Thursday, May 7, 2009

OZ Day 6: Werris by Daylight, and Ardglen Bankers


A nice, clean, freshly painted 81 leads 28-car grain empty at Willow Tree. . .

Thursday, April 16: From the hotel in Quirindi, Charlie consulted the "magic box" and discovered three north bounds were headed towards Willow Tree from the south: a grain train, an IRA container train, and a coal train.

We intercepted the first, a 28-car PacNat grain empty led by two 81 Class, including 8164 brilliant in fresh yellow-nose paint, just north of Willow Tree; right on his heels was the IRA train led by a pair of "Helga" MZ class (had I mentioned these were constructed by Swedish builder NoHAB for the Danish National Railways and were purchased in 2005 by IRA?) with a lackluster loading of a dozen or so containers ahead of empty flats. We followed this one into town and photographed it pulling by the restored Werris Creek station heading for Tamworth. These MZ, by the way, are essentially Swedish SD45's, powered by an EMD 645-block V20. They don't have dynamic braking, however, and have been less than stellar performers for IRA. I liked the idea of calling them "Eurotrash."



Helga 1440 leads IRA train for Tamworth past Werris Creek's magnificent restored station. . .

We headed back to the PacNat offices at Werris Creek, and I introduced myself to PacNational's terminal manager, Marc Sobbel, a sharp guy in his mid-30s who was quite busy in his small office handling phone calls, dispatching vans, and sending crews out the door to their trains. I explained our encounter with his graveyard shift predecessor and apologized for any misunderstanding that might have happened. I fully expected him to just remind us that this was a busy terminal and he couldn't have unauthorized folks on the property, but Marc understood that as a group of professional railroaders ourselves--two from the U.S. and two from Sydney--we were probably okay to have on the property.

Marc arranged for one of his assistants to accompany us wherever we wanted to go for the next 45 minutes or so, a courtesy he didn't have to extend to us. We did a walking inspection of the power arranged around the turntable and shops area before heading back to the yard office. Marc came out and joined us for the last 15 minutes of our tour, and we compared notes about how railroading--crews, operations, management, you name it--differs in Australia than in the states. He also wondered how the U.S. railroads kept their locomotives so clean, an image he got from reading U.S. railfan magazines. Clearly, he wasn't reading the same magazines WE do! We thanked him again for his time and again were renewed in our belief that if local managers are empowered and allowed to make decisions as simple as allowing guests on the property to take photographs in a safe manner, they're probably going to do a better job for the company than those who follow strict company-line-at-all-costs. He'd be a great front-line manager on a U.S. railroad, if he decided to move abroad. Thanks again, Marc!



48 class everywhere around the turntable at Werris Creek. . .

Two coal loads were nearing town from Gunnedah, and they'd need a push over Ardglen summit, around 30 miles to the south, so we headed off towards Willow Tree, where the banker engines would be added. In the crossing loop for the first coal train at Quirindi was an El Zorro grain empty powered by a nice matched set of four EL class CFCLA leasers. El Zorro had landed several contracts from Australian Wheat Board once handled by PacNat, and they were running four train between North-West points and Newcastle.


Three 82 class head up 72-car coal load at Chilcott's Creek. . .


. . on the rear banking, 80 Class 8012/8003 (in original
1980 Indian Red paint). . .


. . .8045 and 81 Class EMD 8181. . .

After quick take-away lunch at Willow Tree--I had a burger with "the works," which in Australian parlance means everything you get in the States plus egg, a slice of pineapple, and beet root--we photographed the first coal load gather momentum out of Willow Tree and curve into the sag over Chilcott's Creek before bearing down for the slog to Ardglen. Three 82 class are standard power on the 72 car, 5500T train, with power around 3900'--quite a bit smaller than the standard Powder River Basin coalie Lance and I were used to. But even with 9000 hp up front, another 9000 was required on the rear--three 80 Class Alcos and an EMD 81 class--to surmount the 2.5% grade (1 in 40, in Australian parlance).


Beat to hell, but at least they're in service! 8003 and 8045 at Ardglen. . .
.
The bankers drop off on the fly--they're merely nudged against the rear coupler of the coalie with the cut-lever in the open position--and dropped down the hill to Kankool to meet the southbound Explorer passenger train for Sydney. The next coal load was waiting at Willow Tree when we arrived, and we followed this one up the hill also, photographing it from atop the new road overbridge built at Ardglen quarry. One thing struck us about the very loud trio of 80 Class Alcos: they were perhaps the cleanest running trio of 251-powered locomotives we'd ever seen. Still, after seeing this video, we were sorry we missed the days of solid Alco power by just a decade or so (turn up volume!)--those 82 Class, while no doubt efficent, are pretty soul-less in the sound department.


Up to Ardglen comes another coal train on the 2.5% grade: 3 82's up fron on the 5500T train. . .
and our bankers, bringing up the rear, ready to drop off. . .
.
We wanted to make Narrabri by sunset, hoping for a train or two on the way, but the rails were quiet the 100-miles or so from Willow tree. Signal crews were extending the CTC all the way to Boggabi, and solar-powered lower-quadrant semaphores there seemed to be on borrowed time.
.

Crashed out on the station bench at Willow Tree: he even slept through thrashing Alcos pushing past on the coal train. . .


Advancing CTC will soon doom the home signal at Boggabri. . .
.
A fireball sunset was nearing as we drove into Narrabri Junction, where the branch west of Walgett diverges from the mainline to Moree; just west of the junction was the small container yard at Narrabri West. I gave Lance directions into the place--even though I'd never been there before--based on looking the place over on Google Earth several times. This is the section of the railways in NSW I'm modeling, so I'm pretty familiar with at least what used to be at Narrabri.


El Zorro leased EL's prepare to depart Northwest Producers at Narrabri West. . .
.
PacNational still uses the old chargeman's office at Narrabri West, the last surviving structure of the old locomotive depot. Stored next to the mainline were four 48 Class, glinting magnificently in the setting sunlight and reflected in a puddle of water from recent rains. I took a moment to ask the railroaders milling around on the office's front porch what we might expect to see the next morning, and they alerted us to an El Zorro train just west of town pulling container loads off a siding track. We blasted west to where the four EL class from earlier in the day were preparing to depart after picking up their train. The light--pure golden glow glint with a setting sun--was magnificent, a great way to end a day of photography in the northwest.

Dusk at the soutbound Home signal at Narrabri. . .
.
We found a motel room on the north side of town and stopped by the passenger station area after a mediocre Chinese dinner (we were the only diners in the place; the waitress didn't speak a word to us; the mood music was one Chinese song. . .over. . .and over. . .and over. . .) I made a few exposures of the southbound stop semaphore under the spinning stars overhead, and we called it another day.

12 comments:

DPLassen said...

How the heck does beet root taste on a burger, anyway?

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Blair, looks like you had a great time over there!

Cheers,


MAP

Anonymous said...

When I had a burger over there, it was not with "the works", but "the lot". The product handed to me was the same as you describe . . . . ewwww, what a mess.
-Em

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