2012 Top Ten

Last year, when I complied and submitted my top ten photos for the year, they all felt somehow right, like each one had earned its place in the list. Everything felt natural, as if “yes, these are the top ten photographs for 2011”. This year couldn’t have been harder. I’m not going to get ahead of myself and say that I had “too many” good photos to choose between them. I’m not conceited. That being said, I’m not going to play the “I can’t find one good photo, let alone ten” card either, because I know I got plenty of good shots this year.

The problem is the curse of knowing too much. That XPT shot at Donnybrook, look at the colours there! That’s a shoe in. A closer look reveals that it’s crooked. The headlight shot from the final ZZR train of the year? Looks like I’ve cut the top of the signal box off slightly. Too much blur here, not enough there. I managed to find something wrong with almost every shot that I suggested – that’s not to say that they are necessarily “bad” shots. Just that I know how they could be better, because I pressed the shutter.

I could go on and on about shots that could be better, but that’s not the point of the exercise. The point is to highlight my favourite ten photos from the year, and provide a bit of back-story to each shot. The year in review will be summed up in a separate blog post. Continue reading “2012 Top Ten”

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The Sydney Great Train Weekend

The Sydney Great Train Weekend is held on the Queens Birthday long weekend. The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM) bring a number of heritage exhibits from Thirlmere to Sydney’s Central Station, where they are put on display for the general public to enjoy. The Powerhouse Museum provides steam locomotive 3265 for the display, which spends the weekend in light steam alongside the platform for people to climb into the cab and see a real, live steam locomotive. In a similar vein, 4001 and 4490 are at the other end of the platform, to allow people to examine the first mainline diesel locomotive in NSW. As well as the heritage items, RailCorp provides a CountryLink Xplorer and XPT set for people to inspect. As has been mentioned in previous years, this is an excellent opportunity to show people the new Waratah train, although this opportunity has never been capitalised on.

Not content with static displays alone, The NSWRTM also provides a steam train ride through the suburbs, with 3642 and 3526. The train runs between Central and Clyde over the course of the weekend, delighting young and old alike with a short, but pleasurable steam experience. Continue reading “The Sydney Great Train Weekend”

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
3265 at Central Station
3265 at Central Station

The 4-6-0 express passenger locomotives known as the “P Class” were first introduced to the rails of the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) in February 1892. The P Class, reclassed as the 32 class in 1924, would ply the rails of NSW right up until 1971 – a working life of over 70 years! Four locomotives remain in preservation today, 3203, 3214, 3237 and 3265 – the latter two in operating condition.

With the return to service of 3265 by the Powerhouse Museum, now might be a good time to learn a bit about the history of these venerable locomotives. A new section devoted to operational heritage locomotives on the website is under construction, with the page on the 32 class complete.

Click here to read more about the 32 Class, or navigate to the 32 Class page by clicking “Heritage” at the top of the site.

June/July 2009 News

First A-Set Arrives into Newcastle

The new PPP cars are a step closer to being in service this month, as the 4-car trial set was unloaded from a ship at Port Waratah on July 29. The revenue service A-Set trains will be fixed 8-car sets, instead of the usual pair of 4-car sets that have been the norm with rolling stock orders in recent years. The 4-car test train will be used to run extensive testing, both on a special test track at EDI Cardiff, and also around the Cityrail network, testing anything from the ride quality to their performance under peak hour loads. The extensive testing is to prevent another Millennium Train debacle, as seen after their introduction in 2000, which saw them withdrawn from service until 2004.

When the test train was unloaded onto the wharf, NSW Transport Minister David Campbell announced that the 626 next generation carriages would carry the name “Waratah”. The Waratah trains are to be introduced onto the CityRail network from 2010 to 2013, replacing the R/S/L Set fleet, which was introduced to the network from 1972.

2009 CityRail Timetable Released

From October 11, a new CityRail timetable will come into effect on all lines. The most notable change has been on the Northern Line, which previously ran from Hornsby to the City via Strathfield. With the opening of the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link (ECRL) earlier this year, the Northern Line will now run from Hornsby to Epping, then to Chatswood and on to the City, before continuing back to Epping via Strathfield.

Western, South and East Hills line commuters will benefit from additional peak hour services to relieve congestion on these lines. Additionally, new services will be introduced in the period following the morning peak hour, to assist passengers on Western, Northern, South and North Shore lines.

With the continued introduction of more Outer Suburban Cars, more Tangara trains are freed up for suburban running, most notably on the peak hour Central Coast and Wollongong/Port Kembla services, which then allows more 6-car trains to be built up into 8-car trains, to ease loading on popular peak and off peak train services.

G30 stands at Macquarie University during ECRL Crush Load testing for the Tangara trains. 14/6/09
G30 stands at Macquarie University during ECRL Crush Load testing for the Tangara trains. 14/6/09

The Bankstown Line is also set to benefit, with the return to a 15-minute frequency on the weekend (previously passengers on this line had a half hourly service to/from the city on weekends).

ECRL Crush Load Testing

On the 14th of June, Tangara set G30 was involved in crush load testing on the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link. A week later, T77 was also involved in similar testing, with an 8-car K-Set undergoing a different trial a week after T77 went through the link.

G30 first ran from Hornsby to Epping, then to Chatswood through the ECRL, and then ran back to Epping via North Sydney, Central and Strathfield. After the crew changed ends at Epping, the set then ran back to Chatswood via Strathfield and Central, to run through the link again to Epping and back up to Hornsby. The train was running with a full load of “passengers”, simulated by loaded water drums to the same level that can be expected when the train is operating at peak-hour crush load.

This testing was the latest in a series of tests involving the Tangara trains running on the ECRL line. Judging from the new timetable, Tangara trains will not be used on Northern Line services (all of which will run through the new link), although they are (along with the V-Set Interurban trains) permitted to work non-stop through the link under emergency conditions.

The main issue with Tangara trains is their weight – the traction motors were prone to overheating on their first runs through the link during the initial testing undertaken after the link was completed.

K63 stands at North Ryde Station undergoing noise testing for K-Set trains on the ECRL. 27/6/09
K63 stands at North Ryde Station undergoing noise testing for K-Set trains on the ECRL. 27/6/09

On the 27th of June, K-Set K85 and K63 were sent on a number of tests through the ECRL, although not for crush load testing (the “silver set” trains can operate normally through the link in this regard). Instead, the K-Sets were present to test the noise levels for passengers and crew travelling through the tunnels.

These tests proved to be successful, and when the link is fully integrated in the 2009 timetable (see above); the Northern Line will be run by K-Set and OSCAR trains only. Incidentally, this will make it the first CityRail line to be run exclusively by air conditioned trains.

3265 In Steam Again

In news that has dominated the rail preservation scene in NSW, P Class 3265 is the second P Class to return to steam, undergoing a number of steaming trials in July. Separate trials were undertaken to Penrith and Springwood/Valley Heights, with a pair of trials to and from Gosford undertaken in mid July.

Once trials of the locomotives restoration are complete, the locomotive will be painted at Chullora Workshops (incidentally, the same location that 3801 will be receiving her overhaul). The Powerhouse Museum, who owns and operates the locomotive have opted for the locomotive to receive her “Victoria Maroon” colour scheme, which was worn by 3265 when involved in operating the Newcastle Flyer (then known as the “Newcastle Express”), around 1933. As well as the colour scheme, 3265 has had her “Hunter” nameplates returned to her (these nameplates had been removed and given to 3608 when the 36 class took over from the 32 class on Newcastle Express services).

3265 undergoing the first of her steam trails on the mainline, seen here at Sydney Terminal.
3265 undergoing the first of her steam trails on the mainline, seen here at Sydney Terminal.

3265 is a testament to the skill and dedication of all those involved in her restoration.

92 Class/LDP Class Load Trials

On June 27, Pacific National undertook a number of trials with their new 92 Class locomotives (built by United Goninans), as well as with a trio of LDP Class units (built by Downer EDI), to determine the locomotives suitability for use on coal trains with Southern Coal (currently the 92 Class are limited to operations in The Hunter Valley).

The initial testing for the 92 Class was not successful, with the locomotives reduced to walking pace when lifting a full load of coal up Cowan Bank. The LDP Class performed marginally better, lifting the same load at a little under 20km/h.

The day following the test saw the trio of 92 Class (9211, 9213 and 9208) joined by 8125 at Enfield for the run down into Wollongong. The 81 class had been added to the train to avoid any slow running on the steep grades through Como and Jannali.

XR/X/G Class to NSW

Shortly after arriving from Victoria, XR559 is sandwiched between a pair of 81 Class at Cootamundra. 8/6/09
Shortly after arriving from Victoria, XR559 is sandwiched between a pair of 81 Class at Cootamundra. 8/6/09

In a continuation of the trend to move working, surplus rolling stock from Victoria to New South Wales to assist with the movement of coal and grain (among other commodities), Pacific National transferred a number of standard gauge G, X and XR class to NSW for grain working.

A number of X Class units are already employed by PN Rural and Bulk to move fuel to various depots around the state, although a couple of X Class have been sighted working domestic and export grain trains. XR555 and XR559 have been transferred to NSW to assist with the movement of domestic and export grain.

A number of G Class are already in service with the Northern Coal fleet, with word that other G Class will follow from Victoria to assist with the grain haulage task in the North West of the state.

P&O Trans Australia Expansion

Following the transfer of the contract to move export containers from Yennora to Port Botany from Interail (owned by QRNational) to P&O Trans Australia, and the purchase of 4477 and 4471 from CFCLA, POTA underwent further expansion in July, successfully winning the contract for the movement of containers from Carrington to Port Botany, resulting in the contract passing from Southern & Silverton (owned by Coote Industrial) to POTA.

CLF1 and 4477 on T281 Botany to Yennora freight head into Enfield before continuing on to Yennora
CLF1 and 4477 on T281 Botany to Yennora freight head into Enfield before continuing on to Yennora. 3/7/09.

To assist with their motive power requirements, POTA hired CLF1, CLP11 and CLP13 (the latter two units in the corporate QRNational scheme) from Interail. By the end of July, both CLP Class units had been returned ex hire, although GM12 class locomotives GM22 and GM27 are now on lease from CFCLA, following the end of their lease to Patricks Portlink (who originally used both units on the Yennora container shuttle in 2008). POTA have also hired 44204, which has been sighted on a number of POTA trains in late July.

Triple Headed Steam to Moss Vale

July 4th proved to be a very exciting day to be in Moss Vale (located in the NSW Southern Highlands region), with the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum running a triple headed steam special from Sydney to Moss Vale and return, running via Wollongong.

The train departed Sydney Terminal behind NN/35 Class locomotive 3526, 36 Class “Pig” 3642 and 38 Class 3830 (the latter locomotive being in the custody of The Powerhouse Museum), with 4520 and 4490 assisting from the rear. Having stormed the Illawarra Escarpment from Wollongong to Moss Vale, the train arrived at Moss Vale to be serviced. Upon arrival in Moss Vale, 3526 and the two diesels returned to Thirlmere light engine, leaving the two Pacifics to return to Central alone.

In a surprise move, the mighty 38 was put into the lead for the run home, and the two locomotives provided some truly dramatic scenes in the chill afternoon air – scenes taken straight from a historical photo or video, perhaps.

3830 and 3642 storm out of the loop at Calwalla, headed for Robertson. 4/7/09
3830 and 3642 storm out of the loop at Calwalla, headed for Robertson. 4/7/09

Vintage Train Day at The NSWRTM

Over the weekend of 18/19 of July 2009, The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum ran a weekend of Vintage Train rides, between Thirlmere and Picton, and between Thirlmere and Buxton. Motive power for the Picton trains was provided by 4803 (Sydney end) and 3642 (country end). Veteran steam locomotive 2705 provided the motive power for the run down the line to Buxton and back, hauling the rarely seen Pullman carriage set.

4803 prepares to lead the final Thirlmere to Picton shuttle of the day, this shuttle taking many happy visitors back to Picton to catch their train back to Sydney.
4803 prepares to lead the final Thirlmere to Picton shuttle of the day, this shuttle taking many happy visitors back to Picton to catch their train back to Sydney. 18/7/09.

Interestingly, one of the morning shuttle runs from Thirlmere to Picton was timed to arrive at Picton station shortly after the morning Endeavour service to Moss Vale had departed. This allowed passengers from Sydney to get to Thirlmere without worrying about dealing with private bus services or long walks through the back streets of Tahmoor. The final shuttle from Thirlmere to Picton also connected with an afternoon up and down service, to allow passengers to travel home again.

A number of different tickets were offered on the day, the best value ticket being the $30 all day ticket, which included rides on both of the heritage trains as well as entry into the museum, which was of particular interest given the work being done behind the display hall on the new roundhouse – which was looking far from incomplete. Certainly this upgrade will make the Thirlmere Heritage Centre a force to be reckoned with in regards to preservation.

In addition to the passenger steam shuttles, on both days steam locomotive 3526 “The Nanny” was on hand to shunt back and forth in Thirlmere yard with a short rake of restored freight wagons, complete with LHG on the rear. The 35 ran backwards and forwards on a short section of the yard to provide not only photographers and videographers, but also visiting families and enthusiasts a chance to witness a rare recreation of what was once a regular occurrence all over the state – the steam hauled goods train. The NSWRTM even went as far as putting on a branch line display of goods train haulage, with 3526 running down to Couridjah and return, specifically to be seen.

2705, in the custody of The NSWRTM, waits for the road to be set before attaching to her carriages.
2705, in the custody of The NSWRTM, waits for the road to be set before attaching to her carriages.

As well as providing for people wanting to ride on the trains, there was a chance for visitors to photograph 2705 running along the loop line, with a vintage double decker Sydney bus being on hand from the Vintage Bus Museum at Tempe, offering rides up and down the line to allow visitors a chance to capture the action from the side of the tracks. This was an excellent incentive for people to pay for a ticket to ride, as it meant that they didn’t have to go home without a “record shot” of the train moving along the line, rather than just the normal “start and end” shots from each end of the trip.

In this authors opinion, it was a most enjoyable day, and hopefully a success to the museum and it’s hard working volunteers.

For photos from the day, please click here to see photos from July, 2009.

Steamfest 2009 – Photos

3642 running tender first through High Street Station on a shuttle to Newcastle.
3642 running tender first through High Street Station on a shuttle to Newcastle.
SMR30 running around her cars at Richmond Vale
SMR30 running around her cars at Richmond Vale
3237 leads 5916 and 3830 into Maitland with the 3801ltd Steamfest Special
3237 leads 5916 and 3830 into Maitland with the 3801ltd Steamfest Special

Steamfest 2009 photos are now avaliable on Flickr! Click here to view the whole set.