April is traditionally a good month for enthusiasts in NSW, as it is the month when everyone stops and converges on The Hunter Valley for the annual Maitland Steamfest celebrations. April 2012 would be no different, with Steamfest falling on the last weekend of the month. Typically the empty cars are worked north by a pair or trio of vintage diesel locomotives from Thirlmere (4001, 4306 and 4490 did the honours this year), with the steam locomotives running north hauling their water gins and the staff accommodation (sleeping and dining carriages, as well as a power van to run them).
With 3801, 3830 and 5917 still out of service for overhauls, 3237 occupied operating North Coast shuttle trips and the two SMR 10 Class (10 and 18) out of service with mechanical problems, it all fell on the shoulders of 3265 (owned by the Powerhouse Museum), 3526 and 3642 to carry the flag, and carry it they did! This is the story of my Steamfest 2012. The full gallery can be found here, for those who just want to see the pictures.
Friday, April 27 (Day Zero)
Every good story needs a prologue to set the scene. I was lucky enough to find myself rostered off on both the Saturday and the Sunday, and with no early start on the following Monday, it was time to make some last minute plans to make what is now an annual pilgrimage north. Obviously accommodation in Maitland would be at a premium, so no attempt was made to negotiate the variety of hotels, motels and pubs in that general area. Instead, accommodation was found in the Newcastle Travelodge Hotel (located in Wickham, only a five minute walk from the railway station). This was especially suitable, as a group of friends were staying in the nearby Hotel Ibis.
With a bed sorted, the only thing left to do was to figure out how to get up there. After perusing some timetables and crunching some numbers, I found that I could catch the Casino-bound XPT service to Broadmeadow, and change for a CityRail train to Wickham. With a ticket booked from Hornsby at 0751, the only challenge left was getting to Hornsby in time. Checking the CityRail website, it was to my dismay that I found out there would be trackwork on the North Shore Line, with buses replacing trains. Fearful that a late arrival at Hornsby would mean missing the XPT, I instead set the alarm stupidly early (for a Saturday) and resolved to allow plenty of time.
Continue reading “Steamfest 2012 In 39 Frames”