It’s 4 pm and time to knock off work for the final time in the week. I head home thinking about the weekend and what steam action it will bring.
A quick call to Control at Central Railway reveals there is a double header leaving Gosford in the early hours, timed to reach Hawkmount just after daybreak. Brian Pycock, one of our group of diehard rail fans works there, so we have the inside information on steam movements. A couple of phone calls and Rags, Arnie and I agree we are right to go. Only one problem, there is a petrol strike and fuel is scarce.
That’s nothing to worry about, Arnie’s dad owns a service station, so we sneak in and fill up from the near empty tanks at 46c a gallon. We are on our way to a weekend of fun and steam.
We head up the F3, which in those days was a toll road. After paying the toll at Berowra. I put the pedal to the metal reaching speeds of over 90 mph as we cross the Hawkesbury river bridge way above the speed limit. My hotted up EH tops the grade at 87 mph and then after a stop at the toll gates at Mount White, now long gone, we head on to Peats Ridge before taking the back road through Hue Hue to Wyee. On the straight between Wyee and Morisset, I again open the throttle and am surprised as a semi-trailer flys past doing well over 90 mph. It was a really scary experience as the wind gush nearly throws us off the narrow road. Hawkmount is reached in the middle of the night via a goat track that very few know about. We pass a Goanna on the way.
Next morning, as the sun rises, we hear the unmistakeable sound of a 38 and Garratt heading up the hill with a heavy load of coal. Smoke is billowing from the direction of Dora Creek and we wait in anticipation hoping that the sun will rise above the cutting before she arrives. As it turns out, this morning we get brilliant lighting on the two engines that puff and pant their way past us.
It is early December and the Calliopsis Flowers are blooming, giving a nice yellow foreground. Sights such as these made the journey worthwhile. It was less than a month before 3820 was withdrawn from active service, and since that time the sight of a 38 leading a Garratt has been missing.
To me this is what “Northern Exposures” is all about, those of us who were there at the time sharing anecdotes, memories and factual information from those days. Heck Bryan Pycock, Rags and Arnie all have chapters in the book – and photos. There are many others who I used to meet on the “mount” back when we were young a foolhardy. Anyone who was there, or wishes to know what it was like back in steam days, will want to get a copy of the book. In the future it will be an historical record of the days of steam trains north of Sydney. http://northernexposures.com.au Nowadays, the silence of Hawkmount is only occasionally broken by the beat of a steam special.
After a weekend photographing steam we notice the tank is nearly empty and do an economy run back to Sydney, somehow making it back to the servo on an empty tank.
From here it is back to work to prepare for next weekend on the Short North.