Northern NSW Steam Action – Were You There?

It has been over 40 years since steam operated in regular service on the NSWGR, now known as the SRA (I think). Many of you reading this were there, or have seen photos of the days when steam plied regularly between Gosford and Newcastle, long after other parts of the state were dieselised.

3526 3246 moombi ranges steam train locomotive nsw
3526 and 3246 climb the Moombi Ranges. Not 17 Brisbane Express but a rail tour

While I managed to photograph the last years of steam with my Kodak Retinette, a far cry from the modern SLR, lack of transport restricted my activities to walking along railway tracks for hours for a single photo.

Back in 1965, I had just started High School, with little money to purchase film, and no wheels. At that time photographers were driving up and down the northern line to Wallangarra, recording history in the last days of steam on that very scenic part of the country.

ben lomond nsw 3214 1243 176 steam loco australia highest railway station
176 (formerly 1243) and 3214 head the Vintage Train at Ben Lomond, Australia’s highest railway station. This line is now abandoned.

I did manage to chase the Vintage Train and a special on the long north, and I have included a slide show of my exploits here to get your mouth watering, but you will have to get a copy of “Northern Exposures” for the regular steam shots.

My only trip during steam times that far north was when I travelled on the diesel hauled Brisbane Express from Broadmeadow to Werris Creek. That night I pretended to be asleep when the conductor came past and managed to get there for 10c! After a couple of black and white shots in the yard that so far I have been unable to locate, we went for a walk into town. We were approached by a passing police car and the cops were wanting to charge us for vagrancy for wandering around town n the middle of the night.Somehow we managed to talk him out of it, went back to the station and caught a cab ride in a diesel freight back home. Another weekend excursion cut short.

I did manage to chase a steam special bound for Wallangarra, which only managed to get to Glen Innes due to loco failure. As it turns out, the locos were seconded to rescue no 13 mail due to a failed diesel near Kentucky. So I do have a picture of steam on a regular train in the far north.

glenn innes mail 3246 3526 steam train kentucky nsw
3526 and 3246 haul the Glenn Innes Mail with a dead 44 attached at the rear May 1972.

Here are some of my shots of the area in a slide show

Of course, I missed out on the amazing variety of motive power used in this part of the world up until 1966 when the diesels moved in. In “Northern Exposures” you will see stunning colour photos of 30, 32, 35, 36 50, 53 and 59 class engines in various combinations on passenger and freight trains.

 Northern Exposures – Full Cover Coverage Of The Last Days Of Steam In The North OF NSW

Collectors Item

This great new book featuring hundreds of full cover photos of NSW steam in the 1960s and 70s on lines north of Sydney, compacts the work of dozens of rail photographers including yours truly. None of the photos shown here were good enough for selection for the book!

Get your copy at


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