Trackwork and Diversions

I’ll be honest – July was not the best month for me when it came to photographing trains. Work and social commitments called, and the few outings that were made usually ended with a mostly empty memory card!  Resolving that August would be different, and with the first of August being a Sunday, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

With the line between Liverpool and Granville/Bankstown/Lidcombe closed to trains due to trackwork  between the 30th of July and the 1st of August 2010, all freight trains into and out of Sydney on the Main South Line were forced to divert via Enfield and East Hills. Although closedowns of this nature happen multiple times a year, it is always a good chance to catch various trains on the East Hills Line that do not normally run on this section of track. Normally, the only regular traffic on this line is the passenger services to/from Campbelltown and Revesby via the Airport Line, as well as any through Southern Highlands services. Diverted traffic included the CountryLink trains to Canberra, Griffith and Melbourne, as well as the north/south intermodal and steel trains. As usual, a lot of non-time essential freight trains were cancelled or deferred until Monday, but that didn’t stop the running of QRNational intermodal services 7BM7 and 7MB7.

7MB7 passes Bardwell Park behind LDP009 and LDP005

Despite driving around the backstreets of Turrella, Bardwell Park and Bexley North, no suitable location was found for 7MB7, so the location chosen for 7BM7 would have to work for both trains. Hopefully the locomotives on each train would look different, so as to make the shots a little more interesting!

Arriving at the spot just in time to hear the roar of an XPT engine, we found out that our delay in arriving at the location had cost us a shot of ST23, the southbound Melbourne XPT service. Undeterred, we set up for our planned shot of 7MB7, which arrived a little down on the table at 0900 (it was due to pass Turrella at 0827), passing our hillside location behind LDP009 and LDP005 – both in the QRNational corporate scheme. We did not have much longer to wait before 7BM7 arrived behind LDP001, LDP003 and an unexpected bonus in LDP006 (we were only expecting the first two!). Due to the quad tracks ending at Beverly Hills, it was quite likely that 7BM7 would have to wait for a southbound spark before it would get the road through to Macarthur and Glenlee. Thus, we packed up into the car for a short hop to Beverly Hills for another shot of the train. Despite the second shot being a very “last minute” decision, it carried with it an added bonus – not only were we shooting a freight on the East Hills line, but we could photograph it passing through the construction work associated with the project to quadruple the East Hills Line between Kingsgrove and Revesby.

With no more freight trains forecast to use the line for at least an hour or so, we relocated to western Sydney for a shot at some of the trackwork trains on the “old south”. Trackwork trains are an interesting and unique beast – often boasting some of the most vintage motive power and interesting rolling stock on the network, unless they are sitting in just the right spot, they can be impossible to photograph – as they often don’t move for hours at a time!  Initially, we had mixed luck – we located GM22 and GM10 fairly easily, sitting on the down main between Fairfield and Canley Vale Stations with a ballast cleaner rake (with the tracklaying machine between them and Fairfield Station, as it was being used to lay a new down main between where the GM’s were and the platform at Fairfield). Additionally, 8170 was standing next to the two GM’s with an empty railset. Sadly, the shot was looking straight into the sun!

S317 and GM27 sit at Fairfield with a sleeper train, while trackworkers inspect the up main.

Undeterred, and acting on a tip from the crew of GM22, we moved north to Fairfield Station, where we were told we could expect S317 and GM27 with a sleeper train. Sure enough, they were sitting right at the end of the platform, under the footbridge. While the angle wasn’t perfect from the bridge, a nice angle was obtained from a nearby carpark, looking over the fence with the use of a milk crate “borrowed” from a shop in Bardwell Park earlier that morning.

With word that an IRA ballast train was further north, we moved up to Yennora, to find a ballast train with 4497 on the country end, and ARG-owned 2208 on the city end. 2208 has only recently been hired by Independent Rail for use on container and trackwork trains. We were lucky that the two locos were on a double consist of ballast wagons, which placed 4497 right at a level crossing, and 2208 at the end of the platform at Yennora. After grabbing a couple of shots of 2208 and it’s ballast wagons, it was off to Guildford where 8134 and 8120 were push-pull on another ballast rake. Without an exciting photo opportunity, we pressed on and called it a day  – and it was only 1115! Why push ones luck, when there is a good opportunity to head home and download the photos and even squeeze in a nap before dinner?!?

One could even have enough time before going to bed that night to upload the photos to the internet and chronicle the adventure on some kind of website…

For more photos from the day, visit August, 2010 on Flickr!

With thanks to Chris Walters and Todd Milton for their assistance and company when compiling this article.


(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) SCT G Class in NSW

G533 on lease to QRNational, seen here at Leightonfield heading 3MB7
G533 on lease to QRNational, seen here at Leightonfield heading 3MB7

With the delivery of their SCT Class nearly compete (only SCT015 is still to be delivered from EDI Cardiff (NSW), which will run into Sydney next week), SCT have found little use for the nine G Class they purchased from Pacific National back in March 2007. This was due to an ACCC requirement that Pacific National to provide a “starter kit” of locomotives to a new competitor on the east-west rail corridor. Combined with leased NR Class units (among others), SCT used the nine G Class to haul it’s services until the delivery of their EDI built SCT Class began this year.

With the delivery of the SCT Class, the G Class (which were all heavily overhauled at EDI Rail’s Newport Workship (Vic), which included inline fuelling, data loggers and digital speedometers, among other upgrades) have been leased on to other operators. This has seen a number of the units into NSW, moving further east than Goobang Junction (Parkes) which until recently, remained one of the only places in NSW to sight them (now, this is an excellent place to see the SCT class at work).

G512 was recently on lease to ARG for use on their Manildra Group trains in NSW
G512 was recently on lease to ARG for use on their Manildra Group trains in NSW

G511, G533 and G535 “Kevin Sheedy Express” have all been leased to QRNational for East Coast services, seeing plenty of use on Melbourne to Brisbane and Melbourne to Sydney trains. G512 has also recently been on lease to ARG, for use on their Manildra services, although ARG’s lease on it expires tomorrow. Other members of the class in SCT colours have been seen on Freightlink trains in NT, ARG trains in WA, and El Zorro grain trains in Victoria/South Australia (the latter two units also seen in the company of other lease units such as C501).

The SCT G Class (save for G511) all have SCT logos on front and side, and look sensational in their vibrant red and white colour scheme, adding a splash of colour to the already colourful lashups of QRN/ARG in recent weeks.

Setbacks and Catchpoints – Part One

This may be the beginning of a series of articles about when things just don’t go to plan when out chasing trains. I hope that it helps those of you out there who think you have had a bad day trackside to put it into perspective!

Most South Coast services are provided by OSCARs
Most South Coast services are provided by OSCARs

With the alarm going off at 0330, it was almost too much to bear. The only thing that dragged me out of a warm bed and outside into a cold winter’s morning was the photographic possibilities that the next two days would provide. Embarking on a journey down the NSW South Coast to Bomaderry/Nowra, to follow Manildra/ARG train 9182, export containers to Port Botany from Nowra to Kiama. Unusually, today this train would be headed up by KL81 (ex NSWGR 49 Class), T387, T385 and GM10, rather than the normal black/orange motive power in the form of ARGs 22 (422) and 31 (L) Class locomotives.

Out of the house and into a cab, off to Chatswood to join the first train of the day at 0442 (this train runs to the city then out to Springwood to form a peak hour service Springwood – Wynyard/North Sydney). All too soon, it was back out of the nice, warm, EMU and onto the nearly deserted concourse at Central. It would not be hard selecting my platform, as the only trains present were the 0538 Dapto, the 0547 Newcastle and the 0532 Katoomba services. Selecting my seat in the second car of the train (which, incidentally was an OSCAR), I noted that the toilet was out of order. This was of no consequence for me, as no sooner had the train departed, then I was back asleep, lulled there by the gentle rocking of the train.

Waking up at Unanderra, I stretched and looked around at the Kembla Grange area as we finally pulled into Dapto. After a quick walk to stretch my legs, and a quick poke around a station I’d not been to as a passenger for a number of years (not since the break of electrification there, at any rate!), it was soon time to meet my friend in the parking lot.

After a quick U-turn, we were off to Dunmore, where we paused to watch 9132 PN Stone train for Boral emerge from their siding…

8150/8132 prepare to leave Dunmore Quarry with 9132 loaded stone
8150/8132 prepare to leave Dunmore Quarry with 9132 loaded stone

….only to watch them reverse back in, to the chagrin of the motorists waiting to cross the level crossing at the throat of the short branch to the quarry. Lead by 8150 and 8132, the train made a sharp impression on the clear day. As photogenic as the two locos were, soon it was time to head south to Bomaderry, for a feed and the train of the day.

Having finished off some baked goods at the local Bakery, we were trackside at the level crossing where the branch to the Manildra Mill joins the line up to Wollongong and Sydney. Sure enough, KL81 pulled up next to the level crossing, and a crew member popped out to activate the crossing. As they were running a little late, he ran over to set the road for the train. The chase was on!

Well, not really. Fortunately, a mate in RMC (the brain of the Railcorp network) told us that the train had actually lost its path and would have to remain behind until 2000 that night! Such is the problem with the very delicate section of line between Unanderra and Bomaderry – If a train misses its path, it can be very hard to fit it in later in amongst all of the other passenger workings, where, only minutes earlier, there was no freighter scheduled!

Normally the train is scheduled to leave Bomaderry at 1046, but this doesn’t get the train into the metro area until close to 1500. As the peak hour curfew starts then, trying to set up the correct path would have placed it into the metro area right on peak hour, not a popular decision for a controller to make!

Empty mill wheat 1337 races south through Werai Curve, bound for Hillston
Empty mill wheat 1337 races south through Werai Curve, bound for Hillston

Refusing to let this slight setback hold us back, we resolved to relocate to the Main South, to hopefully catch southbound 4BM7 running behind 5NY3, and possibly 4BM4 as well. After a drive up the mountain to Robertson, and on to Moss Vale (to the sounds of The Living End – White Noise), we positioned ourselves at Werai, a famous horseshoe curve located between Moss Vale and Exeter. We were not disappointed, as within minutes of arriving, 8160/4894 were photographed belting around the bend from Moss Vale with empty 1337 grain to Hillston. Back in the car, and back on the road, we were neck and neck with it most of the way south. Pulling off at a photospot just north of Goulburn, we waited for about thirty minutes before realising that it must have screamed through only moments before we arrived! Turns out that 4BM7 and 4BM4 missed curfew too, and were kept in Sydney!

On days like this, it’s worth reflecting on the good time spent with mates, and the actual thrill of the chase – it’s not always about how many photos you’ve brought home, moreso about the laughs you share when you realise that, despite your best efforts, the day has gotten away from you and it’s time to go home, perhaps to work the next day, or perhaps just running errands and household chores. You can always count on the fact that it makes for a great story to tell the next time you’re out and about trackside, during a break in traffic, or on a long journey to the next photospot!

(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.

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.