Recording The Days Of Steam Trains South From Sydney

The Trigger For This Post

When I read the most recent episode of “Soul Of A Railway”, written by Les Pivnic about Braamfontein depot which supplied steam to Johannesburg South Africa, it triggered something in me I really hadn’t considered before.

south afric steam trains

15F’s were used on local passengers out of Johannesburg until 1960. This one I believe is near Germiston, just a few kms away. Taken in 1975

In the 1970s and 80s I travelled much of the world in search of steam, and with for the most part none of it was in major Cities. An exception was Paraguay, where the international train to Buenos Aires was steam hauled to the border. This was virtually the only train in that country, and the place was rather run down, so I guess it is not typical. There was steam operating out of East Berlin, but that was in the DDR. Certainly steam out of Johannesburg on regular passenger trains stopped in 1960 according to Les.

The Ferrocaril Carlos Antonio López ran from Ascuncion the capital of Paraguay to the Argentinian border at the pirana river. Seen here at Ypaparaj, there were no train brakes, and the dining car had live chickens in cages underneath ensuring that we ate fresh food!

Early Memories Of Steam Trains

I live in NSW, and grew up in Sydney, Australia, attending high school in the 1960s. The switch from steam started in the early 1950s, and by the time I joined the school railway club in 1964, many main lines were using electric or diesel power.

Steam disappeared from the North Coast line around 1960, north of Musswellbrook and west of Lithgow around 1967, south to Nowra in 1965 and south of Goulburn in 1964. From that point on there were a few remote branch lines, many of which closed in the following years.

Steam Out Of Sydney

By 1969, the year I completed my education, there wasn’t a whole lot left. So looking back I find it intriguing that one line with a high percentage of steam operations was the line south from Sydney to Goulburn. On top of that the main Sydney goods yard at Darling Harbour had one 41 class diesel and other than that was mostly steam operated, and Sydney station itself featured a majority of steam shunters.

3130 sydney terminal shunting steam trains

3130 shunting cars on number 1 platform at central station at midday on a cold, wet afternoon. C30ts were considered the best shunting locos until near the end of steam.

The “short” south from Sydney to Goulburn, as it turns out, was one of the last lines in NSW to have steam. One reason was electrification to Gosford and Bowenfels, resulting in the use of EMUs (Electric Multiple Unit railcars) on the electrified lines, and through diesel workings on long distance passengers. It is ironic that now, electric locos have disappeared, replaced by through working diesels.

I don’t think any of us realised how lucky we were at that time to still have mighty 38s leaving Sydney terminal daily with south bound passengers. For it to last until October 1969 is remarkable. In fact, until July that year, no 18 south, the express from Canberra to Sydney on a Sunday night (this was operated by a railcar on weekdays) was hauled at Riverina Express times from Goulburn to Sydney with a load well over 300 tons including 12 wheel cars.

3813 49 moss vale train 1969 sydney terminal

3813 heads out of Sydney on the very last steam run of 49 south to Moss Vale in brilliant sunshine. Note the steam from the steam heating in the cars, even though it was early October, 1969

From 1965 on, through trains which ventured further south than Goulburn (except 18) were diesel hauled. There was a rail car on no 13 Goulburn day train, and everything else from Sydney to Goulburn was steam.

Railways Of Australia

For those of you who aren’t aware of the development of Australian railways, the situation until the 1960s was that there was standard gage (4′ 8 1/2 “) in NSW, at the Queensland border it changed to 3′ 6″, this also happened at the South Australian border, and at the Victorian border, the gage switched to 5′ 3”. This was because each state of Australia was managed from Britain. When they started building railways, they each independently worked out what they thought was the best rail gage, probably never thinking that the country would be joined one day.

By 1969, only Sydney and Perth had any steam hauled rail services, and in the case of Western Australia it was a few locals on the midland line. Sydney stood alone in having country steam hauled passenger trains, a major loco depot at Enfield, and express passenger steam locos in regular operation.

A Special Situation

Looking back to that time, some 45 years ago (ouch) we were actually very lucky to be able to ride such trains as the steam heated Moss Vale train, the Southern Highlands Express and 18 south deep into 1969. At the time, I believe we had no idea how lucky we were.

southern highlands express 3811 goulburn steam train

The Southern Highlands Express was very popular amongst steam rail fans. Here 3811 climbing out of North Goulburn early one morning with a consist including 3 additional cars.

When “Northern Exposures” the book that is fast becoming the premier colour rendition and information history of end of days steam operations north of Sydney was published, we had a record of those times many of us lived through when the fires were finally extinguished of regular steam engine operations. Certainly, those last few years after chime whistles no longer rang out on the South were very special, and some even managed to photograph steam into the far northern reaches. But what of the south…..

A New Book Emerges

It didn’t take too long for it to dawn on the publication committee for NE that there was scope to do the same type of publication for the South. The word went out to the celebrated photographers and experts on railway operations and together we started researching material and searching far and wide for superior quality colour photos from those days.

While the new book will not be with us for a while, I can tell you it is well in process, and we have dug up some previously unpublished material that will raise a few eyebrows. It is going to be a ripper, and a record of the last days of steam in and around Sydney, as well as lines heading south.

By now you will understand the special place steam out of Sydney has in railway history, and before long there will be a permanent reminder befitting of this amazing city.

1945 steam engine darling harbour

1945 shunts Darling Harbour in 1970 with a 6 wheel tender. Built in the 1890s, they survived longer than many locos built much later.

Leave a comment on places you remember steam operated to large cities after country lines had gone diesel or electric.

John Gaydon

Gosford Steam Trains In The 1960s And 70s

Many of my generation will know that the last main line operations of steam on a massive scale were Gosford steam trains. As it turns out, I now live just 10 minutes from this historic station at Kariong on the NSW Central Coast. It gives me plenty of time to think about the good old days of steam.

As it stands, many of the remnants of steam days are now being bulldozed. The Garratt siding has gone to make way for the new freight loop to Narara, there are overhead wires all the way to Newcastle, and after 150 years trains no longer reach the northern city.

3820 4614 gosford loco garratt siding steam loco newcastle flyer

The driver transfers from 4614 to 3820 to continue the run to Newcastle on no 21 Morning Flyer. If you look closely, I believe Con Cardew may be alighting the cab of the 46.


Back in the days of my youth, it was a different story. Electrification of the line from Sydney to Gosford was completed in 1960. That meant that apart from a trip when I was 3, I have no memories of steam on that section. At Gosford electric traction gave way to steam power, most notably on the Newcastle Flyer, where 8 minutes was allocated to switch engines. The morning Flyer did the loco change in the Garratt siding, having strolled through Gosford station. This is the reason a ½ minute was shaved off the time to Broadmeadow for this train. The siding was named because it has sufficient space to change double 46 electrics for a pair of Garratts. It had its own watering facility too.

ad60 garratt siding gosford

A pair of Garratts await patiently for goods trains from Sydney

Gosford had a busy loco depot and a 75 foot turntable that is still operational, to turn the mighty 38 class Pacifics. Garratts normally ran bunker first to Gosford and returned funnel first. The exception was in the early 1960s when Garratts working from Broadmeadow to Enfield and back. In my opinion, Gosford loco is quite a pretty place.

5439 5915 gosford loco depot steam train

5439 and 5915 wait in Gosford loco on a Sunday afternoon in 1972. Unfortunately, the 59 was having mechanical problems at the time. Strangely, Gosford town is not all that different now.


West of Gosford is the Racecourse. Back in those days, there was a rail line leading to this area, now long gone. As it was not electrified, a steam loco would haul patrons to the platform at the racecourse.

gosford racecourse siding 5905 steam train

5905 hauls a BOB set from Gosford Racecourse to meet an interurban train, taking passengers back to Sydney


On a Friday night after school, I would often make a quick trip into train control at Central railway station to check the loco roster for the weekend. We got to know the control staff very well and eventually, could call for the roster to decide whether to make the trip north.

Unfortunately, many of the double headers ran at night, hence the large numbers of time exposures taken in Gosford station. Right up until the last days you could get combinations of 35,36,38, 50, 53, 59 and 60 class, usually with the more powerful engine at the helm. The 35s ceased operation in 1968, and 36s were not as common in later years. Passenger engines were withdrawn in 1970.

5262 5439 gosford station double headed standard goods engines

5262 and 5439 waiting to depart number 3 platform at Gosford in the very early hours of one Saturday morning.


Stopping trains commenced their journey at Gosford with a changeover from the Interurbans from Sydney. After climbing out of the station past the Garratt siding they would speed up on the downhill section before Narara curve, near what is now Wyoming.

3806 37x steam train gosford

3806 escapes the overheads just north of Gosford in 1967 on 37x local to Newcastle. This train was soon to be replaced by a rail car and the loco near the end of its days.


What is not that well known, is that during the oil strike in 1972, a steam train left Gosford for Wyong with 5905 in charge. Steam was used because of the shortage of diesel fuel and as it turns out, this was the very last regular steam hauled passenger in Australia.

oil strike 5915 steam train 25x

5915 in June 1972 hauls 25x local from Gosford to Wyong during the oil strike, possibly the last regular steam hauled passenger in Australia.


Gosford Steam Trains are now a distant memory, just the whistle of an occasional special piercing the air. There is still a water tower, and column in number 2 platform, and the turntable. Gone are the days when three 38 class would line up for the Flyer, 37x stopping passenger and the Northern Tablelands relief train.

3822 3820 3813 gosford loco steam engine

3822, 3820 and 3813 await their trains in Gosford Loco Depot in 1970.


It is a real shame that as we approach 2015, we can’t even get one of these mighty pacifics operational. Perhaps 2015 will see Gosford steam trains in the form of a 38 class once again.

Northern Exposures Photos In The Tamworth Area

The following photos were taken from “Northern Exposures”, a new full colour pictorial on railway operations in the north of NSW back in the last days of steam in the late 1960s.

The book features the Tamworth area heavily including Werris Creek, Murrurundi to Ardglen, the Barraba line and shots north towards Armidale and beyond. Many have said this is the best quality book of its type ever produced in NSW.

There is also a great story about one person’s cab riding experiences in the Tamworth area.

Here are some photos from the Tamworth area and surrounds.

3001 looking resplendent on the Tamworth Barraba passenger in 1966


A double headed standard goods heads towards Ardglen in 1964

3631 at Werris Creek on the Glen Innes mail

Standard Goods approaching Blandford in 1966

3631 heads north on the relief Northern Tablelands Express. Even in 1966 the main train was a diesel railcar, splitting at Werris Creek

3237 on the line from Werris Creek to Binnaway on a mixed freight. 1969

If you would like a copy of the book, you can get it for $75 including postage at or phone John on 0411 139 312

Muswellbrook Area Photos In Northern Exposures

Steam trains operated in the Muswellbrook area until the early 1970s. While the main line expresses ended in the mid 1960s, there were still some freight workings and the Colliery lines, plus the all important Merriwa branch.

Here is a selection of photos from “Northern Exposures” a full colour pictorial which includes high quality colour photos from the time plus stories on steam operations, including a trip to Merriwa.

Copies are available for just $75 at

Muswellbrook Photos From Northern Exposures.

5275 standard goods ravensworth steam train

5275 crosses the bridge at Ravensworth bound for Musswellbrook


364 oak dairy muswellbrook

3654 at the OAK Dairy siding in Muswellbrook


antienne nsw garratt freight

A Garratt on a general freight at Antienne in 1968


muswellbrook no 2 colliery 59 class steam loco

Two 59 class shunting at Muswellbrook No 2 Colliery in 1969


c30 merriwa railway line

A C30 on the Merriwa line, a favourite of ours around 1970.


C3090T merriwa steam mixed train

3090 on the Merriwa mixed between Sandy Hollow and Merriwa

3090 on the Merriwa mixed between Sandy Hollow and Merriwa

There are plenty more photos in the area as this was a major focus in the book.

Order at

Call John on 0411 139 312 if you have any queries.

Northern Exposures Singleton Area

This page was specially prepared to show some of the photographs in “Northern Exposures” for the Singleton area. The scans are low resolution to allow for fast loading of the web page. The book is of exceptionally high quality and Ross Verdich, head of ARHS publications described it as possibly the best ever

Copies can be ordered for $75 including delivery on line by clicking on the link below.

Singleton Area Information

The book covers steam operations in the late 1960s to early 1970s recording the last few years, before diesels took over all railway movements. At this time, steam was very active in the area, in particular the coal trains to Liddell Mines and the Singleton passenger, one of the longest continual steam hauled trains in Australia.

Late 1969 standard goods locos were still working to Muswellbrook. Two coal trains are seen passing at Singleton


singleton pasenger shittiingham bank 3246

The famous Singleton Passenger climbs out of Whittingham on an early frosty morning in 1972


AD60 Liddell coal train

A 60 class Garratt leaving Liddell Mine with a load of coal destined for Port Waratah


hunter river bridge singleton AD60 coal train

A 60 class crosses the Hunter River Bridge at Singleton on a coal train bound for Muswellbrook


Singelton Heights steam train

Another shot of a coal train climbing Singleton Heights


These are just a few photos from the book taken in the Singleton area. There is extensive coverage of the Singleton passenger, as well as freight operations in the area. There is a section of photos on Singleton and a section featuring the Singleton passenger. It presents in full colour much of the steam railway history that is now gone forever. You can order the book at or phone John on 0411 139 312

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software