As the previous day had started by the side of the railway line at Harden Station, it seemed only fitting to start Sunday off in the same way. Granted, this time we waited for the sun to come up, and the frost to melt a little. The first (daylight) movement due through was a southbound Steelink service. As is the staple diet for such services, the train was headed by members of the NR Class. In a surprising lash up, NR26, resplendent in “Indian Pacific” livery, led NR’s 85 and 73.
Having seen this gem, it was back to the caravan again to pack up ourselves and prepare for another day trackside. Snacks were gathered, maps were folded (then unfolded and refolded properly), timetables were remembered (only to be forgotten on the backseat most of the day), and we were off again!
Between Nubba and Demondrille
A complete fluke to stumble onto our first photospot, we set up in different locations around another dirt road over the railway line. Opting for a wide angle shot depicting the landscape (farmland) with the train, I set up quite close to the bridge. We were not disappointed, as instead of one heritage diesel leading the train, we had two. 4716 put in another appearance, leading the train, assisted by 4701 with the steamer pushing in the rear. Despite the diesel leading the train, we were not put off, as it’s all a great show, and potential for a great photo, no matter what the noisy end brings!
Before long it was time to give chase once again, and we moved back to Wallendbeen to set up again for the return, when the 32 would be leading the train. The only disappointment here was that the Griffith Xplorer managed to sneak through about an hour early, taking away an opportunity for a shot of a two-car Xplorer cutting through the rich green countryside.
There was no holding back the main show though, and before we knew it, 3237 pushed south, on her way back to Cootamundra. More photos were taken, more rubbish talked, more weeds pulled (we were single handedly clearing the weeds from the roadside this weekend), and it was back in the car and off to find some lunch to fuel our train-hungry bodies.
A Chance Location
Andrew or Fred pointed out a handy looking bridge off to one side (actually the rough location of the long since removed Nubba platform), and after grabbing lunch, it was here we returned to eat. Again, we were not let down with our choice of photospot, as before we knew it, The Southbound Daylight XPT was powering through in perfect lighting.
After sitting down for a typical gunzels lunch (two pies and some form liquid sugar drink), we split up, with Fred going up to the bridge and Andrew and I walking along the line towards Harden to burn off lunch. Looking back up at the bridge, Fred was waving and yelling something. I waved back before realizing that he was trying to tell us that the LVR train was on it’s way!
Bursting out from under the bridge came 4716 and 4701, again leading the train with the 32 pushing in the rear. Amusingly, we watched Fred lining up a perfect shot of the 32 from the bridge (certain to be equal or greater than any shot we could get from trackside), only to be engulfed in thick, black smoke from the funnel. Whoops!
As we were quite keen on this location, we all settled in for a lengthy period of dirt kicking, weed pulling and pointless conversation to await the return of the special. What we didn’t expect was NR83 hauling a northbound PacNat freighter, solo! It was only hauling a short train of twenty or so wagons, but a single NR running a Melb-Syd train is most unusual! We were unclear if this was due to a reduced loading over the long weekend, or due to an earlier locomotive failure.
After a while, I pondered taking a look a bit further up the line towards Harden, so set out towards the curve. Despite a brief moment of worry when the path I was following dropped behind some undergrowth, I was soon presently surprised to emerge at a near perfect location right on the curve. With nobody to talk to, I set about reviewing the days work before a distant whistle broke the silence.
Soon enough, 3237 bolted around the curve in full steam, putting on a great shot for the cameras. That is one moment I won’t soon forget, the sight of 3237 in full steam, belting along through the countryside.
All Aboard to Stockinbingal
We all knew we’d want to ride on the train at least once over the weekend, and opted for the run out to Stockinbingal and back again. We did this for multiple reasons, mainly it is not often that one gets a chance to ride a train along this line (there are no regular passenger trains on this line anymore). The trip itself was very reasonably priced, and before long we set off behind 4716 and 4701 with 3237 pushing in the rear. A brief stop at Cootamundra West for safeworking, and we were soon clanking along at a gentle pace. The gentle rocking of the train, the fine company and the majestic countryside made for a very pleasant trip.
Once at Stockinbingal, I opted to go to the western end of the train, to get some photos of 4716 and 4701 in the afternoon sunlight. This turned out to be a good idea, as all of the punters were down getting photos of the 32 (and, as is typical of such an occasion, planting their kids next to the locomotive so they can get a photo, despite the wishes of everyone else present). Also, as the diesels were on the western end, this meant that the sun was hitting them perfectly, while the steam loco was in shadows.
Some excellent oppertunities were seized around the yard, and some very memorable shots taken. To those out there that say it is impossible to get any good photos while riding on a heritage train, they clearly have not taken the initiative!
All too soon, we were back on the train watching the motorcade of cars chasing the train along the road, with some silly people even hanging out of their cars filming things, at the detriment of road safety, and in complete ignorance of the speed limit (going 50 in an 80 zone is just silly). Joined by Maikha at this stage, we simply chatted away the rest of the journey, and before we knew it, we were back in Cootamundra.
Probably the finest part of the weekend was the dinner we shared with the crew and volunteers of the Lachlan Valley Railway. After a quick beer at the Cootamundra Railway Hotel with a scattered group of volunteers, we were back in the ABS dining car to dine with everyone from the carriage attendants, to the locomotive crew (still showing the stained hands from a hard days work), as well as the various members of the Lachlan Valley Railway Board (including the chairman himself!).
This was quite an experience, rubbing shoulders, talking trains and generally having a great time. It mattered not that we’d only just met these folks, they were keen to welcome us into their family. It was this dinner with the gang that made me want to join up as a member of the LVR, and upon arriving home, I sent in my application. What a great organisation!
The best part of the evening was watching the Chairman stand up and thank everyone for working so hard to make the weekend a big success, and then try to sort out the final day. Watching the discussion about how feasible it would be to turn the locomotives on the triangle, so they could run pointy end first back to Harden, opinions were sought from the Operations Manager, as well as the loco crews. Everyone who wanted to could have a say in the discussion, and there were plenty of jokes to help lighten the mood.
Needless to say, it was the best possible end to a very successful day!
To be continued…