John, Paul, Charlie, Lance and Blair at Goulburn's favorite photo stop. . .
Sunday, April 19: This truly was the most disappointing day of the trip so far. We started with two strikes against us: cloudy skies when we woke up, and no trains. A check of Charlie's Magic Box before leaving the motel in Gunning didn't offer us much in the way of hope for the day's trains. Nothing out of Albury, several hours to the west, and it looked like the first two westbound were several hours away. So we all had a great breakfast at the Merino Cafe, the sort of place you really wouldn't expect in rural, tiny Gunning: a funky, hip atmosphere, a higher-level of menu sophistication than the usual small-down diner. After the French Toast was put away, we headed east to Goulburn, one-time terminal on the double-track main south between Sydney and Melbourne.
These days, Goulburn is familiar to travelers on the Hume Highway for the giant Merino ram statue on the west side of town. Australia has had a long history of erecting giant "things" alongside their highways, from apples to axes, guitars to bananas, cheese, cherries, and chook. And now this ram, honoring the area's wool growing heritage (New South Wales, the saying goes, was carried on the back of sheep). The 45-foot-tall concrete ram has an illuminated "evil eye" you can see from the traffic circle out front, but what really gets the tourist's attention--and gives them a knowing smirk--is the, um, anatomically correct backside. Specifically, the humongeous set of balls this ram has that must be 6 feet in diameter. Kids to adults to grandparents: they all can't supress a smile and a second glance while walking by. And which end of the ram do you think most people pose in front of? It ain't the front! And we weren't immune, either, posing for a group shot before heading into the gift shop to pick up some Aussie trinkets.
The Giant Merino: Impressive from the front. . .
. . and even moreso from the back!
The skies looked dark and wet to the east; Lance, Paul and Charlie headed off to the downtown station to pass time, John and I visited the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre at the old loco depot, which has a pretty good-sized collection of preserved--some, even restored--railway equipment. There's the bus-like pay car that carried Queen Elizabeth; several steel passenger carriages; a few freight wagons, guard vans and commuter cars from Sydney as well. Two NSWGR diesel locomotives are also part of the collection, 421 class Bulldog 42101, in worn candy paint and under slow restoration, and beautifully restored Alco 4821 in glossy Indian Red paint. John and I checked out the tiny cab of the loco, complete with dual control stands and a hot plate for the billy. It was clear that most railroaders who worked on these were a bit more trim than myself, as I had to squeeze through the narrow doorway before John could get a photo of me at the controls. Also at the roundhouse were two other bulldog GM's, ex-Australian National GM 19, and former Victorian Railways S312, privately owned by an individual restoring them for lease service under the name "Rail Power." The S appears to be about ready for service, in shiny black and yellow paint; the GM19 has a ways to go.
Candy-painted bulldog 42101 inside the Goulburn roundhouse. . .
Blair and John pose in nicely-restored Alco 4821. . .
42101 undergoes slow restoration . . .
Reunited with the others, we watched an eastbound Explorer come and go at the station, then headed in the direction of Sydney. A Pacific National intermodal train was headed our way, and hopefully behind him would by the 7BM7 QRNational train, supposedly with a CL-class bulldog leading. It rained off and on the further east we went. The QRN train was falling further and further behing schedule. We drove into Exeter, a small country town with photogenic station and signal tower (now closed) and watched another Explorer blast through town at speed, literally clearing the high-level platforms by inches. It was looking bleak for any trains today on this the "transcon"of Australia. John bid us adieu, with appointments to keep in Canberra, and the rest of us headed into Bundanoon and photographed the westbound PN train behind "Southern Spirit" painted NR 85 in bleak, bleak light--thanks to the capabilities of digital, making a good action shot in these conditions is possible.
Sydney-bound Griffith "Exploder" departs Goulburn. . .
Canberra Explorer flies through Exeter on the Up main. . .
Ever hopeful that our QR train would depart the Sydney area AND we'd suddenly be honored with an amazing break of the clouds and a perfectly-timed shaft of light, we waited a bit more in the murk and rain at Burradoo. . . and had no such luck. Sunset--in theory, at least--was just moments away, and we drove back to Gunning for yet another fine Chinese dinner and put an end to a day with very little to show for our efforts. After dinner, we took several star-streak shots in beautiful downtown Gunning, photographing upper-quadrant semaphores and the goods crane against a stunning sky before the clouds which had been with us all day once again exerted their dominance over the sky.