It was the ANZAC/Easter 5-day holiday and Steamrail were to make an appearance at Echuca in Mid-North Victoria... so what better way to catch them than by making a loop of it and attempting to see traffic on nearly all lines serving Melbourne.
Google maps, as per usual, allowed me to set a good path and also calculated times not-too-far-off from the real-world equivalents. I wanted to get out to Manor Loop, Gheringhap Loop, Bacchus Marsh (to see the massive horse shoe), Bendigo and then on to Echuca/Moama. I also, on the way back wanted to see the Main South to see what super freighters were loitering around. Chances are I would also intercept the XPT as some point.
The trip started damn-early on Good Friday in an attempt to see traffic on the Melbourne-Adelaide railway line. The first stop was Manor Loop and there was nothing around and no green signals. As it was also 6am, it was still too dark for any good shots. I therefore continued on to Gheringhap and was welcomed by green up signals and then a QR freighter with LDP004 at the lead.
I loitered for a while longer, referencing the Gheringhap Loop Sightings and the ARTC timetables for hope of another train, but nothing came about. Back on the road, I headed towards Bacchus Marsh. As I approached the horse-shoe railway alignment a V/Locity rounded the bend, but the lighting and traffic didn't allow for a photo. I stopped for fuel and breakfast and then proceeded through Gisborne. Here I met the BG rail to Bendigo, but it doesn't happen to be too visible from the road. The single train sighting on the morning saw me push right through to Bendigo and arrive at Echuca earlier than I'd told the motel. I did stop at Elmore along the way and remembered how difficult it was to chase V/Locities.
At around 3pm I headed in to town to check out the sights and was impressed with Echuca's Yard and infrastructure.
After tiring out completely from a huge walk, I grazed on a parmigiana (sorry Victoria, I bought it in NSW) and then slept early. The alarm went off at 3:20AM and I was back at Echuca Station by 4AM.
Not much was happening... so I headed to the level crossing at the entrance to the yard... at around 4:15AM there was a gloomy headlight in the distance. Then the drivers decided no one needed to sleep and let loose with the steam whistle. The consist made its way across the crossing and into the station.
It was then back to bed to be up in time for the first shuttles of the morning. I made it back to the North end of the station in time for the consist to leave but it so happened that the train went in the other direction. Quite a few of us were fooled and it does make you wonder who you can trust when information is so freely available on a whim.
The scenery around town wasn't the best... so I headed out to Strathallan the back way... after taking my poor little MR2 over a nasty dirt road I arrived at a seemingly popular level crossing. I was soon to find out why: The shuttles were terminating not 50 metres further on and the scenery was fantastic.
After this I returned home via the main south to be totally disappointed by track work. The employees around Avenel even went to the effort to trigger the level crossing gates intermittently in order to have a good laugh. I could've been more jovial towards it but it was my bad for not even asking them what was happening around the tracks.