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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!

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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!

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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.


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.


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!


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.


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.



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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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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.




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


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!





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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