The Sydney Great Train Weekend

The Sydney Great Train Weekend is held on the Queens Birthday long weekend. The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM) bring a number of heritage exhibits from Thirlmere to Sydney’s Central Station, where they are put on display for the general public to enjoy. The Powerhouse Museum provides steam locomotive 3265 for the display, which spends the weekend in light steam alongside the platform for people to climb into the cab and see a real, live steam locomotive. In a similar vein, 4001 and 4490 are at the other end of the platform, to allow people to examine the first mainline diesel locomotive in NSW. As well as the heritage items, RailCorp provides a CountryLink Xplorer and XPT set for people to inspect. As has been mentioned in previous years, this is an excellent opportunity to show people the new Waratah train, although this opportunity has never been capitalised on.

Not content with static displays alone, The NSWRTM also provides a steam train ride through the suburbs, with 3642 and 3526. The train runs between Central and Clyde over the course of the weekend, delighting young and old alike with a short, but pleasurable steam experience.

Day One – Saturday, June 9th

I went to work, so I was unable to attend any of the events. I was happy to wander up the platform for a quick peek at 4001, although I couldn’t spend long there. I did notice how fantastic the weather was, perhaps too perfect…

Day Two – Sunday, June 10th

My first of two days off was started with the sound of rain pattering on the window. Thankfully, I wasn’t planning a very photo-heavy day today (that would be tomorrow). I was meeting a few friends in the city around midday for a look at the exhibits, followed by a light lunch and a ride on the steam train. Thinking ahead, I also grabbed the tripod, in-case an opportunity for night-steam arose.

Upon meeting everyone at Central, we took a quick look at 3265 and the two diesels before retiring to The Central Hotel for lunch. Despite the weather, the crowds were still in full swing, and there was no getting anywhere near the 35 and the 36 when they arrived with one of the shuttles! Thus, steak and ale were consumed, and we returned to find our carriage (Car G) and our seats.

The poor gentleman in the compartment must not have known what hit him when we all poured in, especially when we realised that we were one seat short for our whole group (of six). He graciously agreed to exchange tickets with the sixth member of our party (perhaps he was just keen to get out of the loud compartment full of over-excited photographers – we’d not even sat down yet and Chris was shooting frames out every window he could see).

The run to Clyde and back was very spirited, with the chant of the 35 (the loco nearest our car) almost discernable over the general rabble that was our car. A quick trip to the buffet turned into a half-a-journey experience when I ran into NSWRTM volunteers who are also friends of mine. Small world, eh? I finally found my way back to my seat as we passed through Redfern, only to relinquish it again upon arrival at Central.

A handful of disappointing shots were taken of the departure (all of which were deleted as soon as I returned home that evening), and we were off to begin an afternoon/evening of tripod-photography. The gloomy skies made for some very atmospheric shots of the two diesels at the end of P5, and helped kill some time before the other steam locomotives returned.

When the steam locomotives did return, plenty of virtual film was wasted taking thirty second exposures of the 36 at the end of the platform, most of which came out quite well indeed! By the time the train departed back for Eveleigh, we were out of time and we parted ways to our various trains and/or buses home.

Day Two Gallery (Link opens in a new window/tab).

Day Three – Monday, June 11th

Today would be the photo day! The original plan was to shoot the shuttles in the morning, before moving to Erskineville to catch 4001 and 4490 going back to Thirlmere, followed shortly after by the three steam locomotives. That was BEFORE news of all the interesting traffic running on the west began to filter through…

The first shot was at Redfern, and the two locomotives sounded brilliant as they stomped onto the mainline towards Clyde. Happy with the shot, I collected Matt from his Illawarra train, and we headed out to Lidcombe. At this point, we were so waterlogged that we chose our location based on available cover, rather than the quality of the shot!

Thanks to some assistance from the friendly folks on Ausloco (A Yahoo e-mail group), as well as the obligatory steam train photos, we also snagged a pair of PN coal trains (one loaded, one empty), an up Freightliner container train from Warren and a down SSR coal train to Lidsdale.

Content with our shots, we grabbed a takeaway lunch and moved on to Clyde, for some more good cover (and some train photos). While at Clyde, we managed another steam train shot, as well as some photos of an unusual move – the C Set rostered for the days Carlingford Line services had disgraced itself on P1 (shortly after I mentioned “oh look, a C Set on the Carlo, I wonder how that’s going?”), and so a replacement S Set had to be sourced from Flemington Maintenance Centre, accessing the branch from the down main. This was an unusual move, as normally the only trains to enter the branch from the down main and the first services of the day, in the early hours of the morning!

While at Clyde, we also managed two shots of 44 Class locomotives leading the two Qube/P&O shuttle trains between Yennora and Port Botany, as well as the Westons Milling train, which passed through behind 8172, G537, 48146 and X46! Perhaps the moment of the day though, was when we saw three CEY Class bearing down on us on the down main. With not enough time to change platforms for a “proper shot”, we realised we would have to make do. It was then that we turned around and realised that 8166 container freight from Bathurst was arriving, literally at the same time, behind two MZ Class locomotives and a 47. As the CEY’s are going to be around for a while, I hedged my bet on IRA, and sure enough, they won… by seconds. Grabbing the shot of the MZ’s, I spun around to catch the CEY’s. Upon checking the shots, the CEY photo was out of focus, but that’s just how it goes sometimes – they’ll be another chance!

With the last train being the Westons, we boarded a train back to the city. Knowing that we wouldn’t make it to Erskineville in time for the 40 or the steamers, we were still happy with what we had gotten. As it turned out, the 40 left earlier than the path it was tabled on, so we would have missed it anyway. As much as I like the heritage trains, I’ll always be interested in the modern stuff, and the shots we got at Clyde were worth it!

Day Three Gallery (Link opens in a new tab/window).

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