It seems one can never really predict the weather. More accurately, one can predict the weather, but that’s useless if one doesn’t check the prediction before leaving the house. Thanks to my apathetic attitude towards weather forecasts, I managed to both swelter and freeze almost to death, whilst also getting drenched in torrential rain, all within the space of a few hours. Wait on, back it up a bit, what happened…
A co-worker of mine suggested to me that Sunday would be a good day to visit Trainworks at Thirlmere, as the venerable 4001 would be leading the loop line trains between Thirlmere and Buxton, rather than the more commonplace 2705 (that’s right, we specifically chose a day to visit a train museum when there would be NO operational steam engines to be seen). This was the annual Diesel Day, a celebration of vintage diesel motive power, often underappreciated in the world of preservation, as even historic diesel engines lack the crowd drawing power of steam.
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”→
Thursday, June 28 was just another cold, miserable winters day for Sydneysiders – until it was turned upside down and topsy-turvy when the Cadbury Joyville Express steamed into platforms at Central, Redfern and Sydenham stations. As soon as the train had stopped, the doors of the carriages were flung open and out marched the Joyville workers, keen to spread joy (in the form of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate) around to everyone. Within minutes of the trains arrival, the whistle was sounded and the train was off again, steaming off into the distance, leaving only the smell of coal smoke and the taste of chocolate as proof it was ever there to begin with. Continue reading “The Day Joy Came To Town”→
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”→
Due to personal reasons, todays update has been postponed. In lieu of text, please enjoy these photos from a recent day on the north (we shot two trains, one steam train and one coal train… not bad for a Sunday!)
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!
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.