Are We Pushing or Pulling?

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!

Continue reading “Are We Pushing or Pulling?”


Stop Press: New CFCLA Locos at Sydney Terminal

CFCL Australia ran a special train on Thursday, February 2nd to celebrate the delivery of their new CF Class locomotives from Broadmeadow to Sydney Terminal, hauled by CF4405 “Beldale Ball” and CF4406 “Kiwi”. The class are of the General Electric C44aci model, capable of producing over 4000hp. Similar to a long line of locomotives before them (92 Class, 6000 Class, XRN Class and the CEY Class), the locomotives have been manufactured by UGL (formerly United Goninan), and are destined  for lease service (initially) with Pacific National. To celebrate their delivery, CFCL Australia arranged a special train for their staff, comprising two privately owned carriages from Canberra, and their own crew car (CDAY 1x). The train was hauled from Sydney to Broadmeadow by ARHS ACT owned 4403, where the two CF Class were attached for the run down to Sydney.

Upon arriving at Sydney Terminal, the two CF Class were cut off from the train to await their path north to return to Broadmeadow, while 4403 departed southbound with the cars. The CF’s remained on the platform for approximatly forty minutes, allowing plenty of time for official (and unofficial) photographs to be taken.

Although it was a bit of a juggle getting home from work to change and grab the camera and tripod, it was worth the effort. The first two photos were handheld, but due to the rapidly diminishing light and the ever present rain, I decided to avoid using high ISO settings and just deal with the tripod. Shooting mostly at f13, the results were certainly worth the effort, I feel.

As usual, click on the photos to view them on Flickr, where they can be viewed at a larger size.

I am certainly looking forward to photographing these handsome beasts in lease service, even if it is just on coal traffic! I imagine, should they prove successful, CFCLA will have little hesitation to order more, as they will no doubt be in high demand by companies looking for modern motive power without investing the initial capital!

September 2009 News

SCT G Class Repainting

With news of the sale of the 9 former SCT G Class locomotives to other operators (see Trackside, August 2009), G513 and G514 (now owned by Southern Shorthaul Railroad) entered the paint shops at Lithgow during September for repainting, emerging during October, and being sighted on numerous works trains in the Sydney area.

3265 Returned to Service

3265 Redfern
3265 passing Redfern with the first public steam shuttle. 20/9/09.

Preserved steam locomotive 3265, which first entered service in 1902, was overhauled and rebuilt by the Powerhouse Museum between 1998 and 2009, and formally re-entered service on September 20, 2009, celebrated by a day of steam shuttles between Central and Bankstown Stations. The day’s festivities began at Central, with 3265 arriving to be greeted by a large crowd of ex-railway men and women, volunteers, dignitaries and photographers present to record the historic occasion. After a short ceremony and morning tea, 3265 ran her first steam shuttle for the day to Bankstown via Sydenham and returning via Regents Park. The first shuttle was reserved for those who had helped make her return to service possible, passengers consisting of VIPs and their invited guests. The second and third shuttles, also running to Bankstown via Sydenham and returning via Regents Park, was open to members of the public who had snapped up tickets.

Since her return to service, 3265 has been used on a 3801ltd Cockatoo Run special to Moss Vale via Wollongong, as well as a private charter to and from Hurstville, with at least two more tours planned for 2009, including a triple headed steam trip up the Blue Mountains in November, and a private charter in early December. The Powerhouse Museum plans to operate up to six tours a year with 3265, usually in conjunction with another heritage operator.

Freightliner to Enter Hunter Valley Coal Market

In a joint venture with Xstrata, a Swiss mining company, Freightliner will enter the lucrative Hunter Valley coal haulage market, using locomotives and rolling stock provided by Xstrata. Xstrata is planning to purchase three 90-wagon rakes and nine locomotives with an eye to commencing operations by 2011. Bradken will be building the wagons, with the locomotives provided by United Goninans. While the trains will be owned by Xstrata, Freightliner will operate the trains under the name of “X-Rail”.

Pacific National will still continue to haul up to 30 million tonnes of export coal for Xstrata.

Currently Pacific National handle all of Xstratas export coal as part of a decade long contract signed in July 2009. The deal accounts for 30 million tonnes of coal per annum, although with additional mines planned to open in the next couple of years, additional capacity would be required, which will be covered by X-Rail trains, hauling the additional 10 million tonnes of coal each year. Speculation as to who would haul the additional 10 million tonnes has now been laid to rest, as originally the additional freight was up for haulage by either Pacific National or QRNational, the two existing operators in the Hunter Valley.

If the venture is successful, it may lead to X-Rail hauling more of Xstrata coal as more mines open and existing mines increase capacity in the future.

Xplorer Services to Canberra

With the cessation of the fuel service to Canberra looming, one could be forgiven for thinking that the future of the line is in doubt. When the Premier visited Queanbeyan on September 18, 2009, he was not announcing the removal of the CountryLink Xplorer service to Canberra, rather, an increase in services – an additional eight services a week between Sydney and Canberra (four in each direction).

The increased number of trains is actually due to a reduction in patronage, put down to the confusing timetable and irregular service level. Now, with a regular service frequency, and a consistent timetable, it is hoped that patronage will rise again. The increased number of services is thanks to a more efficient use of the Xplorer fleet, as during the current timetable, it is not uncommon for one set to arrive into Canberra at midday from Sydney, and be stabled in the siding until the following morning service back to Sydney.

Xplorer at Bungendore
The up midday Xplorer service from Canberra passes an ARHS Heritage train in the yard at Bungendore. Under the new timetable, this will become a daily service in each direction to and from Sydney.

The existing timetable is shown below

Canberra Dep Sydney Arr Days of Operation
6:43am 11:02am Daily*
11:52am** 4:10pm*** Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun
5:03pm 9:23pm Tue/Thur/Sat
Sydney Dep Canberra Arr Days of Operation
6:58am 11:17am Daily*
12:05pm 4:25pm Tue/Thur/Sat/Sun
6:11pm 10:29pm Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun
* Except Sunday
**(Sunday only) departs 3 minutes later
*** (Sunday only) arrives 15 minutes later due to connecting with the up Riverina Xplorer service at Goulburn

From December 6, the new timetable will be introduced

Ex Sydney Ex Canberra
Morning Service Daily Daily
Midday Service Daily Daily
Evening Service Sun/Mon/Wed/Fri Sun/Mon/Wed/Fri

Riding The Bombala Line – Day Two

Cooma Monaro Railway

After a drive south from Canberra, Todd and I arrived in time for the 11:00 railmotor service to Chakola (currently the northernmost limit of operations). After finding a seat on the railmotor, I jumped up the front to have a chat to our driver. Jay has been driving solo for the railway for six months now. Quite an achiement when you consider he is only fourteen years of age, and is Australias youngest train driver. This is no “toy railway” either, running along over 17.5km of track, with two safeworking sections (Cooma to Bunyan and Bunyan to Chakola), and two operating railmotors to run. Especially surprising was Jays choice of hobby, in a town where the local kids spend their days (and nights) drinking and smoking and generally doing nothing else.

Jay (right) and Aiden (right) are two of the youngest volunteers at The CMR
Jay (right) and Aiden (left) are two of the youngest volunteers at CMR. 26/1/09.

Despite the trip to Chakola only being 17.5km, the railmotor ambles along the line at a sedate pace, never really going faster than 40km/h. Beyond Chakola, three wooden bridges halt the progress of the railway, as all three are in varying states of disrepair. Short of massive amounts of money and labour, operation is limited to the 417km post, just 100m up from Chakola Station.

The station building and signal box at Cooma have been well restored, and the station building is home to the souvenir shop as well as a very impressive model railway, modelled on the local area. While not to scale (it’s a loop), it is easy to locate the yards of Cooma, Bombala and Queanbeyan on the layout, which has it’s own 48 Class hauled mixed goods, DEB Set and even a CPH Railmotor being restored at Cooma loco!

For more information, read more on Trackside by clicking here or visit their website here.


CPH No6 sitting at Cooma Station. 26/1/09.
CPH No6 sitting at Cooma Station. 26/1/09.

Although there is rumoured to be the remains of a station, the location appeared to be on private property, so we made no attempt to locate or access the station grounds. The railway line once crossed the highway at a level crossing north of town, although resurfacing of the highway in recent years has obliterated all trace of the level crossing from the roadway. We did pause to photograph the replacement “station”, which is a bus stop sign (complete with rotten wooden shelter) advertising services to and from Sydney.


As for the level crossing north of Bredbo, the level crossing at Colinton has also been lost through road straightening and resurfacing. Originally, the highway had a kink in it where it crossed the line, both to allow the road to cross the line at a right angle, and to slow traffic down for the level crossing. Once the line had been closed, the level crossing was lifted, with the remains just dumped next to the existing rail, and the road straightened. The original highway has now become a rest stop.


Michelago Station building, as restored and maintained by ARHS ACT. 29/1/09.
Michelago Station building, as restored and maintained by ARHS ACT. 29/1/09.

Restored by the ARHS ACT, who once ran trains down to Michelago via Queanbeyan, the station building is still in excellent condition. The yard has long since overgrown, along with (sadly) the lawn and garden at the front of the station building. Investigation of the still-extensive yard revealed a number of water gins, along with a couple of other wagons likely used for line maintenance either by ARTC or (more likely) ARHS ACT. Also in good condition are the up and down home semaphores at each end of the yard, although vandals or the elements have seen to the removal of the coloured glass from the signal arm. The yard also retains a number of (operational?) level frames, as well as the overgrown remains of a turntable behind the surprisingly modern looking engine shed. The remains of what appeared to be a coal stage was also present.


Little remains at this location beyond a neglected looking platform, an NTAF, NHWF and BAS wagons sitting in the loop/siding.


This location was a fair hike off the beaten track, although a short siding and large loading bank complete with lever frame and remains of a staff hut made the walk worthwhile. This was most unusual, as the location itself is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by private farms, without even a proper road (dirt track/fire trail) leading to the siding. It is possible that the siding was connected to the mainline at the southern end of the loading bank too, although if it was, it’s long since been disconnected and made into a dead-end.


As well as the log loading point discovered and photographed the previous day at the 332km post, a siding branched off the line at the 330km post. Following the siding, it remained 90lb rail, although the quality of the sleepers and ballast deteriorated rapidly along it’s length (indeed, just a few metres along the siding, the rails had spread quite severely). It seemed to have (at one point) served the rear of the Hume industrial site – although the rails ended just after branching off the mainline, the formation remains very visible and easy to follow (it has become an access track to the railway line).

In Pursuit of the P Class – Part Five

Heritage Bonanza2208 leading an empty flour train south through Wallendbeen

As if we hadn’t been treated to enough heritage workings over the past two days, we had plenty more to come! Not only did we have the final run of the LVR train to Harden to look forward to, but we also had the ARHS ACT train returning to Goulburn and then Canberra, as well as the NSWRTM Southern Aurora returning to Sydney from Melbourne!

Heading to our favorite spot of the weekend at Wallendbeen, we got more than we bargained for. Starting with an early morning steel train heading towards Cootamundra, we also photographed a pair of 422’s and a 31 heading back to Narrandera with empty flour wagons for Manildra Group.

Before long, 4821 blasted through with a very ALCOesque display of smoke (enough to put the 59 to shame, anyway) on her way to Goulburn.

4701 and 4716 bring up the rear of the final LVR steam service of the weekend.After the ARHS ACT train had gone through, we packed up and moved down to Cootamundra West, to get some shots of the steam locos as they turned on the triangle. With the steamers turned and attached to the front of the train, and the two 47 class on the rear of the train (they would have to take the passengers back to Cootamundra), we moved up to a very popular hackspot, at Jindalee.

A good thing we got to Jindalee early, as soon after we arrived, cars full of enthusiasts started showing up. Dissapointly, nobody actually bothered to say “hello” upon arrival, perhaps seeing us as competition? At any rate, the 32 and 59 stormed up the grade past our photospot, and everyone madly rushed back to their cars to continue the chase. Well, everyone except us that is. We were content to sit around and chill out and wait for, first, the down XPT to Melbourne, and then the Sydney bound RTM Southern Aurora special.

RTM Southern Aurora at Jindalee

Only one other person turned up for The Southern Aurora, who jumped out of his car, camera in hand, offering a “G’day fellas”. We all then gathered to exchange stories – this bloke was up from Melbourne, and had been staying with a friend in Canberra when he heard about all the action on the mainline.

All too soon, the Southern Aurora roared through behind the all-ALCO lashup of 4520, 4803 and 4490, and we were all back in our cars, ready to give chase to Wallendbeen.

Upon arrival at Wallendbeen, where a far larger number of enthusiasts was camped out for the return of the LVR train (perhaps they thought the steamers were going to be coming back?), we chose our photospots and were content to wait. Sure enough, we were in a good spot to watch the Southern Aurora blast through, and it was suddenly time to bid our new friend farewell as we split paths – us back to Sydney, him back to Melbourne.

Of course, we couldn’t help but pause at the Murrumburrah Viaduct to bid farewell to the two unsung heroes of the weekend, 4701 and 4716. Hard working locos, they bore the frustration of a number of “enthusiasts” for being on the leading end of a number of the steam shuttles. Ironically, if it wasn’t for these locos, there probably would have been no steam shuttles to speak of at all!

With our final goodbyes to Harden, we were on the road again, back towards Sydney. A great weekend had by all.

Our final glimpse of the LVR train at Murrumburrah

With Thanks

Without the following people, this weekend of fun and games would not have been possible. When reading my account of the weekend, and viewing the many photos I took, please remember that none of it would have happened without (in no particular order):

Maikha Ly: For giving me the idea to organise this crazy adventure to begin with, and never letting me doubt myself or my abilities.

Andrew Easton: For doing all of the driving, and for researching all of these great photospots from google maps before we set out (something I completely forgot to do…)

Fred Sawyer: For bringing his good company and photographic skills along – I always enjoy comparing results with Fred to give me new inspiration for next time…

The Lachlan Valley Railway Society: Everyone involved in this fine group deserves every thanks they get, as they put on the finest show I have ever seen, despite obstacles and setbacks. Their positive attitude towards preservation and entertaining the folks on the trains and trackside alike. They will only continue to get bigger and better as the years go on.