Just like the christmas trip in 2015, this trip just past for 2016 Xmas wasn't overly different. Still a great location with a lot of sightings. An early start out of Melbourne meant an easy trip onto the Hume highway. I caught the southbound XPT just out of Kilmore and a southbound inter-modal in Seymour.
After a speeding ticket in Benalla, I b-line'd it straight to the Olympic Highway. It's a nice drive, off the beaten path, and away from influences to do stupid things on the road. First stop was at Harefield and I was greeted by an IRA 44 Class! Qube has taken ownership of a few of them and has been using one for the shuttle into Junee.
Not much was happening in the yard, so it was a bolt further north to intercept the southbound steel train. I beat it through Illabo, meeting it on a driveway half way between Illabo and Bethungra.
From there it was off to Cootamundra to tackle the XPT. I tried to beat it to Jindalee, but it won. Instead I then backtracked and got it at the station.
At this time of day, between the two XPTs, there's always a quiet time when the sun is at it's peak and the rails are buckling. Due to this, I took time to have lunch and check out the pool at the usual motel.
Back to it... the XPT was fast approaching from the south and I wanted to get it at Jindalee this time.
And then something weird happened... an off-the-radar rail-grinder rolled through! I love being in the-right-place-at-the-right-time.
And of course, being zoomed-in and distracted, I hadn't realised that the 81+82 on the grain train were steadily already rolling towards me.
The next train was a bunch of QBXs heading south to Junee. I had enough time, so I thought I'd try something different at Wallendbeen.
That angle worked really well! I then caught them again past Jindalee on a driveway half-way back to Cootamundra.
They didn't slow down through Coota, so I kept to the limit and then got in front of them before Bethungra.
I had a really hard time keeping up with them once they were on the other side of the spiral. It's all downhill for them and me, but they were doing somewhere around 95km/h and made it hard to catch up when the speed limit was 100km/h. We were both fast-approaching Junee and I managed around a 50 metre advantage; just enough to park road-side safely and snap a shot above some lovely green pastures.
From here, it was Junee yard.
From there, it was back to Wallendbeen to catch the next southbound intermodal.
I got in front of it and made it to another driveway past Jindalee, but before Coota.
The sun was already starting to lose light, but there was still enough time to get the 2 QBXs that were coming in via Stockinbingal.
Nothing was next on the radar, so I checked out the yard at Coota. Turns out there was a bit of shunting going on to get a grain train to fit in the yard.
That steel wagon must have been defective as it was sitting by itself, blocking one road, to start with. It ended up being shunted into another road onto so that the arriving train could stash half of its wagons there. Pretty quick work actually. Nice to hear the 81s powering up and down when shunting a whole train to shift one wagon.
After this, it was dinner time... an early start on the radar showed, what should have been, a great opportunity for a cross at Yass Junction. Due to this I packed up and got on the road early. Thanks to my miscalculation, the pass actually happened around Goondah and the light was terrible. Instead I forged ahead to Yass and got the northbound grain there.
I really do like that angle. From the grain silo, instead of the platform, you can get a nice long telephoto shot of the descent into the Junction. From here, it was off to Canberra and there's not much going on nowadays with the Museum closed and the scrap metal train done.
On the way back to Melbourne, I saw an opportunity for a shot at Jindalee of a northbound grain train. This all lined up well ... very well ... as the-right-place-at-the-right-time happened again.
The grain train then appeared.
A quick stop was had in Cootamundra to snap the Lachlan Valley Railway sheds where they have a nice collection of railmotors and 47 class locomotives.
And then finally, after a pie at Culcairn, I caught up to a southbound freighter at Henty.
The dim weather on the way back turned much dimmer over Seymour where visibility actually dropped to around 10 metres. Most people parked on the side of the road; but I didn't see that as 100% necessary and a few of us kept on driving through the car wash.
Another awesome pilgrimage!