Memories From A Day’s Trainspotting In The 1960s

What Was It Like To Be A Train Spotter In Sydney In The 1960s?

In my youth, I spent many hours sitting on railway stations recording the passing parade of steam trains. This story is about my very first trip alone, to Campbelltown at the southern end of the Sydney suburban network, back in 1965. Those were the days!

These days, Campbelltown is a City, with an electrified railway system. It has become another outlying suburban area.

Back in 1929 the railway was electrified as far as Liverpool, as Campbelltown although a mere 13 miles to the south, did not have the population to support a regular electric service.

By the time I made my first visit there in 1965, there were rumours, although at that stage no signs of the ghastly poles and wires that were to come shortly and forever change the look of this important station.

By then the Camden line was closed, although 2029 was still around to shunt cars. The 20 class were often used on Camden trains.

2029 Shunting Campbelltown Yard


As school students, we were entitled to a 10c excursion ticket covering the metropolitan area. This applied on weekends and school holidays. Finally, at the age of 13, I was able to break free from home and head to Campbelltown to see the day’s steam trains. It was very exciting as I headed off with the Kodak Retinette 1A I had just inherited due to my grandfather’s demise earlier that year.

I kept that camera all through school and I was grateful for the opportunity to record steam, albeit mostly in B & W.

First up was a Glenlee coal train. There were several movements a day of these with 60 Class Garratts in charge. The empty BCH’s would head a few miles past Campbelltown to the mine and then return loaded to the coal terminal in Balmain. None of this exists any more!

6023 Heads South On A Glenlee Coal Train

At that time, Garratts were operating further south as well. The next train to appear was another Garratt, this time on a mixed goods. There are quite a few pictures of these down south in Lenses South. I was only 13, so I didn’t manage to venture any further at this time.

6028 passes through Campbelltown on a mixed goods. Probably Goulburn bound

Cement Trains And More

While Garratts are nice, and certainly big engines, back then there was a lot of variety. The town of Berrima was connected to Moss Vale by a branch line. The cement works processed lime from Marulan and then it was transported by rail to Sydney.

3824 heads the cement train from Moss Vale

The 36 class were a common locomotive used in this part of the world, working the majority of goods trains. These small engines would often stop at Campbelltown for a drink before the long haul to Moss Vale. It was hard work firing a steam train on this stretch of track. Once you passed Menangle you hit the first grade, and from then on much of the terrain was a gradual climb into the Southern Highlands. By this time, 36 class no longer worked Express Passenger trains due to 38s and diesels taking over. In their day, they were very fast, with the tightest schedules ever for the Newcastle Flyer.

3654 Stops For A Drink

With no electrification, local passengers were mainly 620 railcar units. On some occasions, especially morning or evening peak services, the rail cars couldn’t handle the number of passengers, so 30 Tanks and 32 class were used. The C32s headed the evening and morning passengers to and from Sydney. I rode one of these one night, only to be assaulted by a group of thugs just before Campbelltown. I was lucky. I put my hands over my head and the first punch resulted in the assailant ripping his arm open on the watch winder. After that, they left me alone. Campbelltown wasn’t the greatest place to hang out in back then.

3024 shunts a rake of “Cowboy” cars, ready for afternoon passenger services

Great Variety

While the 30 tank was getting ready in platform 3, 5407 appeared on 42a pick up which travelled from Moss Vale via the Picton Mittagong loop line, now home to the Rail Transport Musem.

5407 on the local pick up. In the background a Garratt takes water on the way to Glenlee

The star of the show for south rail fans was 335 goods. Regularly double headed, it ran late afternoon. In Lenses South there are quite a few photos of this train, with various combinations. It started at North Strathfield or Enfield.

3808 and 3623 head 335 goods to Goulburn

Fast Trip Home

This was the last train for the day. We had seen 6 different classes of steam loco, and were ready to make the trip back to Roseville. As it turns out, there was a relief Goulburn Day train running, with a 36 in charge, so soon after dark I hopped in the carriages armed with my stopwatch. The “Pig” took off, reaching speeds in excess of 80 mph along the speed track between Ingleburn and Glenfield. By the time we ground to a halt at Liverpool we had exceeded a start to stop 60 mph average. It was to be one of the fastest runs behind steam I ever took part in. What a journey.

I arrived home tired, but extremely satisfied with my day at Campbelltown.

Lenses South relives those days of steam and smoke south of Sydney. With full colour pictures galore, it explores not only the suburban network, but workings like those above and even further south. You can learn more at


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