This may be the beginning of a series of articles about when things just don’t go to plan when out chasing trains. I hope that it helps those of you out there who think you have had a bad day trackside to put it into perspective!
With the alarm going off at 0330, it was almost too much to bear. The only thing that dragged me out of a warm bed and outside into a cold winter’s morning was the photographic possibilities that the next two days would provide. Embarking on a journey down the NSW South Coast to Bomaderry/Nowra, to follow Manildra/ARG train 9182, export containers to Port Botany from Nowra to Kiama. Unusually, today this train would be headed up by KL81 (ex NSWGR 49 Class), T387, T385 and GM10, rather than the normal black/orange motive power in the form of ARGs 22 (422) and 31 (L) Class locomotives.
Out of the house and into a cab, off to Chatswood to join the first train of the day at 0442 (this train runs to the city then out to Springwood to form a peak hour service Springwood – Wynyard/North Sydney). All too soon, it was back out of the nice, warm, EMU and onto the nearly deserted concourse at Central. It would not be hard selecting my platform, as the only trains present were the 0538 Dapto, the 0547 Newcastle and the 0532 Katoomba services. Selecting my seat in the second car of the train (which, incidentally was an OSCAR), I noted that the toilet was out of order. This was of no consequence for me, as no sooner had the train departed, then I was back asleep, lulled there by the gentle rocking of the train.
Waking up at Unanderra, I stretched and looked around at the Kembla Grange area as we finally pulled into Dapto. After a quick walk to stretch my legs, and a quick poke around a station I’d not been to as a passenger for a number of years (not since the break of electrification there, at any rate!), it was soon time to meet my friend in the parking lot.
After a quick U-turn, we were off to Dunmore, where we paused to watch 9132 PN Stone train for Boral emerge from their siding…
….only to watch them reverse back in, to the chagrin of the motorists waiting to cross the level crossing at the throat of the short branch to the quarry. Lead by 8150 and 8132, the train made a sharp impression on the clear day. As photogenic as the two locos were, soon it was time to head south to Bomaderry, for a feed and the train of the day.
Having finished off some baked goods at the local Bakery, we were trackside at the level crossing where the branch to the Manildra Mill joins the line up to Wollongong and Sydney. Sure enough, KL81 pulled up next to the level crossing, and a crew member popped out to activate the crossing. As they were running a little late, he ran over to set the road for the train. The chase was on!
Well, not really. Fortunately, a mate in RMC (the brain of the Railcorp network) told us that the train had actually lost its path and would have to remain behind until 2000 that night! Such is the problem with the very delicate section of line between Unanderra and Bomaderry – If a train misses its path, it can be very hard to fit it in later in amongst all of the other passenger workings, where, only minutes earlier, there was no freighter scheduled!
Normally the train is scheduled to leave Bomaderry at 1046, but this doesn’t get the train into the metro area until close to 1500. As the peak hour curfew starts then, trying to set up the correct path would have placed it into the metro area right on peak hour, not a popular decision for a controller to make!
Refusing to let this slight setback hold us back, we resolved to relocate to the Main South, to hopefully catch southbound 4BM7 running behind 5NY3, and possibly 4BM4 as well. After a drive up the mountain to Robertson, and on to Moss Vale (to the sounds of The Living End – White Noise), we positioned ourselves at Werai, a famous horseshoe curve located between Moss Vale and Exeter. We were not disappointed, as within minutes of arriving, 8160/4894 were photographed belting around the bend from Moss Vale with empty 1337 grain to Hillston. Back in the car, and back on the road, we were neck and neck with it most of the way south. Pulling off at a photospot just north of Goulburn, we waited for about thirty minutes before realising that it must have screamed through only moments before we arrived! Turns out that 4BM7 and 4BM4 missed curfew too, and were kept in Sydney!
On days like this, it’s worth reflecting on the good time spent with mates, and the actual thrill of the chase – it’s not always about how many photos you’ve brought home, moreso about the laughs you share when you realise that, despite your best efforts, the day has gotten away from you and it’s time to go home, perhaps to work the next day, or perhaps just running errands and household chores. You can always count on the fact that it makes for a great story to tell the next time you’re out and about trackside, during a break in traffic, or on a long journey to the next photospot!