The Mighty 38 Class – NSW’s Express Passenger Steam Engine

Going back over my photos and reminiscing on the stories from back in the 1960s and early 1970s when I was riding the rails locally, my definite preference in motive power was the 38 class. These locomotives were constructed during the Second World War around 1943, and became the last of the Express Passenger engines built in Australia. Sadly, only a few years later diesels started to appear and took some of the prestige trains from their command. The first run of the 44 class Diesel Electrics in 1957 started a sad period for railway enthusiasts.

I Capture Most 38s On Film

Among my personal collection I managed to photograph 22 of the 30 of these magnificent locomotives. The one’s I missed out on are 3804, 3805, 3814, 3816, 3817, 3819, 3821 and 3826. Some of these were involved in crashes, while others were withdrawn early in their life. I have memories of seeing 3804, but can’t find a photo, and my pictures of 3812 and 3829 are taken on my first Kodak Brownie Box Camera, often the first purchase in camera equipment in those days.

Figure 1 3812 Awaits Departure From Sydney On The Evening Moss Vale Train In 1964

Over the years from the end of 1964 through to 1970, when 3820 hauled the last Newcastle Flyer Express to Sydney, I travelled behind, or on board most of the 22 I managed to photograph.

The Last Run South Of Sydney

Class leader, 3801 and green machine 3813 seem to pop up often in my photos, which would imply that they were running more often than the others. In fact when the line south from Sydney to Goulburn stopped running steam in October 1969, right before my final school exams, 3801 hauled the famous Southern Highlands Express, while 3813 was rostered on the Moss Vale Train which left an hour and a half earlier.

I have an interesting story on this event and how we attempted to deceive our colleagues. Regrettably the plan failed!


Figure 2 The Last Steam Hauled Southern Highlands Express With 3801 Ready To Leave Goulburn

In the latter days, the Newcastle Flyer was my focus. Four 38 class would be rostered to Broadmeadow Depot to cover the non electrified section of the line north of Gosford, where I now live. This section has long been electrified, and now is an interurban service, a far cry from the former prestige of the Flyer. Interestingly enough, the fastest express trains now cover the distance in 3 hrs 37 minutes. Back in steam days, it took 3 hours 30 on the Flyer including an 8 minute stop to change engines at Gosford!

How I Suffered For Love Of Steam

I took a heavy personal toll for my love of the 38s. It was 1969 when everything started to wind up. It was the final year of High School for me. That meant my studies for the Higher School Certificate were severely interrupted, and I obtained much lower grades than I should have! The exams started late in October. The last run of the “Southern Highlands Express” was on October 11, right before my exams started. I had spent the previous three months riding and photographing as many trains as I could o the South. To compound this, During the exams I purchased a fortnightly ticket with unlimited travel from Hornsby to Newcastle and between exams spent every available minute riding up and down the Short North! No wonder I missed out on University.

The End Of The Mighty 38

The 38s kept hauling the Newcastle Flyer until December 29, 1970m when 3820 hauled the last steam run all the way back to Sydney. I managed a tape recording on the run up Cowan bank from within the front car. CA Cardew, someone who was very famous as a former Chief Mechanical Engineer and holder of a Gold pass to drive any train he chose, was at the throttle. He always provided a memorable trip and this one was no exception. I am making this recording available to members.

I also managed to chase 3820 on its last trip up to Newcastle. On that occasion it ran on a freight and I managed to get an exclusive shot of her crossing the Hawkesbury River Bridge. It won First Prize in an AHRS photo competition.

Figure 3 3820 Departs Enfield On Its Final Regular Journey North

I cannot do justice to my entire coverage of the 38s in one article, so I am presenting a series, detailing the one’s I have photographed, plus the special trains they hauled. One trip was the last steam hauled Federal Express. This train ran from Canberra to Sydney until the Deb railcars were introduced in 1955. What many don’t know is that on the weekend there was an express service to Canberra leaving Sydney at 11.20 pm on Saturday night and returning late Sunday night. I was privileged to ride in the cab of 3810 on the very last run back, and it was quite an adventure!

Regrettably as I write this, not one 38 class is operational. 3801 received a new boiler, made in Germany, but it did not fit properly. We all hope that it will not be too long before the Jolly Green Giant steams again.

If you are a member, you will get access to all of this as we post the stories and photos. Better still, you can add your own stories for others to read your adventures, or simply marvel at what occurred back in the days of steam in NSW.

Remember the mighty 38s. Who knows, in the next year or two 3801 may again come to life and take you on a steam adventure to some part of NSW.

My Steam Trip To Lydell

Figure 1 Map Showing The Location Of Liddell Mine And Its Proximity To Maitland

When I was young I lived at Roseville on Sydney’s North Shore. On weekends and school holidays, I spent as much time as possible riding, photographing, or timing the speed of the remaining steam trains. By the early 1970s, I had left school and steam was dwindling fast. The Southern line to Goulburn was dieselised, even the mighty Newcastle Flyer was now exclusively diesel hauled. Steam was limited to a few local passengers, shunting, and the northern line from Gosford north as far as Liddell Coal Mine.

With my usual sense for adventure, I decided one weekend to make the trip to Lydell, as much as possible by steam.

My Train Was Cancelled

My journey started very early one morning. I caught the first train from Roseville around 4 am and arrived at Hornsby in time to catch the first train north to Gosford. There was only one problem – it didn’t come! Now Hornsby is a cold place at the best of times, and this was winter, so there I was freezing on the platform, with no more passenger trains for at least two hours. I was pretty mad.

Very soon I heard the horn of a diesel and saw a 44 class speeding towards the station. I am not sure what got into me, but I started waving my arms and crossing them as the train approached. Fortunately I was dressed in a grey jacket and jeans so resembled a railway worker.

To my surprise there was a screech of brakes and a sudden stop. The train came to a halt with the Guard’s van exactly opposite where I was standing. I hopped on and off we went! I still have no idea how I was able to stop this speeding train, but I was really focused o getting on board. It was a real thrill.

Figure 2 Broadmeadow Loco Depot In The 1960s

As this was a through freight, I rode all the way to Broadmeadow, the site of one of the largest loco depots and marshalling yards in NSW. This was one of the few places with a turntable large enough to turn an AD 60 class Garratt, one of the largest engines running anywhere at the time. I visited the dispatch depot and discovered a Garratt was about to leave for Port Waratah depot to pick up an empty load for Liddell.

By this time, north of Singleton, these were the only steam trains to use the main line. It had been a great place to photograph steam, although I didn’t have the means to get there in the good old days!


A Cab Ride In A Mighty AD 60 Class

After a quick chat with the driver, he agreed to take me in the cab and we headed off. The loco was 6023, and the day was rather gloomy. The 60 Class were built around 1952 by Beyer Peacock in England. Shown here is a builder’s plate of an AD60 I photographed at Campbelltown in 1965. Perhaps someone can enlighten me as it is no 7545, which is attributed to 6043 which was never assembled! Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photograph of the engine at that time. There were simply too many steam movements that day!



Figure 3 Port Waratah Was A Pretty Loco Depot Near The Hunter River

The Newcastle Coal Fields

Port Waratah at the time was a busy depot, devoted to coal traffic. It serviced mainly the coal lines to The South Maitland Railway, just west of Maitland, commencing at East Greta Junction. The SMR was one of the last places to run regular steam in NSW. The main motive power were the 10 class 2-8-2-T locos. These were originally built around 1925 and some re-boilered around 1970. They finally ended service in 1983.

Figure 4 SMR 2-8-2 Number 28 With A Full Load

SMR locomotives used to take the load from the mines around Cessnock and Kurri Kurri, and the standard goods 50 or 53 would proceed to the Port Waratah coal loader. The Port has become one of the largest coal loading facilities in Australia, and now massive amounts of coal are shipped to China and Japan each year. Hunter Valley coal is known for its steaming properties, and that accounts for the lovely smoke clouds we often got from steam trains we photographed.

Figure 5 5483 Heading Towards East Greta Junction

Anyway, we picked up a load of empty BCH coal hoppers at the Port and started our journey north. The BCH was commonly used for coal until the advent of the larger CH hoppers. At Liddell, there was a mix of the two. As can be seen from the picture, the South Maitland coal trains were usually 4 wheel coal wagons, something that no longer happens. Something else that is now gone from rail is the brake van, then required on every train.

Figure 6 6023 Gets Ready To Leave Port Waratah For Liddell

After hooking onto our load and waiting for a while, we finally steamed out of Port Waratah on our way north.

The railway line proceeds across flood plains to Maitland. It is very flat and went underwater in the Maitland floods of 1970. I remember well this part of the world. We called it the Hexham swamp because low lying areas were usually underwater. It was home to the “Hexham Greys”, the largest Mosquitoes I have ever seen. That’s a bold statement considering I have been to all parts of the planet. This was not a pleasant place to be around sunset.

Figure 7 6037 Heads Across The Hexham Swamp

The Loco Stopped At Singleton For Water

Our next stop was Singleton where we took water. These trains used to be serviced at Singleton in both directions as the Garratt is a thirsty loco. Singleton is around 45 miles, or 75 kms from Port Waratah.

Figure 8 At Singleton We Gave Our Garratt A Drink

At Singleton the railway crosses the Hunter River. It is an impressive structure that is well above the flood levels. Unfortunately, the road doesn’t fare so well in the event of heavy rain.

Figure 9 LIddell Coal Crossing The Hunter River At Singleton

One of the more spectacular climbs on this journey is from the Hunter River bridge just north of Singleton. Singleton is an early settlement dating back to the 1820s. After crossing the river, the railway traverses a long curve, crossing the New England Highway along the way.


Figure 10 6039 Winds Its Way Out Of Singleton

Another great spot for photography was the bridge at Ravensworth, where there is now a giant hole left by a monstrous open cut coal mine.

Figure 11 6018 Crossing The Ravensworth Bridge

Just near the junction of the line to Liddell there is a coal dump that burns constantly due to spontaneous combustion. The excess sulphur content of the coal means that when exposed to oxygen, it burns without lighting. It has been a major environmental issue for the mine. There is a power house built next to the mine as well, using conveyor belts for the coal to be funnelled direct to the boilers.

Figure 12 Finally We Arrive At Our Destination And Deliver The Empty Coal Cars

By now it is mid afternoon. The next step is to pick up some loaded wagons for the return trip. The heaviest grades are on the way down to Liddell.

Figure 13 6023 Preparing To Leave Liddell On The Way Home. The First Two Wagons Are The New CH Coal Hoppers

We took our load back to Port Waratah and then headed back to Broadmeadow where I farewelled my hosts. It was a truly wonderful experience.

Figure 14 6009 Hauls A Load Of CH Hoppers Near Branxton

From Broadmeadow, I can’t recall how I returned to Gosford, although I am fairly sure it was in the cab of a 59 class loco. The final stretch from Gosford to Hornsby was on a passenger train hauled by a 46 class electric. Altogether it was a most satisfying experience.

I will be penning another couple of stories of my ventures north of Newcastle. One is the Singleton Passenger, a peak hour service between Newcastle and Singleton. I was fortunate enough to ride and photograph both 32 class and 35 class locomotives on this great train. There was a trip to Merriwa in the wheat belt. This was a 30T, yet another class of locomotive. The crew obliged by giving us photo stops along the way! I remember this trip mainly for the lack of sleep. I think I went 40 hours between naps and was very tired by the time I returned home. The final venture on the long north for me was a trip to Werris Creek to photograph the shunting engines there. By this time that was all there was. As it turns out it was somewhat of an adventure all its own.

I hope you enjoyed this tale.

I Drive NSW Steam Trains On The Richmond Line

By John Gaydon

Figure 1 3219 Awaiting Departure On A Regular NSW Steam Train At Richmond. I Was The Driver, So It Had To Wait For Me!

No, I am not a train driver, never was. I did contemplate signing on as an engine cleaner with a view to graduating to cab duties in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, but the pay was around $400 for 50-60 hours work, so I chose a more lucrative job using my technical skills. My driving experiences are restricted to the steam trains of NSW, and then only in my youth.

My NSW Steam Train Driving Experience

I have driven for short times under supervision, Sydney suburban electrics, Melbourne Trams, 3811 at Goulburn loco, and fired a few engines along the way. Perhaps one of the most notable efforts I will write about one day, is firing an SL in China out of Xia’an. This was an amazing trip using a very small shovel with pulverised coal – much heavier than the big lumps of Newcastle coal we had in NSW.

The Sydney Suburban NSW Steam Train Days

Back in the 1960’s I was at high school. Steam in Sydney pretty well ended in May, 1968 following the declaration of Campbelltown as a City. This coincided with electrification of the railway line from Liverpool. Electrification extended to Glenlee, a coal mine just to the south.

Prior to this occasion, I recall several regular NSW steam train passenger movements. There was a 50 class that regularly took a train from Sydney to the Abattoirs, on the site where Olympic Park now stands. This was the site for the Sydney Olympics. I made a NSW steam train trip out there once, and it was a smell you would never wish to experience. I saw rows and rows of dead cows hung upside down with blood pouring like a river around the place. It reminded me of Enfield loco depot at that time which was a graveyard for many NSW steam trains being readied for the scrap torch.

The Richmond Line

The second suburban run for NSW steam engines was the Richmond line. By this time, the bulk of the services were operated by 620 rail car sets, but in the peak hours, 30 Tanks and 32 (P) Class were used. Finally there was the line to Campbelltown. Most steam passengers travelled from Liverpool, although there were a couple of peak hour expresses that were steam hauled all the way from Sydney.

This story occurred one School holidays, probably in 1967. There was a train that started in Seven Hills early in the morning and went all stations to Richmond. The engine was turned, and then it headed back to Seven Hills, running Express to Westmead.

My Journey Started At 4 am

In order to catch this early morning train, a mate and I started out at Roseville station at 4.12 am or thereabouts! It travelled all stations to Blacktown, and we alighted at Seven Hills to connect with the Richmond steam train. On this occasion it was a clear, but brisk morning.

We travelled on a 10c excursion which took us as far as Campbelltown in the South, Emu Plains in the West, Cowan in the North, and Waterfall on the South Coast. As we had limited means as students, we somehow sued to stretch the journey and get to Gosford or Goulburn, far beyond the ticket inspectors reach. On one occasion I even made it to Werris Creek, on the Brisbane Express no less! These tales will be told, I assure you.

The Driver Invites On The Footplate

After a few stations, I think at Quakers Hill, we ventured up to the cab and asked the driver if we could ride with the crew. For once they said, “yes”! There was a catch. “If you want to ride with us, you have to earn your keep.” I was shown the driver’s seat, much to my delight, and my friend signed on as fireman, a job he really enjoyed. As it turned out, we crewed this train all the way to Richmond and back to Westmead. It certainly was one of my more memorable experiences. The locomotive on this occasion was 3219.

Now, I am no engine driver, but I did learn quite a lot about it. The 32 class is a 4-6-0, built around 1890, and the mainstay of the Sydney suburban fleet up until electrification. The basic controls are a Westinghouse air brake system, a throttle, and reversing gear. The reversing was completely mechanical, with a large wheel operating it. The regulator handle is pivoted above the firebox.

My Idea Of Driving A NSW 32 Class Steam Engine

The reversing gear determines how much thrust there is in each turn of the wheel. When starting you wind it full forward, and as you go faster, you reduce the effort. This allows the engine to travel faster. When you hit a hill, and require more effort, you wind the gear back out. This uses more steam, and can affect the fire if not done correctly. In fact a lot can go wrong climbing hills. If you spin the wheels with too much thrust, you can kill the fire and blow it out the smoke box. If you put too much water in the boiler, you can have a pressure drop and run out of steam, stalling the engine. Fortunately the Richmond line didn’t have too many hills, so it was pretty safe.

I started the train out of Quaker’s Hill and was doing pretty well until the next station, Vineyard came into view. Vineyard in those days was a small platform one carriage length and you had to stop the last car adjacent to that platform. It might seem simple to someone driving a car, but when you have 300 tons of steel and 500 feet of train behind you, it isn’t that simple.

My First Stop

Coming into the station, I closed the throttle and wound out the gears. Then we applied the brakes to bring the train to a halt slowly. That means not upsetting the passengers by stopping too fast, meeting the schedule by not stopping too slowly, and the hardest part of all, lining up the last car with that platform.

Well the first stop was not that great, but by the time I reached Richmond, I was getting pretty good at it and really enjoying driving the train.

The Big Challenge

At Richmond, we had to turn the steam locomotive for the return trip. Richmond has a manual 60′ turntable. With a manual turntable, it was necessary to have the loco perfectly balanced, or you simply couldn’t operate the turntable. When you apply brakes, or throttle of a train, there is a delay before anything happens. The crew were determined I would get the loco on the center of this equipment myself. Eventually, I managed the task and then my friend and I pushed the P class around to face Sydney.

Our all stations trip back was uneventful until Riverstone, where the ticket inspectors who had been on the train decided to check our tickets. I can’t remember if we had any, as Roseville station was unattended at 4 in the morning, so it is very possible we didn’t. Normally you would tell the inspector there was no station staff when you boarded the train and they would sell you one on the spot rather than fine you.

Well, the crew pointed out the engine was their domain and told them to go away (in less polite terms). We headed off on our way to Seven Hills, unimpeded by the Ticket Gestapo.

We Race An Interurban And Win!

For those of you who don’t know, the railway line from Seven Hills to Westmead took the form of inner main lines and outer suburban lines. There was a flyover at Seven Hills to take the outer Suburban down (away from Sydney) line across to teh Richmond line. At Westmead, the lines converged for a two track lie to Parramatta. All of this area is now 4 tracks. From Seven Hills, our P class took the suburban, or outer line. On the mainline an Interurban from the Blue Mountains was scheduled to travel on the main at the same time, and it duly appeared. Being very comfortable at this stage, I decided to see what the “P” class could do. By the time we had to slow down, we had crept past the Interurban and reached a speed of just over 70 MPH. Not bad for an engine built in 1892.

We alighted at Westmead and profusely thanked our hosts. It was an amazing NSW steam train trip I will never forget.

NSW Steam Trains

I was born and raised in Sydney, so NSW Steam Trains were the main focus of my attention, until they finally stopped running in 1973.

My Interest I NSW Steam Trains Started With The School Railway Club

I became serious about NSW steam trains back in 1964, when I started High School. I can blame my enthusiasm on Peter Clarke, who has authored several books on NSW Steam Trains, and Bruce Dawbin, amongst others.

Peter lived down the street from me and we used to catch the 8.52 local from Roseville to St Leonards on our way to North Sydney Boys High’ Bruce would board the train at Lindfield and it became a defacto meeting place for the school railway club.

At school all the years were separated, but we found a place under the main entrance archway where we would meet and talk NSW steam trains every recess and lunchtime. We were all quite mad!

My First Steam Tour

All of this talk made me hungry to photograph the NSW steam trains before they all disappeared. During my first year in 1964, I didn’t venture too far, due to my age, but by 1965, I was travelling as far as my 10c excursion ticket would take me! I was able to travel on a few of the organised tours as well. I recall the first was a triple header over the mountains west of Unanderra. From memory it was a 50, 53 and 55 class over the mountains to Moss Vale and then 3830 took the train Express back to Sydney. A great day out for me and my friend.

The Dorrigo Trip

By 1967, I was even more adventurous and decided to do a weekend Steam Train trip to Dorrigo on the NSW North Coast. Already, the Short North was electrified as far as Gosford, where we picked up 3811 for the run to Broadmeadow. This was a major depot for NSW Steam Trains right up till the very last days of steam.

5261 dorrigo nsw steam trains

The North Coast line had been dieselised for some years, but for our trip we had 3531, one the last of the Nannies, originally built in 1918 during World War I. It took us from Broadmeadow to Glenreagh, the junction of the recently closed Dorrigo line. 5261 was our motive power to Dorrigo, a spectacular line with some great bridges.

As it turned out, some years later, another friend who was crazy about NSW Steam Trains, Keith Jones, known affectionately as “Casey”, purchased dozens of NSW steam trains destined for the blow torch from the railways. All of these ended up at Dorrigo, where he is slowly building a museum and hopes eventually to run NSW steam trains on the line once more!

On this trip we were carried in a beautiful EAM sleeper car. These were very heavy with 6 wheel bogies and double bunk beds. The finish was varnished timber and they dated back to the glory days of NSW Steam Trains. One of these became an accommodation car at the Zig Zag Railway, a tourist line I helped build. My friends and I spent hundreds of hours lovingly restoring it. These were used o all the overnight mail trains emanating from Sydney to all parts of the state. They took the papers and the mail in a time when air travel was not so popular and the train was the most economical transportation method. The South West Mail went to Griffith, The Mudgee Mail to Coonabarabran, and there was the West mail that serviced all the country lines west of Dubbo.

It was memorable journey behind steam. The Dorrigo line closed in 1972, and I think there was only one more steam train on the line, except for the museums at Glenreagh and Dorrigo.

From then until 1972, when steam ended, I experienced many memorable rides behind steam locomotives. It did all come to an end eventually, and I was fortunate to be one of those who recorded the last days of NSW steam trains.

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software