First and Last

When it came to the last photographs of 2011 and the first photographs of 2012, there was remarkable similarity. Both outings were aimed at capturing the Centennial Coal/SSR coal train running between Newstan/Clarence and Kooragang Island, although at very different locations.

December 30th, 2011

Having received a tip off that unit 81, CA02 loaded coal from Clarence to Kooragang Island would be departing the loop at Flemington in the late afternoon, an old favourite shot at Meadowbank beckoned. I’d not used the location since 2007, when I’d photographed a handful of trains from the northern side of the Parramatta River in October ’07. At the time, I’d only recently purchased my first “real” camera (a Canon 400D DSLR), and was still getting to grips with settings, composition, lenses and so forth. Fast forward to the end of 2011, I’ve been using my Canon 5D MkII for two years now, and I’m very comfortable with it – I’m so comfortable, that were a suitable replacement to be released tomorrow, I’d certainly think twice before upgrading. It’s been exceptionally reliable, and a lot of the results I share with everyone are due, in part, to the excellent quality of the equipment.

I had arrived by the river a little after three in the afternoon, content to take photos of the various CityRail and CountryLink trains until the “main event”. With four suburban trains an hour, at least two interurban trains an hour and three CountryLink services expected, there was plenty to practice on. The variety of trains varied from the veteran S and K sets, to the ultra-modern OSCar trains, which are still being delivered into 2012.

Shortly after 5:30pm, the distinctive sound of EMD and ALCo locomotives under load could be heard echoing across from the Rhodes side of the river, as they departed the down relief line onto the down main. Ever since arriving, a side goal had been to photograph a train on the bridge, while a ferry went under the bridge. Sure enough, with C502 on the bridge, “Fantasea Spirit” could be seen poking her nose out from the shadows. A couple of clicks and a wave from the crew, and we were done for the day, happy to retire to Darling Harbour for dinner and drinks.

January 2nd, 2012

After a successful New Years Eve fireworks display, it was time to track down the other Centennial Coal/SSR coal train, unit 80 from Newstan to Kooragang. This train requires bank engines to get up Fassifern Bank to Broadmeadow, and a planned shot at Cardiff was on the cards…

…until we missed them! When we arrived in the Newcastle area around 11am, we were informed that the train was at Newstan loading. Not wanting to fight the midday sun (and with no other trains expected on the Short North all day), we figured we would head to East Maitland for a bite to eat, before moving back to Cardiff for an early afternoon shot. We didn’t count on passing 4847N empty South Spur ore train in Broadmeadow Yard, headed up by 44208 and 603.

Having finished lunch, we got word that the train had departed the mine and was Newcastle bound. Giving up on the planned shot at Cardiff, we instead headed for Warabrook on the hourly railcar service from Telarah. With a sinking feeling that we might not make it, we instead jumped off the train at Sandgate to photograph a nice parade of loaded coal trains passed en-route.

Amongst the trains photographed while at Sandgate was EL56 and EL52 on a loaded Pelton coal, triple XRN Class on an empty coal from Port Waratah, the earlier mentioned 4847N ore train and a pair of 81’s on a loaded grain train over the flyover.

After what was considered a productive hour at Sandgate, we caught the next railcar to Warabrook to await the departure of unit 80 from Kooragang. 5007 and 5031 (seen shortly before departure from Sandgate) was photographed again at Warabrook. With no sign of unit 80, we settled with a shot of C502, G513, 44206 and 44204 arriving with CA04 loaded coal from Clarence, before heading home.

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