Jaffas In The Aisle – A Trip On 21 Newcastle Flyer

As many readers will know, from the time the Hawkesbury River Bridge was open 1889, it was possible to travel from Sydney to Newcastle by train. While today the M1 enables a road journey of just over 2 hours of boring driving, back in the 1890s it took considerably longer. Newcastle had a population of around 50,000 and the completion of the rail link meant it could grow much faster.

The Pacific Highway did not reach Newcastle until the end of the 1920s, and even then, those who remember the old, windy road, will know that it took ages to get to the destination.

The Railway Line was much faster, and in 1929, the Northern Commercial Limited and sister Intercity Express did the journey in 2 hrs 45 with a 32 class up front. This was a massive reduction in travel times.

3298, painted red and named ‘Parramatta’, approaching Woy Woy tunnel with the Up Inter-City Express (No. 24) on the morning of 4 January 1934. Stan Foulkes from “Smoke

Not long after this photo was taken, the 36 class replaced the “P”s on this service. This was the number one prestige train in NSW, with passengers dressing up for the privilege of travelling on it.

The extra capacity of the 36 meant the train could run non stop from Newcastle to Sydney, and it was renamed the “Newcastle Flyer”. By 1944, The 38 class were in charge of most runs, although other locos were used occasionally.

The Hawkesbury River Bridge was replaced in 1946, and the non stop time reduced to 2 hrs 18 minutes. It takes longer than that to get from Sydney to Newcastle by train today! The air conditioned HUB sets were added in 1948.

Back in less safety conscious days, our narrator has sprinted a long way out onto the Hawkesbury River bridge decking, determined to record this scene. Blithely unaware of his presence, 3820 coasts past with a goodly tail of empty S and K trucks hanging off her tender.
This was the last run north of a 38 returning to regular service duties apart from the Popes’ Week frenzy.

In 1960, electrification to Gosford meant that a 46 class electric hauled the train to Gosford and then steam took over.

With 3 services each way per day, Eveleigh crews were rostered to work 21 morning Flyer from Sydney, and 32 Evening Flyer from Newcastle. The Broadmeadow crew from 24 morning flyer would return on 71 mid-day flyer and the Broadmeadow crew on 72 Mid Day flyer returned on 31 evening flyer.

3822 tops Hawkmount on 71 afternoon flyer A fewmolnths later she was dropped in the dirt at Tuggerah Loop and scrapped. – John Gaydon

Only an elite group of crew were allowed to operate the flyers. Eveleigh crews also worked other prestigious trains out of Sydney.

With the changeover from electric to steam at Gosford, the mid-day and evening flyers were scheduled to stop to pick up passengers, so the loco change was conducted with the train standing in the platform.

3822 has just coupled onto 31 flyer at Gosford. Photo in “Northern Exposures” – my photo.

The down morning flyer was different. With no scheduled stop, it would travel through Gosford to the Garratt siding, a km north of the station, where the 38 was waiting on an adjacent track. The crews would swap over, the 46 detach, and the 38 couple up to the train for the remainder of the journey. Before it arrived, the doors would be locked so no passengers could alight, which was a bit of an issue for a young boy who wanted to hop on. The locks were all operated with a carriage key, and I had a screwdriver which fitted them perfectly. I had booked my seat from Hornsby (it was booked seats only and a 0.30c reservation fee) so I hopped on and went to my reserved window seat. This was selected next to the mile posts, so I could time the run.

The crew are changing from the 46 class to 3820 – Garratt Siding on the morning flyer – John Gaydon

Prior to boarding the train, I had asked the crew if they could make a spirited run, and the driver smiled at me. I had no great expectations. With stop watch at the ready, we started briskly down the hill towards Narara.

This was during my HSC exams, otherwise I would have been at school. These trips probably  cost me a good education, but you can do that at any time – right! I had purchased a fortnightly ticket from Hornsby to Broadmeadow for around $10 – very cheap. It meant I could ride in as many flyers as I wanted to in between exams.

Our photographer claimed many times in the late 1960s that if No. 24 Morning Flyer didn’t crest the Hawkmount grade at 7.30 am, it would
be diesel. We remember testing that notion on a number of occasions and finding it to be correct. The 38s had a horsepower edge over first generation units which was only undone on longer runs by the need for coal and water. This was not an issue between Newcastle and Gosford.

Even though we started a few minutes late, we only achieved a top speed of just over 70 mph, and topped the main range of Hawk Mount at 19 mph, which was rather slow. For some reason, things improved after that, speeding along from Awaba to Fassifern, topping the 1 in 40 at 39 mph. We drifted down the other side at over 50 mph, jamming on the brakes at the sharp curve near Teralba, which we hit at 53 mph.

After ticking a whole range of boxes with diverse loco and train types on these pages, it’s necessary to round things out with a streamlined 38 on a Flyer. No. 71 midday express crests the Fassifern grade to the sound of 3803’s clipped, sharp and rapid exhaust. Colour slide film is so quiet! LAURIE ANDERSON, 4 MARCH 1967 From Smoke

That was when the chaos happened. With the jolt around the curve someone lost control of their box of jaffas and they rolled all over the carriage. The orange coated balls of chocolate became a trip hazzard, and the staff from the buffet car were not amused! A few people had been tossed around as well, although I did not see any injuries.

3822 at speed on the flyer – John Gaydon

We hit 60 mph once more coming into Adamstown, and arrived at Broadmeadow having shaved off 1 ½ minutes from the schedule. Quite impressive, especially the run from Fassifern.

As I alighted, and went to thank the driver, I was passed by some of the catering staff who proceeded to scold the driver for dislodging food and drink by cornering too fast. The girls were not happy. The driver winked at me as I approached, and I went away very satisfied with my non stop ride behind 3813. I only wish they could put her back together!

In 1972, after travelling to Port Pirie on the Western Endeavour, 3813 was under overhaul, when the then Commissioner Shirley found out about it and ordered work to be stopped and the parts to be scrapped. The disassembled parts were saved, and most of the loco is now at the Dorrigo Steam and Railway Museum in trucks and various pieces and they hope to re-assemble it one day. Will it be in your lifetime? I wonder!

Our new book, “Smoke” is available for pre-order. We expect copies late May or early June.



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