Adventure on the 1.10 am Mixed

Back in steam days, there was still a mixed train out of Sydney. It usually had a 38 up front and travelled with steam as far as Goulburn. At various stages of its existence it reached much further south, but for us, the ride to Goulburn was a treat.

By early 1966, I was hooked on steam. By then my Grand dad had passed and I managed to inherit his Kodak Retinette 1A 35 mm camera, my only means of obtaining good quality shots until the end of High School. Tragedy struck that year, as I spent most of the first 6 months in bed with Rheumatic Fever. The consequences of this were that I could hardly use my legs for months.

Back in those days, medical care was free and I had the best specialists come to my home to check me out. I was declared not to have permanent heart damage and finally allowed back to school.

I was champing at the bit to get out and photograph the steam action. I took my first trip north and only got as far as Gosford, where I hitched a ride in a 46 with a 32 trailing to Cowan, where we sent the P on its way unassisted. We then headed back to Hawkesbury River where we assisted a Garratt up the bank.

3233 at Cowan after our 46 assisted it up the bank. June 1966 My photo. Many of my friends photographed this train on that day!

Not long after this, I broke my arm high jumping in the back yard with my brother. That meant another 8 weeks rest, so after that I was really keen for more steam train activity.

When they removed the plaster, my arm was white as snow, and muscles week. Of course, that didn’t deter a 14 year old. My Mum was due top play a concert on the organ at Sydney town Hall. I could read music and she preferred me to turn the pages while her 4’ 10” body did battle with the 5 levels of keyboard, numerous stops representing a range of instruments and the peddles, which she could barely reach.

After some negotiation, she agreed to drop me off at Sydney Station at 1 am after the concert in return for my page turning expertise. The stage was set for an 8 hour solo ride to Goulburn.

3807 at Bowral on 31 mixed. My photoB

At my request, we wandered up to the cab of 3811, where Mum asked the driver if I could hitch a ride in the cab. “Come up at Moss Vale”, he said, so I headed back to the passenger car at the back of the train.

Now I know 38s were sleek express locos, but not on this train. We shunted everywhere, mostly in sidings that have long since been removed, as we made our way slowly south. Much excitement for a 14 year old.

Eventually we arrived in Moss Vale to take water after the long climb from Picton and I headed for the loco. After being invited up I was handed the shovel and received a lesson in how to fire a 38. I did this for the remainder of the journey.

3825 stops for water at Moss Vale. Plenty of time to walk from the end of the train for a cab ride.

The only issue with this was my arm which slowly got more painful, although I was telling no one. I fired the pacific all the way to Goulburn, very proud of my efforts on a ride I will never forget.

I did ride this train on several other occasions. In the latter days of steam. You could ride the “mixed” to Moss Vale and pick up the Southern Highlands Express for the return trip. We would walk across the bridge south of Moss Vale and photograph a few trains before returning.

3801 Southern Highlands Express
3801 speeds towrds Minto on the Soujthern HIghlands Express. This train could travel up to 80 mph on the racetrack between Campbelltown and Liverpool

Alas, mixed trains are a thing of the past now. This train didn’t last too long into the diesel era. Everything is in a rush these days, and trucks service the businesses that used to have rail sidings. Younger people will never know the old NSWGR, which was at times slow, and a relic leading back to earlier days.

3809 heads 31 mixed to Goulburn near Towrang Jan 1968. It was ahot day with flies swarming on the back of my shirt.

I wonder how many people here have ridden on this train?

For some great pictures of NSW steam trains and more stories like this one, why not purchase our new book, “Smoke” due out at the end of May, 2024. Read the post on the book for more information or go to the book’s website



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