well worth the full read
NOSTALGIC TRIP BACK THROUGH
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
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
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.
WISH CAME TRUE THE JOURNEY
NOW ALL I HAVE TO
DO IS REMEMBER IT AS
BEST AS I CAN!
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
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.
Eveleigh Large Erecting Shop
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.
Large Davey Press
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
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
The Davey Press was of course a bit more robust than
several sheets of paper; it was a 1,500 ton metal
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.
WHAT DOES A JUNIOR
TRAINEE ENGINEMAN DO?
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
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 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
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
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!.
ABOUT THE HOT PARTS
ON A STEAM ENGINE,
THE HARD WAY!
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
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
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
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!
SOME ON THE ROAD
ACTION AS A FIREMAN.
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
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.
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
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.
The Turnout (points)
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.
The double deck goods shed.
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
Ultimo Street Signal Box.
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
HAPPENS ONCE THE TRAIN
THAT WAS ASSISTED CLEARS
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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.
* names have been changed )
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
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?”.
* names have been changed )
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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 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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ted (Teditor) Freeman.