Recording The Days Of Steam Trains South From Sydney

The Trigger For This Post

When I read the most recent episode of “Soul Of A Railway”, written by Les Pivnic about Braamfontein depot which supplied steam to Johannesburg South Africa, it triggered something in me I really hadn’t considered before.

south afric steam trains

15F’s were used on local passengers out of Johannesburg until 1960. This one I believe is near Germiston, just a few kms away. Taken in 1975

In the 1970s and 80s I travelled much of the world in search of steam, and with for the most part none of it was in major Cities. An exception was Paraguay, where the international train to Buenos Aires was steam hauled to the border. This was virtually the only train in that country, and the place was rather run down, so I guess it is not typical. There was steam operating out of East Berlin, but that was in the DDR. Certainly steam out of Johannesburg on regular passenger trains stopped in 1960 according to Les.

The Ferrocaril Carlos Antonio López ran from Ascuncion the capital of Paraguay to the Argentinian border at the pirana river. Seen here at Ypaparaj, there were no train brakes, and the dining car had live chickens in cages underneath ensuring that we ate fresh food!

Early Memories Of Steam Trains

I live in NSW, and grew up in Sydney, Australia, attending high school in the 1960s. The switch from steam started in the early 1950s, and by the time I joined the school railway club in 1964, many main lines were using electric or diesel power.

Steam disappeared from the North Coast line around 1960, north of Musswellbrook and west of Lithgow around 1967, south to Nowra in 1965 and south of Goulburn in 1964. From that point on there were a few remote branch lines, many of which closed in the following years.

Steam Out Of Sydney

By 1969, the year I completed my education, there wasn’t a whole lot left. So looking back I find it intriguing that one line with a high percentage of steam operations was the line south from Sydney to Goulburn. On top of that the main Sydney goods yard at Darling Harbour had one 41 class diesel and other than that was mostly steam operated, and Sydney station itself featured a majority of steam shunters.

3130 sydney terminal shunting steam trains

3130 shunting cars on number 1 platform at central station at midday on a cold, wet afternoon. C30ts were considered the best shunting locos until near the end of steam.

The “short” south from Sydney to Goulburn, as it turns out, was one of the last lines in NSW to have steam. One reason was electrification to Gosford and Bowenfels, resulting in the use of EMUs (Electric Multiple Unit railcars) on the electrified lines, and through diesel workings on long distance passengers. It is ironic that now, electric locos have disappeared, replaced by through working diesels.

I don’t think any of us realised how lucky we were at that time to still have mighty 38s leaving Sydney terminal daily with south bound passengers. For it to last until October 1969 is remarkable. In fact, until July that year, no 18 south, the express from Canberra to Sydney on a Sunday night (this was operated by a railcar on weekdays) was hauled at Riverina Express times from Goulburn to Sydney with a load well over 300 tons including 12 wheel cars.

3813 49 moss vale train 1969 sydney terminal

3813 heads out of Sydney on the very last steam run of 49 south to Moss Vale in brilliant sunshine. Note the steam from the steam heating in the cars, even though it was early October, 1969

From 1965 on, through trains which ventured further south than Goulburn (except 18) were diesel hauled. There was a rail car on no 13 Goulburn day train, and everything else from Sydney to Goulburn was steam.

Railways Of Australia

For those of you who aren’t aware of the development of Australian railways, the situation until the 1960s was that there was standard gage (4′ 8 1/2 “) in NSW, at the Queensland border it changed to 3′ 6″, this also happened at the South Australian border, and at the Victorian border, the gage switched to 5′ 3”. This was because each state of Australia was managed from Britain. When they started building railways, they each independently worked out what they thought was the best rail gage, probably never thinking that the country would be joined one day.

By 1969, only Sydney and Perth had any steam hauled rail services, and in the case of Western Australia it was a few locals on the midland line. Sydney stood alone in having country steam hauled passenger trains, a major loco depot at Enfield, and express passenger steam locos in regular operation.

A Special Situation

Looking back to that time, some 45 years ago (ouch) we were actually very lucky to be able to ride such trains as the steam heated Moss Vale train, the Southern Highlands Express and 18 south deep into 1969. At the time, I believe we had no idea how lucky we were.

southern highlands express 3811 goulburn steam train

The Southern Highlands Express was very popular amongst steam rail fans. Here 3811 climbing out of North Goulburn early one morning with a consist including 3 additional cars.

When “Northern Exposures” the book that is fast becoming the premier colour rendition and information history of end of days steam operations north of Sydney was published, we had a record of those times many of us lived through when the fires were finally extinguished of regular steam engine operations. Certainly, those last few years after chime whistles no longer rang out on the South were very special, and some even managed to photograph steam into the far northern reaches. But what of the south…..

A New Book Emerges

It didn’t take too long for it to dawn on the publication committee for NE that there was scope to do the same type of publication for the South. The word went out to the celebrated photographers and experts on railway operations and together we started researching material and searching far and wide for superior quality colour photos from those days.

While the new book will not be with us for a while, I can tell you it is well in process, and we have dug up some previously unpublished material that will raise a few eyebrows. It is going to be a ripper, and a record of the last days of steam in and around Sydney, as well as lines heading south.

By now you will understand the special place steam out of Sydney has in railway history, and before long there will be a permanent reminder befitting of this amazing city.

1945 steam engine darling harbour

1945 shunts Darling Harbour in 1970 with a 6 wheel tender. Built in the 1890s, they survived longer than many locos built much later.

Leave a comment on places you remember steam operated to large cities after country lines had gone diesel or electric.

John Gaydon

DCC For Dummies

At last I have my model railway running pretty well floorlessly! Carriages are negotiating curves, couplers staying connected at changes in gradient, locos performing well with sound at realistic speeds. Heck even my diamond crossover works well.

Naturally, this has been a rather long learning curve, considering I knew nothing when I started. Given I learned a few lessons the hard way, I thought it might be good to put down my thoughts on how to construct a layout and avoid all the weeks of pain I experienced.

Part 1 Laying Track

The laying of track for the most part is simple. First because of the tight space available, I decided to go with a minimum radius of 22″. I have a track gage to do this with and worked my way around corners. I soldered the flexi track together that was being used on curved sections of track to give a smooth curve. This worked a treat. I was careful to not have tight sections on the curves, although I found it impossible to do everything perfectly. When you transition between radii, or from curve to straight, it affects positioning of bogies and couplings, especially on long wheel based passenger carriages and 12 wheelers.

In the end, I worked out which combinations of rolling stock/locos derailed most frequently, and ran trains around and around at various speeds, noting how they negotiated the suspect sections. There was quite a bit of fowling of the hooks below the KD couplers on points and track pins, so I hammered the track pins to about 2 mm above the sleeper height. When couplers fouled on the points, usually where the point motor would be attached, I either bent the couplers up (final desperate act), or managed to realign the couplers so they are all the same height. I am still having trouble with the 60 class. The coupler on that engine is below most of the wagons and I am still figuring out the best solution.

On grades, there is a need to support the track for a gradual transition, otherwise couplers disconnect where grades start and stop, particularly with large loads. I have a 1 in 50 and my Eureka 38 comfortably handles a 7 car HUB set plus an FS or MHO van. My Austrains 35 after a few mods can haul a 6 car Brisbane Express plus TRC up the grade. I plan to get a couple more TRCs the Brisbane Express had up to three of these.

Part2 Power Feeds

Next I sectioned the track. What I learned is that the best way to do this is to run a feeder line around the layout and connect them via feeders to each section of track that is soldered together. I insulated every point rail that connects to a frog, and all legs of the diamond crossing to which I fitted a frog juicer to switch polarity as the trains moved over the crossing. This now works perfectly.

Where there is a loop, it is best to have insulating fishplates in the center somewhere as if a point is set in the wrong direction, the train shorts the track out shutting down power to the entire layout. With insulation, you can move one train into the loop while a train departs from another siding.

DCC Loco Programming

When setting up locos, do one at a time. Put one on the track, find it with your controller, and program it, making sure each loco uses a different channel. I found that using the long loco program with the engine number works very well. The setting up of DCC on the locos is somewhat complicated. Different decoders use different settings and it can drive you crazy. I have downloaded software, and very soon I will be connecting the laptop to start fine tuning. After my experience I recommend you splurge on sound as it is so much more fun.

I would set up the speed of each loco too, so they have a top speed that represents their class. For NSW that would be 70-75 mph for 36 and 38, 60 for a 32 or 35, and 50 for goods locos.

Summary.

  1. Solder long sections of curves before you lay the track.
  2. Apply power to every isolated section of track.
  3. Place an insulating fishplate on track leading from all point and crossing frogs.
  4. Try all combinations of locos and trains on curves before bedding down the rails.
  5. Set up 1 loco at a time for DCC.
  6. Split sections in passing loops to avoid short circuits.
  7. Get yourself a track cleaning car and run it over the whole layout every few months.
  8. Get locos with DCC sound or fit sound decoders.
  9. Don’t make anything permanent until you are sure it is all working smoothly.
  10. Make sure transitions of grades are very smooth.

I hope this basic guide will help you miss the pitfalls of setting up a DCC layout.

 

More soon.

 

John Gaydon

 

New Year Steam Trains

It’s New Year’s Day, and a time to reflect on the past and plan the future. Only yesterday I heard that there is still occasional steam on the Darjeeling Railway in India, and in remote parts of China. These are small threads compared to years gone past. It got me to thinking what I was doing near year’s end over my lifetime following the mighty Iron horse.

Early Years

Christmas was of course a holiday time in Australia, so during the school holidays I would often venture in search of steam. The counterbalance was that it is a family time too, so riding 38s on Christmas day was definitely not on in our household. However, after Christmas was a different story. While memories have faded, I do remember one particular adventure on Boxing Day, 1968. After Christmas celebrations, I made my way down to Sydney station on a 10c excursion, and hopped aboard the 1.10 to Goulburn with a 38 in charge. The object of this trip was to ride the relief Goulburn Day train which ran empty cars to Moss Vale before picking up passengers. I knew all the steam working as we had access to working timetables and STNs (Special Train Notices).

3810 14a relief goulburn day train steam train nsw

3810 Taking on Water at Moss Vale after an exhilarating run from Goulburn to Bundanoon Boxing day 1968

 

On this occasion 3810 coupled up to the small CUB set and leaving a little late we sped off towards Moss Vale. Around Exeter, speeds reached over 80 mph and it was my first mile a minute ride, meaning we travelled some 38 miles in less than 38 minutes. In all my years of timing trains in NSW, I only achieved this 3 times, so it was very special.

New Year Beach Trips

Traditionally, New Year’s Day saw a trip to the beach at Kiama with a variety of motive power. One year 3616 was painted a bright green and headed the special down the Illawarra line.

3616 nsw steam engine

3616 on its way to Kiama on the New Year’s Day excursion. A great day at the beach with railway friends.

 

Here is another New Years Day tour. Not so sunny, but one of the best photo locations anywhere in the world.

3229 on this occasion with large numbers of railfans hanging out the windows and platforms of the BOB set.

3229 steam loco kiama bombo

3229 passing Bombo Quarry near Kiama taking passengers back from their day at the beach. Unfortunately the day was rather gloomy

 

New Year In South Africa

Eventually all the trains stopped in NSW, or at least no longer had steam locos in charge, so I ventured to other parts of the world. Christmas 1974 was spent at the famous Kings Head Hotel in London, after which I flew to South Africa. That New Year I was introduced to spectacular Paarnport in Northern Transvaal, the closest steam action to Johannesburg at the time. We had a great day in near perfect summer weather and I managed this photo of a 14CA with typical New Year’s adornment of I think Olive branches.

14CA paarnport caledon passenger steam train

14CA on the Caldeon Passenger at Paarnport with suitable olive branches for New Year South Africa 1975

 

Christmas 1975 was spent on the Drakensburg, a famous express steam hauled between Bloemfontein and De Aar at high speed across the desert. We got back to Johannesburg before New Year’s Eve and headed for the main line near Kroonstad. A bunch of us camped overnight including famous railfans Alan Jorgenson, Peter Stowe and Charile Lewis. Greg Tripplett and a number of other Aussies were with us as well. I remember being very drunk and sick that night, but don’t remember too much of the next day!

This was the domain of 15F and 23 class 4-8-2s which thundered up the grade, speeding along from Kroonstad to Bloemfontein.

23 class 4-8-2 kroonstad bloemfontein steam train south africa 1976

Double 23s thunder along the main line between Kroonstad and Bloemfontein

 

New Year In Central America

Christmas 1976 occurred about the time I was passing through El Salvador. This railway had very little traffic and was in the last stages of decline. Nevertheless, I managed to get a photo of a working steam train in the north of the country. I well remember no trains at the capital, San Salvador and a notice at the main station indicating trains leave at the exact time of departure! Hardly likely.

101 El Salvador steam train

El Salvador no 101 Baldwin leaves Acajutla on a freight December 1976

I have a soft spot for old US Baldwins. This country is USA all the way, and you can even see a caboose on the back.

New Year In China

Me on a Motorised Rickshaw

I spent one more Christmas with steam. This was China in 1984. After spending Christmas day photographing steam at Guilin, New Year’s day 1984 saw me in Louyang. I met an English “Gricer” at the hotel desk. It was absolutely freezing. We were far away from the tourist trail, and the hotel was a “Fan Dian” or friendship hotel.

Anyway, I was at the desk and spotted an Englishman. I asked him what he was doing in that part of the world. He said. “special interest.” I probed further and he had come for the steam. At that stage individual visas for China had only been available for a month.

We decided to join forces and go lineside to a grade just out of town. Now in China, tourists were only allowed to visit certain cities and then only allowed to stay within the town precincts. We went to the station and tried to get a cab. The driver refused. Eventually we managed to get a man on a motorised Rickshaw who took us out along the line. The result was a feast of steam with 6 double headed QJs in 75 minutes.

I got this rare shot of two trains passing at speed. It is not often you are in the perfect position for this sort of photo, New Year’s Day 1985.

QJ louyang steam loco china

Near new QJs passing on opposing freights near Louyang New Year’s Day 1985

 

I hope you derived some pleasure from this story and my photos of steam at the end or start of the year. Regrettably unless I go to western Mongolia or Darjeeling, I may not see another regular steam engine operating on New Year’s Day. Perhaps some enterprising rail group will revisit the beach trips to Kiama. In the meantime there are the photos and memories.

I appreciate any of your memories of New Year’s day in pursuit of the iron horse.

If you are in the market for beautiful colour pictures of regular steam action around the world, take a look at our “steam train books for sale” section. There are some wonderful stories and photos there.

John

 

Gosford Steam Trains In The 1960s And 70s

Many of my generation will know that the last main line operations of steam on a massive scale were Gosford steam trains. As it turns out, I now live just 10 minutes from this historic station at Kariong on the NSW Central Coast. It gives me plenty of time to think about the good old days of steam.

As it stands, many of the remnants of steam days are now being bulldozed. The Garratt siding has gone to make way for the new freight loop to Narara, there are overhead wires all the way to Newcastle, and after 150 years trains no longer reach the northern city.

3820 4614 gosford loco garratt siding steam loco newcastle flyer

The driver transfers from 4614 to 3820 to continue the run to Newcastle on no 21 Morning Flyer. If you look closely, I believe Con Cardew may be alighting the cab of the 46.

 

Back in the days of my youth, it was a different story. Electrification of the line from Sydney to Gosford was completed in 1960. That meant that apart from a trip when I was 3, I have no memories of steam on that section. At Gosford electric traction gave way to steam power, most notably on the Newcastle Flyer, where 8 minutes was allocated to switch engines. The morning Flyer did the loco change in the Garratt siding, having strolled through Gosford station. This is the reason a ½ minute was shaved off the time to Broadmeadow for this train. The siding was named because it has sufficient space to change double 46 electrics for a pair of Garratts. It had its own watering facility too.

ad60 garratt siding gosford

A pair of Garratts await patiently for goods trains from Sydney

Gosford had a busy loco depot and a 75 foot turntable that is still operational, to turn the mighty 38 class Pacifics. Garratts normally ran bunker first to Gosford and returned funnel first. The exception was in the early 1960s when Garratts working from Broadmeadow to Enfield and back. In my opinion, Gosford loco is quite a pretty place.

5439 5915 gosford loco depot steam train

5439 and 5915 wait in Gosford loco on a Sunday afternoon in 1972. Unfortunately, the 59 was having mechanical problems at the time. Strangely, Gosford town is not all that different now.

 

West of Gosford is the Racecourse. Back in those days, there was a rail line leading to this area, now long gone. As it was not electrified, a steam loco would haul patrons to the platform at the racecourse.

gosford racecourse siding 5905 steam train

5905 hauls a BOB set from Gosford Racecourse to meet an interurban train, taking passengers back to Sydney

 

On a Friday night after school, I would often make a quick trip into train control at Central railway station to check the loco roster for the weekend. We got to know the control staff very well and eventually, could call for the roster to decide whether to make the trip north.

Unfortunately, many of the double headers ran at night, hence the large numbers of time exposures taken in Gosford station. Right up until the last days you could get combinations of 35,36,38, 50, 53, 59 and 60 class, usually with the more powerful engine at the helm. The 35s ceased operation in 1968, and 36s were not as common in later years. Passenger engines were withdrawn in 1970.

5262 5439 gosford station double headed standard goods engines

5262 and 5439 waiting to depart number 3 platform at Gosford in the very early hours of one Saturday morning.

 

Stopping trains commenced their journey at Gosford with a changeover from the Interurbans from Sydney. After climbing out of the station past the Garratt siding they would speed up on the downhill section before Narara curve, near what is now Wyoming.

3806 37x steam train gosford

3806 escapes the overheads just north of Gosford in 1967 on 37x local to Newcastle. This train was soon to be replaced by a rail car and the loco near the end of its days.

 

What is not that well known, is that during the oil strike in 1972, a steam train left Gosford for Wyong with 5905 in charge. Steam was used because of the shortage of diesel fuel and as it turns out, this was the very last regular steam hauled passenger in Australia.

oil strike 5915 steam train 25x

5915 in June 1972 hauls 25x local from Gosford to Wyong during the oil strike, possibly the last regular steam hauled passenger in Australia.

 

Gosford Steam Trains are now a distant memory, just the whistle of an occasional special piercing the air. There is still a water tower, and column in number 2 platform, and the turntable. Gone are the days when three 38 class would line up for the Flyer, 37x stopping passenger and the Northern Tablelands relief train.

3822 3820 3813 gosford loco steam engine

3822, 3820 and 3813 await their trains in Gosford Loco Depot in 1970.

 

It is a real shame that as we approach 2015, we can’t even get one of these mighty pacifics operational. Perhaps 2015 will see Gosford steam trains in the form of a 38 class once again.

Northern Exposures Photos In The Tamworth Area

The following photos were taken from “Northern Exposures”, a new full colour pictorial on railway operations in the north of NSW back in the last days of steam in the late 1960s.

The book features the Tamworth area heavily including Werris Creek, Murrurundi to Ardglen, the Barraba line and shots north towards Armidale and beyond. Many have said this is the best quality book of its type ever produced in NSW.

There is also a great story about one person’s cab riding experiences in the Tamworth area.

Here are some photos from the Tamworth area and surrounds.

3001 looking resplendent on the Tamworth Barraba passenger in 1966

 

A double headed standard goods heads towards Ardglen in 1964

3631 at Werris Creek on the Glen Innes mail

Standard Goods approaching Blandford in 1966

3631 heads north on the relief Northern Tablelands Express. Even in 1966 the main train was a diesel railcar, splitting at Werris Creek

3237 on the line from Werris Creek to Binnaway on a mixed freight. 1969

If you would like a copy of the book, you can get it for $75 including postage at http://northernexposures.com.au or phone John on 0411 139 312

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software