News to Me: The End of Sandown?

4903 and GM22 are waiting for their train to be loaded at Seatons Transport sidings, Rosehill. May 2009.

John Bennett’s Railway from Clyde reached the terminus at Sandown in 1891. Located 24.23km from Sydney and on the southern bank of the Parramatta River, the line was built to serve the river, with a wharf constructed for that purpose. A passenger service was also provided from 1892. Safeworking for the line was Ordinary Staff and Ticket, and a number of sidings for local industry were also provided along the length of the line. The Sandown Line was eventually purchased by the colonial government in 1900 after Bennett’s Railway encountered financial problems, with government operated services operating on the line from 1901.

The line would be electrified in 1959, with a passenger service operating between Clyde and Sandown, stopping at a number of local industrial platforms for the local workforce. The line was also used to store trains when required for race days at the nearby Rosehill Racecourse. By 1990, passenger numbers to Sandown were dwindling, and the final regular passenger service on the line would run in 1991. The wires remained until 2002, for the purposes of storing trains away from the main Carlingford Line when required on race day.

Safeworking on the line was Ordinary Train Staff and Ticket until 1943, when it was replaced by Large Electric Staff. Miniature Electric Staff would then be implemented in 1985, until May 1992 when Ordinary Train Staff was once again re-introduced to the line for a month. The Ordinary Train Staff and Ticket was replaced by Yard Working in June 1992, with trains having to notify Goods Control (located at the Rail Management Centre, Sydney Terminal) to get permission to depart the line. Typically freight trains can only run between Clyde and Rosehill (where the line becomes separate from the Carlingford Line) when they will not interfere with the running of the CityRail service to Carlingford.

Although there were many different sidings along the line, the two that are in place at present are the Shell Australia sidings, and Seatons Transport sidings. The former sidings are all that remain of a large network of tracks and sidings within the Shell Oil Refinery, while the latter is a container depot operated by Patrick.

Shell owned NTAF wagons loaded with fuel at Camelia on 1225 Canberra Fuel. November 2009.

During 2009, Shell Australia announced that it would be no longer transporting fuel by rail. Until 2009, Shell had transported fuel by rail using their own rolling stock to Canberra, Dubbo and (West) Tamworth. Additionally, Caltex had used the loading gantry to load their own rolling stock, bound for Bomen (Wagga Wagga). Pacific National had provided the motive power and crews, having taken over the contract as part of the purchase of Freight Australia in 2004. Normally X or 80 class locomotives would be used on the fuel trains, although it was not unheard of for members of the 81, 48 and even EL classes to be used. PN would run their locos onto the branch at midday to commence shunting the terminal on any given day of departure, departing for Clyde Yard when shunting was complete (which could be anywhere from 2pm to 5pm), ready to depart for their final destination after the evening peak hour (most fuel trains departed Clyde after 7pm, allowing for an early morning arrival into the terminal for unloading, with the empty service returning overnight). Despite the fact that a number of Shell NTAF wagons are stored in the rail loading facility, these have not been used since the gantry closed in March 2010.

In addition to the fuel traffic, Patrick maintains a container facility at Sandown, known as Seatons Transport Sidings. Here, container traffic is brought in and out by road and rail. In April 2010, Patrick announced that the facility would close, with all operations transferred to Port Botany. Rail access into the site would be finished by the end of June 2010, with Patricks PortLink to also finish up all operations by the end of June. The demise of PPL as a rail operator has not come as much of a surprise to some, as PPL have lost a number of contracts in recent years, scaling back operations to a single train to/from Dubbo, and a shuttle train between Seatons and Botany. The final container trip between Seatons and Botany ran on Friday May 14, behind 48136 and 4887 (both units owned by Pacific National). The “regular” motive power for this train, PPL-owned 4903 and 4906 were nowhere to be seen, having failed for the last time the week prior. They are now stored in Botany Yard, pending the decision on their future.

As well as Patricks PortLink, Independent Railways of Australia ran a train from Seatons during the first half of 2010. The train would run from Port Botany or Cooks River as T269, departing after the afternoon peak hour was finished, to run to Sandown. After shunting at Seatons, the train would then depart for Blayney as 1861. Normal motive power for the train were members of the GL and 14 classes (the former on hire from CFCLA, the latter purchased by IRA, then LVRF from Denmark in 2005). The final IRA train to Sandown ran on June 8, behind locos GL101 and 1431.

DL49 standing in Seatons Transport at Rosehill, waiting for T172 to load. January 2010.

With the cessation of the container shuttle service to and from Port Botany, this left only one train operating out of the Seatons terminal – 1877 Sydney to Dubbo container freight, run by Patricks PortLink from Botany to Sandown on a Tuesday/Thursday and Saturday afternoon, ready for a departure that evening for Dubbo, returning as 8178 to Port Botany later in the week. In the last few weeks of this service, Pacific National DL Class dominated the running of the service, with the occasional PN-owned 48 class, PPL-owned 4503 or CFCLA-owned VL351 on the train. Normal practice was for PPL to run two “feeder” trains to Seatons from Port Botany to form the evening service to Dubbo. T185 would depart Botany anywhere from 9:30am to 11:30am, to arrive into Sandown an hour later. The loco(s) on T185 would then shunt the wagons into Sandown to allow containers to be loaded, before the train would be set aside on the loop road to allow for T171 to shunt into the facility. T171 would typically depart Botany at midday, although it would spend a bit of time at Enfield before proceeding on to Sandown. Once both trains had been shunted and assembled, it would form T172 to Enfield where the locos would run around and the evening crew put on the train to take it through to Dubbo as 1877.

The final PPL service to depart Sandown is expected to run before June 31. Road operation will continue from Sandown for a short period of time, before it too is removed, and the facility closed. Interestingly, the reasoning behind the closure of both facilities is thought to be related to high, ongoing operating costs.

Sydney’s Forgotten Industrial Railways – John Oakes
Special thanks to members of the Yahoo Group “Ausloco” for their assistance in compiling this article.

2 thoughts on “News to Me: The End of Sandown?

  1. The NSW ARHA is running a tour by railcar that visits Sandown in Nov so might be last chance to take a look. I can remember taking a red rattler up this line many years ago when it had scheduled passengers services

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