Regular travelling companion Todd Milton and I decided to pay our first visit to the Parkes area in November, with the hope of seeing something a little different from our usual haunt, the Main South. A regular diet of NR and 81 Class will do that! The checklist of “things to see” included the two shunting units at Manildra, the various Manildra feeder grain services (typically the domain of 48 and X Class locomotives), as well as any branchline grain trains we could lay out hands on. Finally, a shot of The Parkes – Perth SCT service was a must-have.
According to plan, AR02 loaded coal from Airly was the first train to pass our vantage point at 0618 behind G513, C508 and C503. Next to arrive was 1865N freight, bound for Kelso (Bathurst) behind GL107 and GL101. We then hopped onto the highway to move to Sodwalls, for a spectacular dawn lit shot as the train passed around the well-known horseshoe. That is, we would have, if we’d not made the mistake of continuing on to Brewongle, with word that 1865N was stopped at Wallerawang. We assumed we could get a shot of the up Indian Pacific at Brewongle, before moving to Raglan to get the GL’s climbing the steep grade into the station. Imagine our surprise when GL107 snuck up on us (prior to this, I didn’t realise a GL could sneak up on anyone), crossing the up Indian Pacific at the former station site. Still, a fine shot of NR27 was gained on the s-curve at Brewongle, before we moved to Kelso to see the freight shunt into the siding.
With no other trains in the area until the afternoon, we decided to head west to Manildra. We’d been told that an 81/X combo was to depart Parkes Sub-Terminal at lunchtime, bound for Enfield, and we figured upon getting there early to find a decent spot for a shot! Passing through the township of Manildra, we reflected on the fact that the mill is not so much a feature of the town, it appears that the town is a feature of the mill! The huge silos and milling buildings dwarf the surrounding town, and entirely encircle the former station site, which is no longer served by passenger trains. MM01 (formerly 4907, see Part 2) was also seen to be shunting the mill, while MM03 (former BHP Newcastle No. 51) was shutdown on an adjacent siding.
We paused outside of town to record the passing of 8134N Westons Milling wheat service bound for Enfield behind the uninspiring looking 8130 in FreightCorp colours, and a gleaming X48 in pristine Pacific National paint, before continuing on to Parkes to first locate, and check into our motel. We soon found that Parkes is a very confusing town when you first drive in, with highways being renamed in town to street names, and plenty of “no right turn” signs, as well as plenty of occasions where the road we wanted to get to was on the other side of a footpath. Eventually we navigated the town, dumped our bags, and found ourselves baking in the heat at Goobang Junction, waiting for G515 to arrive from Goonumbla.
While waiting for G515, we amused ourselves by watching former WAGR/Great Northern/CFCLA locomotives J103 and J102 shunting the SCT terminal. Painted in full SSR livery, the two J Class at Goobang Junction have an interesting history.
Originally purchased by the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) in 1966 from Clyde Engineering for shunting duties (the J Class are almost identical to the first series Y Class purchased by the VR three years earlier). They spent their lives in WA until 1995, when four members of the class (the class leader had been scrapped two years earlier) were sold to Great Northern and transferred to Melbourne.
During their time with Great Northern, the J Class were used on a variety of tasks, including shunting the National Rail Corporation freight terminal, running shunting turns and trip trains, and infrastructure work. When Great Northern folded in 2002, ownership of the class passed to CFCL Australia, who leased the locomotives to Southern Shorthaul Railroad. CFCLA sold the four members of the class in 2009 and 2010 (to SCT and Freightlink respectivly) for use as shunters in NSW and SA.
J103 and J102 can often be seen shunting the SCT freight depot at Goobang Junction. Sadly, the units did not get close enough to the accessible end of the shunting neck for a roster shot, and I was not to keen on tramping through long grass in late spring. I had to be content with shooting them across the field.
G515 did arrive on cue at 1306 with 8242N loaded ore train from Goonumbla to Goulburn (the train runs to Port Kembla, but waits at Goulburn for its turn in the sidings, which are shared by the PN ore train from Blayney).
After a break for lunch, we wandered around the station area. PN have a large depot at Parkes, and it is not uncommon for many trains to exchange crews or even loco’s when passing through. Quite a few locomotives were stabled in the yard, including former ATN Access L251, and a number of 48 class in various liveries, from GrainCorp and PN, to the battle scarred Freightcorp units, showing every day of their impressive age.
As the day began to slowly cool, we staked out the level crossing at Goonumbla to wait for one of the two trains that feed the mill at Manildra with grain from various silos in Western NSW. The first such train was 8832N coming towards Parkes from Narromine behind 4894, 4854 and X50, with X50 being a particularly long way from home! Since the cessation of bulk fuel transport by rail in NSW, most of the X Class have seen themselves redeployed on other bulk working, including grain, flour, cement and sugar traffic, among other loadings.
After following 8832 halfway to Manildra, we decided that any further shots would endanger the possibility of the final shot of the day – a sunset shot of 7GP1 SCT superfreighter to Perth. We set up at Nelungaloo (to the west of Parkes) as the sun slowly slid behind the horizon, entertained by the harvesters busy harvesting a nearby wheat field. 7GP1 shattered the atmosphere when it screamed past at 1935 behind SCT Class locomotives 009 and 005. Up to 1800m in length, the train is a mixture of vans and double-stack container wagons, and the sight and speed of the train needs to be seen to be believed. What a fantastic way to finish! It was worth the massive dust cloud it kicked up that reduced both Todd and I to a sneezing, coughing, sniffling mess for the next few hours until medication (and a nightcap) brought sleep – a very welcome relief!