Staff and Semaphore

Early in the morning of Wednesday, June 18, the Miniature Electric Staff (MES) system of safeworking in operation between Kiama and Bomaderry was suspended and replaced with Pilot Staff Working (PSW) to permit the miniature electric staff instruments to be removed, with the system of safeworking to be replaced with Rail Vehicle Detection (RVD). This would be the final step in replacing all MES sections on the Sydney Trains (formerly RailCorp) suburban and intercity network. Continue reading “Staff and Semaphore”


To Kiama And Back… With A Twist

The plan could not have been any more simple – a day trip to Kiama, to be back in Sydney in time for dinner. I should really go back and read some of the other accounts on this website to prove to myself that these sorts of things never work out as planned!

I met the guys at Erskineville, where we would take on coffee and make for Kiama via one of two ways – either via the Main South Line to Moss Vale before hooking east to Albion Park, or via the coast road and Wollongong. Our decision was to be influenced by two different trains, both coming north at (supposedly) the same time. One was the QRNational Melbourne to Sydney (Yennora) freight, in the form of 6MS9. This train is known for showcasing some of the more “vintage” QRNational locomotives, including the CLF, CLP and G Classes, although members of the 421, X and 422 classes are no strangers either. On the other hand, three of the brand new Centennial Coal CEY Class were to depart Port Kembla at roughly the same time, bound for Lithgow. The smart answer, would be to stay in Sydney and shoot them both – although this is the smart play, it would force us to miss a shot of a Sydney Electric Train Society (SETS) special charter train at Bombo, which was deemed “unacceptable”.

With mumblings of “CLP’s are the most overrated loco since Thomas the Tank Engine” and “It only counts if it’s a yellow one”, we set our sights on Scarborough, the lure of modern (and hopefully still clean) diesels winning out over the possibility of vintage bulldog power. The view from Scarborough is arguably one of the best “railway locations” on the coast, while the Main South is fairly unremarkable around Sydney’s southern fringes.

Shortly after arriving at Scarborough, with cameras, tripods and eyes pointed to the south (where the line was bathed in glorious sunshine), our first sighting would be from the north – 8245 and 8217 slowly grinding through the station with a push-pull coal train from the nearby Metropolitan Colliery (Helensburgh) at 0908. With a northbound “all stations” service to Sydney departing at 0912, and another passenger service not due for approximately an hour, we once again turned our eyes south for a planned “rush” of coal traffic. Sure enough, at 0920, 8235 appeared into view with three classmates assisting on an empty Pacific National coal train to Lidsdale. We began to be concerned when we realised that the road was not set into the single-line section to Coalcliff. We became slightly more worried when we heard a horn at the nearby level crossing – our suspicions were confirmed when CEY004 came into view through the trees, southbound at a rapid pace. It was a quick couple of shots, but we all managed to quickly shoot the Pacific National train approaching the platform before a hurried dash and composure saw us photograph the two trains crossing in the platform. Despite the planned target heading in the wrong direction (against the light), we were all more or less happy with our shots, so we decided to head towards Wollongong to evaluate our next move.

The sight of the SSR coal train in the down refuge at Thirroul prompted a slight detour via the station – with the train sidelined, this dashed any hopes of a speedy turnaround back towards Lithgow. While the lads photographed the locomotives standing in the refuge, information came through from a man “on the ground” that 6MB4, a loaded wheat train and 6MS9 were forming an orderly queue outside Bundanoon to await a path into Moss Vale (due to ARTC trackwork, single line working was in use between Moss Vale and Bundanoon on the down main line). It was at this point that the “short detour into Thirroul” became a “long detour to Picton”, as we were informed that the freighters would await the passage of the southbound Xplorer to Canberra and XPT to Melbourne.

As we approached Picton, there still had not been any movement from Bundanoon, so we chanced a rush down the freeway to Moss Vale (with the curve at Werai being the planned destination). As we scooted through Berrima and Moss Vale, 6MB4 skipped past, obviously keen to make up for lost time. Not wanting to take any chances, we parked opposite the station at Moss Vale to look at our options. We set up at the country end of Moss Vale Platform One, and checked the signals – the signs were good for the loaded wheatie to make a beeline for our position. Until the signals changed, and the train instead arrived into the down yard for a crew change…

Determined not to make the same mistake again, we relocated to the footbridge at the Sydney end of the station for the passing of 6MS9. Eventually, LDP001 came into view hauling a dead attached, CFCLA owned and SCT liveried G512 (bringing back recent memories of when SCT-owned G Class were hired to QRNational) and a whopping ten or so wagons.

With the clock now against us, we jumped on the road again with plans to follow the wheat train (hauled by an 81/C combination) to Robertson, although weekend traffic and clear signals thwarted our efforts. Instead, we continued to Bombo for a planned shot of the SETS tour train, which we missed! With over an hour to kill until the SETS train returned, allowing us ample time to attack a local cafe in Kiama to secure a meal of burgers, fish and chips.

We returned to the northern end of Bombo by 1400 to allow us plenty of time to line up our shots. Given that we were travelling in two cars, we assumed that the other car would be heading for the spot we originally planned to shoot the train, so the location of the spot was described as “Northern Bombo”. Regrettably, our companion was already at the correct photo-spot, and this direction sent him to “Albion Park Rail” (which shall henceforth be referred to as “North Bombo” to avoid further confusion). Sure enough, the SETS tour (comprising of CityRail Chopper set C8) passed by our location at 1413.

While our companion lined up a shot at Albion Park and prepared to give chase to Port Kembla, the “lead car” (which at this point was the “chase car”) found its way to nearby Minnamurra, where the other lads engaged in a spot of wading – sometimes it pays to go to extremes for “that shot”. The train we were planning to photograph was 8938N loaded Manildra Group flour from Manildra to Bomaderry. Given the length of the train, control was understandably wary about letting it loose on a single line section, so we soaked up the sun while the various CityRail passenger trains went about their business. With the southbound train safely at Kiama Station (and thus, out of the way), the line was clear and the scene set for the freighter to proceed. While three 81 Class locomotives is the norm for this train, in times of additional loading, often an X or 80 class will be added to assist with the load. As the train approached, a loud, steady “bark” could be heard, causing one of the waterlogged photographers to remark “there might be an X on the train”. As the locos got closer to our position, the bark degenerated into a loud grumble, prompting the comment “if there is, it’s not in a good way”. We were, of course hearing the distinctive chatter of the Commonwealth Engineering built 80 Class that was mixing it up with the three 81 class (the order was 8183, 8005, 8152 and 8159 for those playing at home).

After extracting the intrepid photographers from the mangroves, we were ready to continue on our merry way… until information was received via text message of the QRNational grain train departing Inner Harbour, bound for Goulburn to stable. We were once again torn… Should we head north to find the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum steam special that was headed for Sydney behind preserved steam locomotive 3526? Or should we instead ascend the mountain in search of some brilliantly coloured vintage NSW and Western Australian diesels. While it wasn’t exactly Sophie’s Choice, it did give a moment’s pause… before the diesels inevitably won out…

This was how we found ourselves climbing the very same mountain road we descended only a couple of hours beforehand. We arrived at Raneleigh House (Robertson) with plenty of time to wait before the deafening roar of WAGR L Class locomotives could be heard, eventually coming in to view as DC2206, LZ3103 and LQ3122. With time increasingly becoming an issue, we resolved to jump “down the road” to Werai for a final shot, before heading back to Sydney.

It was only when we arrived at Werai that we remembered the trackwork – sure enough, the first train to pass through the section after our arrival was another empty wheat train hauled by double 81 class locomotives, followed twenty minutes later by our QRNational wheatie. With memory cards fit to burst, it was time to turn around and head back for Sydney. While we had not notched up a lot of sightings, we felt we had captured some of the best that both the highlands and the coast had to offer, with the SETS tour an easy highlight, simply on location alone (and that’s before one considers that the “C” sets have not visited the Illawarra since initial testing, and will likely not visit it again before their eventual retirement).

Top Ten of 2011

Thanks to inspiration from a number of friends who make this an annual tradition, I’ve taken a good long look back at my photos from the year to try and nut out a top ten list for 2011. At first it was quite easy, but by the end of the year, I’d found 23 photos that I felt could make the cut. I’ve culled the list down, and present – this year’s top ten.

As I’m a bit of a lazy sod, preferring to actually get out trackside with the camera (and then retire to a hotel for a beverage or two in good company, rather than hunch over an LCD screen to sift through photos), a lot of photos from the year have not yet been uploaded to Flickr. Perhaps you might disagree that these are the best photos I’ve taken in 2011? Comments are appreciated, and I would go so far as to suggest that creating a “top ten” list is an important one for all railway photographers. A form of self critique, in a way  – what have I achieved this year? What can I improve on? What makes this shot more important than that one?

Indicator Boards at Leightonfield – March 18th.

The old roller type indicator boards are slowly becoming an endangered species on the CityRail network. With dwindling staff numbers at stations, and an ever expanding need to provide customers with up to the minute information on easy to read and easy to access computer screens, there just isn’t a place for these old indicator boards… except perhaps in a museum! I recall arriving at the station at the same time as NY3 steel freight, without time to line up a “standard” shot, I instead went for the shot with the indicator boards. Needless to say, it didn’t work out, and so, with a bit more time to spare, I tried again with a passing suburban train from the city. Aside from cutting off a tiny bit at the bottom of the board, I feel it worked quite well.

Dusk in The Cullerins – April 30th.

Thanks to a tip off from a friend up in Newcastle, we’d found out that 8134 loaded grain train was expected to arrive into Sydney behind X45, 48122 and X48. The downside was, due to the slow running speed of this train, it was to follow the evening XPT into Sydney, arriving a long time after dark. Our party had spent the day around the Goulburn area, photographing various Pacific National and El Zorro trains. With the afternoon XPT sighted climbing through the Cullerins in the brilliant late afternoon sun, we moved to the station at Gunning to make the most of the remaining dusk light. When we saw 8134 for the first time, it was following another loaded grain train (behind a pair of 81 Class). We got our first shot at Gunning, before moving on in chase – we were racing the remaining light as much as the train! With the train in front combined with the steep grades, it was no issue getting ahead of the train and over to the other side of the hill, but by then the sun was merely an afterthought. Regardless, this shot turned out to be my favourite from the day!

A Depot Scene – May 8th.

A generous invitation from Les Coulton to join him in Ballarat for the Ballarat Heritage Weekend shuttles saw a quick decision to fly down to Victoria to accept. Steamrail Victoria took D3 639 and their carriages to Ballarat to join with local resident Y112 to run a number of shuttles between Ballarat and Sulky. As well as being involved in riding on and photographing the train, the invitation extended to staying in the sleeping car at the Ballarat depot! This allowed for plenty of memorable moments, one of which was watching the locos being prepared for service in the morning. As a nod to the passengers, as well as the lineside photographers who came out to support the train, both locomotives were turned on the Ballarat turntable on the Saturday afternoon, to allow the locomotives to run in reverse order for Sundays shuttles. This photograph was taken shortly before Y112 left the depot to attach to the cars at Ballarat Station.

ML-039 Passing St Leonards – July 3rd.

St Leonards Station is quite an impressive structure – when originally built, it was a pair of unremarkable side platforms to serve a North Shore suburb. Between 1989 to 2000, the station was relocated to a temporary location on the city side of the Pacific Highway overpass, to allow a complete redevelopment of the current station site. As part of the development, the air above the station was handed over to developers to build apartments, and the new station was built with allowance for four tracks, for future enhancement to the St Leonards to Chatswood corridor as part of a proposed second Sydney Harbour crossing. Fast forward to 2011, and platforms one and four remain unused, with the status quo very much maintained. This shot was taken on an opportunistic whim – I had heard that mechanised track inspection vehicle was going to be running over the North Shore line on that day (hardly an unusual occurrence), including a visit to check all of the sidings at Lavender Bay, as well as inspection of the middle tunnel roads at North Sydney, and Lindfield turnback. I’d wanted to shoot a train at St Leonards using the station as a backdrop for a while, and this presented a rather unique oppertunity. With news surfacing that the NSW Government are looking to buy two new mechanised inspection vehicles in 2012, the future of ML-039 is far from safe, I felt this was quite appropriate.

Staff Exchange – July 17th.

During July, I entertained Crisfitz from Railpage, a former driver and train controller from Western Australia. I (and a couple of the usual suspects) showed him some of the more interesting locations and photospots that the area immediatly around Sydney has to offer. One of the activities on Cris’ list was to go for a ride on the Zig Zag Railway, at Lithgow. After first photographing the train paralleling Bells Line of Road, we then raced down to Bottom Points Station to purchase our tickets and board the train. We took great, childlike delight in riding the train up the Zig Zag, pausing for photos of 1049 (as well as the railmotor that was also running on the day) at Top Points during the runaround, as well as more photos at Clarence (and Top Points again on the return journey). Despite all of the atmospheric shots obtained with the DSLR, I felt this was probably one of my favourites of the day. Taken on the iPhone 4 using the Hipstamatic app, I was able to capture the staff exchange at Top Points signal box without the risk of losing my head (or, indeed, headbutting the poor signaller).

G535 at Milvale – August 21st.

The backstory to this photo is staggering – if every picture tells a thousand words, then perhaps I need to find a thousand words to describe how the picture came about! Long time enthusiast and companion Todd had been encouraging me to head south to Junee with him to show him some of the spots, and (hopefully) get some photos of trains away from the mainlines. Imagine our surprise to find out that, due to trackwork on the Unanderra to Moss Vale line, most of the grain trains that regularly ply the states southern regions were parked up with no work to do! The trains we were interested in (the QRNational rake for Glencore Grain and the two El Zorro rakes for Grainflow/Cargills) were all stabled – El Zorro had one rake at Junee, and the other at a siding near Stockinbingal, while QRNational were quite safely parked in Goulburn. On the final day of our (rather quiet) weekend, we noticed movement beginning for the lines re-opening on Monday. QRNational were sighted loading their train at Red Bend (south of Forbes), while El Zorro were preparing to depart Junee at the same time. We found ourselves overlooking an impressive Canola field at Weedalion, the perfect shot set up for the approaching QRNational train. That was, until the train was refuged at Bribbaree! Rather than wait around for it to appear, we instead headed south to Milvale to wait for the Parkes-bound El Zorro train. Having got our shots of G535, EL60, 4816 and 4836 approaching the yard, we prepared to give chase to Bribbaree to get QRNational departing, before heading to Goulburn to spend the night. We didn’t  count on the El Zorro train going into the refuge at Milvale! With the sun rapidly fading, we resigned ourselves to waiting at the country end of the loop at Milvale to see what would eventuate. A loaded PN wheat train from Parkes sub-terminal, bound for the Allied Mills facility at Maldon raced through behind a pair of 81 Class, before it was time for El Zorro to depart. With the last of the light only minutes away from vanishing altogether, it was only luck that produced the photograph seen above!

T6 Approaching Scarborough – 28th of September.

There was once a time when Tangara trains were quite common on the line from Sydney to Wollongong (and beyond). Due to a shortage of V-Set intercity trains, quite a few peak and off-peak runs were rostered for 4 or 8 car G-Set “outer suburban” Tangara trains (of course, seasoned commuters would know that with set availability at Motdale, it was not uncommon for many runs to use T Set suburban trains instead). With the introduction of the OSCar carriages in 2006, their first deployment was to the South Coast Line to free up the Tangara carriages for suburban duties. Fast forward to 2011, and the 3 car L-Set trains that once provided local services in the Wollongong suburban area are gone, replaced by 4 car Tangara trains. Most (if not all) of the services to and from Sydney are operated by OSCar trains (with one run still operated by a V-Set, at least until early 2012). The G-Set “outer suburban” experiment has ended, with all G-Sets having  been refurbished by RailCorp to remove the toilets and make them into suburban commuter trains. The above photograph was taken in moderate rain at Scarborough, only a few days before the 2011 CityRail timetable was introduced.

Guard – October 30th

Every year Heritage Express (the operating arm of the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, now better known as Trainworks) operates a tour from Sydney to Melbourne and return using their Southern Aurora carriage set for the Melbourne Cup. In 2011 the train was run by 4490 and 4520, and while having lunch in the city, the decision was made to pop down to Sydney Terminal to say G’day to some friends who were amongst the crew. The guard of the first leg of the journey was Ben (seen above in full NSWGR uniform), and I managed to cajole him into standing still for thirty seconds while preparing his train for departure. This is another photograph taken on the iPhone 4, using the Hipstamatic App.

Night Eagle – September 17th.

Chris and I were returning to Sydney after a day spent on the Main South between Moss Vale and Goulburn, looking for shots of the QRNational/Glencore Grain train. Despite getting a large number of shots of this very photogenic train, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to shoot NR18 southbound on a diverted 6BM4. NR18 had arrived into Sydney earlier that morning on the Indian Pacific from Adelaide, and was placed on the front of BM4 to assist the train to Melbourne. Normally BM4 does not stop in Sydney, although on this day it did pause in Enfield to add NR18 to the front. We photographed it well after sunset at Loftus behind NR18, NR25 (painted in the previous Indian Pacific livery), NR73 (painted in the original PN NR colour scheme) and NR76 (retaining it’s original National Rail colours). We suspect this was the first time that the new and old Indian Pacific liveried NR Class were used on the same train. At the time of writing, it is not known if any more NR Class will be treated to the new Indian Pacific scheme.

7GP1 Passing Nelungaloo Silo – November 5th.

During early November, Todd and I headed west to Parkes, to look for photos of the Manildra feeder services. Although we succeeded in our endeavours, we couldn’t pass up a shot for the departure of 7GP1 SCT superfreighter from Parkes to Perth. The departure of the train was slightly delayed beyond the expected departure time, and as such, we photographed SCT009 and SCT005 passing the disused silo at Nelungaloo at 1935, kicking up a great deal of dust and grass seed that rendered us incapacitated for the remainder of the evening!

October 2010 News

Waratah “A1” Begins Testing on The CityRail Network

After delivery on the 28th of July, the first 8-car Waratah Train or “A Set” commenced its testing on the CityRail network in August. A historic test occurred on the night of August 13th, when A1 made a trip between Camelia and Carlingford under its own power. This test seemed unusual to some, as the Waratah trains will not be used on the Carlingford Line in revenue service. The testing was done on the Carlingford Line due to the isolation of the line (thus making it easy to close for testing), and because of the steep gradient of the line providing a good test for some of the other steep grades in Sydney.  This marked the end of the testing period with the PPTV (Pre Production Trial Vehicle), which will be returned to Cardiff at a future date. The motor cars from the PPTV will be used in one of the future Waratah trains, while the driver trailer units will be used as spares to replace damaged rolling stock in the event of an accident or derailment.

The main criticism of the Waratah train to date is it’s late introduction, although this is due in part to the extensive testing and quality control being imposed on the train before it is accepted into service. The seamless introduction of the OSCar trains to the network was due to the rigorous testing program imposed on them before they were accepted into passenger service.

The 78 8-car Waratah trains are being supplied by Reliance Rail, a consortium of Downer EDI Limited, AMP Capital Investors, Royal Bank of Scotland and International Public Partnerships Limited. The trains will be maintained by Downer EDI, on a 30-year contract to Reliance Rail. As reported in the July news, these trains will be leased by RailCorp and used for CityRail services. This is a dramatic shift in the previous method of rolling stock acquisition, where RailCorp would purchase the rolling stock outright from a manufacturer.

The first 8-car set is due to enter service by December 2010, with at least four sets expected to be in service by March, 2011.

Endeavour/Xplorer Refurbishment Program Complete

EA2504 is the lead car on SP31, Sydney to Canberra passenger.

The Xplorer railcars were introduced in 1993, as part of a project to re-introduce a daylight service to North Western NSW, as well as to allow the removal of the older, locomotive hauled passenger trains from the regional rail network. The Endeavour railcars were a follow on from the Xplorer design, albeit being modified to better suit commuters rather than booked seat passengers. The first Endeavour railcar would enter service in 1994.

Although minor changes had been made to the fleet of both the Xplorer and Endeavour cars over their operating lives, no major overhaul had yet been performed. By May 2005, a number of changes had been made to the CityRail and CountryLink networks since the cars entered service. The most notable was the introduction of the new CountryLink colour scheme on the refurbished XPT locomotives and cars, as well as the introduction of the Hunter Railcars for use in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region. By the end of 2006, a number of companies had been shortlisted to tender for the refurbishment of both the Xplorer and Endeavour railcars. The contract would eventually be given to Bombardier Transportation Australia in January 2008.

The first railcars to undergo the refurbishment process would be TE2804 and LE2864, transferred to Bombardiers workshops at Dandenong (Melbourne, Victoria) on the 4th of March, 2008. Initially, the railcars were hauled down by an 81 class locomotive, although later transfers were often made under their own power. Once the cars to be refurbished had arrived at Dynon Freight Yard, the railcars were lifted from their bogies and placed onto broad gauge transfer bogies for the final leg of the journey. Due to the setup of the points at Dandenong, all transfers were run in push-pull configuration by Pacific National locomotives and crews, using surplus log and cement wagons to provide braking power for the railcars. The railcars then repeated the same process in reverse when they were to be returned to Sydney.

LE2858 is seen between log wagons at Springvale Victoria, on transfer back to Dynon where it will be put onto it's bogies and run back to Sydney with TE2808 and EA2508.

The final transfer run would run from Dandenong to Dynon on Monday the 23rd of August, 2010, comprising cars TE2808, LE2858 and EA2508. These three cars marked the end of the refurbishment process, with all of the Xplorer and Endeavour cars now back in service at the time of writing.

Something that often goes unreported in today’s media is when something is delivered on time – RailCorp pledged to have all of these railcars back in service by October 2010, under their 2010 Customer Charter, and they achieved this with over a month to spare.

2010 CityRail Timetable – 10.10.10

The 2010 CityRail Timetable is set to begin on the 10th of October, 2010, bringing with it a number of service improvements to Illawarra and South Coast Line commuters who felt they “missed out” in the 2009 Timetable.

The completion of the Cronulla Duplication is the main trigger for the new timetable, allowing an increase in services between Cronulla and Bondi Junction during morning and afternoon peak hours, as well as during the off-peak times and on weekends.

Another major change is that most weekend South Coast Line services will now terminate and commence from Bondi Junction, rather than Sydney Terminal. This will have the added bonus of “isolating” the Illawarra and South Coast Lines from the rest of the network, ensuring that any problems elsewhere in the network will not flow on to disrupt Illawarra and South Coast services.

Finally, South Coast Line services previously performed by Endeavours will be replaced by electric trains where possible, with the Endeavours to be restricted to running between Bomaderry and Kiama (with the exception of positioning moves to/from Wollongong Yard, and empty car runs to/from Port Kembla to decant). Under the current timetable, a number of morning services between Kiama and Wollongong are provided by Endeavour sets running to/from Bomaderry. These services would normally connect with an electric train at Dapto, Unanderra or Wollongong, although now these services will terminate at Kiama, connecting with either a Sydney or Thirroul bound train at Kiama.

V65 at Otford with a Sydney bound passenger train. With the new CityRail timetable, all weekend services on the South Coast will operate to/from Bondi Junction, pushing the V-Sets to Monday to Friday operation only... Is this the beginning of the end for these veteran trains?

Finally, one other change is the increase in services on the South Line (Campbelltown via Granville) on a weekend from two trains per hour to four.

QRNational Sale

The sale of QRNational (the largest public float since Telstra was sold) is set to proceed, with pre-registration open for interested parties to receive a pre-allocated offer of shares.  Advertising has saturated both television and print media, with statements as “Australia’s largest coal hauler” being used to generate interest. However, this tactic might indeed scare off potential investors who are fearful of the company’s dependence on export coal for income. With global coal demand tipped to peak by 2020, it is questionable if QRNational can continue being a major player should the demand for coal from nations such as China be reduced. While QRNational has been making steady inroads in intermodal transport, it is still competing with companies such as SCT and Pacific National, especially on the lucrative east-west corridor.

SSR Newstan Coal Contract

Further to the report in the July News, Southern Shorthaul Railroad have continued to make their presence felt  in the business of coal transport, cementing their contract with Centennial Coal for transport of export coal from Newstan Colliery to Kooragang Island (Newcastle) and Inner Harbour (Port Kembla). To increase reliability and efficiency of the service, SSR has supplemented their two G Class locomotives (G513 and G514) on the train by obtaining G511 on long-term lease from CFCLA (which was recently painted into SSR colours at Bradkens Braemar Workshop prior to closing – see below). Following a period where G511 was used to allow G513 and G514 to return to EDI at Cardiff for maintenance, G511 replaced the two B Class (B61 and B65) on the train during August. For a short time the train ran as triple G Class, although in recent days C503 (also on lease from CFCLA) has been seen on the train.

Watch this space!

Freightliner in NSW

A number of new XRN Class locomotives have broken cover, undergoing trials in the Hunter Valley for X-Rail. X-Rail is a joint venture between Xstrata and Freightliner to provide additional export capacity for Xstrata mines. This is in addition to the current services already run for Xstrata by Pacific National. Three XRN Class are currently in service, XRN001 to XRN003. The X-Rail colour scheme is yellow, blue and grey.

In addition, the first GL Class in Freightliner livery has been sighted in Adelaide, awaiting transfer back to NSW to work North Western export container services. GL111 is on long term lease from CFCLA, and has been repainted into the Freightliner corporate scheme accordingly.

Bradken Closes Braemar Workshop

Bradken Rail closed their Braemar Workshop in mid July of this year, with at least 50 employees out of work. The Braemar plan has been notable for a number of repaints for CFCLA and SSR, as well as having done the refurbishment on the ex-DSB MZ III Class for Independent Rail. Bradken had just completed a major project providing coal hoppers for Pacific Nationals Hunter Valley and Queensland operations, with parts of the wagons imported from China and assembled locally. Management has placed the blame squarely on increased competition from overseas companies, notably rolling stock manufacturers in China.

Authors Note: I’m aware that the October news is rather light on interesting photos, however it has been a busy couple of months. Please watch this space!

(News to Me) South Coast Woes

It would seem that commuters from The South Coast Line, which stretches from Sydney Central south to Bomaderry, serving the major centres of Wollongong, Albion Park and Kiama (among many others) simply keep getting a raw deal. Or at least, this is what the commuters on the line would have people believe.

A V-Set heads south towards Wollongong over The Como Bridge
A V-Set heads south towards Wollongong over The Como Bridge

ABC News recently reported on the withdrawl of some OSCAR (Outer Suburban Car) trains from pool which South Coast Line services are drawn. Most intercity and interurban trains are drawn from the same sector, be they the venerable V-Set trains (which are all maintained at Flemmington Maintenence Centre, in inner west Sydney) through to the brand new OSCAR trains (which are all maintained at Eveleigh maintenence centre at Redfern in the inner city). The only exception is the G-Set Outer Suburban Tangaras, which (until recently) have only seen very limited service on The South Coast Line, ever since the rollout en-masse of the OSCAR trains.

Some OSCAR trains are being withdrawn from South Coast service in 2009 to be used on the new Epping to Chatswood Rail Link (ECRL), due to the steep grades and loud noise levels inside the tunnels (which are of a magnitude not seen in Sydney before). Those OSCAR trains being taken out of South Coast service are being replaced by the oldest trains in the fleet, the V-Set Intercity trains (see photo). To listen to the media and the commuters, it would sound like the brand new trains are being taken away from the line to be used elsewhere, and clapped out old rolling stock is being used to replace them. Certainly, that is not far from the truth.

Kiama bound OSCAR at Unanderra. Soon to be back to a V-Set roster perhaps?
Sydney bound OSCAR at Unanderra. Soon to be back to a V-Set roster perhaps?

Regular Trackside readers would remember this article, published July 3rd. The article was in response to a critique made by Railway Digest contributor Phillip Clarke of the OSCAR trains. Among the issues Phillip had with the trains were (first and foremost) the increased capacity of the OSCAR trains at the expense of passenger comfort (especially on longer journeys) , and the reduction of toilet facilites on the OSCAR trains when compared to the V-Set trains they were replacing. Phillip was not alone in these views, which were shared by a number of regular South Coast Commuters, a number of whom completely ignored the benefits of the OSCAR trains (higher capacity, increased saftey and security for passengers, disability accessable toilet facilities and so forth), and instead lamented the withdrawl of the V-Set trains. Indeed, it would seem that some commuters conveniently ignored the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent to ensure that their line was given a completely new set of rolling stock before any other lines in Sydney – it would be a number of months after the introduction of the OSCAR before the new trains would be seen working services to Gosford/Wyong, commuters on The Northern Line would instead have to make do with Outer Suburban Tangara trains.

Now it seems, the reverse is true. The commuters and media lament the loss of the brand new OSCAR trains, complaining that they are being taken away to be given to another line, and are instead being lumped with clapped out old silver trains. Yet, it was the very features of these trains that they were lamenting the loss of when the OSCAR trains first came online! V-Sets (as mentioned in the previous article on this website) feature two by two reversable seating, air conditioning, no shortage of bathrooms (an equivialant amount of one per carriage on the train, instead of the one for every four cars on the OSCAR trains).

Northbound OSCAR crossing The Princes Highway at Unanderra
Northbound OSCAR crossing The Princes Highway at Unanderra

The South Coast Line is not returning to the condition it was in before the introduction of the OSCAR trains, when a shortage of V-Set intercity stock and G-Set Outer Suburban Tangaras meant that  South Coast Line trains (especially peak hour services) were being made up of T-Set Tangara (suburban) trains, with their commuter seating and no toilet facilities at all.

Finally, where are these V-Sets coming from? It is well known in Sydney that the V-Set (a very popular train with commuters from The Blue Mountains, South Coast, Ilawarra, Central Coast and Newcastle) is in short supply, so they must be withdrawn from one line to be used on another. It would seem that Central Coast Line services to Gosford and Wyong, traditionally served by four or six car V-Set trains are being replaced by OSCAR trains. Next we will be hearing about how hard the Central Coast Commuters have it. Never mind that the last new suburban train was the Millenium train, introduced from 2000, which only runs on the south west. Never mind that commuters from Penrith, Blacktown and Richmond areas are still being forced onto already overcrowded, non-airconditioned trains.

Source: ABC News “South Coas’t OSCAR carriages to be replaced” 23/12/08

(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.

Como Railway Bridge

Como Railway Bridge, Oatley
Como Railway Bridge, Oatley

Built in 1885 for the railway line to cross The Georges River. It is an excellent example of a single track steel lattice bridge. Despite being built as a single track bridge, it was a source of congestion when the track on both sides of the river was duplicated, leading to a gauntlet track over the bridge itself. Congestion was finally eased in 1972 when a new concrete, double track structure was built on the western side, parallel to the original bridge. By 1985, the bridge had been converted to a walking/cycle track, providing a well used crossing over the river – there is no other pedestrian bridge over the river nearby.

Information sourced from Sydney Water, who take a keen interest in heritage items around Sydney, and have plenty of interesting information on their website.