Editors note: This article originally appeared on Trackside in 2012. It is presented here in mostly original form although with more recent updates to the operational 47 Class included as of September 2020.
The 47 Class – Problem Children
The final bastion of steam in NSW would be the Hunter Valley coalfields. With increasing tonnages of coal to be transported, the NSWGR required a class of branchline locomotives capable of treading lightly on some of the more unfriendly colliery branch lines in the region. While modern coal trains are hauled by the heaviest power in the state, this was not always the case, with lightly laid track and short trains calling for a different approach.
Given our recent performance, there’s plenty of reasons to just stay home and watch the cricket. Having said that, when the opportunity to chase a Qube Logistics freighter during daylight hours on the west arises, it’s a convincing case to get off the coach and get a plan in motion. This was how, when many were settled in front of the TV, we found ourselves peering over a cliff into Glenbrook Gorge, looking for trains.
We arrived at the gorge at a little after 2pm. Content to laze in the shade (occasionally panicking when we imagined we heard a family of brown snakes stealthily moving towards our position) and watch the NSW TrainLink Blue Mountains services drifting down the mountain. Finally, as the clock approached 5pm, some action! A diverted (and delayed) 7SP5 Pacific National superfreighter to Perth was photographed grinding up the grade towards Glenbrook Tunnel behind NR Class locomotives 67, 23, 76 and 116.
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”→
June 2012 is already shaping up to be an interesting month – firstly the Premier of NSW announces a day return service between Bathurst and Sydney, CFCLA recommissions lease unit 44209 on a series of corporate trains and Qube announces a takeover of Independent Railways of Australia.
44209 was previously painted in the R&H Transport scheme of red and white. The unit had seen service with Patrick Portlink, P&O Trans Australia and El Zorro in the twelve months before it’s withdrawl. The unit suffered a seized traction motor while in use on El Zorro Victorian grain trains in late 2011, and was eventually towed to Goulburn for repair work. While at Goulburn, the locomotive was repainted into the CFCLA livery, although it remained on transfer bogies while work was undertaken to the traction motors. One can only wonder if it will join stable-mate 44208 on hire to Qube, or if the unit will return to El Zorro (or perhaps another operator entirely).
Qube Logistics also announced the takeover of Macarthur Intermodal Shipping Terminal Pty Ltd (MIST), which owns and operates Independent Railways of Australia (IRA) for container trains between Minto (where the MIST freight terminal is located) and Cooks River/Port Botany, as well as regional rail services between Cooks River and Narrabri, Dubbo and Bathurst. This is potentially damning news for IRA’s fleet of 44 Class locomotives, most of which are out of service at any given time due to mechanical problems, brought on by their age and a lack of appropriate spare parts. This news is also potentially worrying for fans of the operators imported Danish “MZIII” 14 Class locomotives, which have also been plagued with failures in recent months. It may be that Qube (who operate their own 44 Class, ex CFCLA rental units 4471 and 4477) use IRA’s 44 Class as a source of spare parts, and set aside the 14 Class indefinitely.
Editors Note: I’m putting this up early for two reasons – firsty, I might not have a chance to update closer to the weekend, and secondly, this is to the benefit (hopefully) of those attending Steamfest. Not much good if it goes up the day before!
It is of course, that time of year again! Of course, I do not refer to Christmas, although it may as well be for those who will make the annual pilgrimage to Maitland for this year’s Hunter Valley Steamfest.
Of course, any self respecting railfan (I’m sure they exist somewhere) will know all about the various steam-related activities going on in “The Valley” over the weekend (although, if you don’t, take a quick look here), although for infrequent visitors, it might be difficult to pick out some of the other companies that operate in the Hunter Valley. Here’s a brief rundown on some of the companies and their locomotives that should play a part in any plans to attend festivities.