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.
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.
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”→
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.