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A Western Victorian Daytrip: Ararat

There was a model railway show on in Ararat... sure, I could've taken the MR2, but I'm getting old and lazy and therefore shouldered with the geezers onto vintage trains instead.

Getting to Ararat via The Overland

OK, I lied about vintage... well... nearly. The Overland could nearly be defined as vintage. The carriages are from the 1960s, but have been kept reasonably up-to-date. It's an easy trip from Melbourne to Adelaide on this service, or so I believe... I've only been as far as Ararat on it. Ararat needs 3.5 hours, whereas it's a whole daytrip to get to Adelaide.

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The consist is loco-hauled and Pacific National gets the honours. Unfortunately, The Overland is provided with a standard NR Class locomotive and isn't offered a livery of its own (unlike The Ghan and The Indian Pacific.) So, due to loco-hauled-goodness, the rake of passenger cars is pulled from the freight yards by a wrong-way-round locomotive into Southern Cross Station. From there, the loco detaches from the rear-end and runs around to the front-end.

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From here, we just wait for the XPT to slug off to Sydney prior to receiving a green light. Inside the train, you're presented with a very run-of-the-mill economy class cabin. It's not ugly, it's not uncomfortable... and it's not modern. Actually... with the standard gauge track to Adelaide being what it is (a freight track) the seats really do help! Unfortunately, the carriages are leaf-sprung and so I can only recommend holding on to whatever you can if you're trying to get to the dunny or the bar car.

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And yes... I said bar car! Unfortunately it was 8am... so I didn't bother sampling the great wine and beer that Australia has to offer. I did enjoy the view though... it's looking very dry out west!

Ararat

We arrived a few minutes late into a very warm Ararat. The Overland doesn't hang around after dropping-off/picking-up... the engine revved nicely and got out of there in no time.

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Straight away there were things to see as VicTrack is currently upgrading the line between Ararat and Maryborough to Standard Gauge. Actually, as I write this, both a grain and a fruit train have traversed the line (at around 20km/h) with revenue services! Two ballast trains were in the yard, but we weren't too sure what they were going to do.

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Oh yeah... we were here for a model railway show... it was dismal. I mean, credit where due, thank you to Ararat for putting on a show! But there were only 4 layouts and a few shops. Still, one of my favourites was there!

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I need to work on model railway photography! But anyway... what else to do in Ararat? Well... we brought a DJI Phantom with us...

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And wanted to catch both BG and SG trains... but we chose a stupid position as I'd gotten confused with the BG and SG and the new SG to Maryborough! Either way, the trains came in and were captured.

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Getting Home

That V/Locity that rolled in above took us home at a leisurely rate of 160km/h when possible and on very smooth track. It even sounded a lot healthier than the NR class that towed us in on the more-narrow tracks. There's actually nothing to mention about the trip as V/Line do an amazing job with regional Victoria.

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8Jan/180

The annual Christmas pilgrimage – December, 2017

Both directions this time... also some nice new liveries thanks to SCT's new east-coast running. Aurizon's (QR) last intermodal also passed through, but I wasn't going to get up at 0400 to see it. Early on a Thursday, Qube was first off the blocks with a southbound CM service from Harefield.

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I then just managed to catch the Southbound Albury V/Line service just south of Benalla. Last time I tried to do this I received a speeding ticket.

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The new livery is being called "Polly Waffle" or "Turkish Delight". It's really a little-too-bright, but hey... something different. I then caught a southbound steelie at Bomen... but lighting wasn't the best.

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A bit further on, I fluked a meeting with the southbound Qube Harefield shuttle. First time I've seen the 44s actually moving!

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Further into Junee saw a pair of 81s shunting around... the best part was that they were coming off the Coolamon branch to head north!

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And so... I checked in to my hotel and then bolted to Frampton Siding once they started moving. This is an adjusted alignment for northbound freight to get over the grade... hence the veering to the left.

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The usual midday lull coincided with a dip in the pool. Alerts were set so that I knew when something was approaching. This time it was to be a single QBX flogging it up the mainline with a rake of new flats for the Harefield service.

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Pretty random and moving! Couldn't beat it back to Junee. The afternoon was then spent at Jindalee. First up was a pair of CSRs on a southbound intermodal. I'm starting to like them, even though they had a problematic (asbestos! reliability!) debut.

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Of course, an evening in Coota isn't complete without an NR-led heavy freight through the curves. This time from a little higher up the road.

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And finally a trio of 81s with an empty grain.

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A week was then spent in CBR with the family. On the return trip, I chose to spend another night in the country to catch a few special movements. First up was a northbound steel train of which I just managed to get at Cootamundra.

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And next was the fun part. There was a shutdown between Melbourne and Adelaide, so all westbound services from SCT were being redirected via Parkes... talk about the long way around!

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Terrible morning light meant awful photos... but it was cool to see an intermodal using the other leg of the triangle. Later on in the afternoon a grain train was held in the loop to the east of Cootamundra to let the XPT and then a northbound intermodal pass.

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I then caught the grain train itself around the curves at Jindalee.

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Finally, an Ore train came south from Stockinbingal. These always have random locos on them. This time it was two 82s with an 81 sandwiched inbetween. The last 82 had a nice fresh paintscheme as well!

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After that last shot, I travelled a little further up the hill from the usual photo-point on West Jindalee Road. Turns out, further up, you can see a lot more of the trains coming down the curves. This was perfect, as there were two southbound intermodals on their way.

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I then returned to Melbourne the following day, as there was an SSR grain train loading at The Rock. Originally with 4 locos, it'd left two in the station area and I perfectly timed getting there to see the northbound steel.

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The rest of the grain train was busy loading in the silos...

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And that was another successful christmas trip. I tried a few tip-shops on the way back, but the only one open was Wagga Wagga and there wasn't much to be bought. Albury and Wodonga both seem to have huge tip-shops, but they were closed for the holiday season!

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18Sep/170

Hobart – September, 2017

Thanks to dirt-cheap fares from Jetstar, I ended up in Hobart for a weekend. The majority of the time was spent recycle-shopping (aim for the rubbish tips!), but I did manage to check out the freight hub in Brighton.

The railway used to run through to the port at Hobart, but have since been truncated back up to a new Freight Hub in Brighton. I had a hire car and it was easy enough to do a lap around the terminal. The sun was hit-and-miss, but the scenery was fantastic.

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The servicing/fueling shed is close to the road. Locos were stabled and chocked; the next day the whole consist had left. I had heard that most freight runs during the night, so I wasn't really expecting to see anything active. The forklifts were busy preparing the consist though!

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The majority of locomotives were a newer TR class, but 2151 was sitting behind sheds... I wonder if it was the local shunter? Or in storage. Anyway, it was back to the recycle shopping... I'll plan a Tassie-wide drive next time and chase trains up north where they're more frequent.

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26Jun/170

Steamrail Victoria, Ballarat Triple-Header – June 2017

Steamrail Victoria is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the restoration and operation of vintage steam, diesel and electric locomotives and carriages. Running out of the Newport Workshops in Melbourne, they have quite an extensive fleet of vehicles and regularly run trips throughout Victoria.

They recently put three of their steam locomotives on a trip to Ballarat. The consist then ran to Geelong where it split and ran side-by-side for the first part of the return trip to Melbourne. Due to initial delays, I only saw it on the first leg after Bacchus Marsh, but it was well worth the wait!

Climbing out of Parwan

The grade from Bacchus Marsh to Bank Box Loop is steep and so a large deviation is in place, in the shape of a horse-shoe, to spread the incline over a longer distance. From the top of the grade, you can see trains coming round the bend from quite a distance away. This made it a great viewing spot for the steam train as it approached.

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As you can see, it was a constant battle with cloud-cover, but then the heavens opened up.

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The engines were perfectly ordered, smallest to largest, and both looked and sounded great up the incline! There was quite a turnout to see them.

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At the top of the incline, there's a loop known as Bank Box. The consist was delayed here again whilst one of the locomotives was inspected. Due to the weather, I nearly gave up waiting... but then the unmistakable sound of steam locomotives (and a level crossing) indicated that they were en-route.

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I must admit... black is really hard to photograph!

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Other sightings on the day

Just before Bacchus Marsh, there's a great curve just off Woolpack Rd and I happened to be right in time for a down Ballarat V/Locity service.

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This would actually be a great spot to get anything Melbourne-bound in the morning. The lighting and scenery is awesome. I then managed to catch the same train (and quite a few others, due to the late running of the steamer), up off McCormacks Road.

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And then IEV100 came through! I saw mentions of it on Facebook heading through Sunshine... only to then hear a sighting in Melton. Fingers-crossed... it appeared!

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And that was it for the day... a lot of waiting in a seriously cold breeze... but great people and great trains.

8May/170

B75 makes a return on the Maryvale Paper Train

Recorded on Friday night, B75 is back leading the down services. It's now been on the train with B74 and G515 over the last 2 nights. If only they'd put B76 on there and take off the G!

Excuse the lead-up... you could hear the bulldog well before you could see it!

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24Jan/170

B75 helps out Qube on the Maryvale Paper Train

This freight train operates in South-East Victoria. It runs from the terminal at Dynon and carries containerised paper products to and from the Australian Paper mill at Maryvale.

Qube operates the service and is often changing the motive power around. They have a good selection of locomotives, but recently have suffered a few failures in their more powerful units. Due to this, there's been a random selection of lesser-powered locomotives, meaning more units and more variety.

23th January 2017

The word had spread that B75 had been leant to Qube and would be leading the nightly service. It usually passes South Yarra just before 8pm, but, of course, was running late last night. Fortunately there was just enough light to snap it.

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I was hoping it'd take the down Frankston line, but it instead stayed on it's usual down Pakenham. You could hear it coming.. the B sounded awesome with the S and VL behind it making just as much noise.

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Nice and dark at 8:32pm, but I'm still happy with the result.

24th January 2017

Turns out this might be a regular event! The G classes must still be out of action. Nothing like a bit of sunlight to help out evening photography.

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25th January 2017

This time I tackled the train head-on from platform 2 at South Yarra station.

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Still looking just as clean and tidy as ever.

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26th January 2017

This was to be the final day that B75 was helping out... It seems that the drivers wanted to do something special, and so instead of just driving the consist back, they ran B75 around at Morwell and had her lead back. It was also Australia Day, so there were flags hanging from the wing mirrors.

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I really want to thank Qube for putting this show on!

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23Jan/170

SCT begins Melbourne to Brisbane freight services

SCT has always had an agreement with Aurizon to provide a small loading for north-bound freight services. This has recently expanded into a full-sized consist and SCT are now running the services themselves. The very first Melbourne-Brisbane service ran on Saturday the 21st of January 2017, departing the SCT Laverton terminal just after 8pm.

Thanks to daylight savings, there was a chance to actually get a photo around Sunshine Station. Aptly named in this circumstance... The area provides a view of the BG and SG tracks, with a set of grain silos as a backdrop. The usual V/Line and Metro services provided entertainment whilst waiting for the freights.

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The Melbourne-bound XPT bolted through, only a little bit late.

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Aurizon then came through with 7BM7, only to later have an extended stay in Wagga Wagga. I do love that they cleaned the grime off the front logo.

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7MC2 started to depart Dynon, but the XPT also jumped. The XPT was therefore given priority.

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7MC2 then spooled up. From Sunshine, you could hear it accelerating from stand-still over in Tottenham.

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It sounded and looked fine as it passed... but it failed not too much further down the line, crawling into Seymour. It didn't continue its trip to Junee until the next day when two other locomotives joined it.

Up next, the SCT consist. SCT011 was attached at SCT Laverton to pull the whole train out of the yard and onto the main line. It then detached and SCT004 had the honours of pulling the train around the bend at Spotswood and over the triangle. From Sunshine, the train could be heard well before it was visible, as the wheel screeching over the triangle was tremendous.

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It had an interesting consist, with the crew car 7 cars back from the locomotives.

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And that was a wrap... the sun hardly held up for the late departure... I might try and get it earlier down the track next weekend. It's really great to see more colour on the eastern corridor.

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16Jan/170

The annual Christmas pilgrimage – December, 2016

Just like the christmas trip in 2015, this trip just past for 2016 Xmas wasn't overly different. Still a great location with a lot of sightings. An early start out of Melbourne meant an easy trip onto the Hume highway. I caught the southbound XPT just out of Kilmore and a southbound inter-modal in Seymour.

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After a speeding ticket in Benalla, I b-line'd it straight to the Olympic Highway. It's a nice drive, off the beaten path, and away from influences to do stupid things on the road. First stop was at Harefield and I was greeted by an IRA 44 Class! Qube has taken ownership of a few of them and has been using one for the shuttle into Junee.

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Not much was happening in the yard, so it was a bolt further north to intercept the southbound steel train. I beat it through Illabo, meeting it on a driveway half way between Illabo and Bethungra.

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From there it was off to Cootamundra to tackle the XPT. I tried to beat it to Jindalee, but it won. Instead I then backtracked and got it at the station.

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At this time of day, between the two XPTs, there's always a quiet time when the sun is at it's peak and the rails are buckling. Due to this, I took time to have lunch and check out the pool at the usual motel.

Back to it... the XPT was fast approaching from the south and I wanted to get it at Jindalee this time.

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And then something weird happened... an off-the-radar rail-grinder rolled through! I love being in the-right-place-at-the-right-time.

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And of course, being zoomed-in and distracted, I hadn't realised that the 81+82 on the grain train were steadily already rolling towards me.

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The next train was a bunch of QBXs heading south to Junee. I had enough time, so I thought I'd try something different at Wallendbeen.

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That angle worked really well! I then caught them again past Jindalee on a driveway half-way back to Cootamundra.

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They didn't slow down through Coota, so I kept to the limit and then got in front of them before Bethungra.

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I had a really hard time keeping up with them once they were on the other side of the spiral. It's all downhill for them and me, but they were doing somewhere around 95km/h and made it hard to catch up when the speed limit was 100km/h. We were both fast-approaching Junee and I managed around a 50 metre advantage; just enough to park road-side safely and snap a shot above some lovely green pastures.

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From here, it was Junee yard.

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From there, it was back to Wallendbeen to catch the next southbound intermodal.

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I got in front of it and made it to another driveway past Jindalee, but before Coota.

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The sun was already starting to lose light, but there was still enough time to get the 2 QBXs that were coming in via Stockinbingal.

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Nothing was next on the radar, so I checked out the yard at Coota. Turns out there was a bit of shunting going on to get a grain train to fit in the yard.

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That steel wagon must have been defective as it was sitting by itself, blocking one road, to start with. It ended up being shunted into another road onto so that the arriving train could stash half of its wagons there. Pretty quick work actually. Nice to hear the 81s powering up and down when shunting a whole train to shift one wagon.

After this, it was dinner time... an early start on the radar showed, what should have been, a great opportunity for a cross at Yass Junction. Due to this I packed up and got on the road early. Thanks to my miscalculation, the pass actually happened around Goondah and the light was terrible. Instead I forged ahead to Yass and got the northbound grain there.

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I really do like that angle. From the grain silo, instead of the platform, you can get a nice long telephoto shot of the descent into the Junction. From here, it was off to Canberra and there's not much going on nowadays with the Museum closed and the scrap metal train done.

On the way back to Melbourne, I saw an opportunity for a shot at Jindalee of a northbound grain train. This all lined up well ... very well ... as the-right-place-at-the-right-time happened again.

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The grain train then appeared.

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A quick stop was had in Cootamundra to snap the Lachlan Valley Railway sheds where they have a nice collection of railmotors and 47 class locomotives.

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And then finally, after a pie at Culcairn, I caught up to a southbound freighter at Henty.

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The dim weather on the way back turned much dimmer over Seymour where visibility actually dropped to around 10 metres. Most people parked on the side of the road; but I didn't see that as 100% necessary and a few of us kept on driving through the car wash.

Another awesome pilgrimage!

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3Jan/170

The annual Christmas pilgrimage – December, 2015

This post is only around a year late. I've recently done this trip from Melbourne to Canberra to visit the family for Christmas and, whilst taking happy snaps this year (well, 2016), realised I had misplaced the photos I'd taken last year (well, 2015). Turns out they were sitting in a folder on the desktop of my (now disused) Vaio Duo.

Anyway, the annual pilgrimage includes a stopover in Cootamundra. I've now stayed at the Cootamundra Gardens Motel three times and have never been disappointed. Coota heats up during the day and the motel even has a pool! You're also in ear-shot of the railway and level crossing on Gundagai Road.

Cootamundra is a great spot to stop. It's the junction of the "west" line to Parkes and the "main south." You get grain trains frequently as the station precinct includes grain storage facilities. You also get the east-coast steel trains and intermodals. There's the XPT and also the Griffith Xplorer (when they're running.) As I mentioned, it also gets very hot, so sunlight usually isn't an issue... also, there's the occasional thunderstorm at this time of year, so the backgrounds can be quite picturesque.

Speaking of picturesque, there's a lot of great photo opportunities to be had in the area...

Jindalee

Heading North out of Cootamundra, you'll cross the railway and then hit the 100 km/h zone. From here, you run parallel with the railway until North Jindalee Road. Turn left into North Jindalee Road then then left again into West Jindalee Road. This is a dirt road that happens to cross the railway where it deviates to negotiate the climb to Wallendbeen. From this bridge, if you're willing to drag your car over the dirt track (which is actually in great condition), you get a great view of the curves on both sides.

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Between Jindalee and Cootamundra

There are numerous level crossings along the stretch where the railway line parallels the highway between Jindalee and Cootamundra. Most of these are private property driveways, so be courteous and do not overstay your welcome.

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Berthong Road Level Crossing

From Cootamundra, take Temora Road north. Once in the 100 km/h zone, take the second right turn. It's a cross-roads and, after turning right, you'll quickly come to a level crossing with ample space to park. Berthong Road provides a great location to get south-bound trains at any time of day. It is also a great place to get north-bound, but the lighting is better in the evening.

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Bob Dear's Crossing

I don't know who Bob was, but just east out of Cootamundra is a fully equipped level crossing. You can get a good angle from below track-level on west-bound trains.

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North Bethungra Level Crossing

When approaching Bethungra from Cootamundra, the highway crosses the rails just north of the spiral. This location provides a great view in both directions; just make sure you choose the right side before the lights start flashing.

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Bethungra Spiral

This helix was created to enable heavy trains to climb the gradient what was too steep for a straight run. The south-bound track doesn't run the loop, only the north-bound track does. The basic idea is that the track is constructed in a loop that gradually inclines, allowing trains to keep speed and climb at the same time. Tunnels are used to allow tracks to cross.

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There is an access road (look for the Bethungra Waterworks sign) that will take you up to some amazing vantage points. Trucks and other machinery often use this road, so please make sure you park your vehicle out of the way!

Junee to Harefield

Junee is another junction-town like Cootamundra. It also hosts a range of accomodation and constant activity. There's a roundhouse also, which has a miriad of rollingstock hanging around in various states of (dis)repair. Qube has recently been running shuttles out of Junee to Harefield to build their consists which then run to Melbourne and Sydney. The rail from Junee to Harefield is relatively straight, but has some great curves mid-way.

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Fortunately, you can then cruise down the highway and meet any train again at Harefield itself. There's usually always activity here with a train being loaded or shunted.

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So, this was 2015... I've got a wad of photos from 2016 to post now... but I'll let this lot settle first.

2Nov/160

Melbourne – Cup Day 2016

Usually public holidays means very little freight traffic, but everything-and-more was running yesterday! I promised myself to sit in front of the computer, and work on computer-related-projects, but gave up quickly when I looked at the radar and saw that XR554 was leading the Long Island. I ran out of the apartment and just managed to catch the Metro Frankston train in front of the freighter from Hawksburn Station.

Glenhuntly Station - Long Island Steel Train

Glenhuntly Station was chosen as the vantage point. I'd always wanted a shot of the steelie coming round the bend. This intersection happens to be a 'Tram Square' where tram lines cross the railway lines. The catenary has to cross at this point too, and so only one network is energised at a time. There are insulators isolating the crossing wires and, I would assume, there is some large electrical switch that chooses which network is powered into the junction.

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I was paying too much attention to the infrastructure and nearly didn't hear the freighter approaching!

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The sun came out perfectly for the curve. Very happy to see an XR in the lead.

Two 49s and a Tamper

I was about to head home, and continue that work I promised myself, when saw something strange on the radar. A 49 Class NSW Locomotive heading south into Melbourne. These are sorta like the Victorian T Class, and aren't often down south. Not really knowing a good location, I attempted somewhere new, on-foot. From Albion Station on the Subury Line, I walked over to the curve where the Standard Gauge joins (or re-joins, really) the electrified broad gauge.

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Turned out to be a pretty good location! One other on-looker had already been waiting there too. The colour-scheme looks really good on this loco, especially in overcast lighting.

CSR002 - The Sugar Cube

The map indicated that the new SCT movement was coming through next. It wasn't for about an hour though, so I caught the train back to Sunshine and got lunch at the mall. I also purchased an external battery pack for my phone, as the radar does happily trash one's battery. These batteries usually come pre-charged and this brick happily gave me a full charge prior to giving up the ghost. After mucking around and not paying attention to the radar, I realised that I was now running late and that CSR002 was already at Jacana. A quick run from the mall straight to the overpass saw me back in location with around 1 minute to spare.

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These sugar cubes get their name from their very boxy shape, and the fact that their class name is 'CSR' (a famous Australian sugar company.) The train hurtled round the bend with 2 vans which it had retrieved from the new SCT depot in Wodonga.

The 49s return home

These two didn't hang around long. After the CSR came through, I ventured back to Albion station and awaited the next Metro train. I just missed one and so the next service wasn't for ~20mins. This was fortunate as the 49s showed up on the radar on the triangle near the LPC in Dynon. It turns out that they were turning around on the triangle; I assume 4911 has the accreditation to run in VIC and 4917 was there as backup.

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They bolted through at track-speed and headed home. It always seems to be the days you least expect that provide the most excitement.