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.

 

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