Quality Over Quantity – Part Two

Day Two – July 30th

Thanks to a friendly SSR driver, we had learned that B61 would be departing Parkes Yard pre-dawn with a southbound loaded railset (loaded at Bathurst the day prior). Sure enough, when we arrived on a very cold Parkes Station a little after 0500, we found B61 idling away at the head of its train. Their departure would be delayed by L270, 48157 and 48152 (those locomotives sound familiar?) shunting grain wagons within Parkes Yard.

We were more than happy to snap plenty of photos of both L270 and B61. As L270 was shunting, it was almost impossible to get a “normal” shot of the locomotive in the rather pleasing station and yard lighting. In fact, it was only as we were getting in the car to go for a coffee that Todd remarked “oh look, it’s parked next to B61”. I grunted something in reply, conveying the message that the “stupid thing” would likely end up moving as soon as I set up the tripod again. When he went on to mention that the crew had climbed out and walked off, he finished the statement to a dust-cloud outline, as I was already back on the platform setting up. Shot taken, I returned to the car with a rather bemused expression on my face. The first success of the day and the sun wasn’t even up yet! All of the “real” photographers would likely still be in the warmth of their beds – everyone knows that if you can’t get a 3/4 sunny shot, it’s not worth leaving the house for!

Perhaps this success made us over confident. While ordering our coffees, we heard the distinctive sound of a veteran EMD loading up as B61 blasted her way out of town. Convinced that we would easily catch up to the train on the Newell Highway, we collected our drinks and headed south to Daroobalgie (just outside of Forbes). It was there that we set up camp, planning to follow the railset south until it either stopped to cross a northbound train, or started to dump rails. As the sun rose, the shot just got better and better… Continue reading “Quality Over Quantity – Part Two”

Advertisements

Quality Over Quantity – Part One

Western New South Wales is always an oddity (at least in terms of rail activity, I make no prejudice against those who call the area home) when compared to the other parts of the state. When compared to the oft-photographed lines of the Hunter Valley and Main South, Western NSW seems almost “Victorian” in terms of train frequency (in short, there are trains around, but they have no intention of showing up at the same place until at least six hours has passed since the last train). Certainly the scenery in parts of the Western Line (especially in the Lithgow to Blayney section) could rival that of the scenic North Coast Line, traffic is far less likely to show up during daylight, if at all! Thus, any trip to Western NSW will often involve covering  a lot of ground in pursuit of the movements that are being made, especially as the motive power used will often differ from the other mainlines of the state.

As such, many visits to the region will often ensure a photographer will end up with a smaller set of images, however if all has gone to plan, each photo should almost stand alone as a unique shot, without having to rely on any other shots in the set. By comparison, photos from other regions will often feature the same train multiple times, or the same location for a number of different trains. Granted, it takes a degree of skill and patience to whittle down a set with very few sightings, as the temptation will be there to “make the most” of the trains one did see – instead, it is better to keep things concise, and keep the interest level high. This is all well and good in theory, and I’ll let my readers be the judge of how successful I was in this endeavour! Continue reading “Quality Over Quantity – Part One”

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!

All Rail Lines Lead to Parkes – Part 2

In what was completely a team decision, and not the forgetting of an alarm set the previous day, we rose and… erm… shone the following morning at 0600. A quick breakfast of cereal purchased at Coles the previous day (don’t assume we’re on some health kick, the only cereals available were Cocoa Pops and Nutri-Grain…) and we were heading down to the sub-terminal to see what interesting things would be happening before we headed back towards Sydney.

Arrival at the grain terminal at approx 0645 yielded very little in the way of interest. Aside from a new rake of grain wagons that had arrived from Enfield the previous night (the second Westons Milling rake), there was not a loco to be seen! It was worth noting the endless procession of loaded grain trucks streaming in and out of the sub-terminal (most of whom managed to neglect to stop at the level crossing at the entrance to the yard) – there’s plenty of grain to be moved at plenty of silos across NSW after a massive year for our farmers.

The first hint of action was at 0700, when a loud whistle blast at another crossing heralded the arrival of 8831N empty Manildra feeder service from Manildra to Parkes behind 48160, X36 and 48108. Interestingly, despite a large number of X Class being based in NSW, X36 is only the only “first series” member of the class to have made it to the state. As the train order for this train obviously only extended to the Yard Limit board at Parkes, we made our way up the line for another shot, before following the train into town.

Shortly after arriving at the Eastern end of Parkes Yard, to see where 8831N was headed for, we noticed a couple of export rakes had arrived from Cootamundra over the course of the morning. One was headed up by two 81 class, while the other, departing for the sub-terminal at 0729 was headed up by G540, 48165, 8169 and 8176. G540 and 48165 had arrived in town the previous evening with the empty Westons rake, and were stabled in Parkes Yard after dropping their wagons off. Given the nature of Train Order safeworking, it must have been easier to attach the two locomotives to the front of the empty export rake and drop them off at the sub-terminal (where the export train was due to load anyway).

Acting on a tip from our mate Tim, we headed south of town on the Newell Highway – the empty Manildra feeder service was headed to Temora to load today! While waiting for 48160 and train, we also recorded the northbound passage of 8144 and 8109 on 9827N empty wheat from Cootamundra, passing our vantage point at 0835. With a 9829N also having departed Cootamundra that morning, that makes four empty rakes to be loaded in Western NSW! The season is indeed booming!

With a new Train Order to Forbes, 48160, X36 and 48108 were seen crossing the Newell Highway as train 8331N at 0920. We followed them as far as Forbes, before reluctantly deciding to head east, and homeward bound. A short diversion to Manildra, to hopefully capture MM01 (which was hiding when we passed through the previous day) coincided with the arrival of 9837N empty flour train from Bomaderry behind 8136, 8106 and 8125. No sooner had the train stopped, then the points were thrown over and the rear wagons were reversed into the flour loading shed. The train was quickly divided, and MM01 swooped in to begin loading the wagons – perfect timing on our part!

With MM01 safe on the memory card, we continued east, with a planned shot at Orange of the Dubbo XPT service adjusted to Sprinhill due to late running (most likely due to the trackwork in Western Sydney). Aside from the XPT, the only freight running on the west was a late running 1865N from Cooks River. Our poor run of luck with this train continued, missing the shot by mere seconds at Raglan. We consoled ourselves in that the same grubby GL Class were leading the train (we didn’t catch the numbers), and that we had not missed the more exotic (and, arguably more interesting) 14 Class locomotives.

Finally, a stop was made at Lithgow to grab a quick shot of the rear of 4204 (stabled in the yard), as well as a quick peek at the “new” carriages that had recently arrived from various sites around the state. From the glances we had, there were a couple of Southern Aurora/Brisbane Limited type cars, what appeared to be an Indian Pacific dining car, as well as a pair of OAH and OAS cars, with the latter two cars in the tuscan and russet livery. One would assume that these cars have been sourced and purchased with the intention of becoming part of the operating fleet of the new tourist train “The Blue Zephyr”, with more air conditioned cars having been repainted into an eye-catching deep blue scheme. With rumours circling that the two ex Patrick PortLink 49 Class (4903 and 4906) are to be painted in a matching scheme, only time will tell what the future holds for this fascinating collection of rolling stock. I have no doubt that a lot of enthusiasts will disagree, but there is a place for air conditioned rolling stock tours, as it discourages people sitting in corridors hanging out windows, video camera in hand and tongue outstretched, and encourages like-minded people sitting in a compartment discussing topics of interest.

For the complete selection of photos taken while out west, you can find them on my Flickr. Further photos taken by Todd Milton can also be viewed on his Flickr.

All Rail Lines Lead to Parkes – Part 1

Regular travelling companion Todd Milton and I decided to pay our first visit to the Parkes area in November, with the hope of seeing something a little different from our usual haunt, the Main South. A regular diet of NR and 81 Class will do that! The checklist of “things to see” included the two shunting units at Manildra, the various Manildra feeder grain services (typically the domain of 48 and X Class locomotives), as well as any branchline grain trains we could lay out hands on. Finally, a shot of The Parkes – Perth SCT service was a must-have.

According to plan, AR02 loaded coal from Airly was the first train to pass our vantage point at 0618 behind G513, C508 and C503. Next to arrive was 1865N freight, bound for Kelso (Bathurst) behind GL107 and GL101. We then hopped onto the highway to move to Sodwalls, for a spectacular dawn lit shot as the train passed around the well-known horseshoe. That is, we would have, if we’d not made the mistake of continuing on to Brewongle, with word that 1865N was stopped at Wallerawang. We assumed we could get a shot of the up Indian Pacific at Brewongle, before moving to Raglan to get the GL’s climbing the steep grade into the station. Imagine our surprise when GL107 snuck up on us (prior to this, I didn’t realise a GL could sneak up on anyone), crossing the up Indian Pacific at the former station site. Still, a fine shot of NR27 was gained on the s-curve at Brewongle, before we moved to Kelso to see the freight shunt into the siding.

With no other trains in the area until the afternoon, we decided to head west to Manildra. We’d been told that an 81/X combo was to depart Parkes Sub-Terminal at lunchtime, bound for Enfield, and we figured upon getting there early to find a decent spot for a shot! Passing through the township of Manildra, we reflected on the fact that the mill is not so much a feature of the town, it appears that the town is a feature of the mill! The huge silos and milling buildings dwarf the surrounding town, and entirely encircle the former station site, which is no longer served by passenger trains. MM01 (formerly 4907, see Part 2) was also seen to be shunting the mill, while MM03 (former BHP Newcastle No. 51) was shutdown on an adjacent siding.

We paused outside of town to record the passing of 8134N Westons Milling wheat service bound for Enfield behind the uninspiring looking 8130 in FreightCorp colours, and a gleaming X48 in pristine Pacific National paint, before continuing on to Parkes to first locate, and check into our motel. We soon found that Parkes is a very confusing town when you first drive in, with highways being renamed in town to street names, and plenty of “no right turn” signs, as well as plenty of occasions where the road we wanted to get to was on the other side of a footpath. Eventually we navigated the town, dumped our bags, and found ourselves baking in the heat at Goobang Junction, waiting for G515 to arrive from Goonumbla.

While waiting for G515, we amused ourselves by watching former WAGR/Great Northern/CFCLA locomotives J103 and J102 shunting the SCT terminal. Painted in full SSR livery, the two J Class at Goobang Junction have an interesting history.

Originally purchased by the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) in 1966 from Clyde Engineering for shunting duties (the J Class are almost identical to the first series Y Class purchased by the VR three years earlier). They spent their lives in WA until 1995, when four members of the class (the class leader had been scrapped two years earlier) were sold to Great Northern and transferred to Melbourne.

During their time with Great Northern, the J Class were used on a variety of tasks, including shunting the National Rail Corporation freight terminal, running shunting turns and trip trains, and infrastructure work. When Great Northern folded in 2002, ownership of the class passed to CFCL Australia, who leased the locomotives to Southern Shorthaul Railroad. CFCLA sold the four members of the class in 2009 and 2010 (to SCT and Freightlink respectivly) for use as shunters in NSW and SA.

J103 and J102 can often be seen shunting the SCT freight depot at Goobang Junction. Sadly, the units did not get close enough to the accessible end of the shunting neck for a roster shot, and I was not to keen on tramping through long grass in late spring. I had to be content with shooting them across the field.

G515 did arrive on cue at 1306 with 8242N loaded ore train from Goonumbla to Goulburn (the train runs to Port Kembla, but waits at Goulburn for its turn in the sidings, which are shared by the PN ore train from Blayney).

After a break for lunch, we wandered around the station area. PN have a large depot at Parkes, and it is not uncommon for many trains to exchange crews or even loco’s when passing through. Quite a few locomotives were stabled in the yard, including former ATN Access L251, and a number of 48 class in various liveries, from GrainCorp and PN, to the battle scarred Freightcorp units, showing every day of their impressive age.

As the day began to slowly cool, we staked out the level crossing at Goonumbla to wait for one of the two trains that feed the mill at Manildra with grain from various silos in Western NSW. The first such train was 8832N coming towards Parkes from Narromine behind 4894, 4854 and X50, with X50 being a particularly long way from home! Since the cessation of bulk fuel transport by rail in NSW, most of the X Class have seen themselves redeployed on other bulk working, including grain, flour, cement and sugar traffic, among other loadings.

After following 8832 halfway to Manildra, we decided that any further shots would endanger the possibility of the final shot of the day – a sunset shot of 7GP1 SCT superfreighter to Perth. We set up at Nelungaloo (to the west of Parkes) as the sun slowly slid behind the horizon, entertained by the harvesters busy harvesting a nearby wheat field. 7GP1 shattered the atmosphere when it screamed past at 1935 behind SCT Class locomotives 009 and 005. Up to 1800m in length, the train is a mixture of vans and double-stack container wagons, and the sight and speed of the train needs to be seen to be believed. What a fantastic way to finish! It was worth the massive dust cloud it kicked up that reduced both Todd and I to a sneezing, coughing, sniffling mess for the next few hours until medication (and a nightcap) brought sleep – a very welcome relief!