8204 shunted clear of the coal unloader before pushing back into a siding out of the way. This was unusual in itself, as typically the coal operations run like a conveyor belt. Whilst one train loads, another one unloads and then they meet in the middle. It took another hour before anything else happened, and that was merely 8203 arriving with another load of coal from the mine.
At this point everyone was dying from the heat of the day, but it seemed that 8203 would be the catalyst to launch the yard into action. Not ten minutes after it arrived, three QL Class arrived with 1MW7 empty coils from Melbourne. Whilst the three big GEs broke apart their train into various roads, 8212 snuck past on the Bluescope mainline with 9833 empty ore concentrates train for Northparkes mine at Goonumbla.
With word that there were empty wagons to be loaded, PB4 arrived from the works with a long rake of loaded coil wagons. Once these were safely secured in the yard, the crew selected two rakes of empty coil wagons from MW7 to take back for loading.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, an Aurizon coal train from Tahmoor colliery arrived in push-pull configuration with 6004 and 6011 for unloading. PB3 also returned from the workshops, rolling back into the mill to find something to do. With the echoes of whistles from other PB Class shunting around the works, it was tempting to stay. The desire to seek out food overruled the urge for more dusk photography however, and it was time to depart. Until next time, Cringila…
Being able to travel by train outside of the daily commute is so diminished in this country that it has become somewhat of a novelty. Such was true in August 2014 when I travelled from Brisbane to Cairns with my friends Chris and Tim on The Sunlander (a now extinct service replaced by a diesel Tilt Train in January 2015).
It’s the second day of my 2021 annual leave and insomnia has left me adrift in a sea of wakefulness at 1am. I went for a two-hour walk, had a cup of tea and some early breakfast and put the washing machine on. Since the Sydney Covid-19 outbreak has all but scuppered any plans to go enjoy my hobby (even locally within the bounds of my own city), why not instead use the time productively? It’s time to dig through the archives and dust off some fond memories that perhaps I’ve neglected. Remember the good trips of the past whilst looking forward to a brighter future.
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.
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.
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.
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.