Three, Nine, Eight Two could be any random four numbers thrown together. Indeed, when talking about intrastate train numbers, that’s what they appear to be, four random numbers (perhaps chosen for aesthetic reasoning?) put together and attached to a train. In some cases, it’s for a seasonal runner, so the number is not often known and remembered. In other cases (such as is the case with 3982) it is a regularily tabled service, which may or may not be of interest to trackside photographers.
A breakdown of the numbers should help to explain things clearly. The first number is where the train is coming from (3 – Southern/Riverina Region. In this case, Narrandera, along the Griffith Branch from Junee), while the second number is the trains destination (9 – Illawarra Region. In this case, the Manildra Group Mill at Bomaderry). The third number designates that the train is an Australian Railroad Group (ARG) train. The final number is allocated based on how many trains that company has running from those two areas. In this case, the number is 2 to denote an up (going towards Sydney) train*.
It then becomes apparent that train 3982 is the ARG loaded flour train from Narrandera to Bomaderry hauled on behalf of The Manildra Group. As reported previously in August, earlier this year, the contract has passed from ARG to Asciano Limited (Pacific National/Patricks Portlink), thus requiring a change of train number from 3982 to 3938 (note the last two numbers have changed based on the change in operator).
Due to the start and end point of the train, this makes 3982 unique when compared to the other Bomaderry Flour services (8982 Manildra to Bomaderry and 5982 Gunnedah to Bomaderry), as it does not travel via Sydney Instead, the train moves north along the Main South to Moss Vale, at which point it turns east and slowly descends The Illawarra Escarpment to Unanderra. At this point, the locos run around the train for the final leg to Bomaderry. This means, for almost the entire trip**, it travels outside of overhead wires (which cause issues to many a trackside photographer)
As the author is restored on to work on the last day of 3982 operation, it was decided to go out and chase the third last 3982 ever to run. Incidentally, it would prove to be C504’s last daylight run with ARG, having blown a traction motor on the run down to Junee the day prior. C504 had been on lease to ARG to assist with 3106 having been transferred back to Western Australia (with the rest of the ARG-owned 31/L Class in NSW to follow).
Our group proceeded to Goulburn, before doubling back to Towrang, to find our first photospot of the day. Due to trackwork between Goulburn and Marulan (part of the process of upgrading the entire Melbourne to Brisbane route to concrete sleepers), the train ran wrong road through Towrang at 0816 with C504 on point, assisted by 2208 and 2201. Chase was given to Werai (south of Moss Vale) where the train was photographed passing the famous curve at 0912. The train branches off the mainline at Moss Vale and proceeds down the mountain to Unanderra, and was photographed again slowly moving through Ocean View at 1007 (3982 paused in the loop at Robertson to cross an empty Tahmoor Coalie which was climbing the mountain from Inner Harbour).
Leaving the train behind to begin our own descent of the mountain to Albion Park, next stop was Berry, to stop and have lunch and wait for the train to catch up. The locomotives must run around their train at Unanderra, before proceeding to the refuge at Bombo to allow the track ahead to clear. After a down Endeavour clears the section at Berry, 3982 may collect the staff to enter the Kiama to Berry section. By the time the train has arrived at Berry, the Endeavour has cleared the next section and pulled into Bomaderry Station, so 3982 continues unimpeded right through to Bomaderry. Sure enough, 2201 lead 2208 and C504 through Berry at 1335, and into Bomaderry just before 1400.
As always, thanks must go to Roy Marshall for his continued assistance tracking down the various ARG Trains and their motive power around NSW. Without Roy’s help, most of the photos taken of ARG trains this year would not have been possible. Thanks also to Greg “42101” Gordon and Anthony “42209” Johnson for their continued company while trackside (and for putting up with the drugged up bloke in the back seat).
*Despite the trains destination not requiring it to pass through Sydney, it moves towards Sydney for most of it’s trip. That is to say that Bomaderry is closer to Sydney than Narrandera! Of course, during trackwork and maintenence the train is often diverted through the Sydney area.
**Of course, Unanderra to Kiama is under the wires, although there are limited places to photograph the train on this section anyway