Below are a few scenes from a recent visit to Pothana Lane in the NSW Hunter Valley (near Branxton).
SCT G Class Sold
Interesting news during July/August was the potential sale of the nine JT26C G Class locomotives owned by Specialised Container Transport. Purchased from Pacific National in early 2007, and overhauled at Newport before being released to service in late 2007, the nine G Class (comprised of units G511-G515, G521, G532, G533 and G535) initially took over from PN “hook and pull” operation on SCT services.
With the introduction of 15 new Downer EDI built GT46C-ACe SCT Class in early 2008, the nine G Class were rendered surplus, and were then hired out to other operators. Initially the units were hired to QRNational, ARG and El Zorro, however with the introduction of the LDP Class in 2009, QRNational returned the G Class from hire, with some units joining those G Class already in service with El Zorro.
Now, in 2009 it would appear that at least a number of the class have been sold again. G513 and G514 have recently seen use on Southern Shorthaul Railroad infrastructure and works trains in the Sydney area, (although G514 was subsequently transferred to Bradken Workshops at Braemar for repainting into Southern Shorthaul Railroad colours in September).
There is still speculation on the owners of the remaining class members, although early information would suggest that CFCLA and Pacific National are both interested in the remaining locomotives.
Shell Cancels Fuel Services
In a rather controversial move, Shell has ended their contract with Pacific National for the haulage of fuel from their refinery at Sandown (in western Sydney), favouring the replacement of these trains with B-double trucks. Currently Pacific National rails fuel from the Shell refinery at Sandown to fuel deports at Canberra (twice a week), Dubbo (once a week), West Tamworth (once a week) and Bomen (when required). Shell cites a lack of cost efficiency in their decision to cancel services, stating that the fuel trains are too expensive when compared to road transport.
Regular fuel services will end in November, with sporadic services “as required” to continue until early 2010, at which point all services will have ceased to be replaced by road haulage.
Final Working on Cowra to Demondrille Line
The final train on the Cowra to Demondrille line ran on August 30th, consisting of Lachlan Valley Railway owned 4701, 4204 and 4716 hauling FHG, RBS and FS cars. As of September 1, the line would have “services suspended” by ARTC. This has resulted in the LVR being “trapped” in their depot at Cowra, and with no active railway line to use; they have had to cancel a number of private and public tours.
G-Set Tangara Refurbishment
The continued introduction of CityRails new Outer Suburban Cars (OSCAR) trains has allowed most of the G-Set Tangara fleet to cascade from interurban working to suburban working. For example, all of the peak hour Central Coast trains that run via the North Shore line are now operated by OSCAR trains (with the exception of the occasional failure of an OSCAR set which may necessitate the use of a G-Set if no other OSCAR trains are available).
With the release of G-Sets into suburban service, the sets have begun to cycle through United Goninan’s MainTrain facility at Auburn for an interior refurbishment. While not a major overhaul, a number of upgrades are being made to make the sets better suited to suburban use. The toilet at the number two end of the ONL series cars is replaced with the normal vestibule area seating, and the passenger handrails are being replaced with those seen in the OSCAR and Millennium trains. These new handrails (like those on the H and M sets respectively) are yellow, which assists visually impaired passengers. Additionally, the “O” and “L” are being dropped from the carriage numbers, although the carriages retain the same number they were built with. Finally, the set is re-targeted from a “G” Set to a “T100” set. The first G-Set to go through the process was Mortdale based G4, which is now renumbered to T104 and was returned to service on August 10.
Importantly, at this stage the original seats are being retained in the carriages, as are the luggage racks. T104 has been seen operating suburban trains in both Sector 1 (Illawarra Line) and Sector 2 (South/Inner West /Bankstown/East Hills Lines).
Steamfest 2009 photos are now avaliable on Flickr! Click here to view the whole set.
5917 was recently restored by a dedicated group of hard-working folks at the Lachlan Valley Railway depot at Cowra. Running it’s first trail under it’s own steam in August 2007, the privately owned locomotive has been run on various tours in 2008 (in tandem with the LVR’s own 3237).
Earlier this month, 5917 snuck into Sydney, and is currently residing in the Large Erecting Shed, at Eveleigh (Redfern). The home of 3830, and once home to 3801, Eveleigh is the base of operations for 3801ltd. 5917 is on lease to 3801ltd, and is to be used on four Cockatoo Run trains before the end of the year (obviously subject to weather conditions).
According to the 3801ltd Website, 5917 is scheduled to run on Sunday the 30th of November, Sunday the 7th of December, Thursday the 11th of December and Sunday the 14th of December (pending a total fire ban being in place). This is an excellent chance to combine the great trip up The Illawarra Escarpment with a day out behind a steam locomotive that has not been seen in Sydney since it’s most recent restoration to running condition!
With the end of the lease of 3801, The Cockatoo Run has been without steam power for some time now. First 3830, and now 5917 – steam returns to 3801ltd and The Cockatoo Run, and it’s a very exciting time for everyone involved! I know the author will be doing his best to get out and ride behind the loco, and perhaps even chase the train as well. Of course, running a steam locomotive is not cheap, so if those of you out there DO elect to chase the train, it wouldn’t hurt to make a donation to 3801ltd to help cover the costs of the running of the train, for without donations, there would be no steam to photograph!
Photos from this article are from Lachlan Valley Railways June Long Weekend shuttles between Harden and Cootamundra.
Please note that, despite the recent flood of 3801ltd articles, the author is not directly affiliated with 3801ltd, and does not presume to speak for the organisation at any time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the previous day had started by the side of the railway line at Harden Station, it seemed only fitting to start Sunday off in the same way. Granted, this time we waited for the sun to come up, and the frost to melt a little. The first (daylight) movement due through was a southbound Steelink service. As is the staple diet for such services, the train was headed by members of the NR Class. In a surprising lash up, NR26, resplendent in “Indian Pacific” livery, led NR’s 85 and 73.
Having seen this gem, it was back to the caravan again to pack up ourselves and prepare for another day trackside. Snacks were gathered, maps were folded (then unfolded and refolded properly), timetables were remembered (only to be forgotten on the backseat most of the day), and we were off again!
Between Nubba and Demondrille
A complete fluke to stumble onto our first photospot, we set up in different locations around another dirt road over the railway line. Opting for a wide angle shot depicting the landscape (farmland) with the train, I set up quite close to the bridge. We were not disappointed, as instead of one heritage diesel leading the train, we had two. 4716 put in another appearance, leading the train, assisted by 4701 with the steamer pushing in the rear. Despite the diesel leading the train, we were not put off, as it’s all a great show, and potential for a great photo, no matter what the noisy end brings!
Before long it was time to give chase once again, and we moved back to Wallendbeen to set up again for the return, when the 32 would be leading the train. The only disappointment here was that the Griffith Xplorer managed to sneak through about an hour early, taking away an opportunity for a shot of a two-car Xplorer cutting through the rich green countryside.
There was no holding back the main show though, and before we knew it, 3237 pushed south, on her way back to Cootamundra. More photos were taken, more rubbish talked, more weeds pulled (we were single handedly clearing the weeds from the roadside this weekend), and it was back in the car and off to find some lunch to fuel our train-hungry bodies.
A Chance Location
Andrew or Fred pointed out a handy looking bridge off to one side (actually the rough location of the long since removed Nubba platform), and after grabbing lunch, it was here we returned to eat. Again, we were not let down with our choice of photospot, as before we knew it, The Southbound Daylight XPT was powering through in perfect lighting.
After sitting down for a typical gunzels lunch (two pies and some form liquid sugar drink), we split up, with Fred going up to the bridge and Andrew and I walking along the line towards Harden to burn off lunch. Looking back up at the bridge, Fred was waving and yelling something. I waved back before realizing that he was trying to tell us that the LVR train was on it’s way!
Bursting out from under the bridge came 4716 and 4701, again leading the train with the 32 pushing in the rear. Amusingly, we watched Fred lining up a perfect shot of the 32 from the bridge (certain to be equal or greater than any shot we could get from trackside), only to be engulfed in thick, black smoke from the funnel. Whoops!
As we were quite keen on this location, we all settled in for a lengthy period of dirt kicking, weed pulling and pointless conversation to await the return of the special. What we didn’t expect was NR83 hauling a northbound PacNat freighter, solo! It was only hauling a short train of twenty or so wagons, but a single NR running a Melb-Syd train is most unusual! We were unclear if this was due to a reduced loading over the long weekend, or due to an earlier locomotive failure.
After a while, I pondered taking a look a bit further up the line towards Harden, so set out towards the curve. Despite a brief moment of worry when the path I was following dropped behind some undergrowth, I was soon presently surprised to emerge at a near perfect location right on the curve. With nobody to talk to, I set about reviewing the days work before a distant whistle broke the silence.
Soon enough, 3237 bolted around the curve in full steam, putting on a great shot for the cameras. That is one moment I won’t soon forget, the sight of 3237 in full steam, belting along through the countryside.
All Aboard to Stockinbingal
We all knew we’d want to ride on the train at least once over the weekend, and opted for the run out to Stockinbingal and back again. We did this for multiple reasons, mainly it is not often that one gets a chance to ride a train along this line (there are no regular passenger trains on this line anymore). The trip itself was very reasonably priced, and before long we set off behind 4716 and 4701 with 3237 pushing in the rear. A brief stop at Cootamundra West for safeworking, and we were soon clanking along at a gentle pace. The gentle rocking of the train, the fine company and the majestic countryside made for a very pleasant trip.
Once at Stockinbingal, I opted to go to the western end of the train, to get some photos of 4716 and 4701 in the afternoon sunlight. This turned out to be a good idea, as all of the punters were down getting photos of the 32 (and, as is typical of such an occasion, planting their kids next to the locomotive so they can get a photo, despite the wishes of everyone else present). Also, as the diesels were on the western end, this meant that the sun was hitting them perfectly, while the steam loco was in shadows.
Some excellent oppertunities were seized around the yard, and some very memorable shots taken. To those out there that say it is impossible to get any good photos while riding on a heritage train, they clearly have not taken the initiative!
All too soon, we were back on the train watching the motorcade of cars chasing the train along the road, with some silly people even hanging out of their cars filming things, at the detriment of road safety, and in complete ignorance of the speed limit (going 50 in an 80 zone is just silly). Joined by Maikha at this stage, we simply chatted away the rest of the journey, and before we knew it, we were back in Cootamundra.
Probably the finest part of the weekend was the dinner we shared with the crew and volunteers of the Lachlan Valley Railway. After a quick beer at the Cootamundra Railway Hotel with a scattered group of volunteers, we were back in the ABS dining car to dine with everyone from the carriage attendants, to the locomotive crew (still showing the stained hands from a hard days work), as well as the various members of the Lachlan Valley Railway Board (including the chairman himself!).
This was quite an experience, rubbing shoulders, talking trains and generally having a great time. It mattered not that we’d only just met these folks, they were keen to welcome us into their family. It was this dinner with the gang that made me want to join up as a member of the LVR, and upon arriving home, I sent in my application. What a great organisation!
The best part of the evening was watching the Chairman stand up and thank everyone for working so hard to make the weekend a big success, and then try to sort out the final day. Watching the discussion about how feasible it would be to turn the locomotives on the triangle, so they could run pointy end first back to Harden, opinions were sought from the Operations Manager, as well as the loco crews. Everyone who wanted to could have a say in the discussion, and there were plenty of jokes to help lighten the mood.
Needless to say, it was the best possible end to a very successful day!
To be continued…
Having seen the train as far as Harden, we retired to the caravan park for showers, as well as a quick lunch up the road. Resolving to catch the train again as they moved north to Harden for a second time, an enjoyable lunch was had and we settled into a good position on a dirt road just south of Wallendbeen.
Little were we to know that we would not be seeing the 59 and 32 running tender first again, instead the consist was 4701/train/3237*. Again, due to the 32 running tender first, the train was limited to 40km/h, and everyone had plenty of time to line up a shot of the bright red 47 leading the train. I later heard (disappointingly) that a number of my “fellow enthusiasts” (although I wouldn’t class myself or any of the people I know through this hobby in the same class as such folk) had immediately called up Cootamundra Station to complain about the diesel leading the train. This is very sad – these enthusiasts are not riding the train, nor are they paying anything towards the running of the train, and yet they are the ones complaining – not the passengers, who I am informed were having a whale of a time! It didn’t matter what was on the front, merely that the train was fun and comfortable for all involved!
Content to take it easy, we moved a couple of kms down the same dirt road, and set up next to an old bridge over the road. With nothing running on the mainline for an extended period, we set about kicking dirt and talking about… well, nothing really! This is one of the joys of the hobby, especially away from the noise of the city. A group of friends just sitting or standing around waiting for a train and enjoying the atmosphere of the countryside.
Before we knew it, the silence was broken, and with a brief roar, the Countrylink XPT between Melbourne and Sydney had been and gone. As suddenly as it had arrived, it had gone again, fading away into the distance. It certainly called for nimble fingers on the shutter, this one!
After a great deal more dirt kicking, rock throwing and other such nonsense, the distant sound of a P Class whistle could be heard, followed by a steady, rhythmic chugging of a hard working steamer. Scurrying into position for the last shots of the day (or so we thought), the 32 emerged from behind the treeline, stomped over the bridge and vanished again in a cloud of smoke. Hurriedly checking our shots, we jumped back in the car to check out another couple of spots along the road, before heading back to Cootamundra.
Return to Cootamundra and on to Stockinbingal
Moving down to Cootamundra behind the train, we assumed a couple of afternoon shots would be in order, before heading back to Harden for a quick dinner and an early night. Of course, we all knew that the two 47 class would be taking a train out to Stockinbingal that night, on a “dinner special”, but we were not counting on chasing that too!
However, armed with tripods, we quickly changed our minds and jumped into the car to head to Stockinbingal to set up shop. The potential for some spectacular evening photos was not something to be denied! Certainly, we were not disappointed, with some spectacular oppertunities to grab some unique shots of the locos and their train after most had retired to bed.
Finally, having taken enough to exhaust our memory cards (and traveling companion), we hit the road back towards Harden. Hopefully we wouldn’t be woken up early the next morning by another grain train!
To be continued…
* This was due to the 59 being declared a failure on returning to Cootamundra. It was detached, and shunted into the yard for proper attention from the crew. More on this in future “chapters”.