QJ - Adventures Down Under / The Last Bash (till the next)

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QJ

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Planning started back in October(2019). I had got fed up travelling on charter trains trundling around the UK with unexciting motive power and only the odd bobbins of excitement track wise. Someone on one of the many forums I frequent posted an alternative to railtours in March (2020) that caught my interest. Only trouble was the excursion mentioned was in the Australian State of Victoria; a weekend excursion from Melbourne to the North West Victoria town of Manangatang (population 479) with the promise of unusual diesel haulage along one of the remaining broad gauge freight lines in the Murray Basin.

But how to get this past my wife who I knew couldn't get the time off to go with me? Lots of grovelling and bribery was the answer and having checked airline fares Australia here I come (if they would let me in. I needn't have worried as the tourist visa took about ten minutes to be granted online!).

Having booked the flights and a space on the charter, there followed a number of evenings sifting the internet for rail things to do either side of the railtour. I decided a trip on the XPT had to be done along with as many of the passenger routes as possible within Victoria preferably loco hauled. I was also inspired by other rail enthusiasts to see how many of the twenty-five N class locos operated by V-Line I could get for haulage in the time I was there.

Sadly, at the time, the Overland train service from Melbourne to Adelaide was due to cease running at the end of December so that was out of the question. A trawl of the list of heritage lines found many only operated at weekends but the Puffing Billy Railway was shown as operating daily and the Victorian Goldfields Railway operated a Wednesday service. And there was always the Melbourne trams to fill in time if I got bored.

My plans formulated and timetables checked and everything was in place for a first trip to Australia; reservations on the bus from Echuca to Benalla to connect with the overnight XPT service from Benalla as far as Junee in New South Wales to return to Melbourne on the XPT working in the opposite direction (I had decided that going to Sydney would take up too much of my time).

What could possibly thwart my plan?!!!!!!

To start with:
- the bush fires raging across eastern Australia

followed by
- drought and extreme heat (above 36 degrees centigrade) warnings across Australia
- the derailment of the daytime Melbourne to Sydney XPT at Wullan (not far out of Melbourne) closing the standard gauge line from Melbourne to the NSW border town of Albury.
- engineering work on the North East regional broad gauge service from Melbourne to Shepparton with the line being closed for the whole time I was to be in Victoria.
- industrial action by V-line staff that meant trains might be cancelled or terminated short of destination without notice.

And the biggest threat of all: the coronavirus outbreak.

On the plus side The Overland was reprieved for three months. This would mean another rewrite of my plans as it would put me over eight hundred kilometres away from Melbourne in South Australia but needed to be done. I know the mental anguish of not doing some track whilst the opportunity presents itself that then haunts you for the rest of your days (Bridport, Honeybourne to Stratford upon Avon, Northampton to Market Harborough - then I remind myself where I have been. Gloom over).

Finally, in another twist, the standard gauge V-Line North East regional service from Melbourne to Albury resumed at the beginning of March. By then I had given up all attempts at detailed planning of where I was going (if I made it to Australia that is).

Thus the only things I had pre-booked were:-

day 1 - arrive at Melbourne Airport then travel the standard gauge line from Melbourne to Albury on the V-line service
day 2 - the Victorian Goldfields Steam railway and bus from Echuca to Benalla.
day 3 - XPT overnight leap
day 5 and 6 - the chartered excursion (departing Melbourne at 22:30 on day 4)
day 8 - The Overland
day - 10 fly home

To be continued - How the trip panned out...……………..
 
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QJ

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Day 1 10/03 Tuesday (not counting the time taken and time zones crossed travelling from the UK)

After a 23 hour two legged flight via Dubai I set foot on Australian soil at Melbourne International Airport on 10 March 2020 with enough time to obtain a myki card (a reloadable credit card-sized contactless smart card ticketing system used for electronic payment of fares on most public transport services in Melbourne and regional Victoria, Australia) and be dropped off in the Melbourne Southern Cross bus station by 07:30 AET (11 hours ahead of GMT) courtesy of the Skybus service. In arriving at Southern Cross bus station the Skybus passes the Bank Sidings and the adjacent Dudley Street Depot.

First sighting of an Australian loco goes to a V-line P class locomotive. N and Y class were also observed from the top deck of the bus.

Once at Southern Cross the short walk to the railway station found me face to face with the Overland due to depart for Adelaide at 08:05 from platform 2 operated by Journey Beyond (who also operate the Indian Pacific and the Ghan from their Adelaide Parklands base). The train originally ran on the broad gauge tracks of 1,600 mm or 5 ft 3 in and ran overnight but at the time of my visit runs in daylight on the standard gauge for which two platforms in Southern Cross have dual gauge track. Since my visit the operation of the train has ceased; the last Overland departed Melbourne for Adelaide on the Western standard gauge on 24 March 2020.

Having watched the Overland depart I went off to find my hotel a block away from the station where I was pleasantly surprised that my room was available. I had merely hoped they would store my bags until I returned from my first long distance jaunt of the holiday to the New South wales border town of Albury. The Albury train was not due to depart till 12:05 so breakfast was sought; a breakfast pie and coffee followed by a first use of the myki card; a trip to Craigieburn by metro. Though my first attempt failed when the train displaying Craigieburn as a destination promptly terminated at North Melbourne.

Why Craigieburn? It was as far as I could get along the North East rail route by broad gauge with all the regional services replaced by buses. I also got my first taste of the City loop (actually four bi-directional tracks in tunnels to the north and viaducts to the south that allow suburban metro trains to loop around the central business district). The train consisted of two Comeng 3 car electric multiple units running clockwise around the Northern loop from North Melbourne via Melbourne Central, Flinders Street, Southern Cross and back to North Melbourne before threading its way through the Essendon suburbs to Broadmeadows (where Albury bound services stop to pick up northbound and set down southbound on a platform on the Eastern standard gauge track that parallels the broad gauge as far as Seymour) and on to the limit of 1500 volts DC overhead electric working at Craigieburn.

Back up the line I paused at North Melbourne station. Just south of North Melbourne is a flyover that is used by a number of regional V-Line trains, ECS and light engine moves to travel to and from the low numbered non electrified terminal platforms at Southern Cross. South Dynon Depot and the Western and Eastern standard gauge lines can be accessed via the flyover as well as the broad gauge Regional Rail Link (RRL). Whilst at North Melbourne I was able to capture N453 bringing the empty stock for the Albury NSW service from South Dynon.
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Then it was back to Southern Cross to buy some provisions from the station supermarket before catching train 8615 1205 to Albury from platform 2N. At platform 3N was N460 on train 8865 13:05 to Warrnambool whilst Y129 was station / Bank sidings pilot.
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At the time of my visit the eastern standard gauge line to the NSW border was subject to an 80kph maximum speed limit; the reason given for the XPT not running to Melbourne but being pined at Albury. As it was the V-line service was 60 minutes late rolling across the Murray River Victoria / NSW border.
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The route out of Melbourne is quite interesting as it takes the flyover line, runs between depots and freight terminals at South Dynon, runs under Footscray station and passes Tottenham Yard before heading north and paralleling the North Eastern broad gauge line from Broadmeadows (a pick up only stop) to Seymour where the broad gauge veers away towards Shepparton (sadly closed beyond the metro limit of working at Criagieburn for three weeks of engineering work - bowled).

At Albury there was just over an hour to explore the station and check out the XPT (power cars 2005 and 2009) stabled in the main platform. Then it was an amble back to the back platform to re-board the V-Line train departing at 17:20 to return to Melbourne as train number 8630.
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All the travel caught up with me and somewhere east of Benalla I fell asleep. So much for checking out the rows of locos stored at Seymour in the railway heritage centre yard. Back at Melbourne only thirty minutes late there was time to take in a late evening tram ride to Saint Kilda Beach (route 96) knowing there was a night service on the route so I wouldn't get stuck. I didn't realise it at the time but part of this route south of Flinders Street was on the formation of the Flinders Street to Saint Kilda Railway closed in 1987 as a broad gauge suburban 1500v dc electric line (the tram network is standard gauge and 600v dc). As I had to get up early I didn't carry on to the northern terminus of the tram route but got off at the Southern Cross stop; my hotel being just around the corner.

Flexity tram 6019 at Southern Cross (stop 1) on the St Kilda Beach to East Brunswick line.
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- to be continued - day 2
 
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QJ

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Day 2 11/03 Wednesday

Up early to put my plan to visit the Victoria Goldfields Railway (VGR) into action. The plan also included getting two N class locos for haulage by catching train 8081 07:41 from Southern Cross to Swan Hill as far as Castlemaine then doubling back to Kyneton on the 8080 06:56 morning up train from Swan Hill before getting back to Castlemaine courtesy of train 8015 09:14 Southern Cross to Bendigo.

N460 did the honours on 8081 from Southern Cross departing from platform 5, heading along the V line past the fuel point and the Through Country line to access the flyover and the Regional Rail Line to Sunbury (non electrified track separate from the adjacent metro line).
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Non platform track 1a was taken at Sunbury and then the east track through Gisborne to Kyneton and the end of double track. The former line from Maryborough trailed in left before arrival at Castlemaine. There was time to check out the VGR buffet on the platform once I found the subway and confirm the train was running steam hauled (the train had been diesel hauled over the summer months because of the heatwave Australia had been experiencing until not long before my visit).

N468 arrived with 8080 and whisked me back up the main line to Kyneton some eleven minutes late on a plus eleven. There was a slight panic when I realised the trains were due at Kyneton at the same time as access to platform 2 is by the road level crossing at the south end of the platform. I had visions of not being able to cross the track in time. Fortunately the Vlocity unit was a few minutes late and I had no trouble making the leap. It even deposited me on the island platform at Castlemaine so I wouldn't have to use the subway to access the VGR train; that was until a railfan gave me the gen. that a loaded grain train was due from the Bendigo direction headed by two S class locos operated by SSR (Southern Shorthaul Railroad).

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After the excitement of the freight I exchanged my e-ticket for an Edmundson style ticket plus a cab permit for a footplate ride on the J class steam locomotive hauling the VGR train to the end of the heritage line at Maldon. The first part of the route follows the now closed cross country route to Maryborough about a kilometre to Maldon Junction
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where the line diverges north and drops down to cross Winters Flat Trestle Bridge. What I hadn't expected was the gradient of the line to reach the intermediate stop at Muckleford of 1 in 40 uphill. Now that was a footplate experience. At Muckleford I boarded the train to continue the journey to be asked by someone onboard if I got to Muckleford by taxi as I had a cab pass on a lanyard round my neck!
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The timetable allowed a two hour break in Maldon for passengers to wander into town for refreshments in the many cafes and bars and mooch around the nearby goldmine site. I chose to visit, with permission, the workshop facilities where a number of diesels and steam locomotives were stored around the turntable. Amongst the assortment of locomotives was an F class loco similar to a BR class 08. Unfortunately it was out of traffic at the time of my visit with a bearing issue but I was assured the parts were on hand for repairs to be made to restore it to running order.

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Back at Castlemaine there was time to watch the J class being turned on the turntable and prepared for returning the VGR train back to Maldon whilst I waited for the daily train to Echuca and my cunning plan to travel the Echuca line then cut across country by coach to connect with the overnight XPT to Sydney. (Out and back journeys to Echuca the same day from Melbourne are only timetabled at weekends). I had an interesting conversation with a local who assumed I too was local about fishing for carp and whether the local footie team was any good. Do I really have an Australian accent? I was accused of being Australian on a visit to Vancouver Island many years ago. I am beginning to get concerned!

After an hour or so killing time making use of the private buffet in the main booking hall the Echuca service turned up formed of two Vlocity units as far as Bendigo where the rear set was left behind. After arrival at Echuca and passengers had detrained the unit was shunted out of the station into a fenced off siding behind the goods shed (to return to the station early the following morning).
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I had three quarters of an hour to wait for the coach to turn up so I wandered down to the bank of the River Murray for something to do; Echuca being a border town. The railway continues beyond Echuca over the river to Deniliquin so I followed the track along a parallel road but stayed firmly on the Victoria side of the border. As the coach had started its journey 670kms away in Adelaide SA I was sceptical it would be on time but at the appointed hour it duly racked up to the stop outside the station. It has an advertised connection with the XPT so I settled down to enjoy the ride.

Before the Melbourne XPT service had been curtailed to operate only in the NSW I had pre-booked to board the overnight Sydney bound service (train number 622) at Benalla as far as Junee then board the Melbourne bound train 621 with a couple of hours to kill. Whilst I knew that the Melbourne to Albury service was bustituted I couldn't find any definitive timings. A couple of days before I was due to fly out to my horror the timetable was showing the trains retimed and would pass south of Junee not to the north so I decided to chance the 40 minutes at Sydney from arrival of the overnight 622 and departure of the daytime 623 service. Then I got an email from NSW Train Link to say that the timings would be as per the train timetable between Albury and Sydney with the bus leaving Benalla an hour earlier than the train would.

DOH for two reasons. I could have made the leap at Junee after all and the coach I was on would arrive at Benalla after the rail replacement coach instead of the other way round. I couldn't be bothered to change my arrangements yet again so left my XPT ticket showing Benalla to Sydney. Of course the buses connected. But by the time I woke up to that fact my driver had closed the door and it was too late to swap. Why is this of interest you ask? Well it appears that because I was a no show at Benalla my ticket had been cancelled and I had been rebooked by NSW Trainlink on the day train from Albury. Oops! Fortunately the train manager on the XPT allowed me to stay onboard as no one had claimed the seat in the meantime.

The XPT was due to depart at 23:07 so there was time to grab a photograph for posterity of XP2015 and XP2014 either side of five coaches (XFH2106 - XR2221 - XBR2153 -XL2232 - XAM2182) and take my seat in the 1st class saloon car (in preference to the sleeper car these trains have which can be converted to seating compartments for day use). At around 22:50 the buffet car attendant announced, "The buffet is open and taking orders for dinner. Because of alcohol licencing laws if you want beer or wine you have ten minutes to purchase it." Refreshments duly obtained I settled down in my reclining seat as the train rattled off into the night.
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To be continued ...….(day 3)
 
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QJ

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Day 3 (12/03)

Somewhere after Wagga Wagga I fell asleep and didn't regain full consciousness until 621 was threading its way through the Sydney suburbs. A pity as I missed observing the Bethungra Spiral and Frampton Bank. I do recall the guard announcing the stop at Campbelltown as being on time and Sydney would be an on time arrival too; probably because I had mentioned my plan to him during the ticket check to exit stage left at Campbelltown if the train was late.

One station name stuck in the memory as the train headed towards Sydney Central; Padstow on the East Hills line. Thoughts of the Withered Arm came to mind as did breakfast. And the guard was correct. Train 622 arrived at Sydney Central on time via the Up Illawarra diveunder into platform 4. So there was 40 minutes to do some sightseeing and get breakfast, take some photos and locate my pew in coach XL2235 for the journey back to Albury.

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The train was completely full and I must have obtained one of the last free seats as my reservation was an aisle seat with a great view of the end of the coach and not much else. Nevertheless some sights of interest were noted as the train slipped out of platform 2 formed of XP2013 leading and XP2004 bringing up the rear bookending XAM2177 - XL2235 - XBR2158 - XR2208 - XFH2107.

After taking the down Illawarra diveunder and retracing the route via the East Hills line the Southern main line was resumed at Glenfield. Then followed a number of twists and turns including the horseshoe curve at Picton to climb up the north side of the Southern Highlands. Coal is to be found in the area and there is a coal mine at Tahmoor on the up side of the line. A coal train could be seen on the loop waiting to be loaded. A colliery conveyor straddles the main line at kp 98.218. Before Tahmoor a deviation was built in 2012 to bypass Redbank Tunnel (owing to subsidence from mining). THE NSW Railway Museum at Thirlmere is a 5km taxi ride from Tahmoor station (one for another day). A rail connection to Thirlmere veers to the west off the Picton Horseshoe curve. This line used to continue back to the Southern main line at Mittagong Junction but the line was severed as a through route with the closure of the section between Buxton and Braemar. The museum offers train rides from Thirlmere station on operating days.

Before Bowral the train enters the double track Gib Tunnel that had replaced the original single bore tunnel now the site of a mushroom farm. At Goulburn the XPT crossed to the Up Main to stop at the main platform.To the south of Goulburn on the east side of the line is a wagon repair facility followed by a locomotive roundhouse full of heritage steam and diesel locomotives. The double track main line continues to Junee but passenger trains have to cross to the platform road as that station only has one platform. Junee also uses just the one platform with the up island platform out of use. A sparse passenger service runs on the branch to Griffith from Junee that trailed in on the west side of the line north of the station. For the train spotters there is a depot at Junee with a number of locos in evidence on shed as the XPT trundled past onto the single line to Albury and the coaches waiting to transport people the three and a half hours on to Melbourne. (Two coaches direct to Melbourne, one calling at Seymour and Broadmeadows and one for the other calling points).

Before Junee is reached the down line drops down a 1 in 40 incline at Bethungra. This was the original single track line before the Bethungra spiral was built to provide an easier grade for up trains crossing the Bethungra range. Needless to say I had dozed off and missed viewing the heritage-listed rail spiral. Doh!

Having had my taste of the XPT (they have about three years left in traffic before CAF replacements enter service) I opted for the coach rather than wait two hours and a half hours for the V-Line train as I knew the loco would be N453. Instead I hoped I would get to Melbourne in enough time to catch train 8869 19:13 to Warrnambool or train 8803 19:25 to South Geelong.

I made the 19:13 with ease so validated my myki card for the run behind N466 to North Geelong on the Regional Rail Line (RRL) via Wyndham Vale. At North Geelong I hopped off for the short wait to catch train 8803 the one stop hop onto Geelong hauled by N467 (the empty Australian haulage book starting to fill up as a result). Whilst at North Geelong N468 clattered through on train 8868 (17:43 from Warrnambool to Melbourne). After admiring the heritage architecture of Geelong station I jumped aboard train 8814 2050 from Waurn Ponds formed of Vlocity unit 48 for the run back along the RRL. Nowadays all passenger trains on the South Western regional line through Geelong use the RRL rather than the original route via Newport and Werribee.

Day 3 was not quite over as I had a ride to Upfield and back on the Metro outward via the city loop and back direct from North Melbourne to Southern Cross to cross off another branch before retiring to the hotel and checking the local news channels for updates on the impending pandemic.

The line from Upfield used to carry on to join the North Eastern line at Somerton for freight traffic. This track appeared to be out of use and confirmed by a butchers at Google Maps satellite images.

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 4
J class 1

Standard gauge
N class 1
XPT power cars 4


To be continued ………(day 4)
 
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Fascinating stuff. I'm pretty certain I'll never go to Australia, but very interesting all the same.
 

QJ

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Fascinating stuff. I'm pretty certain I'll never go to Australia, but very interesting all the same.

I thought that as well. But circumstance found me in Melbourne with a free pass from the missus who wasn't able to travel with me. It was a great sacrifice leaving her behind.
 
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QJ

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Day 4 (13/03) Friday.

Up early again for a wander down to Southern Cross to determine what destination I was going to choose to visit and get another breakfast pie and long black (coffee). The 707 Operations Grainlander, Sunset over the Harvest railtour was not due to leave until 22:30 so I had most of the day for some other adventure. I had a choice of loco haulage to Swan Hill (train 8081) or Warrnambool (train 8861). Which to choose would be decided by the sticky digits on the loco. With 8081 allocated to N467 and 8861 in the trust of N472 a trip along the V-Line South Western Regional line was meant to be. A paper ticket was duly obtained as the destination was outside the myki zone and I settled down for the ride departing at 07:30 from platform 8 along the country bypass line, flyover and Regional Rail Link (RRL) via Wyndham Vale to Geelong then out into the countryside until arriving at Warrnambool at 11:09 to give just under an hour before returning at 12:07 as train 8864.

En-route the train passed the moribund Tottenham Yard and under two curved concrete viaducts marking the connection between the western and eastern standard gauge lines. At Manor Junction the RRL joins the original line via Newport and Werribee by flying junction. The single track Western standard gauge line also reappears at Manor Junction and runs alongside to the north of the double track broad broad gauge to North Shore before heading inland towards Ararat. A broad gauge freight line also diverges at North Shore heading for Ballarat. Dual gauge track from these two freight lines drops under the Geelong passenger route to access the grain unloading loop at the nearby Corio Quay. Views of Corio Bay can be had from the train before North Geelong Yard is passed along with the V-Line depot and carriage sidings at Geelong. After Geelong the line becomes single with non platform passing loops at Marshall and Camperdown and stabling sidings at Waurn Ponds (the current limit of Vlocity DMU workings until track work permits their use further west).

Not knowing the method of working on this line I was caught by surprise by the train halting at Camperdown then reversing. The train then stopped and proceeded forward into the adjacent ground frame accessed siding and stopped. After about 5 minutes train 8862 rolled into the station and all became clear.

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Departure from Camperdown was from the siding and fifty minutes later Warrnambool was reached following glimpses of Lady Bay and Warrnambool Beach. The South Western line once continued 37kms to Port Fairy. Part of this closed section not now under the Princes Highway has been turned into a rail trail. The line does still continue beyond Warrnambool station to serve a container terminal siding.

I went for a wander round Lake Pertobe rather than venture into town not realising that the path I was following was on the formation of a line used during the construction of Warrnambool Breakwater. The line does still continue beyond Warrnambool station to serve a container terminal siding.
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A number of coach services connect with the train services. As a Devonian one destination caught my eye; Dartmoor.
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But not enough to get on it. Instead I got back on the train for the run back the 271.3kms to Southern Cross arriving via the flyover and main country and T line at the north end of platform 4. The afternoon down Warrnambool service was crossed at Marshall with the down train waiting in the non platform loop for the up train to pass.

Ast Southern Cross the loco was detached and drawn forward onto the stock for 8237 16:09 to Bacchus Marsh whilst the coaches were whisked off ECS by the loco allocated to the evening Gippsland line train.

Back at Southern Cross I found myself in the middle of the rush hour being tempted to catch required N456 on train 8239 16:34 to Melton the 6.1kms to the first stop at Footscray shown in the timetable as a pick up only stop. Naughty me not spotting that. Not hanging around I jumped on the first metro train back to Southern Cross only to find me repeating the offence with N452 on train 8867 17:13 to Warrnambool. Oops!

Rather than head back to Southern Cross I decided to head off the 9.4 kms to Williamstown to travel to the end of another metro line. Outside of the peak hours the service is a shuttle to and from Newport station to the south of which stands the Newport workshops in the V of the Williamstown and Werribee lines. Newport Workshops play host to a number of railway preservation groups including 707 Operations. The train for the weekend excursion could be seen in the yard.

I spent a bit of time at Newport in a bar near the station watching Rugby League and Aussie Rules on the big screen before heading back to Southern Cross. The ECS for the excursion duly arrived at platform 3 at around 22:00 headed by an H, S, XR class treble header. With the loco run round only being able to handle one loco there followed a spell of musical locos whilst the 70 or so passengers were greeted on the platform by the tour organizer and planner.
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The train was formed of 10 heritage cars from various trains including the Overland, Vinelander and Southern Aurora. My allocated single sleeper berth was in one of the two Southern Aurora sleepers in the consist; LAN 2354, a stainless steel, air conditioned sleeping carriage built in 1962 for the Victorian and New South Wales Government Railways. Fortunately for me the coach had broad gauge bogies fitted on preservation and restoration otherwise I would have had a bumpy ride!

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I was pleased to see that my sleeper was towards the front of the train and even more pleased that there was a plug socket so I could charge my phone and camera batteries over the weekend (something lacking on the V-Line and NSW Trainlink services). I was also pleased that the hotel I was staying at had agreed to store my luggage over the weekend.

With a complimentary drink and a light supper on offer I forsook the sanctuary of my sleeper berth for the club car. The train left a few minutes late destination heading for Manangatang routed via the East Country line to the flyover then the RRL to Footscray, Sunshine and the Western broad gauge route to Ballarat. As day 4 merged into day 5 I was to be found enjoying the atmosphere in the bar with friends who had also booked on the tour. There was no need to hurry the supper as the train wasn't due to reach its destination for another thirteen and a half hours. Whilst the passengers were all congregated in the buffet car H5 leading S306 and XR555 stormed off into the night (if an 80kph maximum permitted speed limit for the train can be described thus).

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 8
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 1
XPT power cars 4


To be continued ………(day 5)
 
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High Dyke

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Top stuff so far. Well done!

Just to add to your reference about the Class F loco.
The F Class were a class of diesel locomotive shunters built by Dick Kerr Works for the Victorian Railways between 1951 and 1953. They are similar to the British Rail Class 11 and NS Class 600 shunting locomotives also built by English Electric during this period, but modified for use on the VR's 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) broad gauge
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_Railways_F_class_(diesel)
 

QJ

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Day 5 (14/03) Saturday

Having enjoyed the camaraderie of the bar car the time came to leave. But not to my berth. Beyond Bacchus Marsh (named after founder Henry Bacchus) and the limit of V-Line loco hauled service trains the railway line climbs for several kilometres at grades of 1 in 48/50. So it was open a strategic window and listen to the music.

There was an alternative reason as well. The Ballarat line is currently the subject of a major upgrade with double tracking to Melton and the addition of second platforms at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan. Part of this upgrade created an alternative shorter line bypassing Bungaree. Which way would the train take, south as booked or north as requested? After the stop at Ballarat (like Geelong retaining its overall roof) and with a few extra kilometres than scheduled in the bag it was time for a snooze. As well as eliminating 5 level crossings on the original route and being 5 kms shorter the cut off is passed for 160kph to make use of the top speed of Vlocity units. Once the upgrade works on the Ballarat line have been completed it is expected the older route will be closed. Was this the last loco hauled passenger train through Bungaree?

Some time later I surfaced for breakfast served in the bar car; buffet style help yourself. Fried eggs, bacon, sausages, cereals, fruit and HP sauce. Cue a double take. HP sauce! Heaven! Breakfast over and somewhere north of Quambatook I settled back in a spare economy class compartment in coach BRS224. I had no idea that this coach had been built in 1940. It must have had a good conversion in 1983 when two compartments were removed to add a buffet counter (not used on this trip).
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Eventually the train reached its destination and passengers were escorted to Manangatang town hall where a BBQ buffet lunch had been laid on. The good folks of Manangatang did themselves proud with their hospitality but the time soon came to board the off train tour by bus to the Red Cliffs Historical Steam Railway. I had to get a winning loco in somehow!

The Manangatang line used to continue to Robinvale. It was one of a number of railway lines that extended into the Murray Basin. A look on the map shows these lines being very close together including that to Mildura that passes through the town of Red Cliffs. The Mildura line was converted to standard gauge as part of the Murray Basin Rail Project. The bus went west to the Calder Highway then north paralleling the Mildura line to reach Red Cliffs; a journey of around an hour and a half. Then it was back on the bus to continue following the rail line to Mildura before crossing the Murray River into NSW for our rendezvous with dinner at the Euston Club on the banks of the river. The Sea Lake and Manangatang lines should also have been re-gauged along with the Mildura line but the project has stalled. Just as well given the excursion train was broad gauge.

The 610mm Red Cliffs Steam Railway operates along a short section of the broad gauge Victoria Railways branch line that once ran westwards from Red Cliffs to Morkella. There is a loop and station at the Red Cliffs end of the current operating line from where the two coach train ran 1.3kms to the current western terminus. There is a turntable at the far end where the loco was turned. The return ran round the loop for a distance of 1.5kms and passed the shed which was opened up so the Kerr Stuart 0-4-2T steam loco Lukee could be viewed. Because of the short length of the line a second run along the line was made.
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Then it was back on the bus to continue following the rail line to Mildura before crossing the Murray River into NSW for our rendezvous with dinner at the Euston Club on the banks of the river.
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Waitress served dinner over there was time for a brief stroll along the river before getting back on the bus to be returned to Manangatang this time direct via Robinvale; a journey time of an hour. With the train not due to leave Manangatang till 06:00 on Sunday morning the hostelry in Managatang was sampled. The bar on the train was also open to while away the time. As was sleep which was the eventual preferred option. Need to be wide awake for the run back in the morning.

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 7
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 1
XPT power cars 4

Narrow gauge
610mm diesel 1

To be continued...…….(day 6)
 
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QJ

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Day 6 (15/03) Sunday

707 Operations train 8294 duly departed at the appointed hour of 06:00 with XR555 leading S306 and H5 in multiple. Not that I got out of my berth to witness it. I just glanced out the window and surfaced a hour and a half later for breakfast. The same fare the previous day was available from BK708 (built in 1941 as a second class saloon carriage and turned into a lounge car by a previous private owner in 1987). The HP sauce was still there to my joy. It looked like I was the only one that was availing myself of it!
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Sunday was to be a no winning loco day as it would take most of the day to travel the 495kms to Melbourne. This was some 37kms more than the outward journey as the route back was to be via the freight and empty stock transfer line from Ballarat to North Shore (Geelong). After passing a number of rail served and former rail served grain silos short stops for a leg stretch were made at the former stations of Quambatook and Boort where lunch was delivered by van by a local provider. Between the two stops the still open line from Sea Lake trailed in at Korong Vale.
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Inglewood still had a passing loop and two platforms. South of the station the closed and disconnected line to Bridgewater and Bendigo (the original route for Robinvale trains) used to carry straight on whilst the extant line towards Dunolly and Maryborough veered off to the right as did we. Just before Dunolly the standard gauge Mildura line trailed in to create a short section of dual gauge track before the station. The track (no 1 road) next to the former station platform is broad gauge only whilst the adjacent track (no 2 road) and still extant sidings are standard gauge only as a result of the Murray Basin Rail Project. Beyond the station the dual gauge track was rejoined all the way to Maryborough where another leg stretch was taken during an operational stop. Between Dunolly and Maryborough a mob of kangaroos loitering by the track were disturbed and sent scattering in all directions(caught on the hop not expecting a train).

Maryborough is the current limit of V-Line services from Melbourne formed of Vlocity units via Ballarat. The dual gage track runs past the station platform (all other roads are standard gauge only but appeared not in use). Before Maryborough station the closed (and also disconnected) broad gauge line from Castlemaine trailed in whilst beyond the station the standard gauge line towards Ararat diverged west from the passenger route towards Ballarat. Passenger services north and west of Ballarat were discontinued in 1994 but the Maryborough line regained its service in 2010.
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The excursion passed the Ararat line (closed in 1994 and re-opened until 2004) trailing in at North Ballarat Junction alongside the North Ballarat workshops where a P class loco was spotted amongst the electric multiple units being refurbished.The train then came to a stop at Ballarat in platform 2 also known as no 3 road as per the outward route (no 2 road being the middle non platform road). A stop of forty five minutes whilst the evening meals were delivered allowed time to quickly explore the town and take a closer look at the station that has retained many of its 19th century features.
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Loading the food taken care of it was time for one of the highlights of the day; a run along the broad gauge line to North Shore (Geelong). But first things first. On departure from Ballarat the Independent track was taken to the closed station of Ballarat East before crossing over to the Geelong line by the VLocity train maintenance facility. A glimpse of some derelict looking steam locos stored in a compound was had as the train clattered through East Ballarat (an internet search suggests they are stored D3 class 4-6-0s).

The Geelong line parallels the Ballarat to Melbourne line up a 1 in 52 gradient to the summit at Warenheip where the passenger route heads east and the freight line veers southwards to meet the western standard gauge line at Gheringhap. A run along the dual gauge main followed as far as North Geelong where the dual gauge continued into the Geelong Docks grain loop whilst the excursion took the broad gauge connection onto the South Western Regional line at North Shore. A liner train passed westbound on the standard main in the vicinity of Geelong North and there are connections to North Geelong Yard and North Geelong station forming a triangle.

After a stop at North Shore to allow people from Geelong to detrain the final leg of the journey back to Melbourne commenced with more new track for me as the train was routed from Manor Junction by the old route through Werribee and Newport to Footscray (no passenger service between Manor Junction and Werribee then Metro line to South Kensington). The train passed under the RRL just beyond Footscray as far as South Kensington then crossed over to continue over the flyover at North Melbourne to arrive at the same platform at Southern Cross from where the excursion started; platform 3.

A fantastic excursion well worth the entrance money not just for the track and traction on my first visit to Australia but also for the onboard volunteers and train crew that went above and beyond to make it a wonderful experience. Hopefully I'll get to go on another such excursion in the future. Arriving back at 20:00 and it being a Sunday I made my way back to the hotel to retrieve my luggage, check in and prepare for another early start in the morning destination Swan Hill (on the banks of the Murray River where else!). Rather than venture out again I took to checking the television news and airline websites to assess the pandemic situation in case I had to leave Australia in a hurry. I was also mindful that my plans for Tuesday and Wednesday might have been in jeopardy with revisions needed.

To be continued...…(day7)
 
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QJ

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Day 7 (16/03) Monday

After a day of no winning locomotive haulages it was up early in the hope that I might add to my tally of N class haulages. My plan was to take train 8081 leaving at Southern Cross at 07:41 for Swan Hill whatever the traction to clear the required track north of Bendigo so a paper ticket was required. The myki boundary being 8kms north of Bendigo at Eaglehawk. To my delight Turkish Delight liveried N451 was sat on the stock on platform 5. The red pen was straight into action! A good start to a 347.8km journey.

Before departure breakfast was obtained (pie and coffee what else) which was just as well because unbeknown to my fellow traveller and I V-Line had withdrawn all the buffet services from their long distance trains as a precaution against spreading coronavirus. They also stopped ticket checks too (not that I took advantage of this of course). Swan Hill was reached on time just after 12:20 and buses were waiting outside the station to transfer passengers on to Piangil and Mildura. The Swan Hill line once continued further north to Yungera but was cut back to Piangil and is only open for freight as part of the Victorian core grain network. Not too far south of Swan Hill a field full of minions was observed. Someone with a sense of humour!

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The city of Swan Hill is situated where the Little Murray River flows into the Murray River and it and the surrounding area has a number of visitor attractions. On approaching Swan Hill D3 class steam locomotive 640 was seen on display in the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement. With the return to Melbourne of N451 due at 12:54 as train 8084 there wasn't much time for anything else than a quick wander into town to the KFC for a take away. On departure it was noted that the station sidings included a still functioning turntable as a number of steam locomotive hauled excursions usually run to Swan Hill each year. Just to confirm I wasn't seeing things the minions were still there on the way back.

Back at Melbourne Southern Cross there was time to browse some of the N class loco hauled trains awaiting departure. As a result N463 fell to the red pen on train 8928 18:25 evening Swan Hill service. 6.1kms of haulage over I detrained and headed back on the metro from platform 1 at Footscray to Southern Cross. Construction work on the north portal of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel could be seen to the left of the train as the metro passed through South Kensington. It was noticeable that there were less commuters on the trains than I was led to believe would be.

I was pleased to see the Overland had made its way to Melbourne despite fears it might stop running prematurely amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
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I watched it leave for the carriage sidings at South Dynon then it was off for beers and dinner at the Mail Exchange Hotel. Suitably refreshed it was then time to retire to my hotel room to catch up on the news and prepare for another marathon train journey in the morning. Adelaide here I come!

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 10
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 1
XPT power cars 4

Narrow gauge
610mm diesel 1
To be continued...……. (day 8)
 
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QJ

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Day 8 (17/03) Tuesday

The Overland Melbourne to Adelaide train journey was on my original list of things to do. I thought I had left it too late expecting it to have ceased running at the end of December but the Victoria Government kindly subsidised it for three more months to the end of March. Thank you very much whoever found the finances. The train was only booked to run twice a week, from Adelaide on Mondays and Fridays and from Melbourne on Tuesdays and Saturdays. This was the only day of my holiday it could be fitted in despite ending up in Adelaide without being able to get back the same day.

My original plan was to catch the overnight Adelaide to Melbourne coach back and I did obtain an e-ticket for it. Then I thought better of it for two reasons. One, there was only three hours to get to the coach station if the Overland was on time (less the half hour stipulated for being at the coach stand) and two I had second thoughts about slumming it on the coach for ten hours. Instead I booked a hotel near to Adelaide railway station and a flight to Melbourne Avalon from Adelaide Airport.

Only one issue since 1995 the Overland uses standard gauge stock and runs on the western standard gauge line with its Adelaide terminus at Parklands (just under 4kms short of the original broad gauge). I had a cunning plan. Instead of using the taxis to transfer to central Adelaide I would walk out of the Parklands terminal down the approach road to the Anzac Highway and nip across that road to the metro station at Adelaide Showground.

With my plans all sorted and ready to go I still contrived to get up late so had to leg it down to Southern Cross pretty sharpish. I had to check in on the platform with the Overland staff to find out where on the train my reserved seat was. It proved to be coach B but with all the flapping I only managed a quick photograph of the train prior to departure at 08:05.
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As far as Tottenham Junction the Overland followed the same route past South Dynon (V-Line maintenance) and UGL Spotswood Maintenance Centre (Pacific National loco maintenance) then headed to Newport (running behind the metro station) to parallel the South Western broad gauge to North Shore (Geelong) to pick up passengers before turning inland to a stop at Ararat. from Ararat the train then followed the original Serviceton line (re-gauged from broad to standard) with stops at Stawell (pronounced as "stall"), Horsham, Dimboola and NHill (pronounced as "nil") in Victoria along with Bordertown and Murray Bridge in South Australia before eventual arrival in Adelaide timed for 17:40.
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The journey was uneventful and I needn't have worried about late running despite the route being single track with a number of passing loops. A couple of freights were noted in the Wimmera Intermodal freight terminal and that was about it. The complimentary meals and soft drinks helped to while away the time until the descent to cross the River Murray where the scenery picked up with the line climbing up the Rocky Gully Creek twisting and turning to cross the Adelaide Hills then descend through Belair with views across the Gulf St Vincent. From Belair the line follows the single track broad gauge Adelaide metro line. Along the way there was a small group of protesters voicing their opinion of the impending withdrawal of the Overland service. Good luck with that!

Unencumbered with luggage (left in my hotel in Melbourne) I had a quick wander around the Parklands station building (just in case I get to travel the Ghan or Indian Pacific) and try to take some photos of the Pacific National locomotive NR58 that had hauled the Overland the 800 plus kilometres. Occasionally the locomotive arriving at Melbourne on the Overland got swapped for another the following day but not this time.
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I made it across the Anzac Highway to Adelaide Showground station in one piece to find no ticket office or ticket machine. A few trains came and went before the penny dropped. The ticket machines were on the trains. Having sussed that out I boarded a Bombardier A-City 4000 Class metro train the 36 kms to Seaford for something to do. Then promptly returned by a different A-City to Adelaide showground and then on to Adelaide station by Comeng 3000 class diesel railcar to complete my journey from Sydney to Adelaide via Melbourne. Before calling it a day and retiring to my hotel I purchased a metro card and travelled by the same Comeng railcar the 21.5kms to Belair and back on the broad gauge remnant of the original Melbourne route (the former down line with the up line being the line re-gauged to standard). Once a track basher always a track basher.
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With the bar in the hotel shut (thanks for the complimentary drink voucher - that really quenched my thirst!) and no nearby restaurants open I raided a local store for provisions and settled down in my hotel for the night enjoying (if that is the right word) a steaming pile of pot noodles.

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 10
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 1
NR class 1
XPT power cars 4

Narrow gauge
610mm diesel 1

To be continued...……. (day 9)
 
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QJ

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Day 9 (18/03) Wednesday

With my flight to Avalon (not, alas, the island of Arthurian legend but an alternative airport to Melbourne Tullamarine) scheduled for late morning my plan was to travel over a bit more broad gauge track. Hence the Adelaide metro card I obtained the day before. Down at Adelaide station by 07:00 I jumped on the next departure which happened to be the 07:08 to Gawler Central. Two class 3000 railcars formed the train for my journey on the longest branch of the Adelaide Metro system. Whilst there are 26 stations the Gawler Central skips some of them with short workings filling in the gaps and providing a more frequent service to some stations nearer to Adelaide.

Islington ,Kilburn and Salisbury came and went the train passing the Adelaide Freight terminal and Islington Railway Workshops. Finally Gawler was reached but this wasn't the end of the line just the double track. Gawler Central was another 2.4 kms further on. It started to dawn on me I would be cutting it fine getting back to Adelaide for my flight. Don't panic, Mr. Mainwaring! The track continued beyond Gawler Central and research determined that this line once continued up the Barossa valley to Truro with a branch to Penrice Quarry. I recall seeing film of the Barossa valley wine train and talk of the legendary quarry trains. I thought to myself then I would love to travel on that line. Typical that I showed up six years after the line closed! As I am typing this I am drinking Barossa chardonnay so I at least get a taste of the region. Cheers!
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The standard gauge Port Augusta line runs alongside the Gawler line as far as Salisbury before veering north west. Passenger service on this line is provided by the Ghan and Indian Pacific trains operated by Journey Beyond. Another trip to Adelaide may be in order to ride one or both of those but this visit was due to finish so my plan to catch the sky bus went out the window in favour of a taxi. And make it snappy!

Fortunately the taxi rank was full and the queue non existant. Seems there was some dire warning about a virus deterring travel. After what seemed an interminable crawl through the centre of Adelaide signs to the airport began to appear. I started to relax noting the taxi passing the northern end of Parklands station. Twenty minutes after jumping in the taxi it was pulling up outside the terminal building. Made it or had I? Looking at the departure screen I couldn't see any reference to my flight. Casting my eye around the flights I noticed a JetStar flight to Avalon at 10:20. Then it dawned on me my I-phone had the flight shown in Eastern Daylight Time not Central Daylight Time. Oops - my research didn't extend to checking time zones. Panic! Thankfully I breezed through security and managed to leg it to the gate just in time.

But where was Avalon. With a flight of just over an hour it certainly wasn't Glastonbury. Turns out Avalon was close to Geelong so the Skybus to Melbourne cost twice as much as the one I caught on day 1.
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I remembered to add on half an hour before planning what to do next; a trip to Ararat via the broad gauge to fill in the gap from Ballarat. Another paper ticket was required before I boarded train 8143 departing at 14:16. Leaving platform 6 formed of two V'locity sets line V and Through Country line was followed to the flyover and the RRL to Foostcray and beyond. I well and truly sign that route. Travelling to Ballarat in daylight I was able to see where the outbound Grainlander excursion had passed through including Bungaree and Ballarat's platform 2 where the rear 3VL was left behind.

Required line was joined at Ballarat North Junction as the Maryborough line headed off north west whilst the line to Ararat headed west past the North Ballarat Workshop. The P class loco had disappeared but there was a D3 steam locomotive to be seen in the Works compound. The end of mykie area was reached at Wendouree and Ararat was reached after an uneventful journey. As units go 3VLs aren't that bad with their 160 kph top speed being put to good use on a good stretch of the route. Ballarat to Ararat closed in 1994 and re-opened ten years later. That confused me till I realised my rail map was dated 2000.

The Ararat track layout is interesting in that there is a through platform with the standard gauge track on the north side with one bay platform left for the broad gauge that a single VL3 can just squeeze in. To reach the bay the broad gauge crosses both the standard gauge Adelaide line as well as the connection to the standard gauge line to Maryborough on the flat just west of East Ararat Jn. The standard gauge line from Maryborough has a connection to the western standard gauge line at Ararat forming the third side of a triangle but the connection is via the yard. The rust-o-meter of use suggested the link was in regular use (presumably grain trains to Geelong from the Murray Basin) but the link into the yard was not.

With just 7 minutes between scheduled arrival and departure there wasn't any time to check out the town. I didn't want to get stranded in Ararat so jumped back on in good time for departure at 16:48 as train 8166. For the micro gricer (well suppressed urge in my case) platform 1 was used at Ballarat. I had been informed by a friend a required N class loco was working train 8868 from Warrnambool. A check of the timetables suggested it was possible to intercept this train by changing at both Footscray and Geelong albeit with two three minute connections. So I was not best pleased when a down working arriving from Melbourne delayed departure from Ballarat. Fortunately it was only by five minutes.

I had hoped for a run via the newer, faster and shorter south line avoiding Bungaree but no such luck. But I had better luck at Footscray in making the first of the connections to hunt down my quarry. A leap from platform 3 to 4 got me in place before train 8869 (19:13 Southern Cross to Warrnambool) appeared. It was a couple of minutes late hauled by N460 (dud but you would know that) which was good but that meant eating into the three minutes at Geelong and my rendezvous with 8868. Again this proved to be no problem as 8868 (17:43 Warrnambool to Southern Cross) itself was a few minutes late. In rolled N475 to make it 12 different N class locos for haulage. It was on my list as a standard gauge loco. Clearly wrong. Some bogie swapping had evidently been going on.

Arrival at Southern Cross was via the RRL, flyover and main country line into platform 3N. At this point I sought sustenance then called it a day.

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 11
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 1
NR class 1
XPT power cars 4

Narrow gauge
610mm diesel 1

To be continued...……. (day 10)
 
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QJ

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Day 10 (19/03) Thursday

Today I should have been preparing to go back to the UK but I had received a message from the airline I was travelling with that I could switch flights at no extra charge. Because of circumstances at home it was better that I delayed my return till the weekend so I did. (Of course when I checked my bank account I discovered I had been changed £340 for so doing. Cheers then!).

On my list of things to do was the line from Frankston to Stony Point. It is a non electrified line on an otherwise all electric metro system. V-Line Sprinter railcars are used to provide the shuttle service from the south end of Frankston station the 31.8kms along the single line to the terminus at Stony Point. A steel mill near Hastings brings freight to the line to and from Melbourne Freight Terminal. Until 2008 A class diesel locos hauling a couple of carriages provided the service. As is quite often I turned up late

So I found myself up early again for the 07:14 Flinders Street to Frankston from platform 8 which was formed by the incoming train I had boarded at Southern Cross platform 13. The line branches off the Bairnsdale Gippsland line at Caulfield with a centre track for express trains as far as Moorabbin. Projects to remove the numerous level crossings to be found on the Metro network include the Frankston line. Some have already been eradicated by lowering the track into a trench.

Frankston has three platforms. Platform 1 is an electrified bay platform whilst 3 is a continuation of platform 2 with stop markers in the track for electric trains to stop in platform 2 and for Stony Point trains using platform 3. I arrived a bit early for the 08:43 to Stony Point so took the opportunity grab a breakfast roll and coffee from a kiosk in the station building. The Stony Point train was formed of sprinter 7012 named Roy Higgins and 7009 named Bob Davis (I am led to believe the names are of prominent Victorian sportspeople).
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After a short layover and take a quick stroll down to the shore line of Western Port Bay it was back to Frankston. The two Sprinters left Stony Point at 09:34 and connected with the 10:24 Frankston to Flinders Street which morphed into a Williamstown line train saving me changing trains to get back to Southern Cross.

At this point I should have been preparing to head for the airport and the start of my journey home. But with the change of flights more opportunity for new track and traction was sought.

N464 on train 8615 12:05 to Albury was too tempting to turn down so yet another trip over the SG line past South Dynon and Spotswood Maintenance facilities to detrain at the first stop at Broadmeadows. I gather that was supposed to be a pick up stop only. After a few minutes trying to find the way to the suburban platforms I was on my way back to Southern Cross on the Metro via Essendon.
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There was one long distance route, other than the Shepparton line which was closed for engineering work, I had not travelled over; the Gippsland line to Bairnsdale. Whilst it was possible to travel out and back in a day from Melbourne over this line it can only be done by V'locity diesel units that form most of the trains along the line beyond the limit of metro operation at Pakenham. There is one diesel loco hauled train leaving Melbourne at 18:34 in the evening arriving at Bairnsdale at 22:30 returning as the first train leaving Bairnsdale at 06:03 the following morning.

Not a problem spending the night in a motel in Bairnsdale but for one thing. Most motel receptions in the area closed before the train was due in Bairnsdale. Fortunately a friend found one within walking distance of the station open till 23:00 so paper ticket and motel room booking later all was set. But there was still some time to spare and N465 on train 8867 17:13 to Melton off platform One enticed me once more over the North Melbourne flyover.

Back at Southern Cross provisions were obtained as there was no longer any buffet facilities on board inter-city services, then amble across to platform 16 for train 8469. V-Line did me proud by providing one last flourish of the red pen for the day in N471. The line behind the loco is the Metro goods line used by empty metro stock to and from North Melbourne sidings and by freight trains accessing lines to the east of Melbourne.
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An uneventful journey then followed by way of the up suburban viaduct, Flinders Street (p6) then the Caulfields line through Richmond to Dandenong, the end of the suburban service at Pakenham and through Traralgon and Sale to arrive on time at Bairnsdale. And thankfully the motel reception was open and the room very acceptable. Unfortunately I ended up watching "You Only Live Twice" on the television so didn't get much sleep.

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 13
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 2
NR class 1
XPT power cars 4

Narrow gauge
610mm diesel 1

To be continued...……. (day 11)
 
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Day 11 (20/03) Friday
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Up before the lark to catch train 8460 06:03 from Bairnsdale returning N471 to Melbourne Southern Cross with enough time to visit the McDonalds before boarding. not that I had time to visit but east of the station is a rail trail making use of the track bed of the closed line east to Orbost. A friend of mine mentioned travelling over the Bairnsdale line when the passenger service only operated to Sale and electric services went beyond Pakenham to Traralgon. Intrigued research confirmed Sale to Bairnsdale services had been withdrawn for a period of eleven or so years between 1993 and 2004. The electric services were in the hands of L class electric locos built by English Electric in Stafford. Looking at photographs of them it is a pity the L class were all withdrawn in 1987 replaced by Comeng electric units. Electric services were cut back to Pakenham in stages with the final section between Bunyip and Pakenham removed in 2005.

But I digress. Another uneventful journey noticeably less busy than I would have expected. Can't think why? Arrival at Southern Cross was by way of the down suburban viaduct from Flinders Street into platform 15. As part of my original plans I had in mind a visit to the 2ft 6ins Puffing Billy Railway narrow gauge line to compliment the two other heritage lines I was visiting. Having received word that the line had suspended its full daily timetable because of the outbreak of coronavirus around the world I had decided not to bother. The line was only operating a morning and lunchtime two train service from Belgrave part way to Lakeside with no service to the end of the line at Gembrook.

However, with the extra couple of days at my disposal I decided to make a visit after all to boost my loco haulage tally. So I made a beeline for the Belgrave Metro line train back through Flinders Street then via Burnley and Blackburn out to the Dandenong Ranges above Ferntree Gully. The line from Ferntree Gully is single track and from Upper Ferntree Gully the broad gauge metro line took over the formation of the narrow gauge line to Gembrook that became today's Puffing Billy Railway. A half kilometre pathway off the end of Belgrave metro station through the old cutting, past the stub of the old line used for stabling stock, leads to the replacement for the narrow gauge station. Fortunately for me I arrived in good time for the 12:30 to Lakeside.
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The mainstay of the Puffing Billy freight are NA class 2-6-2T built in the early 1900s and it was one of these numbered 8A that was to be my haulage to Lakeside. Unfortunately the loco shed was off limits and the only other steam loco viewable was ex South African Railways Beyer Garratt NG/G16 2-6-2+2-6-2 number 129 stood outside the shed. Also outside the shed were two of the lines diesels in D21 and DH59.
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Between Belgrave and Menzies Creek the train crosses the Monbulk Creek trestle bridge and passes through Selby and the site of a landslide that blocked the line in 1953 and caused a deviation to be built. At Menzies Creek the returning morning train was crossed. On the spur of the moment I decided to bail off the train and get a second NA tank for haulage rather than continue to Lakeside. 7A on the 12:30 Lakeside to Belgrave was duly red penned. Hopefully I get to ride the full length of the line at some future date.
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Returning to Belgrave early allowed me to explore more of the Metro lines radiating east of Burnley. Retracing my journey on the metro as far as Ringwood I noticed one of the new Downer Rail High Capacity Metro Trains in the siding at Upper Ferntree Gully with on test signs plastered all over it. Then it was over to the down line to hop on a Lilydale metro train through Croydon and down Cave Hill to terminate in Lilydale platform 1. in keeping with a number of Victoria railways the line used to continue beyond Lilydale as a branch to Warburton and another to Healesville. Healesville is the operating base of the Yarra Valley Railway who have designs on re-opening some of the Healesville line as a heritage railway.

No time to dwell on that as I leapt on a train back towards Melbourne from platform 2 (not microgricing but it was the next train out). My destination this time was Camberwell where I changed trains for the Alamein line. At Mont Albert I noticed a shop with Railfan Shop emblazoned over the door. It doesn't sell railfans but rail themed books and dvds. Camberwell was full of groups of school children travelling home so it was a relief when the Alamein train arrived without much time to wait.

Down Alamein trains from Melbourne cross the Lilydale line by flyover. Off peak a shuttle operates accessing the Alamein line by using the up line in the down direction from the island platform. The interest in the line is more historical than scenic in nature. It was once part of a longer outer circle line from Fairfield on the Hurstbridge line to Oakleigh on the Pakenham line I am led to believe.

With nothing of great note at Alamein it was all the way back to Flinders Street where the train terminated at platform 4. I had successfully travelled on all the Metro branches beyond Burnley. On checking the departure board I noted that the train was going back direct to Alamein rather than round the city loop. So I stayed onboard for a run over the flyover before Richmond station (Not that I micro grice. It is just my rules mean the flyover is a separate route not just adjacent track). from Richmond I headed back to Southern Cross.

I had expected not to get any more new N class locos for haulage but my friend informed me that N454 was on 8469 1834 to Bairnsdale and N459 was on 8803 19:25 to Geelong. The first I caught to Richmond and the second I bailed at Footscray (where else!!). My last trip over the North Melbourne Flyover (till the next time) and the seventeenth and last different N class for haulage.After a further potter around the suburbs around North Melbourne I found myself at Craigieburn as a P class loco ran through on the standard gauge line heading north. Hopefully I shall be back to get haulage off one of those. Or failing that a T class from which the P class were a rebuild. I believe there are still a couple of P and T class locos that see active service with heritage main line operators similar to 707 Operations (who I would recommend without hesitation should you find your self in Melbourne to coincide with one of their day or weekend trips).
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17 out of 25 N class locos was not a bad effort in the circumstances with N458 and N461 reportedly under repair, N462 trapped at Seymour, N469 and N473 at Shepparton and N470 spare teasing me at Bank Sidings. Standard gauge N457 did work to Albury during my visit to Melbourne and was the only one I could claim to have missed with You tube footage showing N474 off repairs and out on an Albury service on the Monday after I had gone home. That was the same day the Shepparton line was to have been re-opened. My leave had almost run out or I may have got very near to the magic number 25 by the Monday night.

Cumulative loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 15
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 2
NR class 1
XPT power cars 4

Narrow gauge
610mm diesel 1
622mm steam NA 2

To be continued...……. (final day)
 
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QJ

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Day 12 (21/03) Saturday

Pack up and go home day. I had thought to get up to view the departure of the Overland (on what appears to have been its penultimate departure from Melbourne. Its reported last run was 24/03) and the other long distance Victoria Railways services leaving between 07:00 and 08:00. Needless to say I failed miserably. By the time I had faffed about and checked out of the hotel leaving my luggage in the store room the trains had long gone. There was the possibility of catching the Overland as far as Ararat by purchasing a V-Line ticket valid for the train (V-Line had a block of economy seats on the train to sell for the stops within Victoria). But that option went out the window. Scooping new locos for haulage well and truly over.

Instead I decided to use my mykie card to travel over some more Melbourne Metro tracks. A train to Mernda rolled into platform 9 at 08:31. So that's where I went via the Clifton Hill/City Tunnel (platform 1 at Melbourne Central) to Jolimont then on through Clifton Hill to branch off the Hurstbridge line to cross the Merri Creek just to the north of Rushall (The closed Melbourne Inner Circle railway once formed a triangle at the west end of the Merri Creek bridge. Today the Inner Circle is a linear park). The Mernda line once continued to Whittlesea but was closed beyond Thomastown then re-opened in stages back to Mernda station though rebuilding including removing level crossings. Mernda station itself is built on elevated track in a green field area to the east of Mernda. The line continues to carriage sidings at ground level on the formation of the Whittlesea line.

With no point in hanging around I travelled back to Southern Cross. As I had limited time before having to get to the airport I didn't have enough time to change at Clifton Hill to go out to Hurstbridge. Instead I jumped on a Belgrave train as far as Richmond round the Burnley tunnel city loop (platform 4 at Melbourne Central) to Richmond.
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Then I jumped on a Pakenham to City loop train via the Caulfield Tunnel (platform 4 at Melbourne Central) back to Southern Cross from platform 5 entering via the northern portal. I might not have had time to go to Hurstbridge but I had enough time to go to the seaside at Sandringham for lunch and a quick stroll to the beach.
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Despite the distraction of a photographer and his swimsuit clad model I returned to the Melbourne Business District after lunch getting off at Parliament station having entered the southern portal of the Caulfield Tunnel at Richmond. That left the City Tunnel from Parliament to Flinders Street and the west portal of the Northern Tunnel at North Melbourne (to platform 3 and 4) to travel through by train. But not on this trip though.

With my time in Melbourne very nearly running out I made a belated attempt at adding a quick ride in a couple of Yarra Trams around the free zone. I had a ride in an iconic Melbourne tram back in 1994 on the now closed George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line in Seattle WA; W2 class 518 to be precise. The tourist route 35 round the CBD district free zone (no need to validate your myki card on the onboard card reader whilst in the free zone) still employs similar vehicles in the form of refurbished W8 trams. A ride in a W8 in Melbourne was therefore on my wishlist.

With no W8s in sight I jumped on a Kew depot based Comeng A2 class tram number 295 for a ride down Collins Street past the south side of Southern Cross to Victoria Harbour - Docklands on route 48 then doubled back to Harbour Esplanade on the same tram.
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Crossing the road to the Docklands Park stop I boarded a Camberwell depot Comeng B2 tram 2024 past the listed VR no 2 goods shed to the bottom end of Spencer Street/ Flinders St at which point I could see a familiar shape coming towards me. Fate had smiled on me.
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It transpired that Southbank Depot based W8 class tram 981 was to be my transport clockwise round the CBD on route 35. I easily got a seat as there didn't seem to be that many tourists about. The tram route heads west from where I got on then turns north along Harbour Esplanade. Instead of continuing to the terminus at Waterfront City the tram unexpectedly turned right up La Trobe Street; the driver having to get out to manually change the points. At Nicholson Street (past the Carlton Gardens) the driver again manually switched the points so the tram could head towards the Parliament building joining tram route 86 for a brief moment. Outside the Parliament building my ride came to an abrupt end when the driver announced the tram would not be moving for twenty minutes. So I didn't quite make the circle. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.
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I got a text to say my limousine was on its way to pick me up so I started walking down Bourke Street towards my hotel. However, I couldn't resist having a quick look at the exterior of Flinders Street station before saying "Au revoir" to Melbourne and Victoria. So I set off down Elizabeth Street to its junction with Flinders Street. At this junction is the CBD tram terminus for route 59 to Airport West. It would have been rude of me not to so I jumped aboard Essendon based Comeng B2 tram 2028 for three stops back up Elizabeth Street, got off the tram and promptly headed off by foot in the wrong direction. Oops! Thankfully with the help of my smart phone I got back to the hotel just as my chauffer arrived to cart me off to the airport.
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So ended one of the more memorable railfan trips I have enjoyed in my years on this planet. Hopefully, if the coronavirus doesn't get me I'll enjoy a few more. It would be hard to top this trip though especially if the missus is with me.

Final loco haulage tally

Broad Gauge
N class 15
J class 1 (steam)
H class 1
S class 1
XR class 1

Standard gauge
N class 2
NR class 1
XPT power cars 4

Narrow gauge
610mm diesel 1
622mm steam NA 2

29 The end.
 
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