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Welding Rail In South Yarra

There was a total shutdown of all lines past my apartment on the weekend of the 16th-17th November as Metro we're upgrading the signalling. It's well-needed to allow better head-ways for more services, and also to allow brand new 'high-capacity' trains to run. To do all this, they've had to cut in new isolated track joins. I assumed they'd just cut through the rails in-stu and clamp an insulated joiner over the top... but I assume the tension in the rails prevents them from doing this? Instead they've been busy removing a 20 metre length of track and welded in a new length that includes a bypassed insulated joiner!


It's bypassed as they don't want to break the track-circuit just yet. The rest of the infrastructure isn't in place yet, so a break in the circuit here would actually cause a 'blind' area on one of the sides. Hence the jumper cables. There's also a longer length of cables running down the current work area, to keep the current circuit in operation whilst the work is carried out. I don't really see the reason though, as there's a lot of protection at either end of the entire work area to prevent vehicles from entering.

The weather was reasonable, and I was half brain-dead from a cold, so I spent a good bit of time on the bridge near Cromwell Road, watching the professionals carry out their business. You could tell they'd done the job 100s of times before; their efficiency and precision was great to watch.

Step 1 - Align The Rails

The first step would probably be the most important in the whole process; misaligned rails would cause untold problems in the future and therefore a lot of time was spent getting the elevation and angle spot-on. There's a large brace/jack on the outside of the rails that was aligned first. This unit uses friction to grip all four rails and, when air pressure is applied, pneumatically draws them closer together.


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The workman was constantly measuring the gap between the rails until it was within tolerance. I note that they didn't just bring them closer in one hit. The workman operating the compressor only applied pressure for short periods, maybe 3 seconds each time, and then his colleague would measure again. They'd then let the whole contraption rest for 5 seconds before applying further pressure.

I'm actually astonished that the rails even moved. It's a relatively straight section of track and where does the slack come from? I can't imagine they actually stretch the steel? They had removed around 6 rows of clips from the original rails to allow freedom of movement. I'd say the gap was about 40mm to start with, but they brought it right down to less than 20mm!

Once it was as close as required, the rails were further adjusted using (what looked like) rail spikes between the closest sleepers and the base of the rail. These were hammered in to raise or lower the rails. The worksman spent around 5 minutes doing this, making sure everything was totally level. The ruler was around a metre long, allowing him to see how much the rails tapered off on either side. You could tell he did not want to create any kind of gradient on either side of the join.

Step 2 - Build The Mould

From what I could see, the mould was made of some form of terracotta? The colour was the standard red, but it really could be made of any sort of compound. The base was removed from the packaging first and a layer of glue applied down each long edge. This was then smoothed around the edge and along the ridge to make sure that there'd be no gaps once joined. This base was then placed into the metal tray which would soon form the case that holds the mould together.

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The whole base was then placed under the gap between the rails. It was held in place with clamps and, once again, adjusted once and again to make sure that it was completely square and level with the join.

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The sides of the mould were then taken out of the pack. These were placed in the 'sides' of the metal case and both units were then assembled onto the rail. From here, the mould was complete, with an opening at the top where molten metal would be poured in? You could see that, at the top of the mould there was one short edge that was lower than the others; presumably this was for excess molten metal to flow over.


Once this was done, the final outer frame was dropped on and the 'drip tray' inserted on the side that had the overflow 'spout'.


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From here, a large block of malleable clay (or other playdough-esque material) was split up and used to totally fill all gaps around the edges of the case and mould. The goal was to ensure that all heat, once the mould was full, was to stay trapped inside.


The entire block was applied to all facades of the mould, specifically where the case and the mould met.

Step 3 - Add Fire!

A cute little terracotta (or other substance) pot had been sitting on the back of the work truck for a while, but it was now its time for action.


To 'set the mould', a small mount was clamped to the rail and then the oxy-acetylene torch was flamed up and positioned on it, aiming the fire directly into the mould. The flame from the torch burned a strong blue, but eventually yellow flames began rising from the openings on either side of the torch. One of the worksman then grabbed the terracotta pot whilst the other pulled the torch out of the mould. Without being able to see inside the mould, one couldn't really work out what exactly was being heated, but you'd have to assume the rail ends were red-hot by this point!


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The pot was placed directly on top of the whole mould and the torch was placed in the small opening on top.


I'll let the following video explain the rest...

A lot of trust placed in a set of serious gloves!

Step 4 - Clean Up

From here, there was a 10 minute break whilst the burning-box-of-death cooled down. The overflow tray on the side was thrown track-side once it could be lifted.

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After a while, the outside metal case was unscrewed and whacked a few times until it fell loose. Now the mould was perfectly visible, and perfectly-solidly-formed as a single unit, welded to the rails!


To get this off, another utensil was used. The workmen brought over another flat-frame-style machine and placed it over the mould. With a few clamps, they secured it on all corners to the rail and then one of the guys started pumping a lever handle. I couldn't quite see what the action resulted in from where I was, but I assume there was a flat blade that was slowly, flush with the railhead, cutting into the mould on a horizontal plane.


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The other worksmen started beating the mould with a mallet when the cutter wasn't being used. After a lot of intimidation, the mould finally started budging... but instead of a clean splice, it decided to split to pieces... pieces of 1000 degree red-hot danger.


More time was spent letting the bits cool down and then it was all moved to the rubbish pile track-side.


From here, a portable grinder-on-wheels was used to finally trim down the weld. Once complete, it finally resembled rail!

I'd actually watched the 2nd of 4 joins be welded before I had decided to get my camera and record the one above. This part, the removing of the mould, was much smoother on that one; a single knock after a slight clamp saw the whole lot just break free in one hit. There was no grinding required afterwards either! I hadn't really noticed anything done differently between each session, so I wonder how many variables come into play when it comes to doing this and how easy it is to stuff up!?

Gantry Foundations

Whilst all the welding was taking place, another vehicle had been busy drilling a column on the other side of the track. The colour of the earth was quite interesting, being somewhere between clay and red earth? A re-bar metal frame was then built up and inserted, with the square frame of pre-built bolt rigging for the base of a pylon. The alignment of this frame in the hole was actually a big thing and watching the surveyor get it correct was pretty interesting.


Turns out there was a remote surveyors camera sitting half way down the track, fixed on the location of the pylon.


And, with a remote mirror, with a very fine tip, the surveyor measured each corner of the frame. The workers around nailed, cut and hammered the external wooden frame to get the metal frame in the exactly correct position.

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The surveyor was holding a handheld computer that was relaying the stats from the surveying equipment.


Good to see technology helping all departments.

Tamping And Cleaning

Whilst everything else was going on, there were also tampers and ballast cleaners working away. Turns out they were tidying up a cut-in insulated joint that had been installed the night before.


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The ballast cleaner sounded like it was in pain, chewing rocks up and spitting out a lot of dust.


After all of the above, they managed to clean up and the trains were running again the next morning.

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Melbourne Broad Gauge Freight Trains

Below is a listing of trains sighted taking the viaduct between Southern Cross Station and Flinders Street Station. Trains, as they pass through this area, will (where possible) be recorded in the table below. The times indicate when they pass through, not when they arrive. Sometimes the trains sit in this area waiting for a path in either direction!

Service Frequency Description
QUBE Apex Gravel Service
Tue - Fri Runs from Kilmore East Quarry to Westall Cement Plant. Usually around midnight on the down and then a 10am up through South Yarra/Richmond/Flinders St.
Note that if the morning time is around 4am then it's actually the 9350 service... but I've put them both in the same column.
QUBE Cement Service
Mon & Thu/Fri Runs from Tottenham(?) to Dandenong. New Service. Very random runner... sometimes mondays instead of tuesdays and sometimes fridays instead of thursdays.
QUBE Maryvale Paper Train
Daily Runs from Appleton Dock to the Maryvale Paper Plant. Takes paper to be recycled out to plant and returns empty? Heads out at 8pm at night and returns around 2pm the next day.
Every so often you'll find the train heading out at around 4am in the morning. This is actually the 9473 service, but I've put it in the same column as the evening down. Note that it means it actually ran the next morning!
PacNat Long Island Steel Train
Daily (excl Friday) Runs from the northernmost road of South Dynon to the Long Island Steel Plant in Frankston. The midday runner 9553 usually DOES NOT run on Fridays unless there's a weekend shutdown and they need to shift more steel beforehand. 9557 (1pm) and 9559 (7pm) are also only as-required! The actual service pairing is as follows: 9555-9552, 9553-9556, 9557-9558, 9559-9550

Please note that this is an automated service based on sightings from another location. It wont be 100% foolproof but, with careful consideration of the numbers and days, one should be able to get a good idea as to what is visible and when. Also note that services might show up out-of-order. For example, the Apex gravel ran in a much later slot on 30/31st January 2020.

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The Annual Christmas Pilgrimage – December, 2018

As per usual, it was another trip to Canberra via Cootamundra over the Christmas break. This time was a little different though... no holiday pay! I'm now a contractor! Regardless, both trains and family needed to be visited! The trip started at the usual sparrow-fart-o'clock and I caught the up Albury somewhere along the parallel stretches of highway and railway.


Awful lighting and a bad angle... I then totally missed the southbound XPT. I heard it growling through as I was filling the tank at a service station. From there, there was nothing on the rails. I grabbed a pie or two at Culcairn, but wasn't impressed at all... maybe the baker had been in a hurry. The first sign of movement was the southbound Harefield shuttle prepped at Junee. Of course... just as I approached it started to head south!

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I then whipped the MR-2 around and got to the favourite position... The train had crawled out of Junee, but nearly beat me up the hill? Nice effort!


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Crap lighting... the clouds really didn't want to play ball. From there it was more quiet rails. After checking in at the usual motel I was told the pool had a leak and had been emptied. The MR-2 hadn't had aircon for a few years, but it was ~35 outside and I was looking forward to a swim. Instead it was aircon in the motel room whilst I got a bit of work done.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with good friends from Cootamundra. Thanks Laurie for driving and knowing all the good spots to get the SSR grain rake! The proof is as follows...



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I hear they're now calling the Qube QBX locomotives 'Chiko Rolls'... pretty hilarious actually. Two separate consists came through in quick succession! We then retired for the afternoon before a great meal at the local.

The next morning was spent getting in front of a northbound SCT service. It'd beaten me out of Cootamundra, but I got it before Yass. I hereby dedicate the next block of photos to my favourite location: Yass Junction Station.

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I expected to then just dawdle back into Canberra... but instead found the SCT pulling to a halt in the station area. The drivers then inspected all axles... they must've triggered a sensor somewhere and been told to check if anything was actually wrong? They held there for 10 minutes and then pushed off again.


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That was it for the trip towards Canberra. Whilst there I swapped the AW11 MR2 for a 2015 ZRE182R Corolla and, well, it's not the pocket rocket that the MR2 was, but it's got enough of it's character and so much more comfort! The return trip was therefore a quick one, going through to Melbourne in one day.



There's the 'rolla at Jindalee. Collecting rock-chips on the bonnet that I wouldn't realised until I washed it in Melbourne. Damnit. Anyhoo... on the way back, QBXs were seen bolting into Junee...

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And then the XPT passed a CK grain at Gerogery?

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And that was another wrap. Home just in time to catch the Air Asia X flight to KL the next morning!

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High-Capacity Metro Trains (HCMT)

The first HCMT has been 'constructed' at Newport and recently passed through Hawksburn late at night. It was done after-hours to permit slow-running... as I'm sure they've measured the platform clearances... but weren't game to trash their new toy!

Whilst getting ready for the main event... I happened to see a few other consists on the radar. First up we have two SSR T-Class locomotives hauling the inspection vehicle IEV102. Running slowly, you can see it has the light shining onto the overhead, making sure it's within tolerance.

Next was the midnight down steel... but I missed it... too busy playing Pikmin 1 via the Dolphin Gamecube Emulator!

But then the down Apex Gravel train showed up... and came through. This had a full load and was working pretty hard up the grade. Looked and sounded great!

Finally, the main event (at 0130 in the morning)! The consist was pretty random: S302 up front, 20 grain cars, S317 + T + T, a brake van and then the actual HCMT! The extra loading was required as the HCMT wasn't 'braked'. Or that's the only reason I can think of... they couldve just had the 2 S or T on either end, but they may not be able to pull the train to a stop as they'd not be able to brake hard enough. Instead they used the bogies of 20 grain cars to make sure the weight on the end had no impact on the running train.

What a night! And what amazing lack-of-sleep!

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6029 Returns to Canberra (for a weekend)

The irony... or, at least I think it's irony? I don't know anymore. But, whatever, I didn't need an excuse... what a great reason to return to Canberra for the weekend! 6029 came back to the place where it had been stored for decades and then rebuilt (to then assist in causing the failure of the railway museum) to run tours to Queanbeyan and Bungendore.

Here's the event link, but I can't see that link lasting long at all. It's not overly unique? Anyway, the basic idea was 4 shuttles to Queanbeyan on Saturday morning, followed by a single afternoon return trip to Bungendore. Then sunday was three full return trips to Bungendore.

The Line

It turns out that Canberra was an afterthought. To get to Canberra, railway vehicles first traverse the logging line to Bombala, but only until Queanbeyan where the Canberra branch actually starts. Railways were always about freight... and Canberra hadn't been invented yet... so the line that exists between Goulburn and Bombala was actually due to the need for wood, with an extension to Canberra built later.

It's a very short trip between Canberra and Queanbeyan, hence why they managed to schedule in four shuttles on the Saturday morning. There's not much along the line as it's quite flat between both stations.

Getting to Canberra from Thirlmere

It turns out that this was part of a larger rail cruise. Cruise Express ran their Southern Rail Spectactular event from Sydney to Melbourne and return. It included branchlines, steam engines and multiple consist changes. SRHC even got their standard-gauge consist set up for this specific event! It was also fun watching the consists hold up traffic in either direction...


And again Northbound...


Saturday, 1st September 2018

GL112 was attached on the rear and the train made it into Canberra Railway Station (Kingston) for it's first trip at 0900. All went well and I was waiting on the northern side of Jerrabomberra Creek. Beautiful sunlight and only 2 other onlookers.

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From there, I attempted to get the return from the back of Bunnings in Fyshwick, but there were no good vantage points. The carpark at DFO would've been on the wrong side, with the sun directly in ones face. A quick shop at Jaycar for a DB9 socket for a mouse rebuild and then off to the back of Nick Scali furniture to catch the 10am outbound.

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Another two onlookers... one being naughty on the wrong side of the fence... and then it was off to Queanbeyan to watch the return shuttle.


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From there, it was family time for lunch. I managed to watch the 12pm shuttle depart before this... not before seeing a whole range of stupidity though... people just seem to think that crossing a yard is appropriate? They were quickly told to move on!

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4201 then rolled in with a NSWRTM water gin!? I love unexpected surprises! 6029 then departed.

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Later in the afternoon, I found enough time in the afternoon to watch the Bungendore return trip at the bridge just past Queanbeyan station. Lots of interest here this time and great sunlight. It's an awesome spot for inbound movements.

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Sunday, 2nd September 2018

First-things-first on a Sunday morning in Canberra: Jamison Trash'n'Treasure, Mitchell Tip Shop, Woden Trash'n'Treasure and then Mugga Tip Shop. Found a few tid-bits, but nothing to call home about. Actually, Mitchell Tip shop was a bit out of control: they wanted AUD$25 for a monitor and set of computer speakers... what kind of 'gourmet' do they think they're selling? It's literally rubbish!

Made it back home to switch cars and then to Kingston railway to catch up with friends to grab some aerial video of the Bungendore shuttles. In the yard, 42103 and 4201 were hanging around, keeing the crowd entertained.


First stop was to be the bridge at Burbong, NSW. It's a great location, amazingly scenic, but the sun isn't always in the best location!

Fortunately, for a drone, the sun is absolutely no issue. Line-of-sight with too many trees can be... but we managed to find a great location. Nathan even had the 'VR' headset so I was watching the drone's viewpoint as he was flying it... pretty damn amazing!

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The train came in due course and ... it was beautiful. The locomotive was at full-tilt (the exhaust may well exclaim that) and the sights and sounds were awesome. It passed quite quickly but we caught further footage whilst everyone else was packing up.


And now, the best part... the drone footage! (Make sure to turn the quality right up!)

The next spot was in the Molonglo Gorge. I'd actually never been here... even though I'd lived in Canberra for ~28 years. Seriously disappointing actually, as it's an amazing location! The railway line snakes along the gorge hill-side through two tunnels and there's a few spaces along the access roads to get some great shots.

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Another pilot had a drone out (exactly the same model) and our flight paths were negotiated to not get in eachother's way. Not exactly an easy thing to do as your viewpoint from the drone can be based on the film you're trying to take rather than the drones around you... and they can also have the same idea... so we had our wits about us. There's also a no-fly-zone towards Queanbeyan, but we were far enough away from it.

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After that, it was back to family time before jetting back off to Melbourne. Usually my weekends are pretty quiet in Canberra, but this one was fantastic. Can only thank the NSW Rail Museum for the entertainment!

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Melbourne, Australia – August, 2018

There's been a bit of heritage activity around Melbourne recently and I thought I'd post a few pictures up-front, rather than letting them rot away in the albums.

Steamrail's Snow Train

This consist runs twice a year from Southern Cross to Traralgon. From there you can venture off on other tours of the countryside. It's usually run by two R class steam locomotives, as it was this year. I happened to ride on it last year, so instead chose to take photos of it this year.

The train ran on Sunday, 5th August. This perfectly aligns with the usual Sunday trash and treasure market adventures, and so I waited near the Oakleigh market. This also happens to be where the Skyrail comes back to earth, so I attempted a shot of the train coming off the viaduct.

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As you can see, R711 was up front and they powered through beautifully.

Excuse the long wind-up, you could hear the train coming well before you saw it!

707 Operations with R707 and A66

Another Sunday (26th August), another set of flea markets and another consist of vintage goodness. It even went the same way... and so did I. But this time I had enough time to get home and deliver the randomness I picked up before it came past the apartment. Therefore... the usual spot first, with the new location. It's a little harder to get the right shot as the train was on the furthest track!

XTrap through South Yarra A66 approaches Hawksburn A66 approaches Hawksburn

A66 approaches Hawksburn

And the poor steamer was getting lugged along behind. Perfect logic though, no running around when it wanted to return in the other direction!

R707 in tow through Hawksburn

It then came back through and I caught it around the bend at South Yarra. There were a few random trains in between though... like the steelie!

Steel rounds the bend from Richmond Steel rounds the bend from Richmond Steel approaching South Yarra Bridge

G536 on Steel approaching South Yarra Bridge

A multitude of sparks...

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And yes.. then the main event...

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R707 through South Yarra Station

And so that was the first trip... To Berwick and return. The second leg was to Stony Point and back, with a 20min stop at Patterson on the way there.

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A66 approaching Patterson

The stop wasn't overly practical... as it was really for the passengers and there wasn't much platform to stretch out on.

A66 at Patterson for tour photo-stop

I snuck down to the fence and, regardless of the lighting, I snapped away as the train departed.

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A66 and R707 depart Patterson

A66 and R707 depart Patterson

Always perfect to see these tours sell out and history preserved!

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Melbourne – The view from Tarneit Station

I've just recently posted photos of B74 leading through Tarneit and it occurred to me that I've now got a historical record of the changes to the landscape in the area.

The amount of building that's been going on behind the trains in the scenes below says it all. The first shot is from July 2016, we then have October 2016 and finally July 2018.




Sure, 2 years is a huge gap... things happen... nappy-valleys get built... but... it's just cool to see the change when I never even intended on recording it! Melbourne's urban (or rural?) sprawl is actually pretty hideous... these poor people will spend a quarter of their lives in their cars parked in traffic jams on highways.

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Melbourne – B74’s Birthday Bash

Another weekend in Melbourne brings about another Heritage Train Trip. This time it was Seymour Railway Heritage Centre running an excursion to celebrate the 65th Birthday of locomotive B74!

The trip was initially meant to run via Newport and Werribee, so I located myself on the curves into Albion Station to snap it as it came through. The following shot is of a track-machine transfer back in 2016 and shows the angle you can get from the road overpass.

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It was touch-and-go to get there in time... but then I noticed that the train had disappeared at Jacana junction. Broad-gauge trains only do this when they're running through Essendon into town, so I was a little perplexed. Further googling resulted in the revelation that the train would 'run around' at North Melbourne. I assumed it'd then run via the triangle and head into Newport... so I re-located to Brooklyn.

After a little time passed, I checked the radar and noted that the train hadn't actually shifted. Quickly off to the Facebook page for SRHC I went; only to find that the train was to run via the RRL! This was great news... but I was in the wrong location. I've previously caught consists approaching Tarneit before and wanted to do it again with this one. Back in the car... back on the highway... and based on timetables, with very little time to spare.

Regardless, by the time I got to Tarneit, the train had not moved from North Melbourne. Hah. Such is the Australian Railway life. I waited at the station and watched two train-loads of AFL fans head into Melbourne.

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Whilst this was happening, the suspense was building outside... Seems like others had a better idea as to where to find the perfect angle.


I had a better position inside on the walkway to the platform. There's a good viewpoint, framed nicely by the station and the signals (if you wish), that let me get the previous shot of the steamer in the link above. I was the only one there, with a nice and clear line-of-sight. In due course, the train thundered through...


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And then I was off to Sunbury for computer markets and tip-shop scrummaging.

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Main South – June 2018

I had to drive to Sydney for work.. so I via'd Canberra and the railway line. Didn't get to see much as I was mainly on-the-clock and had places to be... but fluked a few sightings. First up was perfect timing with the Harefield shuttle. Whilst waiting for it, there was (as there always is) amazing cloud formations to drool over. Not so easy to capture on an SLT though.


The light is never in the right area in the afternoon and so I've got a favourite place at the top of the climb from Harefield to Junee on an S-Bend. It gives you a minute possibiliy of having the loco on a good angle.


It also lets you take a photo of the train seemingly driving on the road...


And then some great angles of the consist traversing the curves...

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There's always a good lash-up on this train. Qube run the shuttle and, since it's such a short trip between Harefield and Junee, use a miriad of vintage locomotives.


There wasn't much else happening on the rails, so I bolted through to Harden and caught a northbound PN intermodal trying not to roll too fast down the hill.

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The leg from Canberra to Sydney was a little quieter, but I did manage to intercept a northbound SCT service just near Bargo. SCT have recently acquired a bunch of LDPs from QR who no longer do southern intermodal trains, so this was an interesting lash-up.


Next is the Griffith Explorer passing through Galong. This is train has an every-second-day timetable and isn't an easy one to catch. The weather was also disturbingly cold and wet.

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A few KMs down the track I intercepted the northbound Melbourne-Sydney XPT. It absolutely flew past me!

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Further down in Yerong Creek, I intercepted a north-bound Steel Train.

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In Culcairn I thought I found one of the ex-ARHS Canberra passenger cars, but alas, supposedly it's been here for years. I'm usually too distracted by the local bakery and don't actually check out this corner.

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The weather stayed absolutely awful...


But I hung around in the cold for the southbound XPT.

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And then continued home through a heavy downpour... car needed a wash anyway.


Melbourne Randomness – 2018

How do you post photos that (are really cool but) really don't relate to eachother and have been taken over a large period of time? You start a randomness-post! ...And so I present the following...

Here's Steamrail's Y112 passing through Hawksburn Station. Fortunately, I guessed the correct tracks and was in a good location.

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A regular in my area, the steel train is always trundling past. Here it is traversing the mudholes below Cromwell Road.

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And then again.. with an XR up front, this time.

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Now we're off to Flinders Street Station. Here we get to see Steamrail up to mischeif again with a double-ended heritage passenger train. They were running shuttles in all sorts of directions.

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One of the shuttles was off to Essendon, so I made my way to Kensington to see it fly though. Fortunately enough, SSR had their grain rake stabled there.


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A further shuttle then saw the consist pass through Hawksburn twice.

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Hanging around North Melbourne Station saw a newly refurbished Comeng set shunt around. These have had face-lifts, amongst other changes. The gangways between carriages are also now covered.


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Finally, another Steamrail shuttle was captured up north.

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And then... another steelie, from the other side of the tracks... with my old apartment in the background. Boo hoo.


...the end.