(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.

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(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.