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Shimoda, Izu Peninsula – August 2015

I'd never been to Japan in summer and therefore never been to the beaches. This area just west of Tokyo is stunning. The only issue at this time was a typhoon off the coast, preventing us from swimming. Fortunately we did get to get our feet wet.

JR East runs the line from Tokyo through to Izu, half way down the peninsula. From Izu, the Izukyu Corporation runs the Izukyu Railway which takes you right down to Shimoda. Fortunately, the JR (Super View) Odoriko services run on the private lines and will take you to the very end.

Odoriko Service

These are great trains, fast and efficient... clean too. If you happen to get a Super View, then the scenery is fantastic. They book out in summer though, so be quick. When booking you'll be able to choose the mountain side or ocean side. The ocean side seems popular, but the mountain side is fantstic also!

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The beer on tap was a nice touch!

Shimoda Station

Once at the station, it's the end of the line and most passengers disappear off to seaside resorts for well-deserved getaways. I hung around for a little to soak in the view.

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The corner before the approach to the station provides a nice view of an evening. As per usual, the Japanese scenery is lush and green. An easy choice to model a railway on!

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I even happened to find an exact model of my car! This is the first functional instance I've seen in Japan. Not bad for ~30 years old.

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Back at the station, the yard had a few interesting things to see. There was an inspection vehicle resting on tracks perpendicular to the actual line. Do they use a crane to get it on?

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Not the best lighting, but most days were spent out at the beach! Still, the yard was quite picturesque with nice sized EMUs waiting for their next gig.

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Marine Odoriko

On the last day, the plan was to ride this home. It's the Odoriko service run by the N'EX consist. Has a special headmark and all. Turns out that I got Hyperdia wrong and we turned up to find the old-school 185 series (not complaining!) to take us back... so much charm. Fortuantely, on the day before I managed to see the Marine Odoriko shunting for its next service.

The photos are of poor quality... I'd not had my camera on me. But you can just make out the 'anchor' headmark on the front.

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And that was a wrap. Great location for a beach holiday!

16Oct/150

Century Southern Hotel, Shinjuku – August 2015

It was to be one night in Tokyo, whilst in transit from Hakone to Izu Peninsula. What's the quickest path? Probably a change at Odawara or Atami? Suuureee... but there's also an express train to Shinjuku from Hakone and an Express to Shimoda from Shinjuku. So, why not do it in luxury?

Hotels in Shinjuku aren't cheap... so you might as well make it count. Turns out that Odakyu has a hand in this hotel and this hotel has some stunning rooms! Check out the view from the Panorama room I stayed in!

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Trains, trains and more trains... Yamanote, Express lines, Chuo line and even Odakyu!

14Sep/150

Osaka – Imamiyaebisu – Nankai Rapi:t

Staying in Tennoji this time around meant that I was close to the main trunk like of the Nankai railway. The closest station was Shinimamiya which is a shared JR/Nankai station. It allows passengers to transfer from the loop line to the Nankai service. From here you can proceed north into the heart of Namba or south towards the Airport, Koyasan or Wakayama.

DSC08598Between Shinimamiya and Namba is one station: Imamiyaebisu. This station exists on the two east-most lines and is only really served by local trains. Its location provides a great view in both directions, from both ends of the platform.

The two tracks to the west are for anything other than local trains. The expresses will pass along these lines at moderate speeds. Most express services still stop at Shinimamiya, so they wont be full tilt.

The only real drawback of the area is the ability for services to block your view and the overpass just to the north providing unwanted shade. First world problems, really. There were even other photographers there when I visited.

Southbound View

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Nice sweeping curves and no issues getting full consists in the frame. Nankai has some basic liveries and a lot of stainless stock. Fortunately they like mixing it up quite a bit.

Northbound View

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Northbound is just as nice... quite a straight stretch until the final right-hand curve into Namba. And then ... the consist I was waiting for approached.

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The Nankai Rapi:t is the express train to Kansai International Airport. If you're staying in Namba, or don't have a railpass, then take this train when you arrive... it's fantastic.

10Sep/150

Osaka – Super Rail Cargo

I've tried before, but always failed. The Super Rail Cargo is an express EMU freight service that runs in the middle of the night and is a hard one to photograph. Turns out though, that Japan doesn't do daylight-savings. Therefore, in summer, in the wee hours of the morning, one has a good chance of seeing this thing on the move.

One service leaves Tokyo whilst the other leaves Osaka, around the same time, nearly every night of the week. I've never tried to hunt down the Tokyo end, as it's sorta out-of-the-way down past Shinagawa. Fortunately, the Osaka side passes through Umeda, on it's way towards (and along) the Tokaido Main Line.

The Stake Out - Fukushima Station

This train runs from Ajikawaguchi yards, along the Yumesaki Line, joins the Loop Line at Nishikujo, passes Noda and then heads north where it branches off the loop at Fukushima. It's even at road-level and there's a level-crossing, so you get an advance notice of anything approaching.

I used my freight timetables as posted here to know when it might arrive. It was my last morning in Osaka, a Tuesday, and I wasn't going to miss it this time.

I was staying in Tennoji and awoke at 4am. There were no train services at that time, so I found a taxi and asked to go to Fukushima Station. The driver alerted that there was nothing to be gained in going there, but I actually stated that I hoped to take a photo and he chuckled and agreed that it was OK.

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It was around 4:40am and indeed still dark.. but I was very happy to have the sun rising.. although on the wrong side for a good shot. There were lively characters coming out of Karaoke venues or bars, but also people making their way to work.

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At 5:05am, the booms triggered and an EF66 with a short rake appeared. It seems this would be ▲59 making it's way from Suita. I think I still had my polariser on at this point, not really knowing the best way to shoot in low light. Hence the photos are quite dark.

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A loop line service came through at 5:12am... meaning that I could've slept in a little later and taken it from Tennoji. There was no way I was going to risk that timing though.

Either way... The gates then activated again and the M250 came through!

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Not the best photos... but for the first time I saw the actual service in flight; whilst I had a camera ready. Success!

4Sep/150

Osaka – Umeda and Hirano – August 2015

The goal was simple... there's a freight train that runs from Umeda to Hirano and there's enough time to catch it at Shin-Osaka, bolt to Hirano and catch it again. Of course... this would be correct... if Umeda Freight Yard still existed. Little did I know that, whilst waiting at Shin Osaka station, the yard had been demolished some 3 years earlier!

The timetables I posted here were initially wrong. Wherever I had 'Umeda' should have actually been 'Osaka'. I thought 'Osaka' (from the freight train timetable) meant 'Umeda'... but it actually meant the yard right next to the Shinkansen depot out past Senrioka!

Shin-Osaka Station

I waited here for a while to see the freight head through to Umeda. Instead I got to see the standard array of express trains. Mixed in with these was a freight heading to Ajikawaguchi which caught me off-guard. You can find the timetables for Suita to Ajikawaguchi here.

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The Ocean Arrow/Kuroshio in pictured above actually left 5 minutes late. That last picture shows the driver hanging out the front of the train with the stationmaster discussing something that was preventing him from leaving. What I didn't capture was the guard bolting down the platform with a few sheets of paper that must have been the timetable/run-sheet that you see paper-clipped in the cabin. It seems the driver was issued with the wrong one, as he swapped the one in the train with the one the guard delivered. The train then departed.

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It was 30 minutes past the time that the train was meant to arrive and I decided to cut my losses. These trains are usually very close to clockwork and the Ajikawaguchi train had passed... so it was time to go.

Transit to Hirano

I took the Haruka Airport Express to Tennoji (thanks Rail Pass!) and then a local to Hirano. It was a quick trip. Of course, the goal was to pass the freight yard to see if there was any activity. Instead I was presented with the following...

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I think I let out a big 'Ohhhhh....' at that point and had fellow passengers look oddly at me. Everything clicked. I was glad I'd left, but unhappy that I'd waited so long at Shin-Osaka. This is Japan... if the train doesn't arrive 5 minutes after schedule then move on.

Hirano Station

This is a little station on the line to Nara. I've posted the freight timetable for this yard here. It is located two stations east of Tennoji and you must take a local service on the Yamatoji Line to get there. The stop between Hirano and Tennoji is Tobushijomae and is located on the south-west corner of the freight yard I sought out. Stay on the left side of the train between these two stations and you'll get a good view of what's about to depart.

The yard has three staging roads immediately next to the passenger lines, but at ground level... the passenger lines are elevated. In these roads you'll find made up trains that have just been delivered, or are about to depart. Trains that arrive are staged here whilst either the engine that brought them runs around or the yard worker takes them away. There is a shunt road that runs right up beside Hirano station for this purpose.

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I ventured out to Hirano on a Wednesday. As I passed the yard, I saw an EF66 about to carry out this very task. I got to the station in time to see it shunt right up next to the platform. It proceeded back into the yard and everything was quiet. There are occupation indicators line-side on the freight shunting roads that show you if anything is approaching. They'll flash if the track is occupied and stay lit if nothing is happening. Note that the flashing indicates that the road is in use. The train on the road may not come all the way up to the station. The points are situated a fair way back west and the shunting will only reach the station when long consists are being worked.

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I followed the timetable and realised that there was an inbound freight due. From the city-bound platform, you can see the triangle to the east where the freight trains come from. It didn't take long before a freight came in, 5 minutes early. This was dragged through by an EF210. After this, there was nothing scheduled for a few hours... of course, I stupidly only looked at inbound traffic.

DSC08242I was out of time and had to head back... completely failing to look at the outbound traffic timetable. As I left at 1pm on a local back to Tennoji, I passed an EF81 on its way to Suita. Totally pissed off, I was. EF81s are a favourite and I've taken a shot of one very similar to this one before... years before! In Umeda Yard! This poor old thing has been hanging around Osaka just waiting for me to return!

I returned to the apartment only to find that everyone else was still shopping... so... knowing that Hirano was 10 minutes from Tennoji, I ventured back to see the ~2pm services (one inbound and one outbound.)

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An EF210 came in, 10 minutes early... and then the EF66 I'd seen earlier proceeded to Suita with a short rake of flats.

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There was now nothing due until after 5pm, so I decided to call it a day and visit Den Den Town. I'd come back later to catch the EF81 in action.

Hirano Station, 2nd Attempt

My second attempt was carried out on a Friday. I based my plan around the 1pm depature of the EF81. Arriving at 12, I hoped to see at least one service... but absolutely nothing came through. The yard had zero workers and zero locomotives... just a few rakes of half-built consists. As I passed the yard on the way in I could see that nothing was happening, but I waited in vain anyway. Fail.

What was worse? The platform indicators were showing 'Pass' on the nearest platform to the yards. I'd not seen a pax go through here at all... so I sat, staring at the indicator... waiting for that "Train approaching" sign. Hours. Nothing. Oh well... they must program the slots in and not cancel them.

Hirano Station, 3rd Time Lucky

This time I attacked the station on a Monday. As I passed the yard on the local train, the EF81 was not there. It had been there waiting to depart the first time I'd visited and so I was worried. This time there were other locos in the yard, but none ready to head out.

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I got to the station, parched. There was nothing due for about halfa so, despite the platform board showing a 'Pass', I ventured to the city-bound platform for a beverage. There are no vending machines on the outbound platform. Lo'and'behold, my favourite EF81 bolts past just as I'm on the other side, inserting coins. I leave half the coins inserted, grab the camera and got a few photos... school kids nearby were wondering why a photo was more important than a drink...I smiled.

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Not to be fooled again.. I proceeded back to the outbound platform and caught the next freight coming in. Turns out there was also a young railfan there doing the exact same thing.

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Passing time was easy... there was a local every so often and expresses interspersed.

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And then it happened... the EF81 came through and the world was at peace.

2Sep/150

Akihabara Washington Hotel

This is the first post of my most recent trip to Japan. It was the first time I'd been there in Summer and I was not expecting the weather to be so damn nice. Yes, humid, slightly, but not quite tropical-humid... somewhere half-way towards out-back humid.

Anyway, the trip started in Tokyo. I usually stay on the west-side of the Yamanote Line, but this time I stayed east. Akihabara to be exact. The good thing about the east side? The Shinkansen lines run on this side, terminating at Tokyo Station.

Akihabara is north of Tokyo, so only the 'northward' Shinkansen run through. Well, the north-west-ward also run through too now. Fortunately, the shinkansen tracks are all above ground until just after Akihabara station, so there are several vantage points if you search for them.

One vantage point is the Akihabara Washington Hotel. It is actually so well known for it that they have an actual room dedicated to trains; including a model railway! (Note the single bed.)

Checking in

When booking the hotel, I left a comment requesting a room that could see the Shinkansen. I received an email response saying that this was not a problem. Upon check-in, I neglected to remind them and was first given a room staring into another office building to the south.

I returned to the counter and politely asked if my comment still existed and if there was any chance of a room looking over the tracks. The receptionists kindly oblidged... although I did hear a snicker between the two girls that the "gaikokujin ha densha wo mitai, heya kara." I couldn't tell if it was my bad Japanese or if I was a train nerd.

Room with a view

Second time lucky! The room had a great view of the Kanda River and a shrine on the opposite bank. To the right were the Shinkansen tracks heading to Tokyo. There is also an elevated flyover of the Ueno-Tokyo Line.

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From here ... it's going to just be pictures. There's a vending machine on every floor... so a few beers and a bit of train watching was had.

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Stay here, it's awesome. Just remember to check that your room has a view!

26Jul/150

Osaka Freight: Suita to Ajikawaguchi (Super Rail Cargo)

This line is an extension of the Suita to Umeda freight/express-train line that runs from Shin-Osaka Station to the Umeda Freight Yards.

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This line continues further south-west, rising back up to the height of the kanjosen and then branching off on the Yumesaki Line to Universal Studios Japan. Before this though, is Ajikawaguchi freight yards. The home of Sagawa Transport's M250!

This freight train is famous... it's actually an EMU high-speed express freight service that runs through the night to get your urgent deliveries to Tokyo. The opposing service departs Tokyo at the same time and they pass somewhere half-way along the Tokaido Main Line in the middle of the night.

Due to its timetable, you'll really only ever see it resting in the Ajikawaguchi yard. Sometimes I've seen it photographed in the early morning at the Tokyo end, but never really in daylight when moving.

Due to this, I still haven't managed to properly photograph this train. I've seen it depart Ajikawaguchi once and you can find a post with a movie of the departure over here.

Rail-set Train

The last column on each table is a rail-set train. I've seen this pass before from an assortment of locations.

EF210-5 with two flatbeds EF210 departs Umeda Yards Freight from Sakurajima
Freight heading to Sakurajima Station Freight approaching Noda Station Freight approaching Noda Station

Ajikawaguchi

This area is difficult to photograph, but there is a large level crossing on which you can gently walk into the middle of and take photos. Just be very considerate and respect the requests of staff if they ask you to get out of the way!

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Timetables

As per previous Osaka timetables, all times are up until Suita. I'll look into extending the SRC through to Tokyo at a later date.

Southbound Suita Ajikawaguchi
Service Origin Arrive Depart Arrive Comments
▲51 Tokyo –– 0511 0526 ▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)
▲59 Tokyo –– 0451 0510 ▲ = 土 or 休日運休 (Not Saturdays or Holidays)
(4078) ~ (1081) ~ 91 Sendai ºº0723 0833 0900 ºº = ??
▲93 Osaka 1102 1111 1157 ▲ = 月曜日運休 (Not Mondays)
(1881) ~ 1883 Kyoto 1447 1603 1628 Rail-set or 'other' cargo.
Northbound Ajikawaguchi Suita
Service Depart Arrive Depart Destination Comments
▲50 2309 –– 2324 Tokyo ▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)
▲58 2259 2320 2328 Tokyo ▲ = 土 or 休日運休 (Not Saturdays or Holidays)
▲90 1703 1739 1742 Osaka ▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)
5088 ~ (3089) 1818 ºº1851 1944 Sendai ºº = ??
1180 ~ (1182) 1040 ºº1127 1225 Kyoto ºº = ??
Rail train or 'other' cargo.

I will go back and get the Super Rail Cargo once more!

11Jun/150

6029 to Wagga Wagga

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.

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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.

Saturday Morning

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.

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The engine stayed in the roundhouse for quite a while... missing the initial slot it was meant to take from Junee to Wagga.

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A northbound freight was then given the path and 6029 covered it in steam/smoke as it came through.

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Once the path was clear, the consist was shunted into the station and passengers boarded.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A random Aurizon track vehicle then appeared at the crossing, mounted the tracks and then bolted off north.

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Finally the Qube service from Harefield arrived to drop off one rake of containers and take another off to load/unload.

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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.

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XPT shennanigans

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.

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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.

8Apr/150

West of Melbourne – March 2015

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...

Manor Loop

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.

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As we were about to leave, we were presented with a V/Lo on the flyover. Serious luck.

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Geelong

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.

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Between Cressy and Wingeel

The decision was made to drive further west in hope of sun and intermodals. Fortunately, we were met with both.

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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.

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Gheringhap Loop

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.

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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.

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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.

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7Apr/150

Chasing 6029 to Thirlmere

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Goulburn

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Moss Vale

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.

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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.

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Big question now: SL at picton or wait for the 2 freights (that my XPL held up at Goulburn) here? Picton it is...

Picton

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

Werai

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.

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Bundanoon curve

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.

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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.

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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.

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The garbage train has now arrived in the refuge. It will have to wait there until the northbound XPT passes.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Melbourne

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 :)