That beast of an engine from Canberra was on the move again, this time southbound. It was the June Queen's Birthday long weekend and they were running a 'Winter Safari' tour to Junee and Wagga Wagga.
I wanted to check it out, but didn't feel like covering the 100s of kilometres there and back driving; so I chose to take the trusty XPT once again. The Friday night service would get me to Junee just before 0100 hours. This was ok as I'd arranged with the motel across from the station to stash my room key somewhere accessible. All went well and I slept for the arrival of the train the next morning.
The overland arrived just before our train departed. It was busy shunting the auto-rail off the rear and over to it's dock to put the cars back onto the road. The trip into the night was peaceful enough, although it seemed that getting drunk and walking up and down the corridors all night was to be a good hobby for some locals.
I'd inspected the ARTC timetables and put together the following diagram. There wasn't too much freight in the area, but there was enough to keep one's self entertained. I had initially thought that the steam engine shuttles were from Wagga to Junee and back, but it turned out that (once I actually read the website correctly) that the shuttles were just between Wagga and Bomen. It seems that quite a few others, who came looking for the engine on the platform at Junee during the day, made the same mistake.
Coota Junee Bomen Wagga ST22 CLK 0137 0048 0033 0022 6MB4 PN 0329 0221 0158 0150 6MB7 QN 0539 0405 0340 0332 5BM7 PN 0354 0441 0522 0528 9L03 ARHS 0449 0543 ---- ---- 3PW4 PN 0903 0757 0727 0719 9S05 ARHS ---- 0805 0830 0840 9L06 ARHS ---- ---- 0915 0855 9S07 ARHS ---- ---- 0920 0940 9337N PN 0852 0944 ---- ---- 9L08 ARHS ---- ---- 1015 0955 6WP2 PN 0900 0952 1021 1028 9S09 ARHS ---- ---- 1030 1050 9L10 ARHS ---- ---- 1125 1105 9S11 ARHS ---- ---- 1130 1150 3314N QUBE ---- 1159 ---- ---- 9L12 ARHS ---- ---- 1225 1205 9S13 ARHS ---- ---- 1230 1250 SP41 CLK 1219 1258 ---- ---- 3315N QUBE ---- 1300 ---- ---- ST23 CLK 1251 1327 1346 1354
I'd bought my return ticket from Junee and had considered trying to change it to depart from Wagga instead. Unfortunately there weren't too may transportation options to get to Wagga, so I stayed put in Junee to watch the festivities. In hindsight, I could have actually purchased a ticket on 6029 and travelled south to Wagga in the morning when they left... but meh, I'd no idea.
6029 arrives with assistance
4501 and 4403 lead 6029 into Junee around an hour late. Still under the cover of darkness, the consist made its way into the yard and then detached. All three engines came off the consist to allow 6029 to shunt off and proceed up to the roundhouse. As with most typical gunzels, there were ramblings of mechanical failure and other doom/gloom. I would've assumed that 6029 would've lead into Junee, but then again... it was pitch black and there was no need for spectacle. They would've also needed to keep up with traffic, so having the diesels do all the work makes sense.
The engine stayed in the roundhouse for quite a while... missing the initial slot it was meant to take from Junee to Wagga.
A northbound freight was then given the path and 6029 covered it in steam/smoke as it came through.
Once the path was clear, the consist was shunted into the station and passengers boarded.
It then proceeded off to Wagga, looking great, but requiring quite a bit of help from 4501 on the tail as it climbed the grade out of Junee.
That was it for 6029... the next site was from the window of our southboard daylight XPT. One of its shuttles was to Uranquinty and it was in the loop there as we bolted through.
Freight around Junee
There's always containers stored in the yard... Qube shunt here from Harefield. It seems that they can't fit their entire consists into the roads at Harefield, so they shunt rakes of container trains back and forth to load and unload. They then bring the portions together in Junee yard and take them south to Melbourne.
Junee is also the location of the triangle to Griffith. I lie though, it's no longer a triangle. The branch is only accessible when heading north from the south, so any southbound train wanting to go to Griffith has to head into Junee Yard, run around and then proceed back out again. A grain train did this whilst I was waiting at the station.
A random Aurizon track vehicle then appeared at the crossing, mounted the tracks and then bolted off north.
Finally the Qube service from Harefield arrived to drop off one rake of containers and take another off to load/unload.
Railmotor Societies 721/621
The radar then showed that an unusual vehicle was headed south. Speaking to folks on the platform, it turns out that the Patterson Railmotor Society was running a tour over the long weekend also.
Only one platform is in use at Junee. Whether it be for lack of accessibility, patronage or care, the second platform that would cater to northbound passengers is out of use. This means that, on approach, the northbound XPT needs to cross over to the southbound tracks to reach platform 1. Of course, it can only do this is the road is clear. Funnily enough, the road isn't often clear as the southbound XPT usually crossed the northbound here. It's the half-way point between Melbourne and Sydney.
Due to the track arrangement, the northbound XPT is, more often than not, sent north past the station into the siding north of the level crossing. The southbound XPT then comes through, visits platform 1 and then proceeds to Melbourne. Once clear, the northbound XPT then reverses (well, it's got a cab at either end, so it's not too much hassle) onto the southbound road and accesses the platform. Once loaded it then continues north on its journey.
Quite a lot of mucking around when they could just reinstate the other platform. It's the age-old issue with Australian trains and 'customer' service. They've slapped it in the too-hard basket and it's frustrating to watch the infrastructure crumble.
It was Andrew's turn to come to Melbourne, so we went for a drive west to see if there was anything on the rails. Unfortunately, Sundays are usually the quietest out there. It was also overcast in the morning...
The Regional Rail Link connects back to the main line here after branching off at Sunshine back towards Melbourne. It all looks very complete and very clean. There wasn't much going on and we only had the signals to tell us if anything was approaching. A Geelong-bound V/Locity came through... not overly-exciting.
As we were about to leave, we were presented with a V/Lo on the flyover. Serious luck.
After our first bout of luck, we were itching for a second. A grain consist was waiting in the loop near North Shore.... pretty standard... but then IEV100 came through. This is a DMU rail inspection vehicle. ...If only the weather would pick up.
Between Cressy and Wingeel
The decision was made to drive further west in hope of sun and intermodals. Fortunately, we were met with both.
Andrew had wanted to check out the SCT sidings at Lavertion... but there was a light-engine movement visible on the radar and we decided to stay put and hope for the sun to hang around. Everything lined up and we were rewarded with a 4-locomotive lash-up of a BL, an 81 and 2 Gs.
There was a steel train coming from the east, so we chose to catch it at Gheringhap Loop instead of waiting for it at Inverleigh where the sun would be in the wrong spot.
Another 81... I've never seen so many (even if they're attached dead) on the west line.
Just east of Bannockburn?
I haven't really checked this location out before. I initially intended to camp at the crossing to the west right near Bannockburn station. But the sun indicated that we should be as east as possible. It paid off well... I tried to be artistic and get shots of the light-engines from below... but Andrew's shots from above were much better.
Between Lara and Little River
One final spot... one final intermodal and a V/Locity. In the end it turned out to be a really rewarding day.
Foreword: For the first time in a long time, these are notes from a journey, written as the journey happened. Most of my other posts have been written after-the-fact. Let's hope we can all decipher this one!
Here comes my XPT, it's on its way south, passing Wagga. I'm to get on it tonight and head north to Goulburn. I'll arrive at 4:15am (if we're on time...) and then hang around in (what could be) low temperatures to see an engine, that has been rebuilt, make it's way on to the mainline for the first time in decades. The engine is 6029, a ginormous steam engine restored by the ARHS ACT, Canberra. It should be quite an event... am sure there'll be quite a crowd at every photo-opportunity along the way.
Anyway, back to now, my XPT is on it's way down the main south to Southern Cross where I'll board a sleeping compartment.
Southern Cross Station
When I bought my tickets, I was told to be 30 minutes early to the platform. The attendant chuckled though, indicating that the XPT doesn't always turn up on time. Either way, I arrived at SCS way too early; it'd been a quiet Friday at work and there was no need to hang around the office. SCS is always a hive of activity and Friday afternoons see trains to all destinations.
Wandering around, I'm looking on my radar and can see the XPT passing through the freight yards in Dynon. I'll go up and watch it come in ... 6 minutes early! Of course, I'm heading to the end of platform 2 and there's a V/Locity in platform 1, where the XPT _always_ waits. I can now see the XPT under the La Trobe Street bridge, but it can't proceed until the V/Lo moves.
The XPT has made it onto its platform. Passengers have alighted. Cleaning has started. I'm now 1 hour early for boarding... Screw this, I'm getting some dinner. The "Network" diner has great pizza and beer. I'll tuck in to that. Of course, I sit down and look up.. it's The Overland pulling in. Not a bad view. This train operates to and from Adelaide, going one day up, then the other day down. It sounds quite inconvenient to me, but patronage always seems quite high.
You can take your car with you to Adelaide! Or you can go buy one there and then take it back... Although it's really only an 8-hour drive...
Food was good... time to go loiter on the platform and watch some trains... It's actually just about steel-train-o'clock, I wonder if it'll show? Should I run over and be on the right platform? Or not miss my XPT. I'll wait here where it's safe. Doesn't mean I can't see the train pass though.
The XPT (eXpress Passenger Train)
I'm looking at the train from the outside... It's a dinosaur. I looked at the XPT article on wikipedia earlier today and it told me that the train was introduced the same year I was introduced!
Initial feeling whilst boarding is that this train is old; I therefore suppose I am too... The sleeping cabins look cosy, and my room mate has an oxygen tank. Might be a noisy night. He's on the train because the airlines don't want to put his tank in the cargo hold. I'm on the bottom bunk which is good for me to escape quietly in the morning, but I offer it to the gentleman for accessibility reasons. He politely declines and makes his way to the top bunk much more easily that I'd expected. The ladder is a fold-out type and doesn't quite look up to the task, but all ends well.
Turns out we've departed on time, if not 3 minutes early. I hope they checked all the seats at the boarding gate to make sure there weren't any stragglers (there is no boarding gate.)
The conductor has just introduced himself, asked what I wanted for dinner (chose the Lamb Rogan Josh) and was told that it'll be served once they heat them all up. He then asked about breakfast, but that wont be ready when I alight. He has suggested that I head to the buffet car at 4am and grab a coffee; the buffet car will be open all night.
As we proceed north, it becomes apparent that we're in for a rough ride.. I have been following the progress of ARTC on the repair work of the "main south", but this track is terrible. I wonder if it's worse up on the top bunk. Drinks can't be left open on fold-out tables... the train will throw them on the ground and my hot coffee is trying its hardest to scald me. I suppose all of this can be expected from a freight track.
I'm going to retire now... I'm reading quite an interesting book, "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole, which outlines the story of, what I can only assume is an Autistic, adult living in the 60's in New Orleans. His adventures are quite astounding and the story is told from his point of view. I'll try and read a chapter or so and then get an early night... they're about to turn the lights out (it's only 9pm) and I'll need to be up early.
I've just woken up passing Yass Junction. This used to be my favourite station whilst living in Canberra. Some early mornings were spent here watching the freighters bolt through. It's still a little too early to get up... we're about an hour way from Goulburn, but I am worried that if I doze off again then I'll cause a fuss when the conductor has to wake me.
Fumbling for my gear (there's really no space here for the luggage of two people) I dress and pack my bag. Using my mobile (there was one power-point to charge it overnight, luckily my room mate doesn't care for technology) as a flashlight I make sure I don't leave anything behind. It's now time for coffee... I'm going to make my to the buffet car.
The buffet car is one economy-car away. It's full and it's a gauntlet of limbs and heads snoring in the corridor. Lots of murmuring and other loud slumber. The swaying of the train doesn't help one bit. I've got my backpack on as well and I'm trying my hardest not to over-balance.
At the buffet car, the attendant is already serving a lady who also can't sleep. She has just asked him if we've passed Goulburn. I chimed in chuckling, "If we have, then I've missed my stop!" The attendant served me coffee and water, very chirpy and helpful for 4am in the morning. I now have to work out if I run the gauntlet back with burning coffee... or just camp out in a vestibule and wait. I do the latter... I can only see injury if I try to get back to my cabin.
Welcome to Goulburn. It's 4:17am. There's already 8 people on platform... All looking for trains. 3 other passengers came off my XPT and 2 of them have stayed to railfan.
The order of the morning has been menial chit-chat with fellow train nerds. They are all full of speculation and I tried to correct a bit of their misinformation. It seems there's a crapload of crap spoken of Canberra... Anyway, I am also helping them as my radar is allowing me to tell them when the next freighter is to come around the bend. They are impressed... but that isn't an achievement.
So far I've seen 3 freight trains... It's dark and I can't take a good shot.
I'm now going for a walk. A friend (who is also in town) has hinted that the consist is waiting in the yards just west of Goulburn station. This is owned/operated by CFCLA who work with ARHS ACT often. I start off and choose the clockwise loop, passing under the railway on Braidwood Road and heading around to the museum entrance... it's not open and there is zero visibility. I can hear a steamer idling though. The lap continues around on to Sloane Street and I can see the steamer. I'm hungry, the visibility is poor.. I'm going to go find food. It turns out the best bet right now is Baker's Delight in the mall. Everything else is shut! No coffee to be had near this station.
6029 at Goulburn
Crowds have been building steadily since 6am. There's now 100s of people here. The steamer is to arrive any minute. All of a sudden we hear quite a haunting whistle and the behemoth appears through the fog. It's summer... but the southern highlands are always shrouded in fog in the early mornings. It's just after 8am and the steamer is arriving.
I'm recognising quite a few faces from the ARHS crew ushering passengers onto the train. None of them have recognised me... I've only been away from the volunteer work for 6 years though! The train is now departing, on time, assisted by 2 diesel locomotives. They seem to be powering a notch higher than expected; I was hoping the steam would be doing all the work.
The chase begins...
I'm now to catch the Countrylink (NSW Trainlink? will never get used to that...) Xplorer from Canberra to Sydney. It'll drop me in Goulburn where I'll catch up with some friends and we'll chase further from there. I can see two freighters coming from the west, but it looks as though they'll give way for the passenger train.
It's here, we're off... the conductor tells me there's no hot water... oh god, I need a coffee. We're dawdling... I assume that the steam is in front and taking it's leisurely time. These seats are comfortable and my lack of sleep catching up. Cold coffee it is... Oh good... No buffet attendant. I keep looking around to see if I know any Canberrans.
I realise that this Xplorer is capable of double SL speed and so we've definitely caught up to the SL and we're dawdling. It seems that the SL would never had a chance of making its path, even with diesel assitance? The SL was built for heavy haulage at moderate speeds... the main south nowadays expected 100+ km/h running. I think the SL is hard-limited to 80 km/h.
Looking outside, the fog seems to be lifting. Thank the lord... We might get some well-lit shots! Still no buffet attendant...
30 minutes have passed and we now have a Buffet Attendant!! Frowned on for buying chocolate? Hah. I need the sugar.
Another lady asks for a packet of coffee to go with her cold water... His response: "What are you going to do? Chew it?"... Good show.
Meanwhile, I'm finding out the hard way that coffee bags do not work in cold water! It seems that there is no reaction and I'm probably quite close to tearing the bag. Shouldn't matter as usual instant is direct in the water anyway. How very fancy to have coffee in a tea bag?
It turns out I've used a lot of web/GPS this morning watching the radar, so I already need to charge my phone. Yes, I fully charged it on the train overnight. Fortunately I'm packing 2 Sony battery packs and have plugged one in. It's charging the phone and I've got the phone on airplane mode also. Very fast charging. Battery running hot. Note also that these trains (XPL, XPT, V/Lo) are all made of solid steel and reflective-tint windows. REALLY BAD for mobile reception. There is nothing a mobile battery hates more than shitty reception. It seems the 'radio' in the phone just keeps searching for a signal and screws the charge royally.
I'm wondering if I can use the battery to heat my coffee... I just chuckled out loud... I'm blaming the fatigue. Meanwhile, we've just passed Bundanoon... no kilts to be seen. Next actual stop is Moss Vale, but there goes Exeter. We're flying.
We've just arrived and I've got a missed call from Andrew. I call back, they're on the bridge up ahead. Peter is with him and they're checking out the servicing of 6029. My XPL continues north and then the southbound XPT arrives. Not much of a spectacle, but I'm told that the others have never had a shot of it here.
We are now heading north to Bowral where there is a good photo op. We have made it to a bridge just before the station, but Peter can't park in time... Andrew and I have just jumped out and go the shots. Peter isn't fussed, he's done it all before.
We continue on north, listening to ABC classic FM; a great radio station for intense train hunting. Bolting along, we're heading to a good spot just before Picton. The rail traverses a viaduct over a river and then we pass over on our own road bridge. Great shots and location. Lots of people.
Big question now: SL at picton or wait for the 2 freights (that my XPL held up at Goulburn) here? Picton it is...
This place is packed. Train is arriving now and no one is realising that the train won't come all the way in to the station. We are running to the end of the platform to see it do the shunt onto the Thirlmere branch. Whilst we're at the end we can see the driver photographing us... Photographers along the platform are getting angry that train isn't coming all the way in.
The two freighters have passed through. Picton is on a huge hairpin turn... so you can see the northbound trains coming. You can hear them also taking the bend.
We're now making our way back to Braemar Junction for the Intermodal. Am quite hungry! Screw food though, the trains wont wait for us. Really happy the sun has come out!
Off we go, on the way to Werai (I've been told there's a great curve there...), but we're stopping in on the Cement works first. There's a train approaching and the guys have never seen a train on this line before. I seem to be good luck.
The 81s aren't going anywhere fast... so we continue on. Turns out this cement branch also has a chicken feed factory and a limestone mill. We stop in Moss Vale for pies. REALLY tasty. Or was I just super starving?
I've seen 100s of shots from this location, but I've never been here. The northbound intermodal is approaching. Turns out it has steel slapped on the back.
There isn't much else happening, so Peter has suggested we return to just north of Bundanoon. Specifically the bridge at Bunadanoon Road, just near the intersection with Ringwood Road.
We're about to see the northbound XPL... we're so close to having the southbound pass at the same time.
We're now off to Marulan South. Learnt about the old town built around the mines. Not much chop from access roads. Radar shows there's a consist (the TTs we saw at Braemar Junction) in there, but we can't see squat.
Back to Goulburn
And that's a wrap, I'm now back at Goulburn. I've parted ways with Peter and Andrew who are driving back to Canberra as we speak. I'm about to go purchase my ticket to Moss Vale; I stupidly bought my XPT return trip ex-Moss Vale when I should've purchased ex-Goulburn. One more trip on the XPL for me then. There might even be more traffic up there later this evening.
I'm waiting at Goulburn and I can see a consist on the radar. But it's not coming in. Here's the reason, a track gang is returning to the sidings.
10 minutes later the consist lead by 3 CMs arrives... They're trying to shunt off one loco and a few flatbeds, but have had signalling issues on the west end of the station.
The garbage train has now arrived in the refuge. It will have to wait there until the northbound XPT passes.
The CMs have finally cleared the line, a held QR consist is now coming through. ARHS is now returning via Goulburn with only 4403. Not going slowly; flogged it through. 6029 and the HL will stay at Thirlmere.
My XPL has arrived... A bunch of southbound NRs are passing me as I sit down. I've seen enough NRs this trip already. After finding my seat, I've turned on the latest episode of Person of Interest. It'll last me until Moss Vale. We've just passed the same TTs that we saw at Braemar wrong road, coming out of Marulan South.
Not much happening at Moss Vale. I can see the TTs heading my way, so I'll wait for them, then go and find food.
Returning to Melbourne
Not much chop around the station, so I'm going to entertain myself in the waiting room. Am currently watching the movie 'In Time' on the dodgy TV bolted to the wall. It's actually getting really tough to keep my eyes open.
My XPT has arrived on time. The whole train is dark and I'm feeling my way to my cabin. I'm on the top bunk this time so, without making too much noise, I fumble my way onto the top bunk. I know I'll quickly pass out.
The trip is rough. Every now and then I'm jolted awake by the train getting thrown around on the tracks. The sway of the top bunk like a metronome and although I'm lying perpendicular to the direction of travel, I'm still rolling towards the edge of the bed. This feels much worse from the top bunk than it did from the bottom bunk last night. It feels like it's been a lot longer than 24 hours since the last sleeper.
We're back in Melbourne and we've hit a red light at the Bunbury Street tunnel opening. This is the entrance to the freight yards, but there is a road straight through to Southern Cross. I'm actually currently still stuck well inside the Bunbury Street tunnel due to my carriage being at the far end of the train. We're officially on-time, but we now only have 10 minutes to make the flyover. Easy!
Or is it? We've just come to a solid stop at LPC/Sim st. All locomotives around the LPC have changed, none recognisable from the last passing. Conductor now addressing us over the loudspeaker: "drama happening at SCS. V/Line engine refusing to start. They need to remove this before we can enter...". Right, so like when we were leaving, a V/Line consist is in platform one, but this one has failed. We all know that Platform 2 is also SG, can we use that?... We saw the overland there on Friday night. Or is the overland due in also? Checking the dismal overland timetables online (yes, phone was charged overnight): no Sunday service.
...and the buffet is closed...
Looking around, the service is well patronised. Economy sitting car is quite full. People occupying all sleeper twinettes. I can smell myself, though only slightly, so won't go check economy. Then again, the stench may allow me to fit in easier. Hah.
10 minutes later and we haven't moved... I do believe I just jynxed this. I promise I wrote "Or will we?" prior to any announcement. I'm writing notes on a crappy little app on my android, for once, as I'm often told I forget all the minor details. (Whilst fleshing out the notes I am now in total agreement that it's a great way to record trips!)
Whilst waiting in the vestibule, I may have been ever-so-slightly blocking the bin. Nothing an "Excuse me" wouldn't have fixed. Unfortunately, it turns out that if you're standing in front of the bin then elderly Asian ladies with walking sticks will simply throw their rubbish on the floor. I chuckled at her and put her shit in the bin. Too bad she didn't watch me do it. I wonder if she was the +1 to the husband who wanted to experience the train trip.
Still at Sims St, NR72 just started up at the LPC. It actually looks like a steamer at full tilt. The smoke/exhaust from the diesel engine is intense... didn't get a pic.
We're off! Straight through to SCS. Am I awake? No less than a usual work day :)
Only two months behind... here's the highlights from South Yarra over August/September this year.
Metro's Inspection Train
Metro have converted an old passenger car into an inspection vehicle. It's known as IEV102 has equipment for monitoring the lines it is dragged over. You'll always see it top-and-tailed by T classes.
BG Steel with Green G
A green Pacific National G spent a weekend on the steel train.
Steamrail to Eltham
Not quite South Yarra, but venturing out to see a steamer very early was rewarded by a surprise sighting of the other Metro inspection vehicle: IEV100.
Railside in Cremorne
There is a pretty cool spot just before the Yarra river in Cremorne to take morning photos.
Batman St Overpass: Cremorne
And then there's the Batman St overpass, but it's a little too under-the-level.
Carpark ramp at end of Palmer Parade
If you keep wandering down Batman St and take a right on Palmer Pde, you'll find a carpark (that looks abandoned.) It has a ramp that gives you an elevated view towards South Yarra Station. Of course, you're then stuck in the wires and the shot Northbound gets a lens full of sunlight in the morning.
Y class to Long Island
But then, something cool happened... BL Steel with a Y Class loco transfer! This supposedly happens once a year.. the loco gets swapped out for routine maintenance back in Dynon.
Between Hawksburn and South Yarra
Turns out that you can get some pretty clean shots facing towards Hawksburn... although you really have very little time to get ready. Zero visibility doesn't give you too much warning.
And the final steel for the month...
My old stomping ground... I'd spent a few late nights at the museum as a volunteer back in the day... great group of people (minimal infighting) and a great atmosphere of work getting done. We were restoring carriage roofs at the time (didn't know that you could use tar to weather-seal a carriage) and had heard murmurings of an effort to restore 'the biggest steam engine in the southern hemisphere'.
I had also heard that they were to shut the Cooma branch of the railway, as there was no funding... how were they going to possibly going to get funds to restore something a lot costlier?
Update as at 13/08/2014... It turns out they're already running the loco through to the main line. Credit to Trent Nicholson for this photo:
The day trip was simple... take the Overland (for the first time) from Southern Cross to Ararat, spend the afternoon in town and then return on the evening V/Locity.
The afternoon freight was smack on time. But then this happened.
This is the RG331 QR Rail Grinder. ARTC contracts it to freshen the rails around their network. I had heard something grinding away and headed for the rails... but had missed it. Fortunately it reversed and re-grinded the same location. Of note, it has quite a strange horn.
Was a pleasant surprise... have only ever previously seen it staged in sidings. Here are some shots from Yass Junction, way back in 2009.
South Yarra is a suburb of Melbourne located to the south-east of the city grid. It is a junction for the Sandringham line which splits from the Cranbourne/Pakenham and Frankston lines. Being two stops from Flinders Street Station (which may as well be known as 'Central' for suburban services) it sees a lot of traffic.
The next stop down the main line is Hawksburn and there's some fairly scenic spots along the line between these two stations. There's also a lot of traffic to be seen during daylight hours.
Most of this traffic is Metro Trains Melbourne's standard suburban stock of either the Siemens EMUs or the refurbed Comeng EMUs. Every now and then a V/Line V/Locity or N-Class hauled long-distance passenger service will come through.
Every so often, you'll see a freight train. There's currently four services that frequent the area:
- Long Island Steel Train
The first off the list has a scheduled path daily around 11:30am. It doesn't often hit this mark, usually much closer to 10:30am on weekdays and then midday on weekends.
- Apex Gravel Train
I've sighted the gravel train infrequently. It usually appears at around 8pm on weekdays and I've not successfully captured it during any daylight hours.
- Morwell Paper Train
The paper train has made an appearance in the steel train timeslots once or twice. I don't know it's exact schedule and that makes it even harder to spot.
- Kensington Grain
This train reverses via Caulfield or Pakenham every so often.
South Yarra Station
Everything south-bound comes through here. Heading north, you get 8 tracks towards Richmond. These tracks all cross the Yarra River at the same time on a very plain concrete bridge. Not very picturesque from afar, but there is a nice pedestrian bridge parallel to it on the east side. This bridge puts you within 2 feet of the bogies of anything southbound on the Pakenham/Dandenong line.
The platforms also provide a vantage point in either direction due to their length. There's a signal box and gantries that can provide good framing. The condos that are going up around the station also help.
This seems to be another one of Victorian Railways cookie-cutter station templates. 2 bi-directional lines pass through Hawksburn Station, one servicing Frankston and the other Cranbourne/Pakenham. The station was opened on the 7th of May 1879. You'll find that it is very similar to all other stations towards Caulfield.
Location A: My new favourite spot
Turns out there's a really nice S-Bend between South Yarra and Hawksburn which provides some great locations for capturing these services. The approach towards Hawksburn just before the Cromwell Road overpass provides a great angle to capture traffic from South Yarra with a good amount of scenery for framing. It's also very accessible, legal and, when it's not raining, has heaps of natural light.
Wide shots allow great framing...
Whereas the 200mm zoom on my NEX-5R nearly lets me get a good frame on the Jam Factory tunnel...
Portrait shots work too...
And if you're feeling game... you can also shoot backwards...
Location B: Another spot on the way back to South Yarra
And, just in case you've been hanging for a service that hasn't arrived... you can follow the line back to South Yarra and, hopefully, not miss out on any shots. There's a little lane-way named Palfreyman Street. You'll want to be at the northern-most end of it. Once there, you're on the right-hand curve heading out of the Jam Factory tunnel. Depending on the time of day, the lighting can work here too.
Location C: View from above
The Jam Factory carpark provides quite a good point for photos. You get to choose the elevation. Lighting is an issue though, especially at this time of year. As you are effectively looking east-west the sun will always be shining at you. Fortunately the condo in front of you can block the light (especially around freight-train-o-clock) and help with exposure.
I happened to catch the steel train here on the 17th of May 2014.
Location D: No photos yet.
There's a few park benches on this grassy knoll; perfect for reading a book or a railway magazine and watching all 4 railway lines heading out of the city. You'll hear all the trains coming from the east as they approach the Jam Factory tunnel and slow down for the curve. You'll also hear anything in the other direction as they alert passengers via South Yarra Station.
I've not actually taken any shots from this location and have nothing to report. I'll do so at some point in the future and update this post.
Location E: Half-way between Hawksburn and Toorak Station
There's a pedestrian bridge half-way back between Toorak and Hawksburn Stations... The stairs on the north-side provide a good view of the rails coming from Hawksburn.
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.