The Sydney Great Train Weekend

The Sydney Great Train Weekend is held on the Queens Birthday long weekend. The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM) bring a number of heritage exhibits from Thirlmere to Sydney’s Central Station, where they are put on display for the general public to enjoy. The Powerhouse Museum provides steam locomotive 3265 for the display, which spends the weekend in light steam alongside the platform for people to climb into the cab and see a real, live steam locomotive. In a similar vein, 4001 and 4490 are at the other end of the platform, to allow people to examine the first mainline diesel locomotive in NSW. As well as the heritage items, RailCorp provides a CountryLink Xplorer and XPT set for people to inspect. As has been mentioned in previous years, this is an excellent opportunity to show people the new Waratah train, although this opportunity has never been capitalised on.

Not content with static displays alone, The NSWRTM also provides a steam train ride through the suburbs, with 3642 and 3526. The train runs between Central and Clyde over the course of the weekend, delighting young and old alike with a short, but pleasurable steam experience. Continue reading “The Sydney Great Train Weekend”

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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!

Trackwork and Diversions

I’ll be honest – July was not the best month for me when it came to photographing trains. Work and social commitments called, and the few outings that were made usually ended with a mostly empty memory card!  Resolving that August would be different, and with the first of August being a Sunday, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

With the line between Liverpool and Granville/Bankstown/Lidcombe closed to trains due to trackwork  between the 30th of July and the 1st of August 2010, all freight trains into and out of Sydney on the Main South Line were forced to divert via Enfield and East Hills. Although closedowns of this nature happen multiple times a year, it is always a good chance to catch various trains on the East Hills Line that do not normally run on this section of track. Normally, the only regular traffic on this line is the passenger services to/from Campbelltown and Revesby via the Airport Line, as well as any through Southern Highlands services. Diverted traffic included the CountryLink trains to Canberra, Griffith and Melbourne, as well as the north/south intermodal and steel trains. As usual, a lot of non-time essential freight trains were cancelled or deferred until Monday, but that didn’t stop the running of QRNational intermodal services 7BM7 and 7MB7.

7MB7 passes Bardwell Park behind LDP009 and LDP005

Despite driving around the backstreets of Turrella, Bardwell Park and Bexley North, no suitable location was found for 7MB7, so the location chosen for 7BM7 would have to work for both trains. Hopefully the locomotives on each train would look different, so as to make the shots a little more interesting!

Arriving at the spot just in time to hear the roar of an XPT engine, we found out that our delay in arriving at the location had cost us a shot of ST23, the southbound Melbourne XPT service. Undeterred, we set up for our planned shot of 7MB7, which arrived a little down on the table at 0900 (it was due to pass Turrella at 0827), passing our hillside location behind LDP009 and LDP005 – both in the QRNational corporate scheme. We did not have much longer to wait before 7BM7 arrived behind LDP001, LDP003 and an unexpected bonus in LDP006 (we were only expecting the first two!). Due to the quad tracks ending at Beverly Hills, it was quite likely that 7BM7 would have to wait for a southbound spark before it would get the road through to Macarthur and Glenlee. Thus, we packed up into the car for a short hop to Beverly Hills for another shot of the train. Despite the second shot being a very “last minute” decision, it carried with it an added bonus – not only were we shooting a freight on the East Hills line, but we could photograph it passing through the construction work associated with the project to quadruple the East Hills Line between Kingsgrove and Revesby.

With no more freight trains forecast to use the line for at least an hour or so, we relocated to western Sydney for a shot at some of the trackwork trains on the “old south”. Trackwork trains are an interesting and unique beast – often boasting some of the most vintage motive power and interesting rolling stock on the network, unless they are sitting in just the right spot, they can be impossible to photograph – as they often don’t move for hours at a time!  Initially, we had mixed luck – we located GM22 and GM10 fairly easily, sitting on the down main between Fairfield and Canley Vale Stations with a ballast cleaner rake (with the tracklaying machine between them and Fairfield Station, as it was being used to lay a new down main between where the GM’s were and the platform at Fairfield). Additionally, 8170 was standing next to the two GM’s with an empty railset. Sadly, the shot was looking straight into the sun!

S317 and GM27 sit at Fairfield with a sleeper train, while trackworkers inspect the up main.

Undeterred, and acting on a tip from the crew of GM22, we moved north to Fairfield Station, where we were told we could expect S317 and GM27 with a sleeper train. Sure enough, they were sitting right at the end of the platform, under the footbridge. While the angle wasn’t perfect from the bridge, a nice angle was obtained from a nearby carpark, looking over the fence with the use of a milk crate “borrowed” from a shop in Bardwell Park earlier that morning.

With word that an IRA ballast train was further north, we moved up to Yennora, to find a ballast train with 4497 on the country end, and ARG-owned 2208 on the city end. 2208 has only recently been hired by Independent Rail for use on container and trackwork trains. We were lucky that the two locos were on a double consist of ballast wagons, which placed 4497 right at a level crossing, and 2208 at the end of the platform at Yennora. After grabbing a couple of shots of 2208 and it’s ballast wagons, it was off to Guildford where 8134 and 8120 were push-pull on another ballast rake. Without an exciting photo opportunity, we pressed on and called it a day  – and it was only 1115! Why push ones luck, when there is a good opportunity to head home and download the photos and even squeeze in a nap before dinner?!?

One could even have enough time before going to bed that night to upload the photos to the internet and chronicle the adventure on some kind of website…

For more photos from the day, visit August, 2010 on Flickr!

With thanks to Chris Walters and Todd Milton for their assistance and company when compiling this article.

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.

QRN Motive Power Change on the East Coast

Since the introduction of the LDP Class to, they have been a staple of the QRNational freight trains running between Brisbane and Melbourne. Running in pairs, the LDP Class dominate the running of the MB7/BM7 freight services, with the occasional G, CLP, X, 421 or 422 class along for the ride (usually being transferred to or from maintenance, or swapping the shunt locomotive at a particular location).

However, a new TOC waiver published by RailCorp in June 2010 lays down new rules for the operation of AC locomotives like the LDP (and SCT) classes. Among other specifications, it includes a line that AC type locomotives may not be powering in a consist that includes older DC drive locomotives. This means that when there is a shortage of an LDP Class, another locomotive class cannot just “step in”.

QRNationals G534 combines with G516, X54 and LDP001 (dead attached) to haul 7MB7 QRNational freight to Brisbane, seen here passing through Macarthur.

As QRNational has nine LDP Class on long-term lease from Downer EDI’s leasing division – Locomotive Demand Power (hence the name of the  class), which is normally enough to run their four weekly services in each direction – usually with two LDP Class per train, this allows for units to be maintained without leaving a deficit.

Recently, QRNational began running services in each direction five days a week, leaving Melbourne and Acacia Ridge on Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This had stretched the LDP class fleet somewhat, and led to the re-introduction of G Class on selected east coast trains (since the introduction of the LDP Class, G Class were placed on east-west running with the operational CLF and CLP class). The QRN X Class were also used on occasion to supplement the LDP Class during this period.

Since the start of June, a number of LDP Class have been introduced on QRNationals east-west services, to supplement the 6000 Class being used on those trains (currently the 6000 class are used with the G/CLF/CLP class). This is due to the LDP Class having inline fuelling, avoiding the train having to stop for fuel on the busy Adelaide to Perth line.

With the LDP Class unable to operate in multiple with the older locomotives within the RailCorp area, this has led to a return of pre-LDP Class operation to a number of QRNational services between Melbourne and Brisbane. This would indicate a return of the G and CLP class to east coast workings, possibly using the X and CLF class to supplement them.

Previously, the two QRNational X Class were regulars on the Yennora to Glenlee shunt, usually in conjunction with one of the two QRNational owned 422 Class. With the change in motive power to Melbourne – Brisbane trains, the X Class are often used as bank engines on these trains, resulting in the transfer of 2202 from Melbourne, on hire from ARG to be used on Yennora to Glenlee shunts.

X54 and 2202 work 2152 Glenlee to Yennora shunting trip on Friday, June 4th. 2202 is on hire to QRNational from ARG.

The result of all this motive power change was evident in the first week of June. Wednesday June 2nd saw G534 and CLP11 work 3MB7 north to Brisbane, returning as train 5BM7 on Friday, June 4th. G534 returned north on the following Sunday with 7MB7, departing Glenlee for Brisbane behind G534, G516, X54 and LDP001, the LDP being dead attached. X54 was put onto the train in Sydney, to assist with the load to Brisbane, as per the new TOC waiver, the LDP could not operate through the RailCorp area (although it may have been used north of Broadmeadow as ARTC have not issued a similar TOC waiver). 1251 on Friday, June 4th, was operated by 2202 and X54, returning as 2152 to Yennora following 5MB7. 2152 did not run on the following Sunday, instead light engines 2202 and 42206 returned to Yennora light engine to collect 1253.

Hopefully the variety will remain for a while, with the newer 6000 Class being introduced to coal haulage in the Hunter Valley, it would seem that, for now, QRNational variety has returned to east coast working.

September 2009 News

SCT G Class Repainting

With news of the sale of the 9 former SCT G Class locomotives to other operators (see Trackside, August 2009), G513 and G514 (now owned by Southern Shorthaul Railroad) entered the paint shops at Lithgow during September for repainting, emerging during October, and being sighted on numerous works trains in the Sydney area.

3265 Returned to Service

3265 Redfern
3265 passing Redfern with the first public steam shuttle. 20/9/09.

Preserved steam locomotive 3265, which first entered service in 1902, was overhauled and rebuilt by the Powerhouse Museum between 1998 and 2009, and formally re-entered service on September 20, 2009, celebrated by a day of steam shuttles between Central and Bankstown Stations. The day’s festivities began at Central, with 3265 arriving to be greeted by a large crowd of ex-railway men and women, volunteers, dignitaries and photographers present to record the historic occasion. After a short ceremony and morning tea, 3265 ran her first steam shuttle for the day to Bankstown via Sydenham and returning via Regents Park. The first shuttle was reserved for those who had helped make her return to service possible, passengers consisting of VIPs and their invited guests. The second and third shuttles, also running to Bankstown via Sydenham and returning via Regents Park, was open to members of the public who had snapped up tickets.

Since her return to service, 3265 has been used on a 3801ltd Cockatoo Run special to Moss Vale via Wollongong, as well as a private charter to and from Hurstville, with at least two more tours planned for 2009, including a triple headed steam trip up the Blue Mountains in November, and a private charter in early December. The Powerhouse Museum plans to operate up to six tours a year with 3265, usually in conjunction with another heritage operator.

Freightliner to Enter Hunter Valley Coal Market

In a joint venture with Xstrata, a Swiss mining company, Freightliner will enter the lucrative Hunter Valley coal haulage market, using locomotives and rolling stock provided by Xstrata. Xstrata is planning to purchase three 90-wagon rakes and nine locomotives with an eye to commencing operations by 2011. Bradken will be building the wagons, with the locomotives provided by United Goninans. While the trains will be owned by Xstrata, Freightliner will operate the trains under the name of “X-Rail”.

Pacific National will still continue to haul up to 30 million tonnes of export coal for Xstrata.

Currently Pacific National handle all of Xstratas export coal as part of a decade long contract signed in July 2009. The deal accounts for 30 million tonnes of coal per annum, although with additional mines planned to open in the next couple of years, additional capacity would be required, which will be covered by X-Rail trains, hauling the additional 10 million tonnes of coal each year. Speculation as to who would haul the additional 10 million tonnes has now been laid to rest, as originally the additional freight was up for haulage by either Pacific National or QRNational, the two existing operators in the Hunter Valley.

If the venture is successful, it may lead to X-Rail hauling more of Xstrata coal as more mines open and existing mines increase capacity in the future.

Xplorer Services to Canberra

With the cessation of the fuel service to Canberra looming, one could be forgiven for thinking that the future of the line is in doubt. When the Premier visited Queanbeyan on September 18, 2009, he was not announcing the removal of the CountryLink Xplorer service to Canberra, rather, an increase in services – an additional eight services a week between Sydney and Canberra (four in each direction).

The increased number of trains is actually due to a reduction in patronage, put down to the confusing timetable and irregular service level. Now, with a regular service frequency, and a consistent timetable, it is hoped that patronage will rise again. The increased number of services is thanks to a more efficient use of the Xplorer fleet, as during the current timetable, it is not uncommon for one set to arrive into Canberra at midday from Sydney, and be stabled in the siding until the following morning service back to Sydney.

Xplorer at Bungendore
The up midday Xplorer service from Canberra passes an ARHS Heritage train in the yard at Bungendore. Under the new timetable, this will become a daily service in each direction to and from Sydney.

The existing timetable is shown below

Canberra Dep Sydney Arr Days of Operation
6:43am 11:02am Daily*
11:52am** 4:10pm*** Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun
5:03pm 9:23pm Tue/Thur/Sat
Sydney Dep Canberra Arr Days of Operation
6:58am 11:17am Daily*
12:05pm 4:25pm Tue/Thur/Sat/Sun
6:11pm 10:29pm Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun
* Except Sunday
**(Sunday only) departs 3 minutes later
*** (Sunday only) arrives 15 minutes later due to connecting with the up Riverina Xplorer service at Goulburn

From December 6, the new timetable will be introduced

Ex Sydney Ex Canberra
Morning Service Daily Daily
Midday Service Daily Daily
Evening Service Sun/Mon/Wed/Fri Sun/Mon/Wed/Fri