Looking Forward

I racked my brains on what to put in an “end of year” article this week. Was it worth discussing the different companies that have gained and lost contracts over the year? Perhaps a homage to some of the greatest lash-ups of the year? Even something as simple as a year in review, discussing what has happened in the industry. Perhaps that is still to come. Rather, it is a time to look forward, to what the new year will bring.

July 2012 will see the start of the exceptionally unpopular Carbon Tax. This tax should have the effect of rewarding energy efficient, environmentally friendly transport options for freight across the country. With exemptions for heavy road vehicles until 2014/15, and an overall exemption from petrol in the scheme, rail will experience increased costs while their main competition (road transport) will not. With expected increases in the cost of the electricity production used by suburban electric trains, this will have the effect of increased ticket prices, pushing people away from public transport and back into their polluting motor vehicles. With new plans proposed for the introduction of B-triples on the state’s major highways, and combined with a price on carbon, it is expected that rail will suffer. The main advantage that rail has, is that a lot of the freight currently moved by rail is bulk coal or mineral freight, which is simply uneconomical to move in large quantities by truck.

Continuing neglect to grain branch line infrastructure will have the direct effect of forcing more grain into trucks for farmers to get their crops to port. GrainCorp have recently been given approval to increase the limit of grain that can be delivered to Port Kembla Inner Harbour by truck from 200,000 tonnes per annum to 500,000 tonnes. This has raised questions by local residents on noise issues, as well as the effect the extra truck movements will have on the roads in the area. Companies wishing to move grain by rail are hampered by dated and dilapidated infrastructure, as well as a shortage of appropriate rolling stock. GrainCorp currently contracts Pacific National to haul their trains to port, with Grainflow (formerly AWB Limited) contracting their haulage to El Zorro. Additionally, Glencore Grain currently has a contract with QRNational to move grain to port, with plans for a second rake to assist in the future.

John Holland are poised to take control of the operation and maintenance of the NSW Country Regional Network from January 2012. The contract passed from ARTC to John Holland earlier this year, with ARTC to retain control of the defined Interstate Rail Network, as well as the NSW Hunter Valley network. The network control centre will be located in Broadmeadow.

Further new motive power is on the way, a few hints of this have been seen in late 2011. From the tried and tested GT46C-ACe model currently produced by Downer Rail and the Cv43aci and C44aci models being produced by UGL Limited to new models from China and the USA, there is plenty to be on the lookout for in 2011.

Centennial Coal, continuing the recent trend of coal companies purchasing their own locomotives and rolling stock, have ordered  seven C44aci “CEY Class” locomotives from UGL Limited, due to be delivered from mid December 2011 into early 2012. These locomotives will be painted in a green and yellow variation on the Southern Shorthaul Railroad scheme, as it is SSR who are contracted to haul coal from a number of Centennials Northern and Western mines, specifically Newstan (with additional coal trucked in from Awaba), Clarence, Airly, Charbon and Springvale (loaded at Lidsdale). Given that SSR currently use a mixture of owned and leased motive power on these services, this will free up locomotives to be better utilised in other aspects of the business, especially the older locomotives not suited to mainline coal haulage, such as the B, S and GM classes.

CFCL Australia also have a contract for new rolling stock with UGL Limited, with an order for six C44aci units under construction at the time of writing. These units are destined for use in Hunter Valley coal operations, allowing CFCL Australia to enter what should prove to be a very lucrative market.

While QRNational have received their order for their 5020 class, QRNational plans to modernise their coal fleet on the North Coast with the introduction of two regauged 2800 class. Up until recently, the motive power used on the Duralie to Stratford coal shuttle has been a 6000 Class on one end of the train, with locomotives on the other end of the train alternating between 2204 (formerly allocated to ARG) and various members of the 421 and 423 class. Since the start of December, 2204 has been forwarded to Melbourne, with 6011 the only 6000 class remaining in coal duties. 2819 had originally been trialled by QRNational on standard gauge interstate intermodal duties, however this locomotive was reclassified PA2819, and returned to narrow gauge work in Western Australia with ARG.

Qube have accepted the first two deliveries of their new “1100 Class” from NREC – 1101 and 1103 have recently begun trials between Sydney and Newcastle. It is expected that these new locomotives will continue to reduce demand for leased motive power from CFCLA and Engenco, with a total of 8 expected.

SCT are expecting delivery of their new “Pandaroo” locomotives from Ziyang, China. These units are destined for SCT’s new ore contract in South Australia, and are designated the CSR Class (likely named after the manufacturer). SCT’s locomotive fleet is currently stretched very thin, with SCT014 out for repairs with accident damage. A number of locomotives have been leased from Engenco, with C501 expected to go on hire to SCT from SRHC in early 2011 to assist with banking trains through the Adelaide Hills.

In addition to being the recipient of seven new locomotives from UGL Limited for use on their coal contract with Centennial, SSR have indicated an expansion of their business into the locomotive hire market. Plans have emerged relating to the construction of the BRM Class, a new build 3000hp locomotive similar to the XR and VL Class locomotives owned by PN and CFCLA respectively. These locomotives will be constructed at SSR’s Bendigo Railway Workshops.

Finally, while not “new” motive power as such, Pacific National seems set to introduce some variety to their export grain trains (typically operated by pairs of 81 class, occasionally assisted by members of the BL, G, X, 48 or L Classes), with news that the DL, BL and C Class locomotives currently allocated to PN’s Southern Coal division are to be reallocated to grain haulage. Two C Class are already in Moss Vale and Cootamundra for crew training purposes, with additional 82 class expected to be displaced from Hunter Valley operations to replace them on Southern Coal.

1103 at Cowan

Advertisements

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!

A 422 In The Memory Card…

2212 passing Tempe with the AK Track Recording Cars, bound for Meeks Rd.

I’m fairly sure that there’s an old saying talking about how a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. I never quite understood the phrase itself, as I have no interest in holding a bird in my hand, as I imagine it would be rather panicked, and peck violently at my extremities. I would be happier to have an additional bird, and have both birds happily singing away in adjacent greenery. Nevertheless, I understand the phrase to mean that it’s always better to have one of a good thing, than to be greedy and miss out altogether. This theory leads into the next step in the saga that is my continued game of cat and mouse with the QRNational 421 and 422 Class locomotives (at least, those of the latter class painted in the former Northern Rivers Railroad colour scheme, not the ARG or QRNational schemes). Allow me then, to rephrase. A 422 on the memory card, is better than two missed.

The premise was (as it always is) sound, in theory. Fred and I would start the day at Yennora, to get a shot of the 4-car C-Set that is a regular on the twice daily service that operates from Campbelltown to Blacktown. We would then get a photo of the motive power of T280 (the P&O container trip train from Yennora to Port Botany), before scooting over to Rookwood to await 5MB7 (QRNational Melbourne to Brisbane superfreighter), which would (in theory) be followed by 2152 container freight from Glenlee (where the QRNational intermodal freights attach and detach Sydney loading). All going to plan, 42202 would be the lead unit on 2152, which we would capture in perfect sunshine, and still be home in time for lunch!

Of course, everything started off against the plan, with the second car of the C-Set covered in graffiti, the work of children who never progressed beyond the “drawing on the walls with crayons” stage of intellectual development. As I am loathe to glorify such “artists” (and I use the term loosely), the photo is safe on my HDD, where it will remain as a record (should the C-Sets be mysteriously withdrawn in the next week). T280 was sighted shunting the freight terminal at Yennora, behind 4477 and 864, and so we relocated to the railway overpass at Guildford for a shot. While driving around Yennora Yard, 42202 was sighted in the back of the yard, attached to a rake of container wagons. We assumed (incorrectly) that 1251 might have missed the peak hour and would be departing after T280.

With a shot of T280 in the bag, a lack of an appearance by 42202 and the lighting strongly suggesting against waiting around for a shot of sister train T285, we instead relocated to Rookwood, safe in the knowledge that MB7 had departed Glenlee. One very frustrating school zone later, we found ourselves in position to capture 5938N loaded Manildra Group flour behind 8136 and 8173, the former unit painted in the PN scheme with rather unique front numbers. Older photos of this unit in the PN scheme show the loco with the more standard front numbers, deepening the mystery…

Standing on the bridge for a little over an hour, much to the amusement of passing Australia Post workers, we also photographed a quad of NR Class on 6NY3 with an impressive train trailing behind them, as well as quad 82’s on LG77 empty coal to Lithgow and LDP’s 005 and 009 on 5MB7. A nice additional sighting was the passing of Mechanised Track Inspection vehicle ML-039 at 1029, bound for Enfield.

With a sighting coming in of GWA owned 2212 (42212) at the head of the AK Track Recording Cars passing Campbelltown, we headed east again, this time for Tempe. 2212 is a rare visitor to NSW, normally found working trains in South Australia for Genesee & Wyoming Australia. Thankfully the train was made to wait at Revesby to follow the up all stations service, and so we beat it to Tempe by a matter of minutes (as opposed to missing it by a matter of minutes…). It was then that we learned that 42202 would be heading up 1253 to Glenlee, departing after T286 to Botany. With the curse of the high-sun, the rising temperature, it was decided to let this one pass to the keeper.

Next time, then.

News: July 2010

New CityRail PPP “Waratah” Train Begins Testing

The new “Waratah” Public/Private Partnership (PPP) trains are being built by Downer EDI, for Reliance Rail who will lease the trains to RailCorp for CityRail suburban service. Named “Waratah” trains, the A-Sets will enter service from late 2010 to facilitate the removal of the aging fleet of S and R sets from the CityRail fleet.

The Waratah PPTV is seen here at Central at 0430 following a night of testing on the East Hills Line

The project celebrated another milestone on May 1st, with the special 4-car Pre-Production Test Vehicle (PPTV) delivered to Sydney behind 442s1. Unlike the revenue service trains, this train is only a 4-car set, designed specifically to test out the new trains reliability and compatibility with the network. Like the OSCar trains before them, the Waratah  will be subjected to an intense testing regime, to ensure that there will be no “surprises” after they enter service. The NSW Government does not need a repeat of the Millennium Train debacle, especially not around the time of an election!

Unlike the OSCar order before them, the Waratah order is the first to use a dedicated pre-production test vehicle (PPTV), with the purpose of identifying any oversights or faults in the train design or train components before too much work is done on the rest of the order. In the case of the OSCar trains, a number of 4-car sets were subjected to intense testing prior to entering service, and the sets involved were then sent back to United Group to be rebuilt, so as to be delivered in “as new” condition. The PPTV vehicle however, has entered service without any passenger seating, or any other passenger amenities. Aside from some dummy weight added, and testing equipment, the train is a shell – for the sole purpose of testing the trains design.

Since being delivered, the PPTV (also known as A0 within the enthusiast community), has run a number of trials around the RailCorp network in the dead of night (usually under a local possession authority, to ensure no adverse results to late night services). Typically, the PPTV is hauled to and from the possession by 442s1, which remains fitted with a special transition coupler. The cars used on the PPTV will be delivered as part of the final order, and are numbered as follows: D6479, N5442, N5342, D6379.

S52 is seen here at Erskineville with a service to the City Circle from the Bankstown Line. Scenes like this will soon be no more!

On June 28th, the first 8-car Waratah Set (A1) was delivered in the same manner as the PPTV, behind 442s1. The carriages delivered were numbered as follows: D6301, N5501, N5601, T6501, T6601, N5401, N5301 and D6401. This follows the existing numbering scheme as set out by previous CityRail trains, with “D” being unpowered driving cars, “N” being powered vehicles and “T” being unpowered non driving cars. The main distinction between the A-Sets and previous carriage numbering schemes, is that the cars on the train have a different number – e.g one driving car is D63xx and the other D64xx. Normally, all cars are delivered in sequence, in this case this would be from D6301 onwards in sequence – thus, D6401 would previously have been the 101st car to be delivered, not the second as it is in this case. Previous deliveries have followed this scheme – in the case of the OSCar trains for example, all driver trailer cars are numbered in the D69xx series, the Millennium trains before them numbered in the D10xx series, and so on.

Like the PPTV, A1 has been delivered without seats or exterior decals or logos, and will also be used to extensively test the new trains before they are approved for use on the system. It is expected that A1 and the PPTV will be used for further night testing before the PPTV is returned to Downer EDI, and deliveries of revenue sets can then begin. It is expected that the first A Set will enter revenue service before the end of the year.

PPL Ends NSW Operations

DL44, DL46 and VL351 await permission to leave the Sandown Line for the final time with 1877 freight to Dubbo.

Patrick PortLink (PPL), the rail operator for Patrick Corp (a division of Asciano Limited, owners of Pacific National) have ended their NSW rail operations. The first PPL service to be cut was T181/T182, Sandown to Botany container trip, with the final train running to Botany as T182 on Friday the 14th of May, 2010 behind hired motive power 48136 and 4887. This was followed by the final revenue service from the Patrick Terminal at Sandown (also known as Seaton’s Sidings) running as train 1877 to Dubbo on Saturday the 12th of June, behind DL44, DL46 and VL351. For the final week of operations, 1877 would stage directly out of Port Botany, until the final service ran on Saturday the 19th of June. The final PPL train in NSW would operate on June 26th, with DL44, 48136, 4503, DL46 and VL351 hauling 45 empty container flats to Enfield. The container flats were supposed to proceed onto Lithgow for long term storage with 4503, although for one reason or another, this never eventuated. DL44 and DL46 were to then return to service with PN Southern Coal, 48136 returning to PN Rural and Bulk and VL351 off-lease and returned to CFCLA.

For a full wrap up of the final PPL operations, look out for a forthcoming article detailing the final trains, as well as a more detailed summary of their final months of operation.

Sandown Line to Close?

As previously covered on Trackside (News to Me: The End of Sandown?), it would seem that the Sandown Line may be the next goods line in Sydney to close. With Shell Australia ending fuel services from their Sandown terminal in March 2010, and Patrick closing down their Sandown container terminal in June 2010, there would be no logical reason to keep the line open (unless another operator expresses interest in the Seatons facility). The line was booked out shortly before the end of June, only to be booked back in to allow Patrick PortLink to store some wagons in their sidings. Currently, the line is certified for use up to the Rosehill Accept signal, which is where the OHW on the line ends (it once extended as far as Sandown, although it has been long since removed). This allows the main platform at Rosehill to be used for Race Trains, although the line is unlikely to see any regular traffic other than these trains.

8044 rolls through Campsie with a short frieght bound for Port Botany. Services like this one, run by South Spur Rail Services, will now fall under the control of P&O - possibly with different motive power, possibly not!

The line is not yet closed, although no more traffic will regularly travel past Rosehill. As well as the PPL owned wagons at Sandown, Shell Australia also has a number of NTAF wagons stored in their sidings next to the Patrick facility. It is likely that these wagons will need to be removed eventually, either to be stored off site to allow the land to be used for other purposes, or for the wagons to be cut up and sold for scrap.

P&O Buys South Spur Rail Services from Coote Industrial

Coote Industrial sold subsidiary company South Spur Rail Services to P&O Holdings Pty Ltd during June 2010. As well as the wagons owned and used by South Spur Rail Services (SSRS), a number of locomotives were believed to have been included in the sale. The remaining locomotive fleet owned by Coote Industrial (acquired during their purchase of ALLCO Rail only a few years prior) will remain operated by Coote Industrial subsidiary Greentrains. Greentrains will continue to lease motive power to P&O for their trains, although what locomotives have remained with Greentrains and what locomotives were included in the sale is yet to be released. At the time of writing, it is unknown if P&O will continue to operate under the P&O Trans Australia name or roll all of their services under the South Spur name. Of course, the reverse may occur, with those services operated by SSRS brought under the P&O Trans Australia company name.

Current motive power on SSRS trains include members of the RL, 80, 830, 600, 48s, 442s and C  Classes. P&O Trans Australia trains are currently operated by P&O  owned 4471 and/or 4477, as well as leased motive power from CFCLA, including members of the G, EL, GL, VL, 442 and S Classes. P&O have previously hired members of the KL Class from CFCLA, as well as members of the CLF and CLP class from QRNational.

A New Player in the Coal Market

G514 leads B61, B65 and G513 south through Cowan with NW08 export coal from Newstan Colliery to Inner Harbour.

Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR) has entered the coal haulage market, with their first coal train from Newstan Colliery to Inner Harbour commencing operation in April 2010. Previously, all export coal from Newstan was hauled by Pacific National to either Inner Harbour or Kooragang Island, although when Newstan Colliery increased production and requested an extra rake to serve the mine, Pacific National was unable to comply (either due to locomotive or rolling stock shortages). This resulted in SSR winning a contract to transport coal from the mine to Inner Harbour four days a week (typically Monday to Thursday), and to Kooragang Island on the weekends. A rake of CHAY mineral hoppers were leased from CFCLA to undertake the contract, running as train NW08 from Goulburn to Newstan on April 20th. The locomotives used for the first month of services were SSR owned G513, B65, B61 and G514. 44206 replaced B61, then B65 for a short period at the start of June, with S317 replacing B61 at the time of writing. Originally a contract for three months, it would seem that this has been extended, with SSR looking to purchase further motive power and rolling stock to provide a more cost effective service.

Photos of SSR-hauled coal trains

The author would like to extend his thanks to Fred Sawyer, Maikha Ly, Chris Walters and the members of Railpage Australia and the Ausloco Yahoo Group 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.

June/July 2009 News

First A-Set Arrives into Newcastle

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.

G30 stands at Macquarie University during ECRL Crush Load testing for the Tangara trains. 14/6/09
G30 stands at Macquarie University during ECRL Crush Load testing for the Tangara trains. 14/6/09

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.

K63 stands at North Ryde Station undergoing noise testing for K-Set trains on the ECRL. 27/6/09
K63 stands at North Ryde Station undergoing noise testing for K-Set trains on the ECRL. 27/6/09

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 undergoing the first of her steam trails on the mainline, seen here at Sydney Terminal.
3265 undergoing the first of her steam trails on the mainline, seen here at Sydney Terminal.

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

Shortly after arriving from Victoria, XR559 is sandwiched between a pair of 81 Class at Cootamundra. 8/6/09
Shortly after arriving from Victoria, XR559 is sandwiched between a pair of 81 Class at Cootamundra. 8/6/09

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.

CLF1 and 4477 on T281 Botany to Yennora freight head into Enfield before continuing on to Yennora
CLF1 and 4477 on T281 Botany to Yennora freight head into Enfield before continuing on to Yennora. 3/7/09.

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.

3830 and 3642 storm out of the loop at Calwalla, headed for Robertson. 4/7/09
3830 and 3642 storm out of the loop at Calwalla, headed for Robertson. 4/7/09

(News to Me) P&O Trans Australia

One of the final runs of T120 - Interail shuttle from Yennora Distribution Yard to Port Botany. 19/2/09
One of the final runs of T120 - Interail shuttle from Yennora Distribution Yard to Port Botany. 19/2/09

Starting from Sunday February 22nd, control of the container shuttle from Yennora to Port Botany will again change hands from Interail to P&O Trans Australia. This is the third operator in twelve months to run the service, which typically departs Yennora Distribution Park just after the morning freight curfew ends, and runs to Port Botany via Enfield. In the first few months of 2008, the service was run by Patricks Portlink, until the completion of their contract, at which point it passed under the banner of Interail – QRNationals interstate intermodal carrier brand. It now passes from Interail to P&O Trans Australia – a new operator in NSW. QRNational and P&O (owned by Dubai Ports World) have a close history of contracts for rail transport in Australia.

CFCLA recently sold their 44 Class fleet (4468,4471,4477 and 4483 – although only 4471 and 4477 were in service at the time of the sale) to P&O Trans Australia, which saw 4471 and 4477 sent to Junee Roundhouse Workshops (JRW) for repainting. At the time of writing, the units have now returned to Sydney, the only change being that 71 and 77 have had their CFCLA logos painted out – they still remain in the CFCLA scheme for now.

With the change of operator, the train numbers change again, with T280 expected to be the first train to be run by P&O Trans Australia to depart Yennora on Monday the 23rd of February. Standard motive class is expected to be a pair of 44 Class (ie 4471 and 77) but it is unclear at this stage where the locomotives will be maintained, and what motive power will be used when one or both units are out of service for maintenence.

Watch this space for further information.