Wednesday, June 3, 2009

OZ Day 11: Busy Port Botany, Running On Bylong

9:32am: First train of the day: P&O Transport Australia trip train T280 with former CFCLA 4477 and leased CFCLA KL81 at Mascot siding. This train originated at the warehouse terminal at Yennora, on the city's west side, and was the first of three trains in a row from suburban container terminals bound for the docks.

Tuesday, April 21: Time was winding down on our Australian vacation; we'd allocated 2 1/2 days at the tail-end of the trip in Sydney. Of course, this wasn't enough, so we tried to pack as much into the final few days as we could.

From a rail photography standpoint, the main attraction was the amazing array of diesel-electric locomotives to be found working in the metropolitian area. Many of the cast-off old locos sold by the state railway in 1994 are still in use, either owned by some of the smaller rail operators or leased by CFCLA or rail heritage groups for continued use. And there's no better place to see them than the freight-only rail lines between Chullora/Enfield and Port Botany, where "trip trains" shuttle between the loading docks and container terminals on the fringes of Sydney.

We left the motel in Enfield around 8am, and negotiated surface streets to the Sydney International Airport, which the Port Botany goods line skirts on the north-east side. Goods trains are "curfewed" from traveling over CityRail's passenger lines until after rush-hour ends at 9am; freight carriers have until 3pm to get their trains across the passenger network, so that results in a lot of concentrated freight traffic during late morning and early afternoon. For a while, we were joined by railfan Paul Bartle, passing the time between trains discussing the strengths and weaknesses of Cricket vs. Baseball and dodging a brief rain shower now and then.

1023am: Our second train, T182, this one operated by Southern Shorthaul Railroad behind a pair of former Commonwealth Railway GM-class EMD bulldogs, GM27/GM22. This train came from the cramped container terminal at Sandown, north-east of Paramatta.

1023am: Going away view of the two classy GM's.

1031am: Right behind the SSR train comes Independent Railway of Australia's T250, a Minto-Port Botany service. This train is operated with power at both ends to expedite movement in and out of the port. Up front, leased Lachlan Valley 47 Class Goninan-Hitach 4703 in a grafitti-covered one-off green and yellow paint job (and four thumbs-up from the crew!). . .

. . .and on the rear, a leased Hunter Valley Railway Trust 44 class Goodwin-Alco cab unit, 4461 in another unique scheme, called the "Blood and Custer." IRA leases a number of "rent a wreck" 47 and 44 class units (at least 5 of the rare 44 class units currently).

1102am: Outbound from Botany, another example of IRA's motive power, a transfer move to the nearby Cooks River container terminal with MZ class 1433 up front. These are Swedish-built, 645 V20 EMD-powered units purchased secondhand from the Danish State Railways in 2006.

1115am: And unexpected move, Pacific National DL47, which we'd photographed a few days earlier on the 1871 freight, outbound from Port Botany. No telling who was the operator of this move.

1125am: And on his block, two more DL's, 46/49, likely a PatrickPortlink shuttle to Chulorra.
After this group of trains, we decided to go explore the Port, as best we could. Botany road provides an excellent platform to photograph movements from three tracks serving the port: the west and middle tracks are loaded directly from alongside ship berths; the east track serves another container yard served by trucks draying containers off the dock. We parked the Mitsubishi in a vacant lot at the base of the bridge, and headed up the convienent sidewalk and took in the action. We weren't disappointed.

1210pm: Immediately we were rewarded with the P&OTA train, pulling a string of container flats off the east track, the KL81 leading on this move. After clearing the crossovers, this train then shoved across and out of view down the west lead onto the docks. . .

1245pm: IRA's 1433 had returned from Cooks River with another string of cars for unloading, and shoved them down the west lead as well, stopping just as the POTA train reemerged from around the corner with the return loading for Yennora. . .

1258pm: Meanwhile, from the north side of the Botany Road overbridge, yet another movement shoved back to take the place on the east track vacated by the POTA train earlier. This appeared to be the Coote Industrial train from Sandgate terminal near Newcastle, powered by an all-green 80S1/442S5/RL306 power set--two Alcos and an 3500 hp EMD-power unit built by Morrison-Knudsen Australia and Rail Technical Support.

104pm: What of the middle track? As soon as Coote cleared the middle lead, out came CFCLA 44206 employed by. . . anyone? Beats us. So, Coote departed; 44206 makes a switching move, IRA waits for departure. . .

108pm: and in on one of the west lead tracks comes our Southern Shorthaul train, having run around its cars and now shoving back onto the loading dock. Three trains in one shot, two of them moving. Not bad for a cramped little facility. . .

109pm: Our SSR train kept shoving past the idling IRA Cooks River trip train. . . creating an amazing confluence symbolic of the world-wide influence EMD had in railroading: a bulldog GM from western Australia rubbing elbows with a Swedish/Danish import on the docks of Sydney. It's a small world, afterall!

After this little one-hour spooge-fest of highly-concentrated rail photography, we figured we'd done pretty good. We repaired to the nearby Maccas adjacent to Sydney's airport--the most amazing, high-tech McDonalds one could ever imagine--to check my laptop (did I mention Macca's had free wi-fi and I was now able to unlock the "magic box" of train information Charlie was using?) and grab a bite to eat. Clouds were now taking hold of much of the sky, and Lance and I thought we'd spend the afternoon driving out to Yenorra to see if and CLF/CLP class actually existed or not. While dining, of course, yet another IRA train neared the port, powered by yet another MZ class and. . . two of the most clapped-out, scabby-looking 44 class units one could imagine. One was the 4458, the other remains a mystery; one clad in dark-blue and white paint, the other in a tattered remnant of the "candy" paint. We were unable to get a photo of this sorry excuse for a locomotive consist, however, and headed west toward Yennora.

353pm: The light wasn't getting any better. Clouds grew thicker, and we decided we'd make a "hit and run" attack on the QRNational operation at Yennora. QRN operates Sydney-Brisbane services in both direction three times a week, with Sydney blocks generated from the container ramps at Yennora switched into these trains. Yennora was once the Sydney area's big wool market; now it's a big complex of warehouses spliced by a handful of half-mile-long tracks served by straddle loaders. We drove into the facility, in and between the warehouse buildings, dodging straddle-cranes straining with containers in their maws, looking for the power used on the Broadmeadow-Yennora transfers which handle the Sydney traffic. Success! CLP11/13--both in QRN paint--and freshly-painted QRN X54 were parked next to a warehouse. We got out and ambushed them--nowhere did we see no trespassing signs--and quickly departed. The 4477/KL81 off the POTA service were parked at the south end of the terminal. We headed back towards our motel, stopping en route at a work clothes store to load up on the high-visibility shirts that are all the rage among the working-class in Australia.
Long-time operators and mates: L-R James McInerney, Keiran Ryan, Ray Cunningham, Gary Laker, just a few of the "Ramblers" operating Ray Pilgrim's Bylong railway.
The Visit to Bylong. .

The evening agenda was a traditional Australian "Sunday Dinner" at the Pilgrim's place in Menai, followed by a running session on Ray's beautiful Bylong layout, joined by his round-robin group "The Ramblers." Despite the rush-hour traffic getting out of the city, we still arrived nearly on time for dinner, a lamb roast, potatoes, pumpkin and a delicious pie. It was first-rate, and reminded me that it'd been awhile since I'd eaten lamb (my Mom used to serve lambchops pretty regularly while I was growing up).

A dozen of us showed up to operate Ray's railroad, the first such running night he'd had in a couple of years. For the most part, the night went quite smoothly, though some of us (I'm not naming names) fell behind on their schedules. Not I, I'll gladly proclaim--as the driver of a goods train guarded by James McInerney, he cracked the whip on the Yank to keep the schedule! On one hand, the session reinforced the decision I'd made to build an Australian-based model railway. The level of operation, despite the warnings of the "leading lights" of US model railroading that Australian railroading didn't have enough "switching" or "interchange" opportunities to be interesting to US modelers, is more than enough to keep crews entertained. But the flip side of this is that Australian railways operate in such an entirely different manner than US railways do, and the challenge to "get it right" for me will have to extend to my US operators even more ignorant of Aussie operations than I am. And right now, I'm at the bottom of an amazingly steep learning curve.

Ray and Chris' hospitality, once more, made Lance and I feel like longtime friends, and for that we're both grateful and humbled. The bull session with the rest of the Ramblers around the dining room table was not much different than our own Pie Night experiences. It was a great ending to a very fulfilling day.

A view that hardly does justice to Ray's beautiful Bylong railway: Goods train and 620/720 rail motor set. . .


Ray P said...


Chris and I found you both very friendly, you were just as I had imagined after so many emails and I can imagine that you would fit in well here.

We were glad to be able to give you both a nice meal and a good time after your previous week or so since you first came. It gave me a real high.

Unfortunately, the day you left my work life 'exploded', every thing is OK now but it was intense for a while. I will write soon.


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