Johnny's Pages
Old S.A.R. Shunter's Memories

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N. S. W. G. R.

(New South Wales Government Railways)


Pages:   1,   2,   3,   4,   5,   6,   7,   8,   9,   10,   111213141516.

Page 1

This is well worth the full read



Steam was still alive and well in the early 1960's on the New South Wales Government Railways, although the internal combustion diesels and electrics had began the march to favouratism, a steam fan could still get plenty of action. What then to fulfill a dream and become a driver of a steam locomotive in those days.

I would like to take you back in time to when, as a lad, I achieved such a dream, but alas, it was all too near the end and my dream was relatively short lived. However, I feel sure you will glean some interest from some of the happenings I recall.  My biggest failing, I was not a photographer, or jotter of notes, so all comes from memory.

I enjoyed a 9 year career on the NSWGR's, many things good, bad and indifferent occurred during that period and although l was not one to keep records of events, my feeble memory should allow me to relate many events to you through these pages of Teditor's Tales! I hope you enjoy the journey with me!

As a youngster, I was fortunate to have a father (Norm) who was interested in trains, dad did not work on the railway though, although he was a skilled and prolific scratch builder of `O gauge brass and whitemetal NSWGR steam loco's. I well recall a model of a streamlined 38 class that was well under construction and a magnificent model of a `P' 32 class 4-6-0. Along the way, dad took me to `O' Gauge House at Ashfield, where I marvelled at the wonderful big trains, I can recall that the layout was set fairly high and I was given a vantage point on top of a tall stool on one occasion, I promptly fell off and was shy to get back up on to my unstable perch to resume train watching.

Along the way, I can recall owning a Ferris Spirit of Progress 0 gauge tin-plate set as well as some Robilt trains, but for my eleventh Christmas, my interest in trains really soared when I received a Tri-ang HO/00 train set from Santa. When I eventually pried my father and brother-in-law away from the trains, I was hooked.

It was about then that I also benefited from dad's employment as a tram conductor, he would receive an annual rail pass and felt I was old enough to take away for a train adventure. As best I can remember, the first, excursion was to Melbourne, the second to Broken Hill, I remember this one a little better, staying with relatives at Orange, travelling on the Silver City Comet with kangaroos attempting to pace us as the wheels felt like they were dropping into enormous cavities in each rail at each track joint. And finally succumbing to lousy water induced queasiness at Broken Hill itself. (As I recall, we drank Coke to try and avoid the problem, but it was made with local water anyway).

The trip that really sank in though, was the last one Dad and I made together to Brisbane, 4510 at South Brisbane Station.
On this occasion I became a bit of a shutter bug and took photos of our sojourn to the northern state. I well remember our long train of non-airconditioned wooden coaching stock headed by a modern 45 class Alco hood unit #4510. While most of the trip is fairly vague, the site of that diesel locomotive leading our snake of coaches has sunk in my mind.

Queensland was a real eye opener, at Roma Street we saw hoards of steam locomotives on suburban passenger trains, locomotives with smoke and steam drifting across the horizon as the sleeping behemoths (I was still a kid you know!) awaited their turn of duty. 

It was this railway adventure that cemented in my head that I wanted to be a train driver. 

Page 2


I left school at the ripe old age of 14 and took on a job as a truckies off-sider with my brother-in-law (Barry) on his Sharp Soft Drink run. I enjoyed this vocation and we changed a couple of times to Mayne Nickless and then TNT, Barry's old F100 Ford flatbed receiving a new paint job each time.

My eventual intention though was to become a train driver.
In those days, education wasn't everything like it is now and all I had to do was wait till just prior to my 16th birthday, apply to the NSWGR's and do the entry exam (which I knew wouldn't be too hard). One obstacle I faced was the medical, I had been involved in a serious car accident at age seven and received a fractured skull (now you all know what's wrong!) that had left me with a few problems health wise.

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Eveleigh Large Erecting Shop

Eventually the big day arrived, I sat for the entry exam and was notified in due course that I had passed. Now onto the medical, this obstacle was also overcome without any major dramas and I was accepted to the position of a shop-boy to commence work at Eveleigh Loco Depot on the 14th January 1963 at the grand sum of 4/- an hour (40 cents in the new language). This appointment (a six month probation period) was to ready me for the job of a Junior Trainee Engineman once I turned 16.

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Large Davey Press

The job of Shop Boy entailed working in the large erecting shop in the Eveleigh Locomotive Depot complex. Like all new employee's, I had to cope with the local jokes, one of which was when I was sent to collect the Davey's Press. Of course. I was a gullible young newcomer and diligently took the trolley suggested to pick up what I believed to be the Employee's Newsletter. 

Arriving at the designated place, I innocently asked for the Davey's Press, that I was to pick it up on the trolley and return to my department with it. Bursts of laughter indicated that I had been well and truly had, and when the foreman pointed towards a huge monster of a machine sitting in the middle of the floor and stated (intermingled with his, and everyone else's laughter) "there's the Davey Press, do you want a hand to put it on the trolley?”.

The Davey Press was of course a bit more robust than several sheets of paper; it was a 1,500 ton metal stamping machine!

My time as a shop boy was an interesting one; I got to see the workings of a large erecting shop and was amazed at the self sufficiency of the complex. Major overhauls of steam locomotives were still well and truly being performed and there was even a large foundry where parts were cast. Steam locomotion was here to stay and I was going to fulfill my dream of becoming a steam train driver.

Page 3


Continuing as the Boy from the Bush (actually from Kingsford in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, but that doesn’t sound very poetic), moves up a rung on the ladder to being a train driver!

Being removed from the relative security of a large imposing brick erecting shop and being thrust out into the reality of a fully active steam locomotive depot was an unnerving experience for this still naive 16 year old.

It was the 1st of April (that dates got to have some significance) 1963 and I was about to embark on the part of my career that was my sole purpose for joining the NSWGR's, to become an engine driver. Of course, l didn't consider at the time that the trip was not going to be an all romantic one. I didn't know that to have the honour of firing, then driving my beloved steam engines was going to entail a much closer relationship with the mighty machines than I could have ever envisioned.

A TRAINEE ENGINEMAN, musical sounding words for what turned out to be a gopher, a labourer, cleaner of all things dirty and the `promise of, well! Nothing - really, it would all depend on one thing - me!

Harry Schaefer was Head Cleaner, Harry had been with the railways for some time, and it showed in his well matured features, years of grit and grime had become a permanent part of Harry's appearance, and he was a man that I would learn to respect, a man that would expect you to earn his respect. Harry's off-sider, Bruce Fletcher, was a fairly young fellow, probably late twenties/early thirties. and he had a menial nature, far removed from Harry's sternness, yet really expecting no less than 'the boss' himself. From these two masters, I was to learn the trade of locomotive care and appreciation before I was ever to swing a shovel in earnest.

Eveleigh steam locomotive depot was an expansive place, even in this late stage of steam, diesel's had really begun to make their presence felt, even to the disdain of having them shedded right next to (within-in fact) the steam domain. Supplying motive power for all the Sydney departing passenger trains, as well as shunt engines for Alexandria Yard (right next door), Darling Harbour and Darling island and the ubiquitous 'S' class tank engines for Sydney terminus shunting, Eveleigh was still a beehive of steam activity.

From the smallest, 10 class crane locos to the gargantuan high stepping 38's, Eveleigh played host to just about every type of steam locomotive that existed on the system at the time. For not only was Eveleigh the home to so many of these living beasts, but it played host to visitors from Enfield as well as further outlying depots when locomotives required heavy overhauls, or in fact rebuilding.

My first encounter with this sprawling steam metropolis was one of total awe, the 10 class crane Jinties would putter around the depot, removing ashes, lifting seemingly impossible loads with their panting and puffing and moving their bigger brethren around the yard.

The Head Cleaners office was right smack bang in the middle of all this controlled mayhem, and one soon realised that this was no place to relax your attentiveness, steam locomotives may be big and noisy, but they can sneak up on the unwary and/or foolhardy and whisk away your life without even knowing you were there.

So what was to be my glamorous fate to begin my journey? Was I going to be taken on a glistening green 38 class and race through the night on the Southern Highlands express?, Maybe work a long goods train with one of those monstrous Garratt's? "Reality!", Cotton waste, black-oil and kerosene, go clean 1919- WHAT!

Normal practice was to place two cleaners (big step-down from the status of Trainee ­engineman, but that's what we were in reality - cleaners!), One would assume this to be a safety factor, as you could watch out for one another. Black locomotives were cleaned with this obnoxious oil/kero mix, the kero being the basic cleaning agent and the black oil leaving a glistening sheen on the paint and bare metal (that obviously just attracted more grease and grime!). This was definitely not the romance of the rails I imagined, roaring along, envied by all, waving to the girls. No! this was reality and the strange thing is - I loved every minute of it.

Cleaning the likes of a 19 class shunting engine was dirty, but they were a relatively small locomotive and there was a time allocation to complete the job. Get the honour of cleaning a big black 38, and you got more time, but cleaning one of these behemoths seemed to never end. Now chuck in some green paint, such as 3801, 3813 or 3830 (all active Eveleigh engines at the time) and you had the privilege of not only cleaning the running gear, but you were also allowed to WAX THE BOILER and all the other green bits.

Now this `wax' was a thick white sludge, that when applied to a hot boiler would give off a rather obnoxious, pungent pong, not unlike that of an extremely bilious drunk, and as quick as you put the stuff on the hot boiler lagging, it would want to dry out, but you still had to buff it. Basically it was a two handed job, apply with one hand, and buff with the other in a continuous motion, otherwise, the sludge would be nigh on impossible to remove. Pride was still strong amongst enginemen though, and fail to clean a locomotive properly and Bruce would request you rectify the situation, OR Harry would `demand- it!

Safety was always of prime importance around the depot, and I well remember being chastised on one occasion for walking around with my hands in my pockets, this was soon pointed out to me as a total no-no as if you should happen to slip (highly likely given all the oil/water/grease mixtures you would encounter) you would not be in a position to save yourself from a face down collision with mother earth (or a rail head or other such immovable object). By the same logic was the requirement to always step over rails, and not `on' them, these two things have always stuck with me, and I still regard them as good practice whenever I am around a railway situation.

The black-oil/kerosene mixture was good as a cleaning/enhancing solution for the running gear of locomotives, but I wasn't quite so sure of its value in cleaning my own running gear when I was subjected to the normal initiation of having one's own `running gear' "lubed" with this disgusting mixture, my mother wasn't overly impressed either when presented with rather black and slimey undergear to be washed. I knew from this moment on, I was in the thick of it - literally!.

Page 4


This was an exciting part of my life, not only was I getting to work on my passion, but I was getting paid to fulfil my dreams, at five shillings and tuppence halfpenny an hour, I would soon be rich (52˝ cents in to-days money). 

Something that I learned early in the piece, steam engines, regardless of the weather, have a lot of hot bits to get your attention very quickly. Steam, one of the main elements of steam locomotion (strange that!), Can be very unforgiving and in this environment, steam was everywhere. A steam burn is a strange phenomena, it basically melts the skin and continues to blister severely, immediate immersion in cold water is essential, steam can escape from a locomotive without warning such as the time I was cleaning out the cab of a 32 class with the locomotives hot water hose.

I had done this very same thing on numerous occasions by now and thought nothing of it. All of a sudden, ka-whoomp!! And steam was gushing out profusely, filling the cab with its obnoxious hot steam and water conditioner stench. Unable to see, recourse was to stay low and head for the gangway. Fortunately, an experienced engineman was nearby and promptly climbed aboard and fumbled his way to (what I learnt later) the shut off cock to one of the gauge glasses. As was brought to my attention on this occasion, not only was escaping steam a hazard, but the shattering of the gauge glass sent fragmented glass missiles flying about the cab. And, as I was also made aware of, was the reason for the half inch thick glass protection cover surrounding the gauge glass.

Was this to be a regular occurrence? Fortunately no! But I did experience it once more whilst on the road, and was able to quickly apprehend the problem myself, still a frightening experience though.

Water in this glass was of course an important asset to the locomotive, as it indicated the level of water available in the boiler, if there were no water showing in the gauge glass, you needed to establish if it was too low, or too high. At the bottom of the gauge glass assembly was a test cock, by opening this carefully, you could tell just what you did have, if you opened it and there was no water bobbing up and down in the gauge glass, it meant the boiler water level was getting dangerously low.

There were two options for this, "run for your life" or "get some water into the boiler by operating the injector" if the steam pressure was too low to operate the injector, resort to action one - "run", or you may have to drop the fire.

On the other hand, if the water level were way up - out of sight, the boiler would be safe from explosion, but it was essential to watch that the engine did not `pick-up' the water if it was moved and prime profusely (this could result in extreme damage to the locomotives rods and/or cylinders, not to mention the runaway potential of a priming locomotive).

Climbing up on the footplate of a locomotive in steam is an experience all its own, `everything' is hot, some touchable, some not, you soon learn where to hang on and what not to touch, leaking joints in steam lines and hot water lines are another hazard, and dripping hot water is extremely uncomfortable, but sometimes you would be in a position that it was almost impossible not to get at least some sort of minor scalding.

I well remember being on the side of a 38 class, waxing away merrily on the glistening green paint, the handrails were hot, the boiler jacket was hot and I was now getting towards the Smokebox. If the engine was to be moved, it was a safety precaution to check around the engine and give the whistle a `pop' to warn any workers on or around the engine that it was going to move. In NSW, the driver's station is on the left hand side of the cab, on the 38's, the whistle is on the right hand side of the smokebox. ~ Yes! - you guessed it, the raucous blast of a 38 class whistle right next to your ear-hole was quite a shock. The first reaction is to cover your ears, then as you start to waver losing balance, the second reaction is to save yourself from a ten foot drop to mother earth, so you grab randomly for a handhold, yep! Guessed it again - grabbed something too hot to hold and immediately let go again - waver, grab - yell! Waver, grab - yell! It seemed like an eternity in what was a matter of agonising, fearful seconds. Did I abuse the culprit, no! By the time I had got my composure back, the guilty had realised what they had done and fled the scene! (Maybe this was another of those initiation thingies, if you survived, you passed?).

The old 19 class 0-6-0 shunting engines were of a British design and had inside cylinders and motion. It was necessary to climb up in amongst this maze of axles, rods and counterweights to clean and lubricate the moving parts. Locomotives would have a warning flag placed on them as well as wooden chocks placed under the wheels, all very reassuring when squeezed up into the confines of inner hell trying to confidently do your job. As well as the ever present hazard of becoming instant valve motion fodder, there was our old friend back again - drip! drip!, hot water and steam everywhere.

If heat was such an ever present problem, why would you want to get into the firebox of a steam locomotive? For the fitters, it was a necessity to strip the brick-arch and rebuild it or replace burnt fire bed grates, but the locomotive would have the fire dropped and stand for some considerable time before any work was undertaken. For the Junior Trainee Engineman, the firebox of a gargantuan Garratt was the ideal place to hide during quiet periods or if you got ahead with your work. Looking back, the lounge room size firebox would not have the same appeal today, even if it had a TV in it.

There were some characters amongst the `cleaners', Malcolm was a biker and raced his Ducati on weekends, Peter was a Bikey and raced down booze of a weekend. Mal was a nice enough guy and I never had a great deal to do with him. Big Pete was built like a Gorilla and was really a gentle giant, until the toxins in his preferred ales took hold, then he became a vociferous loudmouth that was almost uncontrollable. I never socialised with him, but did meet him at the speedway one Saturday night, I was in a suit with a neat tie and polished shoes having come from another engagement. Big Pete was in the traditional leather jacket, jeans and boots with cans in both hands and Sheila's on both arms - Hey Teddy, come and join the gang, I felt like the outcast in Easyrider but couldn't have been treated better. Pete remembered nothing on Monday!

Page 5


Being a Junior Trainee Engineman not only entailed cleaning locomotives; but you learned the art of filling the tenders with water and coal and some rudimentary driving skills. Of course, we also had the opportunity to play fireman and put on a fire from time to time, including the art of `lighting up'. 
Lighting up a steam locomotive from cold is an interesting exercise, you have to check the water level in the boiler (the engine should have been left with a full boiler). Coal along with kindling would be placed in the firebox and a mixture of the trusty old black­oil and sawdust would be placed on the shovel and lit, then this shovel load of fire would be placed in on top of the aforementioned combustibles. Continual monitoring, of the fire would be necessary and additional sawdust/oil mix would be placed on top of the burning heap until the coal took hold.

At this stage, smoke becomes quite a problem as it rolls out of the firebox, not only from the smoke stack, but also out of the fire hole door, filling the cab until smoke curls up under the roof of the cab and filters out around the locos cab roof. This will continue until some steam is raised in sufficient quantity to activate the blower (the blower creates a draft through the firebox, into the flues and out the smokebox, taking the smoke with it):

It takes many hours to get things going, but once the blower comes into effect, everything starts to take off, air compressors can be turned on, dynamo's will work, injectors come into play and the whole process of looking after the locomotive settles down to routine checking and top up of fire and water.

Finally the day comes, the first outing on a steam locomotive under the guidance of an inspector, the chance to see if you are going to cut it as a fireman. Pretending to be a fireman on a fast express whilst in the depot is one thing, but being on a rocking footplate and attempting to perform the same herculean feats is another.

Memory is vague on my initial outings, but as best I can remember, it was on a ubiquitous "P", or 32 class and the inspector was one Harold Fowler. Now Harold was a nice enough bloke, but he had a reputation that preceded him and he was not short in telling me that I was pretty slow and would have to shake it up if I wanted to become a full fledged fireman. After several trips and much confirmation of my slowness, Harold decided to let me loose, figuring my enthusiasm and love of the job would nurture my talents and get me through.

Most of the early period as an `acting fireman' was spent on exciting jobs such as the Alexandria shunter, Darling Harbour shunter, Darling Island shunter or Sydney Yard shunters. The latter generally on 'S' class (30 class) tank engines of the 4-6-4 wheel arrangement or one of the two 79 class 44 ton diesels that shunted the two carriage sheds.

One could be excused for thinking that these shunt jobs would be lacking in excitement, but imagine if you will, the bucking, rolling, jumping, surging motions of a near 100 year old 0-6-0 19 class (Z class) shunting engine scurrying around banging goods trucks together over the period of an eight hour (or longer) shift, and the boredom was soon overcome by a survival instinct.

Nothing is worse than lining up the bat (shovel) with the firebox door, making the graceful arched swing to execute a perfect manoeuvre – and – whump, ‘A over head’ as you hit hard up against a string of wagons, coal everywhere but in the firebox, try to regain your stance, step on a large lump of coal and promptly get deposited onto the tender shovelling plate, pick yourself up – then the loco changes directions, out goes the slack and back onto the shovelling plate goes you!

These little engines performed sterling duty, I was always amazed at just how much they could lug around. When shunters gave the ‘hit-up’ signal (rapidly waving hand motions) and the six small driving wheels dug in, with sand aiding almost non-existent adhesion, exhaust barking and momentum rapidly picking up to ‘kick’ the wagons into the yard. Up goes the shunters hands in a stop motion, on goes the Westinghouse, and the little 19 class grinds to a halt as the wagons continue on their merry way.

Darling Harbour was a gravity yard, here, all we had to do was run the slack in so the shunters could uncouple the wagons and the grade did the rest. Of course, when we had to drag strings of wagons ‘up’ the yard, the going was just that bit tougher. Darling Harbour was a major yard, with the markets, dairies, truck transfers and a myriad of other commercial connections. There were at least three (maybe four) 19 class engines based here most of the time. They would be changed over every couple of days for a fresh engine. Coal would have to last through the engines term on duty, while water and sand could be replenished on site. Through quiet times, the fire would be banked, boiler filled and the engine stabled for the period not required. Sometimes you might get a bit of shut eye, some times in the amenities block, often times on the loco.

Improvisation was the name of the game, the 19 class had a small lift up round wooden seat, it was possible to wedge a shovel in under the seat to the tender, place your kit bag with some cotton waste at your head and get some rather uncomfortable kip. Of course, if you were the restless type that rolled around in your sleep, you were in trouble.

Two jobs in particular etch in my mind with regard to 19 class shunting duties and Darling Harbour. There was a unique double deck truck/train transfer shed on one side of the yard, nestled next to a brick retaining wall. Access for trains was via a roller coaster ride up a steep grade of single track that split part way up the grade to two tracks for access to the two top shed tracks. The other was banking duty out of the top yard.

Trains leaving Darling Harbour via Sydney Passenger Terminal had to traverse a gantlet track under Cleveland Street, this would then open back up to double track for a short but ‘very’ steep climb up to the connection with the main line. Our job, “should we wish to accept it”, actually there was no choice, was to push the mainline goods trains out of the yard, through the “gantlet tunnel” and up the short, steep grade where we would shut off just prior to cresting the hill and let the train continue. 

Page 6

Imagine, if you will, going for a ride on a roller coaster at Dreamworld or one of the other theme parks, place yourself in the very rear of the last car, stand-up! And stay that way throughout the ride! Sound like fun? Or sound suicidal? Basically, this is what a trip to the top level of the double deck shed at Darling Harbour on a 19 class was like, and the rear pushing duties out of the yard assisting goods trains was little better. 

We’ve just dragged a string of assorted bogie and 4-wheel wagons up the yard, our 19 class 0-6-0 is blowing off with a full head of steam, the gauge glass shows around half and we are waiting for the shunters signal to shove the string of wagons through several turnouts and up a steep climb to the upper level of Darling Harbours unique double deck goods shed.

The full head of steam and the half glass of water are necessities for this arduous duty, the ride will be too rough to put any fire on and too much water will have the loco priming profusely. Although this is a several times a day occurrence, a few ‘hail Mary’s’ don’t seem to go astray as the shunters give the go ahead signal and the driver flings open the 19 classes throttle to the full open stop peg, with sand pouring under the front driving wheels, the ubiquitous engine digs in for all its worth and lurches into a frantic bucking motion as it gains speed on the down grade of the yard.

Hanging on for grim death as the engine thrashes and lurches through several turnouts, gaining momentum with a rapidly accelerating exhaust, then the train of wagons start the climb to the shed, the 19 class immediately protests with an even harsher bark of the exhaust as the full weight of the wagons starts to bear down on the front buffers. 

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The Turnout (points)

Up ahead, the shunter is still waving his hand frantically, urging the driver on, not to lose momentum as another shunter bears his full weight onto the point lever directing us into the second track of the shed. Now, with everything including the loco and tender on the grade, we are struggling to maintain movement, the engine bucks as the drive wheels fight for traction, the string of wagons curves across the trestle leading into the shed and then the weight eases off as the train of wagons levels out. The driver has to anticipate the change of load so as not to run away and shove the wagons out the far end of the shed, a catastrophic happening to say the least (don’t know if it ever actually happened). 

In what was one hell of a ride, and the first of probably several we will do through the shift, we have successfully placed the string of wagons in the shed where motor Lorries will load/unload the cargo in readiness for a repeat performance. 

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The double deck goods shed.

We uncouple, retaining the shunter's truck, and ease down the grade just far enough to clear the turnout and then proceed back up against the brick wall into track one where we will pull the string of wagons out in readiness for the next lot we shove up the hill. 

The trip back down into the yard is usually uneventful and far less demanding - unless of course, the brakes are misused and you run out of air! 

Goods trains out of Darling Harbour were more often than not powered by one or two 46 class electric locomotives, most of these heavy trains heading west or north. The exit from Darling Harbour via Sydney Yard included a short run on gauntlet track under a building and then a tight right steep climbing grade out of the hole to the crest as it entered the mainline between the area known as the Mortuary and the main entrance junction of the country platforms. 

This short climb was enough to tax a maximum tonnage train and a shove was needed to get them over the short climb and clear of the crest. Again, our insignificant 19 class shunting engines came to the fore. 

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Ultimo Street Signal Box.

Exit from the yard was controlled by a colour light starting signal (SY 80), this in turn was controlled by the Ultimo Street Signal Box (destroyed in a fire on the 11th March 1996). With the road engines attached to the front of the train and brake and air tests complete, it was the job of the assisting bank engine to ease up against the brake vans buffers and maintain pressure ready for a launch. 

The procedure was that we had to be ready to go when the road engine blew his whistle, this would have a general time appointed, but could vary considerably according to Sydney Yard passenger traffic. Pressure was maintained against the buffers by cracking the throttle with enough steam in the cylinders to hold the engine tight against the van, an eye had to be kept on the steam and water, but you didn’t want the engine blowing off constantly, so a roaring fire was out of the question. 

Of course, under these circumstances, with very little draft on the fire, and a desire to keep the steam below blowing off, the inevitable would happen, the fire would die. An occasional shovel full of coal would go on, but if you sat waiting for an hour or so, attention would lapse. 

With no warning, there would be a toot from the front end and almost immediately the train would lurch into motion, now! Remember how we had the throttle cracked, well! With luck, we would move off with the train. The driver would fling the throttle across full and open the cylinder cocks to expel the inevitable build up of water in the cylinders. The blower would be another job for the driver to turn on as quick as possible, and the fireman, by now in a state of panic, would start firing wildly in the hope the fire would ignite to an inferno immediately and maintain steam pressure. 

At this stage, the electrics (with horsepower in the thousands) would be sailing easy, so all we had to do was struggle to keep up, fall back at all, and the dangerous rush to get up against the brake vans buffers was on, with the Ultimo Box signalman waving frantically for you to get back on the train. 

When the front of the train entered the gauntlet track, you were on a slight downgrade, momentum building up, then - all of a sudden, the full weight of the train would fall back on your struggling 0-6-0 as the electrics well and truly got into the grade. With smoke and cinders belching from the stack, the 19 class would sound like it was going to lift the building off the top of the gauntlet tunnel, speed getting down to a crawl, smoke would shoot to the sky as you exited the tunnel and back into daylight, now it was on for earnest (my middle name by the way). The road engine/s would crest the grade and gradually take charge of the tonnage as you approached the home signal where the driver would shut the throttle and throw the brake handle straight across so as not to roll back. 

Page 7


Often, at the conclusion of this assisting manoeuvre, the 19 class would be scheduled to return to loco for regular maintenance. Now that we are stationary, all hope is in the air that there is enough water still left in the boiler to cover the tubes and fusible plugs. More oft than not, you would have the injector straight on, pumping in the valuable commodity, and although anxious to get home, hoping that the `all clear' signal wouldn't be given `just yet'. Not to worry, being a light engine, and a slow 19 class 0-6-0 at that, there wasn't much chance you would be let out on the main until a substantial gap was realised.

It was always an interesting place to sit and while-away the time, watching interstate expresses arrive and depart through the complex track work that constituted the yard throat of Sydney Passenger Terminal. Along with a constant flow of Interurban's and shunting- moves, as well as the suburban trains on the far side, there was constant movement- `except for us!'.

With a clear signal shown, we would make the final short ascent out of the goods line and then be 'on the main' good and proper. It must have been an endearing site, this 1800's technology, almost a hundred years on, trundling along the mainline at a leisurely pace as local electric's scampered back and forth and maybe, just maybe, an opposing express headed up by a 38 class or a couple of newfangled diesels might just try and blow you off the track.

Through Redfern, side rod's clanking away and a non-polluting smidgen of smoke we would trundle past hoards of local travellers waiting for their `Red Rattler' home (or to work). At the southern end of Redfern Station, we would deviate off the mainline and enter "The Illawarra Dive". This subterranean refuge would take us into a dark and dingy hollow that forged its way under all the mainline and suburban trackage to exit alongside the Eveleigh loco depot foreman's office and have us heading in the direction of the South Coast. To the right were the MacDonaldtown (no - it wasn't a fast food city) car sheds, nestled in a hollow between the South Coast lines and the Main North/South/West and suburban lines. A long pedestrian footbridge spanned this area affording access for railway staff to the loco depot, car sheds, MacDonaldtown station and an employees car park on the far side of the tracks.

After rolling down a short grade, we would bring our mighty steed (Shetland pony) to a halt at Erskineville station and wait for our shunting signal to allow us to set-back into the Alexandria Goods Yard approach and henceforth into Eveleigh loco. It was standard procedure to replenish the sandboxes and top-up the tender with water, you would then leave your mount where instructed, and head to the charge man's office.

The charge man's office was located right at the MacDonaldtown overbridge stairs, engines coming into loco usually were stopped just here and the driver would find out what road the engine had to be placed in. While in the office, some pranksters would oil the rail under the trailing drivers (the loco would undoubtedly be tender first). Now the grade here was quite steep, and as you would imagine, the engine would erupt into wheel spin and gradually drift downhill. Of course if the engine happened to be a 36 or 38 class, it had no rear sanders - nuff said.

An unusual job that I scored when on shed duty with my regular driver was to take an engine, fresh from overhaul, to Enfield locomotive depot. Now, this may not seem like any big deal, but in this case, we struck a rather different type of engine, one not normally associated with passenger working (as Eveleigh was), a rather large AD60 Garratt, 4-8-4+4-8-4, all 260 tonnes of it. Neither the driver or myself had ever worked on one of these behemoths, and all the engines we worked regularly, even the 200 ton 38's, were hand - fired. The Garratt was 'stoker fired', and the firebox was "big".

We discussed the situation with each other and decided, `yea! Why-not!' There's a lot of engine in front of you on one of these freight giants, but the biggest challenge - we didn't have a clue how to work the stoker and neither did anyone else in the depot at the time. Oh well! Its just a light engine (always amazes me how 260 tonnes is light!) And we felt we could get by with hand firing.

When a steam engine Is working hard they eat a lot of coal, and hand firing them is strenuous work, but at least you can get enough swing on the shovel to regularly get some coal to the front of the firebox. But the Garratt, with the firebox the size of an average bedroom, was an enormous effort to get coal much past half way. Fortunately for us, the freshly shopped engine steamed admirably and we managed to get the 60 class safely over the road to Enfield.

Enfield, as opposed to Eveleigh, was a sprawling facility, the steam loco depot separated from the diesels (DELEC) by the enormous Enfield gravity sorting yard. Three full circle roundhouses feeding one to the other catered to the needs of the vast number and variety of steam engines housed there. Being a goods depot primarily, the standard goods engines of the 50 through 56 class abounded, also prevalent were 59 class Mikado's and of course Garratt's. Unfortunately, absent from the scene by the time I was on the job were the magnificent 57 and 58 class Mountains. The goods yard, being as large as it was, required more than 19 class engines to work it and standard goods 2-8-0's were used, some with modified four wheel tenders affording better vision for the crews.

Return from Enfield/DELEC to the home depot could entail another light engine move, or a ride on the Railway Bus, a compact mini-bus that ployed its trade on a regular (˝ hourly, as I recall) basis to Flemington Station, where, if you were lucky enough, a connection might be made for a city bound train. This is where MacDonaldtown station came in, otherwise you would have to alight at Redfern and trudge back some distance to the depot office.

Page 8

The mystique of a steam locomotive can be haunting, for they are not forever snorting and barking like a huge dinosaur, often, they just simmer 'almost' silently, whiling away their time until called once more for duty. This time of peace and tranquility, can also spell disaster in many different ways.

Signing on at the guards foreman's office in Sydney Terminal offered many variations as to what kind of work you could be rostered on to perform. Probably the least exciting, being the Sydney Yard shunters, of which there were several. These plod along jobs usually were generally held to specific areas within the terminal complex.

Two 'cushy' jobs were the car shed shunters, unless broken down, or in for regular maintenance, these two jobs would have one or other of the two remaining 79 class diesel locomotives left on the system. These historic 44 tonners had two 340 HP Caterpillar diesel engines that spewed out acrid blue smoke profusely, 7920 (as I recall, was black, and 7923 was red 'maroon'). One job entailed working numbers 1 & 2 platforms as well as the mail dock and car sheds. Dragging strings of carriages with these locomotives was a laborious job, and wet rails really tested the drivers ability.

More often than not, though, one would be assigned one of the ubiquitous 'S' class 4-6-4 Tank locomotives, these engines had seen Stirling service for many years, but were by this time nothing more than shunt engines. Their small coal capacity relegated them to these 'close to home jobs'.

Work on these jobs was consistent, unless you were on an overnighter, starting around 9-10pm and working through to around 6 in the morning. Usually, all the interstaters had come and gone and the carriages had been placed in the appropriate sheds for cleaning, work would finish sometime after midnight. This was an opportunity to get a bit of shut-eye, either sitting up on the incredibly uncomfortable wooden seats, or make up a bed on the narrow shelf in the rear of the cab. This usually consisted of your leather bag, with waste covering it as a pillow. Bank the fire, fill the boiler and settle down for a few hours.

4 O'clock in the morning, nicely out to it, over the PA comes a call, 3065, you have the road, 3065, c'mon, move please! The yardmaster would be desperately trying to get your attention, but, given the circumstances, you were obliviously asleep. HEY!, C'mon, we've gotta pull this train would yell a frustrated shunter at the steps of the 30 class. Stirring from slumber, one would realize then that not only had you nicely dozed off, as had the driver, but so had the fire, steam had gradually simmered back and water had slowly evaporated into what steam there was.

Oh! No!, On would go the blower, in would go the fire iron, rake, shake, grovel, curse - “C'mon you lot, I need that platform cleared!” Would bellow across the yards PA, the shunter adding to the melee with his abuse. Of course, this was not an every night occurrence, but the scene was a reasonably often repeated one, especially if extra curricular activities the previous day added to ones tiredness.

A regular driver of mine for some time, lets call him 'C', was of foreign descent, Now 'C' was a good engineer and a nice bloke, but he liked dining on Vodka and Hot Chillies and sometimes he would cut it a bit fine towards when he stopped 'dinning' and when he started working.

One such night on a Sydney shunter saw 'C' show up rather inebriated, his ruddy round face glowing and his foreign speech not fully comprehensible. In those days, things were a bit different, so the shunter and I put 'C' up on the ledge in the back of the 30 class cab and set about our duties.

'C' snorted a few times, but otherwise didn't really stir. Between the shunter and myself, we were able to handle the duties required, and as it was dark, 'C' was not really noticed in his horizontal position.

Next thing, a job came up that required us to go to MacDonaldtown carriage sheds and pick up a set of cars to be brought back to Sydney terminus. This was not a big problem, as MacDonaldtown was only a couple of miles away, and entailed very little physical work for the engine (hence the crew!).

Arriving at MacDonaldtown, we entered the yard and were advised of the track we had to go to pick up our allocated car set. Now, the grade into the MacDonaldtown sheds was extremely steep, and the S class only had a train brake to work with. In easing down the slope, I performed what we called a 'jiffy' move on the brake handle, a partial release, and then I made another, this resultant exuberance left me without air as the tank loco gained momentum and headed for the car-set.

Frantically winding the reversing screw into full reverse and opening the throttle, enabled me to check the speed somewhat, but we hit the car-set with a resounding thud, no damage done - but! - remember 'C' on the ledge in the cab - no longer. 'C' sat up on the coal covered cab floor whence he now resided and muttered something about where were we? What happened?

We picked 'C' up and directed him back up on his perch, none the worse for wear from his little crash landing and oblivious to any of it happening. Other than a couple of bruises he couldn't explain, 'C' was none the wiser to the nights event.

Page 9

( * names have been changed )

Although alcohol and railways don’t mix, there seemed to be some regular workers that led a charmed life, and it was not always the locomotive crews.

*Frank was a shunter in Sydney Terminal, night times, he was often inebriated, but as this was his usual state, no-one took much notice. *Frank was a good shunter and had been on the job a long time, he must have been getting close to retirement. 

One night, my regular driver and I came on duty to work a Sydney Yard shunter on an ‘S’ class tank loco, the same job we had performed the night before with *Frank as one of our shunters. Where’s *Frank tonight? We enquired. Oh! Haven’t you heard, after you guys left last night, *Frank was putting a train together, he was coupling up two passenger cars with diaphragms and his luck ran out - “he forgot to crouch down as they came together”. 

Most NSW passenger stock at the time had screw-link couplers, it was necessary to bring the cars buffers together, climb under and lift the coupler onto its opposing hook, if required, a call to “ease-up” would be made to compress the buffers so the coupling could be made. Then the screw would be tightened up to ease slack run-out in the train. A common shortcut, was of course, to climb in under the stationary cars buffer plate and lift the screw coupler above your shoulder and drop it on the moving cars hook as it squeezed-up, dangerous at best, but in *Franks case this night - ‘Fatal!’. 

The Guards Foremans office where we signed on in Sydney was usually a beehive of activity, with guards, drivers and firemen all vying for attention as they booked on ‘or’ off. 

A regular clerk was *Alf, now *Alf was a true blue Aussie, he had been to war and protected his country, and he was rightfully proud of his achievements in the service. *Alf was getting on a bit, but he was an amicable man, and if you treated him right, you were extended the same courtesy. 

An Englishman, “Pom” if you will, was a driver known by the non-descript initials granted him of F.A. (I don’t need to elaborate, do I?). Now F.A. Could be extremely aggravating, he was rather boisterous, but worst of all, he liked to taunt ‘ol *Alf. 

Knowing that *Alf was a war veteran, gave F.A. Some extra ammunition. One night when I was in the Guards Foreman's office signing off, F.A. was also present, I arrived in the midst of a heated verbal argument between F.A. and *Alf. If it wasn’t for us Poms, you useless Aussies would have lost the war *Alf, yelled F.A., Puffed up like a bantam rooster. All of a sudden, *Alf came over the counter in one single bound and had F.A. By the throat. 

A few souls that were present had to intervene, as F.A’s feet were leaving the ground, and he was turning an even brighter red than usual. F.A. Quietened down somewhat after this experience. 

While we are taking a look at the Guards Foremans Office in Sydney, I would like to relate a rather unusual story that originated from said place. 

Signing on at the regular time of 8:13pm was of no real significance for the evening Flyer to Newcastle, even though the train number was also 13. But arriving on the platform at the head end of the train to find electric locomotive # 4613 as our motive power was starting to get a bit eerie, especially as the day was FRIDAY THE 13TH! 

OK, so the next day was Saturday the 14th (to be expected) and we were to work train 14, the morning UP Flyer back to Sydney after an eight hour lay-off in the Broadmeadows barracks. Although the Flyers running time was a little over two hours for the trip each way, prior to taking over in Sydney we would work a local shunting job, likewise on the return on Saturday - arrive in Sydney Terminus, get relieved and finish the shift on a Sydney shunter. 

The journey to Newcastle was uneventful, and the usual change at Gosford to one of the 38 class 4-6-2 Pacific locomotives took place as usual (and - NO! We did not get lumbered with 3813, as it was an Eveleigh engine and worked South mostly). The overnight stay in Broadmeadows barracks was also uneventful after running the 38 light to loco, stabling and bedding down for the night. 

With ‘just’ eight hours off, we were back up and on our way bright and early, taking charge of a 38 prepared by the shed crew. Whistle out of loco and head to Newcastle station to latch onto our morning Flyer #14 and head off back to Sydney. No problems (after all Friday the 13th had left us), pick up one of the 46 class electric locos at Gosford in a reverse move to the previous evening and set-off on the final leg to Sydney. 

Just after leaving the Hawkesbury River bridge and beginning the climb out of the valley up Cowan Bank, the rot set in, caution signals, then stop! On the phone to control and we were advised that there had been a derailment somewhere further ahead and the delays were unpredictable. Not much excitement for us just waiting - and waiting, our eventual arrival in Sydney saw us on duty for 13 and a half hours (there were no ten or twelve hour rules). This had to have some significance to the events and the concurrent days they occurred - Friday the 13th, 8:13pm departure, 4613 on train #13, return Saturday the 14th on train 14 and finish up with a shift half way between 13 and 14 hours - “was it just co-incidence, or significance?”.

Page 10

( * names have been changed )

Some really pleasant surprises have come out of writing this series of articles on my life on the New South Wales Railways in the 1960’s-early 70’s. For one, I have realised just how fortunate I have been to have experienced the things that I have, second, ‘old’ contacts have been made. In a lot of cases, the people mentioned in my series have passed on - but not all.

At the Brisbane Miniature Train Show - Did you know a bloke by the name of Clarrie Hough (not sure on the spelling) when you were at Eveleigh? I was recently asked! Yeah! Fired for a Clarrie Hough while I was there - I recalled! Well, that’s him standing over there, I’ll introduce (re-introduce) you to him. Clarrie - this here’s Ted Freeman, worked at Eveleigh in the 60’s, when you were there? Don’t recall the face (and I thought I hadn’t changed in thirty years!) That’s OK Clarrie, you don’t look all that familiar either - but!

I related the story in the most recent issue of Train Talk! Old F.A. and Alec - yeah, I remember them, what about ------, yeah! How about ---- yes of course - and the memories started to filter back, discussion went on and memories started to ‘flood’ back with recollections of different characters we both worked with, swapping of stories and relating to similar incidents we had both encountered (endured). 

It was really something to catch up to an old work mate and reflect back on the times past, I'm sure Clarrie would be able to tell some right proper yarns relating to his experiences as he did one to me whilst we talked - it jarred my memory - and then I recalled - that’s the story I was geared up for in the next edition of Train Talk. Clarrie spoke of a 60 class Garratt on 274 Up goods from Newcastle to Sydney, I had a similar trip on 274 Up - but the steed I had was a ‘Nanny’, or 35 class 4-6-0.

Eveleigh crews worked the Down Newcastle Flyer from Sydney and returned after an eight hour break on 274 Up Goods. The Nanny’s were not a familiar engine to us as Eveleigh did not have any and at this stage in their life they were mostly relegated to the Northern Division from Gosford on. I was with my regular driver PW, a man I had fired for for quite some time and a true gentleman and master of the art of locomotive driving (PW would have been in his early to mid 30’s). Although he had plenty of experience on steam for his age, he had never worked on a Nanny, and neither had I. No big deal - you say - not all steam engines are the same, believe me!

Local Broadmeadows crews offered some sympathetic advice (inside they were snickering - I’m sure!), The fireman! - keep the fire banked, don’t let the front build up or you will be in trouble - the driver! - don’t let-er slip!

Climbing aboard 3510, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, it was just a bigger 32 class, close to the size of a “Pig” or 36er. We whistled out of Broadmeadow loco and headed towards Honeysuckle Yard (just south of Newcastle) where we would latch onto our train and head off to Gosford where we would pick up one of the three thousand plus horsepower 46 class electrics for the jaunt to Enfield Yard in Sydney.

On arrival at Honeysuckle, we coupled up, performed the mandatory air brake test and spoke to the guard as to tonnage and any special orders, it was just starting to come onto dark when we were due to depart so on went the dynamo with its high pitched shriek piercing the eeriness of nightfall on the waterfront. With lights ablaze and the fire nicely banked with a good head of steam and the appropriate water level in the sight glass we were ready to go, no reason not to feel confident for a safe and swift trip.

With the guards right-o-way given and clearance from the shunter, we blew the whistle - the whistle cord shorted on the dynamo and a resultant kaboom and extinguished lights ended the confidence so rapidly gained. Digging around in what was now relative blackness, save for the light of the fire, we filled some kerosene gauge lamps, flare lamps and marker light and decided to give it a go. Shortly after getting under way, the kerosene lights extinguished and refused to re-light, oh! No! There’s water in the kero.

It was about this time that we were starting our climb towards Tickhole Tunnel, too late to do anything about it, we worked together to keep an eye on the water level by the light of the fire as the old nanny dug in for all its worth. Of course, with sand being laid on the rails under the struggling drivers and a full head of steam in her belly we were making noisy but positive headway. But! With water in the kero, why should the sand be any different, as the sandpipes clogged we were just entering the confines of the tunnel and the inevitable happened - whooooooosh, massive, uncontrolled wheelspin and then to cap it off, the old girl picked up the water and primed crazily. PW quickly responded and shut the throttle, simultaneously opening the cylinder cocks in an effort to arrest the wheelspin, but the damage was done - the fire had turned over, the bank, so diligently fought for to be kept at the rear of the firebox - was all up the front.

It didn’t take long for the steam to start dropping as I struggled to get the fire back in order and PW assisted as much as he could while still keeping the train under control. It became a battle of men and machine as we battled on into the night with no lights, no whistle and what was beginning to look like no hope! It was impossible to get the fire right and the steam pressure was wavering dangerously low to applying the brakes, keeping a safe level of water in the sight glass was a top priority and we struggled on into the night, eventually limping into Gosford a sad and sorry lot with PW and myself looking like black and white minstrels and Nanny 3510 struggling on her last breaths of steam with water hovering just above the low mark in the sight glass. This was a trip I was sure I'd never forget - and I never have!

Handing over the sad and sorry loco, PW and I knew there would be an inquiry, we found out a short time later that trials were run with 3510 and she was in a very sad state indeed. Apparently the blast pipe had dislodged, and damage to the locomotive was severe enough that in this late era of steam, she was condemned like so many of her sisters before (and shortly after), never to give the likes of us Eveleigh greenies any trouble ever again! 

Page 11

The Newcastle Flyer was a prestigious train that boasted an air conditioned carriage set hauled by only the best locomotives the NSWGR’s had to offer - the 38 class Pacific’s - ‘until’ - the advent of the 46 class electric, the flyer then looked like any other NSW passenger train as it left and arrived at Sydney Terminal, but from Gosford to Newcastle, the 38’s reigned supreme right up till the end of their service life. Maximum track speed in NSW was 70mph (120 kph approx) throughout the system, the 46’s (as I remember) were restricted to 65mph due to their yawing effect at speed, the short wheelbase Co-Co’s, although extremely powerful, were very uncomfortable for the crews once the pace quickened.

From Sydney to Gosford, the 46’s were in their element, there was not a lot of call for speed except for some short stretches, and the 46 class could sprint to their allowed maximum like a scalded cat. Their ability to accelerate and their efficient regenerative braking system meant that timetable running was seldom a problem, so the go - slow - go element on this part of the journey suited them fine.

From Gosford to Newcastle though, the 38’s could get up a gait that made the 46 look like an old coal hauler, and it was here that they really shone.

I remember one memorable occasion on the Flyer, one trip that stood out among all the rest and is as vibrant in my memory today as it was when it occurred.

Leaving Sydney Terminal, you would meander through the complex of points and crossings, once the complexities of the yard limits were breached, the pace quickened (and the ride roughened), still, within the confines of the suburbs, the speed seldom exceeded 50mph. A stop at Strathfield, and you would divert via a flyover to the Northern line, still more meandering, with the occasional burst of exhilarating 65mph running (feeling more like 165mph).

From Hornsby, the picturesque mountains and valleys would be traversed down Cowan Bank to the famous Hawksbury River Bridge, with a mundane downhill pace, you could take in the views, have a cuppa and basically relax.

Once across the mighty Hawksbury River Bridge, the pace was level as you parallelled the Hawkesbury River, winding around the base of the hills with arrival at Gosford just part of the general on-time routine.

Easing up to the end of the platform at Gosford, you became aware that all this serenity and calm was about to change, simmering up ahead in the exchange track, was the replacement steed, a towering black non-streamlined 38 class, the epitome of NSW passenger steam, from a distance, not so daunting, but once cut off from the train and eased up alongside the behemoth, you became aware of the life within this big black beauty as it sat, steam drifting all around in readiness for the gait to Newcastle. With a deft hand on the brake, my driver eased the 46 to a stop with the cab door placed perfectly in alignment with the 38’s footplate, a transfer of bags to the black beast, bid adieu to the changeover crew (who looked rather sheepish by the way), and we were on board for an exciting sprint to Newcastle. Of course, when you climbed aboard the new steed, you expected that it would be ready to gallop, the crew had passed the time away playing cards, in fact they passed too much time away and our mighty steed was more of a whimpering pony with less than half a glass of water, low in steam and an almost dead fire. No wonder they left in a hurry!

Immediately the driver turned the blower on to force a draft through the fire and I started to lay a light fire to get heat back into the firebox. Whadaya reckon, quipped PW, my regular driver, as between us, we decided to ‘give it a go!’, PW eased the big engine along initially, giving me a chance to bring it around with steam and water. As steam pressure approached a more workable stage and the loco started to settle down, PW nodded to me, which I replied likewise.

We had lost about ten minutes in running time by this stage, but as the pop valves lifted, so did the pace. Once stirred along and with a roaring fire and full belly of water, the black 38 began to show just what these engines were all about.

We passed cars on an adjacent highway as if they were standing still, and I knew the old girl was really getting into stride, the speed seemed to be on the increase, and I could feel that the 70mph limit had been well and truly breached, as the NSW steam locos had no speedos (and subsequently no speed recorders), it was experience on a drivers part as to just how fast we were travelling, a fob watch and mileage posts flashing past were as accurate a speedometer as you would ever find in the hands of an experienced driver.

As the speed increased, so too did the rhythm of the engines movement, an up and down, forward and back motion came into play, the fire was white hot, and although almost impossible to look into the glare, a quick glimpse revealed the fire “walking” toward the front of the firebox.

Aye! PW, I yelled over the din, just how fast are we going? Oh, when they start dancing about like this and judging by the mileposts, about 85 (mph). The passengers, sitting back in their air-conditioned comfort, could not have been aware of the dramas that unfolded on the footplate that night to get them to their destination - ON TIME!

Page 12

The Eveleigh locomotive depot serviced a large contingent of steam locomotives in its heyday, during my period working from the depot, steam was no longer king, but still held on strongly with not only shunt engines to be looked after, but also the ubiquitous 32’s, 36’s and of course the famous 38’s.

It takes coal to fuel a steam loco, and Eveleigh had a fairly substantial coal trestle. Unlike the American coal stages, the NSWGR’s favoured trestles where open wagons of coal were shoved up an incline and dumped into hoppers ready for distribution into hungry tenders.

The honour of keeping the trestles hoppers filled went to the depot shunting crew, the guys that moved the engines around as needed for access and service, locomotives were filled with water on arrival at the depot and topped up as they left, but coal (unless desperately low) was replenished only at departure.

With your locomotive carefully spotted under the appropriate chute as directed by the fuel man, you would huddle back in the cab (or detrain) as tons of black, sooty diamonds poured into and all over the tender, and if the chute was reluctant to close, into the cab.

As traumatic an experience this could be at times, it was nothing compared to the job the depot crew faced during the process of filling the bins.

Memory is a bit vague on some aspects of this job, although I do recall having the “pleasure?” of doing it several times. Usually a 19 class, or 30T would be the assigned engine to the task.

I don’t recall the exact procedure for getting to the mainline, but with two or three BCH’s or some such, we would have to make our way to platform 16 at Redfern and wait in a siding ready for the opportunity to make a run for it in between the constant stream of local electrics.

With an allocated opening, we would make our way out onto the curving platform track, easing in to the platform just far enough to clear the shunting signal. With the shunting signal cleared, the driver would “get up it!” As a short, twisting approach was made as fast as possible towards the steep grade up onto the coal trestle. 

If this part wasn’t scary enough, the sheer thought of being on the steam loco with no visible means of support under you at an alarming height only made the situation feel worse. At the appropriate time, the driver would have to close the throttle and grab the brake so as not to spear off the end of the trestle. At the same time, momentum could not be lost, or slipping to a stand on the grade was a real possibility. The relief of a successful spotting of the wagons was always welcome. 

This procedure would be repeated as often as required, subject to the amount of coal being used. The other aspect of the job was to pull the empty’s, not quite as daunting, but eerie nonetheless.

On the receiving end of the coal, once fuelled up and ready to go you would wet down the fresh load to keep the dust down as you completed the next element of your journey. If heading to Sydney or Darling Harbour, the next adventure would be a trip through the “Dive”.

The Dive was a single track tunnel that did as its name indicated, it ‘dived’ down under the suburban and mainline tracks as it took you from the loco depot to the opposite side of all the tracks to gain access to the main line to Sydney. This steep incline in, twisting narrow tunnel under and steep climb out to daylight again was another hair raising adventure.

Gaining entry to the Dive was by permission granted by a semaphore signal that guarded the entry to the tunnel, a single yellow light with a 45 degree slant on the blade allowed a light engine to enter. 

At the other end was a very unfriendly ‘derail’ that prevented exit onto the mainline unless the signal was cleared, more often than not, you would be brought to a stand and have to await an opening in traffic before being able to proceed. The grade here was very steep indeed, so keeping an eye on the water level was imperative and more often than not, screwing on the handbrake wasn’t such a bad idea either, just to assist in holding the engine on the grade.

Starting the locomotive was another challenge, as you would inevitably be running tender first, there was no sand to be had and the chance of slipping the drivers and sliding back into the hole was all to prevalent, especially when conditions were less than dry. Locomotives like the 38 class could be an extreme handful under less than perfect conditions.

Diesels, on the other hand, just took it all in their stride, instead of plunging into a black hole, you had a nice bright headlight to take in the view of the beautiful soot covered tunnel walls and roof. You could trundle through at a relaxed pace, knowing full well that to stop and restart was no problem.

When the Southern Aurora and Spirit of Progress moved into the new ACDEP servicing facility within the Eveleigh complex, then yet another hand was added. In this instance, you would pull up at the signal protecting the ‘Dive’ and inform the signalman that you had either the Aurora or the Spirit in tow. Reasoning behind this was, that until you received an all clear green signal, you stayed put, once the green was shown, you had to make your move and fit into the available window, else the signalman take the road back off you.

First problem, get the train moving, second problem - NOT TOO FAST - as swinging the long passenger trains down through the tight confines of the hole was indeed a delicate balancing act. Of course, the exit was then a FULL THROTTLE affair to lift the heavy train out of the deep ravine whence you came, having the confidence that you entered the tunnel on a green, ensured you would have at least a yellow to exit. WOULDN'T IT? 

Page 13

The 48 class Alco diesel locomotives on the NSWGR’s were (and still are) an important part of the motive power pool, known affectionately as half a locomotive due to their meagre horsepower rating of around nine hundred from their inline six cylinder diesel engine, these locomotives were virtually unstoppable, their 900hp going into six traction motors designed for much more powerful locomotives (ie; 44 class).

The South Coast line to Bomaderry was an early stronghold for these locomotives, their low axle loadings, and small physical size allowed them to venture anywhere on the lines and if more power was needed, just multiple unit two, three or more and tailor the locomotive to what you needed whilst still keeping the low axle loading.

I can still remember one of the tactic’s needed to run the South Coast all stoppers to the timetable, jobs originally held down by the P class 4-6-0’s, or 32’s as they were numbered.

After stopping at a station, the driver would anticipate the right-o-way, and open up the throttle of the loco to eight notch, slow to load up, the loco would start to belch black smoke, the right-o-way would be given, brakes released, and kicking and bucking like a wild bronco, the 48 would slowly find its feet and get underway, a bit of sand would help eliminate any likelihood of wheel-slip (not that there was a real big chance of that happening). These remarkable locomotives would take this treatment in their stride, day in and day out.

Because of the low horsepower available (by usual mainline standards), a driver would have to anticipate hills much more vigilantly than if the engine was a 44 class or such with around double the horses. This could lead to another interesting event, collecting a staff. The station name eludes me, but just out of Wollongong, after the Port Kembla line deviated, the line to Bomaderry became staff and ticket single line working. A staff was (rarely is these days) a metal tube with circular rings around it at various spacings, there were miniature staffs (secured in a bamboo/leather hoop) and the standard size staff.

In general, the miniature staff in the hoop was easier to exchange, the fireman/observer (usually) would take position behind the driver outside the cabin door and brace himself against the short railing. At this particular station, only the pick-up of a staff was required, straightforward enough, and no problem with a passenger train, because you were stopped. But with a full load on a goods train or milk train, most drivers would get a run-up for the grade that begun just beyond the platforms end.

I full remember one day as I stepped out onto my perilous perch, the 48’s exhaust crackling behind my head with a pawl of black smoke streaming skyward - terror - I can’t do this, I said to the driver, it’s too @#$%^&* fast.

With the throttle still in eighth notch and momentum building up, the driver ushered me out of the way and took position in readiness to collect the staff. With his arm outstretched, the hoop went over his arm in a beautifully executed catch, both the speed, and hence force, of the manoeuver, flung him around and the staff could be heard plain as day above the cacophony of the roaring diesel - kawump! As it struck the side of the locomotives long hood.

Stepping back into the cab, see - nuthin’ to it! He shakingly stated, I don’t know what the actual speed was, but it sure as hell felt like a hundred miles per hour, whatever it was, I never faced quite the same pace to pick up the staff at that station with that driver again!

One Easter Weekend, I worked the milk train from Sydney to Bomaderry, power on this occasion being one of the more powerful 44 class diesel locomotives with quite a bit more horsepower at hand. Being Easter, several additional passenger trains had been scheduled to the South Coast as all along the route was beautiful beaches and the end of the line at Bomaderry was a real tourist attraction.

Having started sometime after midnight on the Friday, our arrival in Bomaderry was relatively early in the morning, we had pulled into the station and were receiving instructions from the guard as to our shunting moves. The guard, on my side of the loco related the moves required, stating that when we pulled forward onto the old wooden trestle in readiness to set-back to the dairy, be careful - as due to the Easter extra’s, there were a couple of trainsets stored on the other side.

I turned to repeat the instructions to the driver, but he was right behind me - did you get all that, I quipped? Yep! No problem - and away we went. We were on the No 2 end of the Alco and visibility couldn't have been better, except we were both looking back for the guard as we stepped out onto the creaking old timber trestle.

I looked around to check our position and noticed the driver with his head out the window intently watching the guards signals, then they caught my eye - just off the bridge, the old wooden car set loomed up, I summonsed the drivers attention, but it was too late, with the brakes in emergency, the 100+ tonne locomotive pushed by several milk vans careered into the end of the carriage and commenced to manufacture matchsticks. It wasn’t the all-mightiest crash in the world, and as far as the 44 class was concerned, it was just a love tap - the old wooden coach on the other hand looked like Mohamed Ali had taken to it!

Did you forget about the carriages I asked of the driver, “I didn’t know anything about them, he replied!”, But! But! I stuttered back! The inquiry found me at fault because I hadn’t relayed the message to the driver word for word, his - OK! - meant nothing. 

Page 14

For six months I was ‘displaced’ to the Western Branch Terminus known as Richmond, this line was a busy one with constant commuter shuffles to and from Richmond to Blacktown, the Sydney connection to the Richmond line where the electrification ended for this scenic addition. The main west line continued on through Penrith and into the picturesque Blue Mountains where the electrification went right through to Lithgow.

The Richmond line had some unique operational problems, home to several ‘S’ class 4-6-4 Tank engines and CPH Railmotors, the lines main livelihood was the transport of passengers to and from Sydney connections at Blacktown. Peak traffic in the morning saw passengers heading into the big smoke for work, and in the afternoon, the reverse shuffle took place.

The 30 class tank locos generally handled the morning and afternoon peak hour rushes, while the tiny CPH Railmotors shuffled back and forth throughout the day handling the shopping traffic to and from Blacktown.

One train each morning went right through from Richmond to Sydney, usually headed up by a ‘P’, (32 class) 4-6-0 tender engine, with a mirrored return in the evening. This was of course “THE” express, and only a few selected stops were made along the way.

The 30 class tank locos were limited in their coal and water capacities, the water was no real problem, as the tanks would be topped up at each end of the line, an engine might do two round trips during a peak session, and the limited coal capacity created an unusual situation to get the best utilization out of the engines and make the ‘fuelies’ job a little more comfortable.

The Fuelie? He was the poor soul that had to hand shovel coal from S trucks into the tank engines bunkers, the scenario of the trips meant a call to the coal loading facility every trip - unless!

Innovation and co-operation on the part of the Fuelie and the loco crews came up with a unique cure to this restrictive nature of the tank locomotives so revered on the Richmond Line.

The 30 class versatility of being able to run equally as well in reverse as it could running forward was the main characteristic that kept these engines viable on such jobs, with no locomotive turning required, the trains turnaround time was quite quick, except for the recoaling delay at the Richmond end. 

The solution, load extra supplies of coal on board to eliminate the intermediate coaling. The way this was achieved was little short of astounding. You have probably heard of “Hungry Boards”, these were usually additions to the top sides of the coal bunker on a tender to increase the coal carrying capacity. The 30 class had a similar thing in extra height of the coal bunker through the addition of metal strapping secured above the original hopper, this gave a little more coal to be used. The “Hungry Board” theory was extended at Richmond by the addition of two boards wedged between the handrails and the tank of the locomotive. These would allow the fuelman to fill the cab with coal to a height basically level with the firebox door. 

Although somewhat inconvenient for the driver and fireman in some ways, the discomfort soon paid dividends in the extra rest time the crews, and the fuellie, were able to get between turnarounds on the Richmond end of the Journey. 

The initial firing of the engine would mean basically scraping coal along into the firebox until the level was down enough to fire in the conventional manner off the floor. With their 4-6-4 wheel arrangement, the tanks engines versatility really shone on this line, timetable running was comparable in either direction as the locomotives performed equally well smokebox or bunker first.

The 32 class headed ‘express’ would stable at Richmond overnight and the engine would be serviced, and turned ready for its morning departure. This was an exciting journey for the crew, the run from Blacktown to Sydney affording the chance to ‘pace’ and/or ‘race’ the suburban electrics over a good part of the distance. It was an exhilarating feeling to be perched on the handrail of the bucking 8 wheel tender, arm firmly embracing the handbrake lever, looking like the ultimate hero as close to a mile a minute went by.

On a more mundane note, the Richmond line also had a major industry in the Riverstone Meat Works where usually a humble TF 50 series 2-8-0 goods engine would serve duty. The amount of shunting at the meatworks would keep these jobs well and truly busy with the early hours of the morning usually seeing the inbound loads delivered and the afternoon/evening handling the outbound finished products. The loads created by this industry could be quite large at times, taxing the 50’s to their limit on the undulating branch line.

Through the middle of the day, the CPH Railmotors, single, tandem or even tripled would ply their trade back and forth until it came time to make way for ‘the rush’ of the locomotive hauled trains.

Page 15

The 40 class was one of the first mainline diesel locomotives to ply the rails of the New South Wales Government Railway system. Introduced on the 30th November 1951, the Montreal Locomotive Works in Canada built engines, were basically a slightly modified version of Alco’s RSC-3 Road Switcher series. With an Alco ‘V’ configuration 12 Cylinder 244 series diesel prime mover rated at 1650 traction horsepower, the engines were quite versatile. 

Modifications for the Australian purchaser included a lower profile cab with the upper sides curved inward, buffers and mounting steps beside the buffers as opposed to on the sides of the locomotives. With an A1A-A1A power configuration to the wheels, the 40’s proved to be a bit slippery as the powered outer wheels would wear due to tractive forces, whereas the centre idler wheels in the trucks would maintain their full 40” diameter almost indefinitely. The resultant imbalance of wheel diameters in the six wheel trucks did not take to exerting maximum tractive force kindly.

Nonetheless, these were a versatile locomotive, but due to a manual ‘transition’ (read - gearbox!), the units were incapable of multiple unit operation with other classes of “automatic” transition locomotives. If used with other engine types, a crew was required on each locomotive, in effect creating a double header situation, ‘not’ a multiple unit consist.

The four position selector lever was the drivers floor shift, so to speak. At 19mph, the handle would be changed into the 2nd position, 2nd ‘gear’ propelling the locomotive to a speed of 27mph, where once again the driver would ‘change gear’ with the selector handle selector position 3 would be good to 55mph where selector position four would then be chosen to take the locomotive to its maximum road speed allowed of 70mph. This would of course depend on load and track conditions as well as the type of service the locomotive was in at the time.

Goods trains of the time were typically limited to 35mph due to the 4 wheel rolling stock still in use, in these situations, the driver would have to use just 1 and 2 selector positions whereas the throttle settings would be set in notch eight to achieve maximum revs of 1000 and subsequent full traction horsepower.

I don’t recall a lot about working on these engines except for one extremely memorable trip on the main southern line one time. It could have been the Southern Highlands Express from Sydney to Goulburn on a Saturday, regular working for the 40 class, I do however remember that it was a single 40 class on one of these afternoon rushes south from Sydney.

All had been going well and we were running to time, although this could be a tough call for these engines. We were at Moss Vale and about to enter the last leg of the run to Goulburn. This section of the trip was a sprint of kinds, but there were a few intermediate stops to be made along the way.

Leaving Moss Vale was no drama and went as expected, transition up and get the ball rolling in readiness to tackle the stiff climb into the next station - Exeter.

Then all hell let loose, into the grade, the chant of the four cycle Alco suddenly changed to an explosive crescendo as a thick cloud of black smoke accompanied by white hot metallic fragments belched high into the cold early night air, alarm bells started to ring and then silence from the once roaring engine as the revs died down to a sickly idle, the crescendo from the bells deafening as they retorted there disgust at the V-12’s failure to function.

Quickly rolling to a halt on the steep grade, the driver set the brakes to stop the train from rolling back, we were just out of the platform and the station staff were watching in bewilderment. The 40 class turbo charger had let go in a big way, we weren't about to go anywhere in a hurry.

Communications were made with the station master and it was decided to pirate a 44 class off a goods train heading to Enfield that would be along shortly.

The 40 class finally got to double head with another Alco, but it didn’t contribute anything to the rest of the trip other than a dead weight of 100 plus tons of broken engine.

4001 resides at Thirlmere Railway Museum in Sydney as a cosmetic display, and two exist in the Pilbara’s, one converted to a Bo-Bo configuration, these latter engines are also non-operational.

Page 16

In the days I was on the NSWGR’s and we were working on a steam locomotive, it was common practice, when passing a freight train going in the opposite direction, to stand in the middle of the cab with your back to the firebox and observe over the tender, the loads of the wagons as they went by, keeping an eye out for flailing tarpaulins, loose timber etc.

Working to Moss Vale on the main southern line wasn’t easy, the climb from Picton to Bowral keeping you busy just about all of the time, you wouldn’t even realise a train had passed the other way until it was all but gone, such was the angle of your body whilst firing profusely to maintain steam pressure (bum up-head down).

If the job entailed turning around at Moss Vale, the exciting adventure of turning the loco on the armstrong turntable cast off to one side of Moss Vale yard was to be looked forward to. 

With an afternoon stopping train to Moss Vale headed up by one of the 4-6-0 C36 PIGS and a promised return on a local goods to Enfield, you knew that the armstrong was in waiting. 

Stabling the passenger consist in the storage sidings in readiness for a morning return trip, we would cut off the 36 and proceed to the table. If memory serves me right, the turntable had a lead track and nothing else, the opposite side being exposed to a shallow hillside, this turntable was meant to turn a locomotive and send it on its way. Balance was a critical factor on these armstrong tables, and the drivers skill in manoeuvring the locomotive to the exact balance point rewarded you with a relatively easy turning job, or a darned hard one.

After turning the Pig and coupling up to our goods train in readiness for the UP journey to Sydney, we would usually get a 20 minute ‘crib’ break, timetable departure depending on the volume of traffic prevalent at the time, after all, we were a lowly steam hauled goods train with little priority.

The UP trip to Sydney from Moss Vale is contrary to what it sounds, it is basically all downhill, a far cry from the sweat inducing labour needed to travel ‘down’.

After exiting a tunnel near Mittagong, I had checked the fire and put the injector on to maintain the water level in the boiler, then, noticing an opposing train, I did my duty and took a stance in the centre of the cab to observe the loads on the passing train.

After the last vehicle passed (a brake van in those days), I swung around to resume a seated position (the 36 had a padded seat to sit on, as well as a padded arm rest, talk about luxury). As my derriere came into contact with the welcoming cushion, I noticed a ganger waving to me, ever polite, I graciously waved back, acknowledging what I thought was his joviality.

The downhill run was uneventful, keep an eye on the water level, make sure and keep the fire hot without lifting the safety valves and observe the signals, the driver skillfully maintaining train speed within limits through judicious and skilful use of the train brake (no dynamic brake luxury here as on a diesel).

It was as we arrived at Picton that things didn’t quite seem right, the distant signal was showing caution and the home signal was at stop, staff were mingling around our envisaged stopping point.

Coming to a stand just short of the platform, the Station Master approached us - you just killed a ganger on this side of ?? Tunnel, the foreman waved to you to get your attention, but obviously you didn’t see him! - I waved to a worker at that site, I thought he was just being friendly - was my answer - the driver oblivious to there even being a track gang as he was on the left hand side of the engine and the gang was working on the “Down” main.

After being placed in the refuge siding to await interviewing, we found out some of the facts about the incident. The worker fatally injured, was apparently using a jack hammer and had stood clear of the down train as it approached. Upon its passing, he swung around to resume work on the track and was apparently struck by the buffer beam of our 36 class, catapulting him across the field and killing him instantly. As I was just swinging back into my seat after the opposing train cleared, I was not aware of the tragedy, the foreman's wave meaning nothing other than a goodwill gesture at the time.

At the time of the accident, it was not practice to protect the opposing line to that which the workmen were actually working on, hence our arrival on the scene from behind the down train was a complete surprise to the gang, this unwary soul taking the ultimate sacrifice for the lack of safe working practice.

I was fortunate, ‘if you can call it that’, in not having seen the event.

Coroners court was held at Picton, and for the first time, my driver and I had to confront the man’s family, he was a Yugoslav and his wife showed up in court grieving in traditional black having very little grasp of the English language.

The driver and I underwent extensive questioning, because the accident happened on ‘my’ side of the locomotive, the driver was relinquished of any blame, myself on the other hand, was literally crucified by the defending lawyer. In a strange quirk of fate, the judge eventually stood up for me, and stated the obvious, what could I have possibly done? Swerved! Not likely! Because I didn’t acknowledge the foreman as he intended would have made no difference to the outcome, the ganger was already deceased.

Safe working practices were reviewed after this accident and from then on, both directions were ‘flagged’ on double track even if work was only being performed on one track. Me, I became a criminal of sorts- being charged “as a formality”, with involuntary manslaughter - somebody ‘had’ to be blamed, and it was my side of the engine after all!

After more than twelve months of Ted’s Tales covering my nine years of service on the New South Wales Government Railways, this final, traumatic event brings to a close the memorable occurrences during that short career.

True, there are other stories to tell, some better left in the closet, and some that may surface from time to time, but not everyday was as exciting and memorable as the events that I have dictated here. Hope you have enjoyed reading Ted’s Memories of an age long gone by.

Ted (Teditor) Freeman.


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