A 422 In The Memory Card…

2212 passing Tempe with the AK Track Recording Cars, bound for Meeks Rd.

I’m fairly sure that there’s an old saying talking about how a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. I never quite understood the phrase itself, as I have no interest in holding a bird in my hand, as I imagine it would be rather panicked, and peck violently at my extremities. I would be happier to have an additional bird, and have both birds happily singing away in adjacent greenery. Nevertheless, I understand the phrase to mean that it’s always better to have one of a good thing, than to be greedy and miss out altogether. This theory leads into the next step in the saga that is my continued game of cat and mouse with the QRNational 421 and 422 Class locomotives (at least, those of the latter class painted in the former Northern Rivers Railroad colour scheme, not the ARG or QRNational schemes). Allow me then, to rephrase. A 422 on the memory card, is better than two missed.

The premise was (as it always is) sound, in theory. Fred and I would start the day at Yennora, to get a shot of the 4-car C-Set that is a regular on the twice daily service that operates from Campbelltown to Blacktown. We would then get a photo of the motive power of T280 (the P&O container trip train from Yennora to Port Botany), before scooting over to Rookwood to await 5MB7 (QRNational Melbourne to Brisbane superfreighter), which would (in theory) be followed by 2152 container freight from Glenlee (where the QRNational intermodal freights attach and detach Sydney loading). All going to plan, 42202 would be the lead unit on 2152, which we would capture in perfect sunshine, and still be home in time for lunch!

Of course, everything started off against the plan, with the second car of the C-Set covered in graffiti, the work of children who never progressed beyond the “drawing on the walls with crayons” stage of intellectual development. As I am loathe to glorify such “artists” (and I use the term loosely), the photo is safe on my HDD, where it will remain as a record (should the C-Sets be mysteriously withdrawn in the next week). T280 was sighted shunting the freight terminal at Yennora, behind 4477 and 864, and so we relocated to the railway overpass at Guildford for a shot. While driving around Yennora Yard, 42202 was sighted in the back of the yard, attached to a rake of container wagons. We assumed (incorrectly) that 1251 might have missed the peak hour and would be departing after T280.

With a shot of T280 in the bag, a lack of an appearance by 42202 and the lighting strongly suggesting against waiting around for a shot of sister train T285, we instead relocated to Rookwood, safe in the knowledge that MB7 had departed Glenlee. One very frustrating school zone later, we found ourselves in position to capture 5938N loaded Manildra Group flour behind 8136 and 8173, the former unit painted in the PN scheme with rather unique front numbers. Older photos of this unit in the PN scheme show the loco with the more standard front numbers, deepening the mystery…

Standing on the bridge for a little over an hour, much to the amusement of passing Australia Post workers, we also photographed a quad of NR Class on 6NY3 with an impressive train trailing behind them, as well as quad 82’s on LG77 empty coal to Lithgow and LDP’s 005 and 009 on 5MB7. A nice additional sighting was the passing of Mechanised Track Inspection vehicle ML-039 at 1029, bound for Enfield.

With a sighting coming in of GWA owned 2212 (42212) at the head of the AK Track Recording Cars passing Campbelltown, we headed east again, this time for Tempe. 2212 is a rare visitor to NSW, normally found working trains in South Australia for Genesee & Wyoming Australia. Thankfully the train was made to wait at Revesby to follow the up all stations service, and so we beat it to Tempe by a matter of minutes (as opposed to missing it by a matter of minutes…). It was then that we learned that 42202 would be heading up 1253 to Glenlee, departing after T286 to Botany. With the curse of the high-sun, the rising temperature, it was decided to let this one pass to the keeper.

Next time, then.

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(News to Me) Farewell ARG

The final Bomaderry container train to Botany was hauled by KL80/KL81/KL82 and 3104. Seen here crossing the Como Bridge on Thurs 20/11/08
The final Bomaderry container train to Botany was hauled by KL80/KL81/KL82 and 3104. Seen here crossing the Como Bridge on Thurs 20/11/08

As of November 22nd, after five years of NSW Operations, Australian Railroad Group (better known as ARG) ceased its NSW operations. After holding the contract to move flour between the various Manildra Group mills for five years, as well as containers from Manildra and Bomaderry to Port Botany, the recent loss of the contract to competitor Asciano Limited saw the complete shut down of ARG’s NSW operations.

All 31/L Class operating in NSW, as well as 2201, and 2203 will be returned to Western Australia. Thankfully, 2202 (ex SRA 42213), 2204 (ex SRA 42216) and 2208 (ex SRA 42208) will remain in NSW for now, being transferred to QRNational/Interail for their intermodal operations. It is unknown what role these locomotives will play in the future, if they will continue to work through NSW, or if they will be used elsewhere. It is also unknown at this stage if they will retain their ARG numbering, or revert back to their original numbers (QRNational/Interail have not yet renumbered any of their standard gauge locomotive fleet from their original numbers, with the exception of the 423 Class).

On the same day the above image was captured, L265 lead a pair of 22 Class south to Bomaderry with a loaded flour, seen here climbing through Jannali
L265 leading a pair of 22 Class south through Jannali. 20/11/08

The final Bomaderry container train ran on Thursday, November 20th, behind KL80/KL81/KL82/3104. The last flour train to Bomaderry arrived from Manildra behind L265/2204/2201 on Saturday, November 22nd. The final ARG train to depart Bomaderry did so on the same day (being made up of the empties from that nights 8982). Normally running as 9881 (Bomaderry to Manildra), the train instead ran as 9182 (Bomaderry to Sydney) behind 2201/2204/L265, terminating at Clyde where the locomotives were exchanged for 8180 and 8145 for the continuation of the journey to Manildra.

The KL Class were used due to a surge of failures in the last days of operation, a problem that had plauged ARG operations for the better part of 2008. Most of the locomotives have not had any significant work done (aside from an external paintjob and logo applications) in quite some time, and are showing their age.

The replacement motive power on the Manildra trains is currently based around pairs of 81 Class, although with the coming grain season, this could see motive power changes, with at least one GL Class being reported in use on Pacific National export grain rakes (previously GL Class in service with Pacific National were being used on coal trains, a job they are not designed for)

At any rate, the crews and motive power of ARG will be missed. Those familar with ARG operations would know that the crews always offer a friendly wave or flash of the headlights upon seeing photographers, and always seemed to enjoy a good chase.

Thankyou to Roy “MBAX” Marshall and the Ausloco Yahoo Group for the information in this post.

The Numbered Days of The Number 3982

C504 passing through Towrang wrong road with 3982 12/11/08
C504 passing through Towrang wrong road with 3982 12/11/08

Three, Nine, Eight Two could be any random four numbers thrown together. Indeed, when talking about intrastate train numbers, that’s what they appear to be, four random numbers (perhaps chosen for aesthetic reasoning?) put together and attached to a train. In some cases, it’s for a seasonal runner, so the number is not often known and remembered. In other cases (such as is the case with 3982) it is a regularily tabled service, which may or may not be of interest to trackside photographers.

A breakdown of the numbers should help to explain things clearly. The first number is where the train is coming from (3 – Southern/Riverina Region. In this case, Narrandera, along the Griffith Branch from Junee), while the second number is the trains destination (9 – Illawarra Region. In this case, the Manildra Group Mill at Bomaderry). The third number designates that the train is an Australian Railroad Group (ARG) train. The final number is allocated based on how many trains that company has running from those two areas. In this case, the number is 2 to denote an up (going towards Sydney) train*.

C504 screaming around the curve at Werai with 3982 12/11/08
C504 screaming around the curve at Werai with 3982 12/11/08

It then becomes apparent that train 3982 is the ARG loaded flour train from Narrandera to Bomaderry hauled on behalf of The Manildra Group. As reported previously in August, earlier this year, the contract has passed from ARG to Asciano Limited (Pacific National/Patricks Portlink), thus requiring a change of train number from 3982 to 3938 (note the last two numbers have changed based on the change in operator).

Due to the start and end point of the train, this makes 3982 unique when compared to the other Bomaderry Flour services (8982 Manildra to Bomaderry and 5982 Gunnedah to Bomaderry), as it does not travel via Sydney Instead, the train moves north along the Main South to Moss Vale, at which point it turns east and slowly descends The Illawarra Escarpment to Unanderra. At this point, the locos run around the train for the final leg to Bomaderry. This means, for almost the entire trip**, it travels outside of overhead wires (which cause issues to many a trackside photographer)

2201 is in the lead through Berry with 3982 12/11/08
2201 is in the lead through Berry with 3982 12/11/08

As the author is restored on to work on the last day of 3982 operation, it was decided to go out and chase the third last 3982 ever to run. Incidentally, it would prove to be C504’s last daylight run with ARG, having blown a traction motor on the run down to Junee the day prior. C504 had been on lease to ARG to assist with 3106 having been transferred back to Western Australia (with the rest of the ARG-owned 31/L Class in NSW to follow).

Our group proceeded to Goulburn, before doubling back to Towrang, to find our first photospot of the day. Due to trackwork between Goulburn and Marulan (part of the process of upgrading the entire Melbourne to Brisbane route to concrete sleepers), the train ran wrong road through Towrang at 0816 with C504 on point, assisted by 2208 and 2201. Chase was given to Werai (south of Moss Vale) where the train was photographed passing the famous curve at 0912. The train branches off the mainline at Moss Vale and proceeds down the mountain to Unanderra, and was photographed again slowly moving through Ocean View at 1007 (3982 paused in the loop at Robertson to cross an empty Tahmoor Coalie which was climbing the mountain from Inner Harbour).

2201 leading 2208 and C504 with 3982 having reached Bomaderry 12/11/08
2201 leading 2208 and C504 with 3982 having reached Bomaderry 12/11/08

Leaving the train behind to begin our own descent of the mountain to Albion Park, next stop was Berry, to stop and have lunch and wait for the train to catch up. The locomotives must run around their train at Unanderra, before proceeding to the refuge at Bombo to allow the track ahead to clear. After a down Endeavour clears the section at Berry, 3982 may collect the staff to enter the Kiama to Berry section. By the time the train has arrived at Berry, the Endeavour has cleared the next section and pulled into Bomaderry Station, so 3982 continues unimpeded right through to Bomaderry. Sure enough, 2201 lead 2208 and C504 through Berry at 1335, and into Bomaderry just before 1400.

As always, thanks must go to Roy Marshall for his continued assistance tracking down the various ARG Trains and their motive power around NSW. Without Roy’s help, most of the photos taken of ARG trains this year would not have been possible. Thanks also to Greg “42101” Gordon and Anthony “42209” Johnson for their continued company while trackside (and for putting up  with the drugged up bloke in the back seat).

*Despite the trains destination not requiring it to pass through Sydney, it moves towards Sydney for most of it’s trip. That is to say that Bomaderry is closer to Sydney than Narrandera! Of course, during trackwork and maintenence the train is often diverted through the Sydney area.

**Of course, Unanderra to Kiama is under the wires, although there are limited places to photograph the train on this section anyway

(News to Me) Asciano Wins Manildra Contract From ARG

ARG Hauled Manildra Trains - Soon to be limited to memories and photographs?

Australian Railroad Group (ARG), a division of QRNational (QRN) has been operating trains on behalf of The Manildra Group since 2003. Manildra supplied their own rolling stock in the form of MBAX (ex WAGR WBAX vans) louvre vans, MQRF container flats (although ARG/Manildra hired more container flats from CFCLA) as well as MHGH and MHGX hoppers, although ARG were contracted to haul the trains. The contract itself involves the haulage of bulk flour to/from Manildra’s mills at Gunnedah (North-West NSW), Manildra (Central-Western NSW), Narrandera (South-West NSW) and Bomaderry (South Coast NSW), as well as export containers between the various mills and Port Botany.

Recent news has emerged that ARG have lost the contract to Pacific National/Patricks Portlink owner Asciano Limited. Interestingly, it seems that the contract will be handled by the Patricks Portlink business division, rather than (as originally thought), Pacific National Rural and Bulk. It is unknown at this stage if Rural and Bulk will provide motive power (currently, Patricks Portlink use a lot of hired motive power from CFCLA) and/or container wagons.

An ARG Crewman moves to set the road for 9182 while KL81 lurks in the background (click on the image for a larger view)
An ARG Crewman moves to set the road for 9182 while KL81 lurks in the background (click on the image for a larger view)

While the changeover doesn’t occur until November 23rd, enthusiasts should be getting out line side to capture images that will soon fade, possibly forever, of (ex-NSWGR 422 Class) 22 Class and (ex WAGR L Class) 31 Class hauling bulk flour to and from the various mills around the state. The good news is, if Patricks Portlink does indeed use motive power hired from CFCLA (as it currently does on its Narrabri and Dubbo/Blayney services, as well as some of its metropolitan workings), we could see vintage motive power in the form of 44, 422 (FL/HL Class), 442, 49 (KL Class) and even 45 Class at the head of bulk flour and/or container trains.

Manildra MHGX Hopper at Bombaderry
Manildra MHGX Hopper at Bombaderry

Recently, there have been quite a few examples of ARG using leased motive power to assist its own fleet. CFCLA T Class, SCT G Class, CFCLA KL (49) Class and even SSR/CFCLA GM10 have been seen on flour and container workings. Certainly this is an excellent excuse for any able railway photographer to get out in these last few months of ARG hauled Manildra trains!

Does this mean the withdrawal of ARG from NSW? Certainly not! The word is that ARG are looking for new contracts to haul so hopefully we shall continue to see the 422 class soldering on into the twenty first century (albeit under a new number and colour scheme…)

The photo above, of KL81 at the Nowra branch is an example of the dynamic motive power changes on ARG trains recently. KL81 lead two T Class and GM10 into Sydney on 9182 export containers. However, due to problems with Manildras container crane, this train was unable to finish loading and lost it’s path into Sydney, leaving Bomaderry at 2000, instead of at 1046.