Over the course of three days recently, I managed to record two very different push-pull workings. One, a heritage steam locomotive and diesel pairing on a tour of the Sydney metropolitan area, the other, a test of some of the most modern horsepower in the state! Both trains had one thing in common, they covered some pretty hilly terrain!
Over the summer period, 3801ltd hired steam locomotive 3016 from ARHS ACT (Australian Railway Historical Society, ACT Division) to operate a number of tours within the Sydney metropolitan area. One such tour ran on Sunday, Feb 17th with 3016 and 4918 in push-pull configuration hauling a water gin and four cars. The tour would take the locomotive from Sydney Central, to Carlingford (via Bankstown), then to Richmond. The train would run in push-pull configuration due to a lack of run-around facilities at Carlingford and Richmond.
With the weather bureau predicting an 80% chance of rain for Sunday, I quickly chose the planned spots – Redfern and Clyde, as both would offer excellent shots, whilst still permitting the photographer to remain (reasonably) dry and comfortable. As it was, the rain didn’t eventuate, but there was still enough cloud cover to ensure good shots at both locations.
3016 and train departed Central on time, although they ended up being delayed slightly upon arrival at Redfern, pulling up at a signal showing full clear – this would take the train towards Strathfield, not towards Sydenham! A quick call to the signal box was made, and road reset correctly, and they were off, the departure turning a lot of heads when the 49 loaded up. A few station staff members who turned out to see the train pass commented that they were cheating by letting the diesel do all the work!
It was a simple matter to get ahead of the train (or so I assumed) by boarding a Penrith service from Redfern to Clyde. This would come undone at Auburn, when passengers boarding our train hesitated at the noise of 3016 racing up the grade from Lidcombe and through the mainline platforms, almost fifteen minutes early! Thankfully, the special was timetabled to follow a Carlingford Line train to Rosehill, and then wait clearance of the single track branchline there.
With 3016 already waiting at Clyde as our suburban train arrived, the planned shot was thrown out the window (figuratively, as our train was a Tangara). A quick grab shot of the engine was made from Platform 2, before boarding the four-car “S” Set for the ride up the branch. Thankfully, we encountered a pair of visiting Victorians who suggested a spot near Dundas (you read correctly, a pair of people from out of state suggested a photo location to a bunch of locals). As it turned out, they had excellent taste, although we instead opted to photograph from the station area, for a different angle.
The Carlingford Line is an exceptionally steep, single track branch line running from Clyde to Carlingford The only crossing location is between Clyde and Rosehill, prior to the Sandown Line branching off. The section between Rydalmere and Dundas is 1 in 39, whilst the section between Dundas and Carlingford is 1 in 37! Both 3016 and 4918 were working very hard to bring their short consist up the hill, the sound of the train bringing many locals out of their houses and down to the station to see just what all the fuss was about! Needless to say, many of them were very surprised to find that a steam locomotive was up at Carlingford…
The return run was far more placid, with the train drifting through the platform to a hastily assembled crowd of onlookers. Despite the fact that 3016 wasn’t repeating the initial performance did nothing to dampen the spirits of the young and old present. Enthusiast or not, nobody can help but wave at a steam train! We decided to forego the chance of any Richmond Line shots as the day was rapidly warming up. As it stands, no amount of additional shots could possibly replicate the sight and sound of 3016 charging up into Dundas Station!
Fast forward through a day at work to Tuesday (Feb 19th). Pacific National had transferred TT’s 105, 106 and 118 from Newcastle to Port Kembla (via Granville and Moss Vale, due to trackwork on the Sydney Goods Line network) for crew training and trials on the Tahmoor coal trains. The locomotives were used for crew training and familiarisation on the Monday, with the first trial to be undertaken on Tuesday February 19th.
Trains to Tahmoor Colliery originate at Port Kembla Inner Harbour, running to Tahmoor via Unanderra and Moss Vale, typically with a pair of 82 Class. The train is operated in a push-pull fashion, as the points at Tahmoor Colliery point towards Sydney (the coal was originally railed to Rozelle, typically with some weird and wonderful loco combinations, sadly before my time). The weight of the loaded train is almost at the limit for the two 82 Class, and from previous experiences, the loaded train is almost at walking pace between Yanderra and Bowral!
TT106 and TT118 would operate the first trial, with TT106 leading and TT118 trailing through Bowral on TM71 empties at 0741. After killing some time watching trains pass Berrima Junction, we relocated to Yanderra to catch TT106 leading the loaded train (TM72) at 1120, with TT118 pushing from the rear. Whilst the two locomotives were not racing through as fast as the some of the intermodal trains hauled by their sister LDP Class, they were certainly moving at a better pace than their 82 Class predecessors!
Whilst the results of the trial are yet to be seen at the time of writing, it will be interesting to see if the TT Class take over this working from the 82 Class, or if other options to increase train speed will be investigated. As for 3016, it is due to run one final Sydney tour to Lavender Bay and Gosford in early March before returning home to Canberra for the “steam season”.
With thanks to Tim Grey, Les Coulton and Lionel Camilleri for their assistance!