News to Me: The End of Sandown?

4903 and GM22 are waiting for their train to be loaded at Seatons Transport sidings, Rosehill. May 2009.

John Bennett’s Railway from Clyde reached the terminus at Sandown in 1891. Located 24.23km from Sydney and on the southern bank of the Parramatta River, the line was built to serve the river, with a wharf constructed for that purpose. A passenger service was also provided from 1892. Safeworking for the line was Ordinary Staff and Ticket, and a number of sidings for local industry were also provided along the length of the line. The Sandown Line was eventually purchased by the colonial government in 1900 after Bennett’s Railway encountered financial problems, with government operated services operating on the line from 1901.

The line would be electrified in 1959, with a passenger service operating between Clyde and Sandown, stopping at a number of local industrial platforms for the local workforce. The line was also used to store trains when required for race days at the nearby Rosehill Racecourse. By 1990, passenger numbers to Sandown were dwindling, and the final regular passenger service on the line would run in 1991. The wires remained until 2002, for the purposes of storing trains away from the main Carlingford Line when required on race day.

Safeworking on the line was Ordinary Train Staff and Ticket until 1943, when it was replaced by Large Electric Staff. Miniature Electric Staff would then be implemented in 1985, until May 1992 when Ordinary Train Staff was once again re-introduced to the line for a month. The Ordinary Train Staff and Ticket was replaced by Yard Working in June 1992, with trains having to notify Goods Control (located at the Rail Management Centre, Sydney Terminal) to get permission to depart the line. Typically freight trains can only run between Clyde and Rosehill (where the line becomes separate from the Carlingford Line) when they will not interfere with the running of the CityRail service to Carlingford.

Although there were many different sidings along the line, the two that are in place at present are the Shell Australia sidings, and Seatons Transport sidings. The former sidings are all that remain of a large network of tracks and sidings within the Shell Oil Refinery, while the latter is a container depot operated by Patrick.

Shell owned NTAF wagons loaded with fuel at Camelia on 1225 Canberra Fuel. November 2009.

During 2009, Shell Australia announced that it would be no longer transporting fuel by rail. Until 2009, Shell had transported fuel by rail using their own rolling stock to Canberra, Dubbo and (West) Tamworth. Additionally, Caltex had used the loading gantry to load their own rolling stock, bound for Bomen (Wagga Wagga). Pacific National had provided the motive power and crews, having taken over the contract as part of the purchase of Freight Australia in 2004. Normally X or 80 class locomotives would be used on the fuel trains, although it was not unheard of for members of the 81, 48 and even EL classes to be used. PN would run their locos onto the branch at midday to commence shunting the terminal on any given day of departure, departing for Clyde Yard when shunting was complete (which could be anywhere from 2pm to 5pm), ready to depart for their final destination after the evening peak hour (most fuel trains departed Clyde after 7pm, allowing for an early morning arrival into the terminal for unloading, with the empty service returning overnight). Despite the fact that a number of Shell NTAF wagons are stored in the rail loading facility, these have not been used since the gantry closed in March 2010.

In addition to the fuel traffic, Patrick maintains a container facility at Sandown, known as Seatons Transport Sidings. Here, container traffic is brought in and out by road and rail. In April 2010, Patrick announced that the facility would close, with all operations transferred to Port Botany. Rail access into the site would be finished by the end of June 2010, with Patricks PortLink to also finish up all operations by the end of June. The demise of PPL as a rail operator has not come as much of a surprise to some, as PPL have lost a number of contracts in recent years, scaling back operations to a single train to/from Dubbo, and a shuttle train between Seatons and Botany. The final container trip between Seatons and Botany ran on Friday May 14, behind 48136 and 4887 (both units owned by Pacific National). The “regular” motive power for this train, PPL-owned 4903 and 4906 were nowhere to be seen, having failed for the last time the week prior. They are now stored in Botany Yard, pending the decision on their future.

As well as Patricks PortLink, Independent Railways of Australia ran a train from Seatons during the first half of 2010. The train would run from Port Botany or Cooks River as T269, departing after the afternoon peak hour was finished, to run to Sandown. After shunting at Seatons, the train would then depart for Blayney as 1861. Normal motive power for the train were members of the GL and 14 classes (the former on hire from CFCLA, the latter purchased by IRA, then LVRF from Denmark in 2005). The final IRA train to Sandown ran on June 8, behind locos GL101 and 1431.

DL49 standing in Seatons Transport at Rosehill, waiting for T172 to load. January 2010.

With the cessation of the container shuttle service to and from Port Botany, this left only one train operating out of the Seatons terminal – 1877 Sydney to Dubbo container freight, run by Patricks PortLink from Botany to Sandown on a Tuesday/Thursday and Saturday afternoon, ready for a departure that evening for Dubbo, returning as 8178 to Port Botany later in the week. In the last few weeks of this service, Pacific National DL Class dominated the running of the service, with the occasional PN-owned 48 class, PPL-owned 4503 or CFCLA-owned VL351 on the train. Normal practice was for PPL to run two “feeder” trains to Seatons from Port Botany to form the evening service to Dubbo. T185 would depart Botany anywhere from 9:30am to 11:30am, to arrive into Sandown an hour later. The loco(s) on T185 would then shunt the wagons into Sandown to allow containers to be loaded, before the train would be set aside on the loop road to allow for T171 to shunt into the facility. T171 would typically depart Botany at midday, although it would spend a bit of time at Enfield before proceeding on to Sandown. Once both trains had been shunted and assembled, it would form T172 to Enfield where the locos would run around and the evening crew put on the train to take it through to Dubbo as 1877.

The final PPL service to depart Sandown is expected to run before June 31. Road operation will continue from Sandown for a short period of time, before it too is removed, and the facility closed. Interestingly, the reasoning behind the closure of both facilities is thought to be related to high, ongoing operating costs.

Sydney’s Forgotten Industrial Railways – John Oakes
Special thanks to members of the Yahoo Group “Ausloco” for their assistance in compiling this article.

A Simple Plan… ?

The plan was a sound one. Set up at Rookwood (Weeroona Rd, Strathfield), and get a nice, evenly lit photo of 42202, which remains in the Northern Rivers Railroad scheme, despite being in QRNational service. All going to plan, 42202 would lead 2152 QRNational Glenlee to Yennora freight, as it had done the day prior. Following this shot, a relocation to Mascot would be made to allow for a shot of RailCorp Mechanised Track Inspection Vehicle ML-039 over the Alexandria Canal, near Cooks River Yard. As this unit will one day be retired, it is always worth getting a shot of it; especially in places it is not often seen.

ML-039 is seen at Rookwood crossing 4MB4 PN Intermodal service.

We arrived at Rookwood at 0845, and with plenty of time before 2152, we spent our time recording the other freight movements along the stretch of track that links Chullora Junction with Flemington Goods Junctions – the former being the busiest junction on the Metropolitan Goods Lines, with most freight trains, be they interstate superfreighters or short container trip trains, passing through Chullora Junction at some point on their journey.

The first train to pass Rookwood would be just after 9am. Solo 44208 headed up T285 P&O Botany to Yennora container trip – 44208 having been recently repainted by Bradken Rail at Braemar, a “touch up” of the CFCLA colour scheme. While it would not appear that a full repaint was done, the CFCLA livery has been reapplied over the previously grey patch along one side of the loco, where 44208 had previously sustained accident damage.

Roughly half an hour later, the familiar blue and white livery of LDP001 and LDP003 could be seen navigating the northern fork of Chullora Junction, hauling 4MB7 QRNational freight to Brisbane. Twenty minutes later, triple 81 class rolled through with 8938 Manildra Group flour service to Bomaderry, having come into Sydney from Manildra overnight. They would cross 4MB4 at Chullora Junction, the latter train headed up by NR13 and NR60. NR60 was only recently repainted into the Pacific National “Stars” livery, from the previous National Rail “SteelLink” blue/grey scheme.

Curiously, at this point, we had not seen T280, which is one of the regular trains to operate between Yennora and Botany (the opposite working to T285, above). Normally T280 and T285 cross anywhere between Auburn and Campsie.  T280 especially is on a very tight path, as it leaves Yennora just after the “freight curfew” ends, to run to Botany before returning to Yennora before the afternoon “freight curfew” comes into effect. If the train is late into Botany, it is often late out, which throws loading and crew rosters way out, as the train will often be left sitting at Enfield to wait for the afternoon peak hour to subside.

Following close behind 8938 was ML-039, the RailCorp mechanised track inspection vehicle. ML-039 ran down to Chullora Junction, before moving out along the north fork of the junction, and then returning back to the goods lines. This movement would cause 4BM7 to come to a stop at the signal near the Weeroona Rd overbridge to await the line ahead to clear.

X53 and 42202 combine to work a short 2152 Glenlee to Yennora freight, seen here crossing 4BM7 QRNational interstate freight

Once ML-039 had departed for Botany, X53 and 42202 then appeared around the northern fork of Chullora Junction with 2152 Glenlee to Yennora container freight. Sadly, by the time the locos were in view, 4BM7 had moved up to the signal protecting the junction, and the shadows from the containers on the train were blocking the “ideal shot”. Not to mention the fact that 42202 was hiding behind a bright yellow X Class! As we are not ones to be discouraged, we set about getting  a shot of X53 and the 422 with their (short) train. Sure enough, as soon as they cleared the junction, 4BM7 was given the road to proceed onto the goods line to Sefton and on to Glenlee where they would shunt loading for Sydney, and wait for loading for Melbourne to arrive from Yennora (42202 and X53 would return to Glenlee with 1253, the Sydney to Melbourne loading for 4BM7, and then return to Yennora as 2154).

With the shot of 42202 a write off for today (a shot of the yellow X was an acceptable compromise), it was time to relocate to Mascot, to a spot overlooking the Alexandria Canal, near Cooks River Yard. The plan was to get a nice shot of ML-039 returning from Botany, possibly reflected in the (un)clean waters of the canal. When we arrived, any hopes of a reflection shot were firmly dashed, as the breeze was up – ensuring that the water was as unhelpful as possible. Never mind!

Shortly after we arrived, GL107 wandered past light engine, towards Botany on the main, followed by 4497 and 4703 push-pull with T250 Minto MIST to Botany container trip train (also on the main). Soon thereafter, a rake of containers was propelled back over the canal by 1443, this train running on the refuge. GL107 was waiting at the Botany end of the refuge, to shunt  loading bound for MIST at Minto. While GL107 and 1443 were shunting their wagons (the loading not bound for Minto would later run to Botany behind GL107, while 1443 would head back to Cooks River), ML-039 snuck past on the main, with the shot more or less blocked by the containers on the near track! Again, forced to make do, we did get a shot. Of course, it was not the one we planned on!

Determined to catch the rest of the traffic out of Botany, we moved to Gelco, located at the throat of the main Botany Yard complex. It was here that we recorded 4703 and 4497 running light to Mascot siding to pick up their train (T251 to Minto). Behind the light engines was T281 P&O Botany to Yennora container trip, behind 44209 and 4477. As the train was stopped at a signal, one of the crew members came over for a word, mentioning that the train had never made it out of Botany that morning (normally, the train that forms T280 in the morning runs out from Botany before the morning peak hour starts). As the train was late departing, they never made it to Yennora, hence why we did not see them at Rookwood that morning!

ML-039 is seen darting behind containers near Cooks River Yard

After the characteristically ALCo departure of 44209 and 4477, DL44 and 4892 headed up Patricks PortLink T171 from Botany to Sandown. They were followed in turn by 8049 and RL306 with 1443 South Spur Rail Services Botany to Walsh Point container freight. With P&O set to purchase SSRS from Coote Industrial in the immediate future, it remains to be seen if the existing Greentrains (a division of Coote Industrial) locomotives will continue to lead these trains, or if alternate (CFCLA) motive power will take over.

So, even with all of the setbacks, it was still a great day trackside, and some interesting movements were seen. With the aforementioned sale of SSRS, and the pending closure of Seatons at Sandown (and the resulting cessation of Patricks PortLink services from Botany), these sightings may be little more than a memory before the end of the year.

Finally, thanks to Chris Walters for his company on the day, and his assistance in compiling the train numbers for this article.