Having not visited Cringila at Port Kembla since the heady days of Pacific National operating a full fleet of English Electric locomotives with BHP heritage, the recent handover of the steelworks contract to Watco gave me the motivation to drop in and check what had changed since my last visit.
Arriving a little after 3pm on Monday the 10th of January, our group was greeted with a fairly common sight – an 82 Class locomotive with short string of 100t “bomb bay” hoppers (in this case, NHSH 3-packs) rolling slowly down towards the blast furnace from the nearby Dendrobium mine. Ten minutes later, one of the NREC genset shunting locomotives (PB3) rolled by on a light engine movement towards the loco depot at Port Kembla North. I’d seen the PB Class shunting around Lysaghts and Cringila fairly often whilst at work on NSW TrainLink services to/from Port Kembla, but only pointed my camera at them once before. It was pleasing to see that not much had changed since Watco took over – a few Watco stickers to cover up the Pacific National logos and not much else was different.
It took another hour before anything else happened, and it barely registered. 8204 shunted clear of the coal unloader before pushing back into a siding out of the way. This was unusual in itself, as typically the coal operations run like a conveyor belt. Whilst one train loads, another one unloads and then they meet in the middle. It took another hour before anything else happened, and that was merely 8203 arriving with another load of coal from the mine.
At this point everyone was dying from the heat of the day, but it seemed that 8203 would be the catalyst to launch the yard into action. Not ten minutes after it arrived, three QL Class arrived with 1MW7 empty coils from Melbourne. Whilst the three big GEs broke apart their train into various roads, 8212 snuck past on the Bluescope mainline with 9833 empty ore concentrates train for Northparkes mine at Goonumbla.
With word that there were empty wagons to be loaded, PB4 arrived from the works with a long rake of loaded coil wagons. Once these were safely secured in the yard, the crew selected two rakes of empty coil wagons from MW7 to take back for loading.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, an Aurizon coal train from Tahmoor colliery arrived in push-pull configuration with 6004 and 6011 for unloading. PB3 also returned from the workshops, rolling back into the mill to find something to do. With the echoes of whistles from other PB Class shunting around the works, it was tempting to stay. The desire to seek out food overruled the urge for more dusk photography however, and it was time to depart. Until next time, Cringila…