The review? It runs like a dog due to it only having a single motorised end carriage (fortunately with all-wheel pickup) and the lighting shines brightly though the shell.
As you can see, the train I bought included an add-on carriage and all packaging. The price tag was on-par with what I'm seeing on eBay nowadays. The train was in a glass cabinet on display when I bought it and I didn't realise that the base package only contained one coach. I have since found and purchased another coach from eBay and will attempt to extend this set. You can also see in the comparison shot of the two passenger cars that they are slightly differing in colour. Unfortunately, this is just a side-effect from purchasing second-hand; I have no idea what their story is and if the main set was left in the sun too long...
Either way, it's a great looking train set.
Right, it's that time of year again... The Southern Spirit was tabled to come back through Melbourne from Adelaide on the 5th and 6th of November. What better excuse for a drive out west to see what had been happening...
Of course, there's always concerns that driving 400kms might be a complete waste of time and this TAA on occupations near Great Western should have probably received more of my attention. Just in case you're wondering... an 'occupation' is where the Australian Rail Track Corporation has requested complete manual control of a section of track. In this case it was the area between Pyrenees Loop – Great Western Loop and Great Western Loop – Deep Lead Loop... they were to do ballast cleaning!? ... this might actually be worth the trek for!
As per usual, I perused through ARTC's Train Alteration Advice and determined items which might have applied to the 5th of November; fortunately there was nothing apart from the above ballast cleaning. I therefore recorded the times on ARTC's timetables for the area into a diamond diagram and, from this, worked out where I should have been when. I, this time, wanted to check out places I hadn't been to yet and therefore started working out what train I could see where.
How to read the above? The vertical axis shows the time-of-day and the horizontal the location. Each location has an arrival and departure time... so if you see a flat horizontal line for any service then it means that train has not stopped. Therefore, the train with the flat line will be moving whilst the diagonal will be waiting in a loop when you see two lines intersecting.
From the above you can see where all the regularly scheduled trains cross. I had errands to run on Saturday morning and, based on google maps estimates, could only just get to Tatyoon Loop by 11:00am. This would just be enough to see 6AM3 pass The Overland. The goal was then to wait for the Mineral Sands from Portland and follow it through to Murtoa. I would then wait for the Horsham container train, arriving in time to see the Southern Spirit arrive. 4PM6 would then be following and I'd choose a point along the way back to see this again.
No, not Tatooine... there's no pod racing here. This was meant to be a loop for a pass, but it didn't seem anywhere near long enough. There was a seemingly-abandoned grain silo with a definitely unused siding for it. The poor old station platform didn't even have a station sign on it anymore... I imagine the last passenger service here would've been steam-hauled?
I waited up until the time 6AM3 was meant to arrive but realised that I was lying to myself and it wasn't coming. The lighting at Tatyoon wasn't the best for The Overland, so I bolted to Maroona and waited for it there. At the western-end of the loop was a great view with the railway sweeping to the left... it would've been perfect in the morning sun for a Melbourne-bound freighter!
Yes, Ma-roo-na. Not to be confused with: Mooroopna, Moorooduc, Maroondah, Maroota, Mooralla, etc...
This township is located due-south of Ararat (not do be confused with Ballarat) and ... there isn't much to it. Fortunately, there's a junction here to Portland which means the railway infrastructure was slightly interesting. The roads in the yard had been used recently and it seems that the trains to Portland must arrive into the yard and then depart, crossing the main.
The Overland, running 25 minutes late, arrived from the East and proceeded at a slower-than-usual pace through the station. This was the first and last time I was to see it.
I then waited for the Mineral Sands train... but realised it was never going to turn up. I therefore decided the better option was to bypass Ararat and head to Murtoa.
I'd never been here either... It's a large detour from the highway and it's the reason why I previously beat The Overland to Horsham as, although it can do 115km/h, the path via Murtoa adds quite a few more kilometres. Of course, it also meant I wouldn't see The Overland at Murtoa as I was never going to catch up to it on the country roads. Murtoa is the junction for the branch North to Hopetoun... the rails were quite shiny, so something must've run that way recently, but the Mineral Sands train wasn't to run this day.
I decided that I'd wait here for the Horsham freight. There was no reason it wasn't running, but as The Overland was 25mins late, this train would probably also be late.
After dealing with wildlife (brown snakes, etc..) the train came through fast.
I then jumped in the car to Horsham... expecting to see the tail of this train, but it had a headstart on me and there was no chance.
Last time we saw C501 and T386 doing the Horsham freight, this time it was 8030 and GML10. Other than that, not much as changed... same colourful characters on the platform watching the trains go by. Actually, there is now a rail tractor LOK001 doing the shunting/splitting of the container train instead of the actual locos that brought it in.
NR85 brought the Southern Spirit in around 20mins late. The consist was as long as usual.
And then 4PM6 came through on time based on its amended running.
And that was it... the day had turned dim and the freighter was running with the light for the rest of the trip... I chose to return home.
So, the initial TAA I mentioned had something about ballast cleaning in it? I forgot to tell you that I actually saw the track gang in the first loop directly after Ararat. It had to be a loop (was a fair distance from the highway) as The Overland had already bolted through. I was hoping they'd be in a location closer to a road on the way back, but they'd already packed up and were in Ararat yard.
The next day...
The Southern Spirit spend the night in Maroona. It proceeded east via Melbourne but was to only stop at Broadmeadows briefly. Fortunately it was to pass the large standard gauge viaducts as per usual and I decided to catch it at the one closest to Jacana. The up V/Line SG Albury service was running around 30 minutes late, but the Southern Spirit then got the green and bolted past.
And that was it... this train returns via Melbourne on the 14th of November. It will actually pass via Southern Cross Station, after a pause up in Somerton. We'll see what happens...
Just in case the title confused you: Most Australian's know Victoria as 'south of the border' and therefore 'Mexico'. It's a colloquialism/pay-out that's lasted generations and wont stop anytime soon. Now that we have that sorted we can get back on to the trains... The NSW Rail Transport Museum owns a large amount of heritage stock and annually visits Melbourne for the infamous 'Melbourne Cup' horse race. Unfortunately the train didn't make it all the way last year due to a derailment at Albury!
Melbourne struggles when it comes to good trainspotting locations making use of the morning sun. The main issue is that most of the good locations (viaducts, etc...) are good in the morning for out-bound traffic and the afternoon for in-bound traffic. As the train was in-bound in the AM it was time to think of a new strategy. I'd previously checked out Middle Footscray, but the options were limited and so I instead headed up to West Footscray.
It turns out 3 other onlookers had thought up the same concept and we all sat and waited. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long as the usual suspects soon came through... The XPT, The Overland, NRs on containers, Gs on containers... etc... etc...
And then ... the one we'd all been waiting for...
Pretty ugly eh? a 44-Class arse-end-leading isn't the prettiest site at 9am in the morning. Either way, it was worth the wait as the damn thing hauled ass through Footscray. That was it for the mornings movements; the train wasn't due out again until 1830.
ARTC posted that the departure time was 1830 and the train was right on time... fortunately there was more than enough entertainment at Sims St right up until the train left.
...and that was a wrap... Supposedly the Southern Spirit is back in town again this weekend... might go out West and see what is happening.
The old haunt hadn't been visited for months; it was time to check out if Saturday mornings still had a good selection of traffic. It turns out that there weren't nearly as many grain trains as I would've expected and there were absolutely zero south-bound container trains... The XPL and XPT ran as usual though.
Yass Junction Signal Box seems to have had a repainting. I imagine ARHS ACT are to be commended as they probably still have the lease on it. Meanwhile the mudholes around the place are still just as bad as ever.
...and then something different
It's always nice when the signals switch red... It means someone is in control and something different is happening. Seeing the points then shift is better, as it usually means something is about to wrong-road into the loop and allow a pass. This time around it was BL30 (I hadn't seen a BL in Yass before) leading 3x 48s on what must have been a pretty heavy load of grain.
The end of the loop is a fair way north of the station. The better viewpoint is a road bridge up along Cooks Hill Road. I could've just stayed and seen what was passing from the platforms... but I hadn't been up that way in a while.
It turns out that light-engine consists can fly! FL220 lead 48s35, LVR's 4702 and 48s33 on the up, flying past me near the road bridge. The poor old BL and 48s then struggled up the incline and continued north.
And that was a wrap... the day had actually warmed up and there was family to visit.