Australia - Modern Scene
Posted 25 January 2010 - 06:28
Australia is home to around 22 million people which is roughly the same number as live in the Greater London region. The majority of our thinly-scattered population lives on or very close to the eastern coast and most then are in the major State Capital cities. Of those Sydney has the largest population and the largest rail network. Melbourne is very close behind in population and potentially set to overtake within 10 - 15 years; it also has a reasonable suburban operation and is famed for having the largest tramway network in, depending upon your source, the Western World, the English-speaking World or the entire World. Brisbane and Perth fall into the next smaller size category and each has a suburban rail operation, that of Brisbane being almost comparable for size with Melbourne. Adelaide has a modest local network and alone among our Capitals it is not electrified. Canberra, our National (Federal) Capital, has the ignominy of being at the end of a single track branch line and would make a decent BLT model and Darwin is at the end of one of the longest and most remote rail routes on the planet. There remains a small freight rail operation in Tasmania though no commercial passenger services.
Victoria is the most densely populated State and has a reasonable regional rail service; New South Wales has some inter-city and regional services and Queensland has the coast line to Cairns with vestigial passenger services running two or three times a week on a few inland routes. There are two infrequent regional services operating out of Perth, to Bunbury and to Kalgoorlie. Aside from the passenger operations there is a plethora of freight routes often with extremely sparse or seasonal services based on traffic type. Queensland is famed for its vast network of sugar cane railways.
There are three main gauges in use. Standard (1435mm to Aussies, or 4' 8 1/2" ) is used throughout New South Wales and is the gauge of the national interstate routes which basically comprises Brisbane - Sydney - Melbourne - Adelaide - Perth and Sydney - Adelaide - Alice Springs - Darwin. Irish Broad Gauge (1600mm or 5' 3") is used by Melbourne and Victorian regional routes in most cases though there is some standard gauge regional freight traffic in the far west. This is also the gauge of the Adelaide suburban system. Narrow (1067mm or 3' 6") gauge is used throughout Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia for intra-state workings though most Queensland sugar cane lines are 2' 0" gauge.
There is a number of enthusiast-oriented web sites of which perhaps the most useful would be:
Railpage Australia at http://www.railpage.com.au/ where the forums will be found to contain discussion, speculation and fact on any topic you can think of. The site has very high traffic and is afflicted in the same way as RMweb currently it with rather frequent server overload outages. If it is offline come back a day or so later and try again.
John Cleverdon's Locopage, hosted by Railpage servers and at http://locopage.railpage.org.au/ (note that .org in this url is correct as this links to a different server to the main .com site) which contains extensive listings and technical details, not to mention images, of Australian locomotives. There is a downloadable database attached to the site which allows you to keep regularly updated.
The various suburban and regional multiple unit operations are not dealt with at Locopage. As there is a rather smaller railfan community in Australia than some other countries it can be harder to obtain up to date information on the suburban electric and diesel fleets. One excellent source for Victorian operations, and which includes comprehensive details of the trams in Melbourne as well, is http://www.vicsig.net
So ..... onto some prototype images of my own:-
A sight which may now be unique to Melbourne is the tram : train crossing square. Here we see a Z2 class tram crossing the triple rail tracks at Glenhuntly. Trams run on standard gauge track at 600V dc while trains here are on broad gauge at 1500V dc. At each of the four locations (the others are Kooyong, Gardiner and Riversdale) where this spectacle may be seen there is a control cabin. The controller switches the voltage as required.
Many Australian rail lines are unfenced including through suburbia. Here we see an example as a Comeng-built Melbourne suburban train travels beside residential streets near Ormond.
Moving north to Brisbane, at the main Roma Street station, we see the driver of an InterCity emu set wearing the regulation shorts in tropical heat as he checks he is clear to leave with a train for sugar-cane country to the north. These trains operate on 25kV ac as Brisbane electrified later than the southern cities and took advantage of more recent technology. The extensive use of painted corrugated tin for roofing and shelters is also a typical Australian feature.
Getting the message across Queensland Rail-style
In far north Queensland we see a 2360-class diesel electric waiting time at the new Townsville station with a southbound "Sunlander" working from Cairns to Brisbane; this train would at that time have been electrically-hauled south of Rockhampton by a 3900-class.
Standard gauge freight on a dual-gauge line; 81-class 8173 and a GL-class loco wait for the all-clear to cross Footscray Road beneath the Tullamarine Freeway in Melbourne and enter the docks complex. The 81 is in a now-defunct livery of NSW State Rail, the GL just shows its more recent CFCLA (Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia) livery alluding to the open access regime now in force.
NR-class locomotive NR75 stands at Alice Springs station with the southbound "Ghan" tourist train. The loco was named "Steve Irwin" at the time but was renamed following the sad demise of one of our iconic personalities. This is the only regular passenger operation on the Adelaide - Darwin route running once or twice each week. The loco is one of the 119 remaining (of 120 built) in the class which are used mostly on heavy interstate freight often with two, three or more locomotives in a "lash-up". Their use on passenger trains is confined to this, the Indian Pacific (Sydney - Perth) and the Overland (Melbourne - Adelaide) none of which operates daily. All are on standard gauge.
Victoria has some diesel-hauled passenger services on regional lines though many are now in the hands of modern Sprinter and V/Locity dmu types. One anachronism was the outer suburban line between Frankston and Stony Point. This continues beyond where electric trains stop to link several outlying towns, a steel plant (which generates two daily freights) and a ferry link to some islands. Until a couple of years ago the train was worked, as shown here, by an A-class loco built in 1952 and a couple of former suburban coaches (one of which is glimpsed in the distance) which were mere youths dating from 1957. The signalling was antique as well! A60 runs round at Frankston.
The service has been modernised and is now worked with new signalling and axle counters replacing electric train staffs, and sprinters are in use such as this one seen north of Melbourne at Heathcote Junction. Steep gradients abound in Australia as can be seen here.
In the New South Wales Hunter Valley you will find Australia's only 4-track main line, between the outskirts of Newcastle and Maitland. Here at the diminutive station of Sandgate, empty and loaded coal trains pass with wagons receding into the distance.
The XPT, an Australian equivalent of the HST, seen at Albury station on a Sydney - Melbourne run.
Moving back north to Brisbane here is one of the unusual Tri-Bo electric locos of which Queensland Rail runs a large number mostly on heavy coal trains in the Blackwater and Goonyella regions. This one is heading a northbound "Sunlander" train at Brisbane Roma Street which will arrive at its destination in Cairns some 30 hours later!
Posted 25 January 2010 - 07:13
This is a truly excellent overview of Australian operations for those of us not wholly familiar with the country and the railway operations. I was fortunate enough to spend just over two years living and working in Melbourne and with my very understanding girlfriend got to travel on a great number of the services you mention below, including the full Ghan and Indian Pacific routes, plus Melbourne to Sydney and the Sunlander / tilt services between Brisbane and Cairns. To a lesser extent, I managed some of the routes in rural Victoria and would highly recommend a visit to Echuca, Bendigo and, slightly further south, the Goldfields railway.
If you will permit me and once I receive my personal computer back (it has been on a ship between Australia and the UK since October!), I will post some of the images from my trips. They may not necessarily be of unique interest, but just what I saw travelling around!
My only wish was that I had started to do undertake our exploring earlier in the two years as there are some great journeys out there even on some of the smaller lines.
While it may be uncommon to see your operations modelled, it would seem that there are quite a number of layouts out there. As you say, the Canberra BLT would be a good option, particularly with the preservation yard next to it (and the miniature railway next to that!). I am personally very tempted by a small diorama on my next layout of the junction of the Port Melbourne (ex-Sandridge railway) and St Kilda tram lines with the entrance to Southbank tram depot.
Posted 25 January 2010 - 13:06
First we see "glowing" rails and a good deal of infrastructure at the approach to Southern Cross station, Melbourne. This is the main country terminal and is also served by all but one of the suburban lines.
On the Queensland Rail CityTrain network we see an EMU set at the Brisbane suburban terminus of Doomben. This is a quiet line which does not have a full seven-day service. The term EMU in Brisbane refers to this class of Electric Multiple Unit which were the first electric trains in the City. Later types are known as SMU (Suburban Multiple Unit), IMU (Inter City Multiple Unit) or the Inter City sets as illustrated above (which are not IMU's!).
The Diesel Tilt Train (Brisbane - Cairns) pauses at Ingham in tropical far north Queensland. Two of these sets provided a 25-hour timing over a rebuilt route compared with the traditional loco-hauled train taking around 30 hours; one or other of the sets has been out of service for long-term repairs for many months leaving just one to run a twice-weekly service. The slower Queenslander and Sunlander trains also still run, usually combined as one.
Turning to our tramways here is an Adelaide H-class car at the Glenelg terminus. Adelaide has just a single route from City to sea though it was recently extended through the City to link with the main suburban rail station on North Terrace and further extensions to replace diesel heavy rail routes are under development.
The H-class lasted over 70 years and one or two are kept for occasional heritage trips on weekends. Their replacements came in the form of the S-class Flexcity trams of which one is seen here also at Glenelg. Most Adelaide running is on dedicated reserved track with street sections only in the City and locally at Glenelg.
Sydney has a single tram line from Central Station through the streets to the Casino (Star City) and out to Glebe where it uses the trackbed of a former heavy rail line to Lilyfield. It uses a small fleet of Variotrams which are usually in promotional liveries such as this example departing Central.
Melbourne operates around 500 trams mostly on street running routes up to 23 kilometres from the City centre. There are around 23 main routes most of which run all day every day and with some peak variations. There is also a City Circle free tram aimed at visitors and using elderly W-class trams dating back up 50 - 70 years. The main operational fleet is kept renewed fairly regularly and comprises classes Z1, Z2, Z3, A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1 and D2 classes dating from 1974 - 2008.
Here we see a B2 doing what trams do best as a passenger is dropped off in Flinders Lane. The fleet livery has since altered and many trams now carry a white-based livery while others wear a drab grey.
One annual tradition in Melbourne is the repainting of an elderly W-class tram (these days two are so treated) as the "Christmas Tram". Here is one fresh from the paint shops and seen outside the almost-finished Southern Cross railway station during its rebuild. These trams are used on the City Circle and usually convey a portly gentleman in a red suit, or a pair of attractively-dressed female "elves" in green outfits.
Reverting to "heavy rail" we see T-class diesel-electric T377 shunting grain hoppers in Melbourne. These maids of all work were built in some numbers for the former Victorian Railways and have since migrated to other areas as well. Many survivors are still to be found in Victoria such as this one just repainted into the livery of its current owner CFCLA.
Railway Heritage is widely respected in Australia with a significant number of operations. Most are only operational on a very few days, often only Sundays, due to the much smaller number of people than the UK preservation movement is accustomed to. However a few manage to run daily of which the best known is Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne. This narrow (762mm / 2' 6") gauge line climbs through the forests from Belgrave to Emerald Lakeside with one train on most days continuing to Gembrook. This is the last of the one-time network of "cheap" developmental railways laid down to open up rural areas. Here is one of the superbly-kept steam locos at Belgrave station.
I do have pictures from the Sydney and New South Wales regions and will upload and post some examples in the next day or two.
Posted 26 January 2010 - 05:34
terminus of Doomben.
The only time it seas any serious use is on race day at the Brisbane Turf Club. ? Even at peak hour, its hardly used. ? I did the last passenger count it had very few people using it. ? Also, given how there is no longer any freight to Pinkenba now (the odd heritage train for Steam Train Sunday the exception), its very low usage. ? It was actually closed in 1993 due to lack of patronage, but was reopened as far as Doomben in 1998. ?
Posted 27 January 2010 - 04:21
There are some mighty fine pieces of rail infrastructure to be found and they are not all in our Capital Cities. The Gold Rush brought speculation and, in some cases, considerable wealth to provincial Victoria which was reflected to some degree in its rail network. Here we see the grandiose station building at Ballarat, just over an hour from Melbourne and served usually by Sprinter or higher-speed V/locity railcars.
The signal gantry at the western end is no less grand even if a considerable reduction in traffic has rendered most of it surplus to requirements. At the time this was taken passenger services did not venture over the crossing and beyond Ballarat though with the line to Beaufort and Ararat reinstated several each day now do so, as well as occasional freights.
By contrast the signal box is rather humble!
Moving north to Sydney we see new Millenium M-set M9 (known locally as "Millenium Bugs") emu at the inner-suburban station of Dulwich Hill. This location is a good one for train-watching as it is also on the Metropolitan Goods lines which provide through routes across inner Sydney for freight which is then kept as far as possible off the busy passenger routes.
Shortly afterwards the soft growl of a diesel announces the approach of one such freight in this case with one of the diminutive PL-class locos leading; another was at the rear working in top and tail mode. This short-lived Port Link service (hence PL-class) shuttled containers from the huge Enfield Yard to and from Port Botany with the location here at DulwichHill about the mid-point of that fairly short trip. These locos have now been found other work including shunting yards as far away as Adelaide!
All CityRail electric trains serving Sydney are double-deckers. They appear in 2, 4, 6 or 8-car formations and combinations though all recent deliveries are 4-car units operating singly or in pairs. Here one of the older style of C-sets dating from the mid 70's pulls away from Sydney Central station on the high-level through lines towards the harbour bridge and North Sydney. 2-car trains are seldom found in suburban Sydney (though occasionally work on the Olympic Park shuttles), only on the Newcastle - Morriset locals and on Illawarra area local workings such as the Port Kembla branch.
And a closer view of a similar train, this time at suburban Lidcombe. These sets vary in detail and are identified by letter. C, K, L, R and S-sets have formed the mainstay of the fleet for many years but are rapidly being replaced by more modern M (Millenium) and O (OSCAR, for Outer Suburban CARriage) sets. In between which the slab-fronted T (Tangara) and G (a longer range Tangara with toilets fitted) sets also added large numbers to the fleet. The small "target plate" carried on the buffer beam identifies this unit as an L-set.
Tangara set T79 is seen in the high-level platforms at Central. Recent developments have seen these given yellow front ends and doors.
Moving up the Central Coast we reach Newcastle at the end of a near 3-hour journey from Sydney by electric train which includes some superb scenery around Hawkesbury River, the tiny station of Wondabyne which is only accessible by boat or bush trail and the severe gradients of Cowan and Fassifern banks. This is as far as the wires go. Here we see one of the popular and comfortable double-deck V-sets which are used on the Inter City runs from Sydney. These are used on the principal trains between Sydney and Newcastle (north), Lithgow (west, in the Blue Mountains) and Kiama (south, on the Illawarra coast); other trains on these long routes are worked with outer-suburban stock.
A regular diesel service continues where the electrics end and proceeds up the Hunter Valley main line to Maitland. Here most trips terminate at Telarah one stop around the corner and away from the busy coal lines, while a few continue on the Main North up to Scone or turn onto the "Short North" (which is the only remaining rail route to Brisbane) and run as far as Dungog. Remarkably this service operates just about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We see a 1940's design / early 1950's build "Hunter Valley" dmu of a type which survived in service until just a couple of years ago pausing for station duties at Maitland. These featured such delights as full-drop windows, open mantle gas burners for heating (!) and embossed leather seats.
Back at Sandgate a Hunter Valley set is dwarfed by a pair of 90-class locos on the point of a coalie. This will cross to the branch on the left and run to the export terminal of Kooragang Island. In the last couple of years a flyover has been built here to eliminate this extremely busy flat crossing move.
Another "coalie", this time empty, runs through Maitland behind a trio of 82-class locos and heads back to the coalfields around Muswellbrook and Singleton. These trains are very frequent, almost a converyor belt operation, and feature haulage by pairs of 90-class, trios of the less powerful 82-class and occasionally anything else as available. Private enterprise also ensures that other operators get their share of this traffic so a considerable variety of motive power can be seen through Maitland, which also sees all Sydney - Brisbane freights pass through, on any day of the week.
New South Wales used to operate electric locomotives on its 1500Vdc lines, hauling heavy coal and general freight trains often in lash-ups of up to four locos. The 46-class is long gone except for a preserved example, and more recently the fairly modern 85- and 86-classes of ten and fifty locos have been sidelined. At the time of this photo most of these sixty locos were dumped at or around Lithgow loco high in the Blue Mountains, with most of the rest even farther from home at (unelectrified) Werris Creek loco. Since then nearly all have been dragged out into the desert to rot at Broken Hill when many have been broken up or stripped. Very occasional work is found for a couple of them including on engineers trains recently on the Bondi Junction line, and several are preserved. Here we see some of the line at Lithgow as another coal train rolls past. Note how new the pantographs appear to be for withdrawn locos.
We move across to the small diesel-operated broad gauge suburban system in Adelaide which is entirely serviced by generally unloved railcars. Known locally as a "Pox Box" we here see one of the more recent 3100-class departing from the main North Terrace terminal. These are either double-ended single cars or twins and operate singly or in formation of up to three cars. Only very rarely is a four-car train operated in Adelaide.
A 3-car train for the Gawler line (2-car 3100 plus single Pox Box) arrives at the suburban interchange of Salisbury in Adelaide's north in the older orange livery which is now extinct.
And a view of the distinctive "Jumbo" sets which are the earlier generation of stock featuring a raised driving position and a full engine compartment below rather like the SR "Thumper" dmu types. This one is also seen at North Terrace curving away to the north with the depot yard tracks to the left and the sun setting through a local piece of artwork.
Returning to Victoria once more we see a pair of EL-class locos cresting the summit on the "new" standard gauge line at Heathcote Junction, north of Melbourne. The broad gauge tracks in the foreground are the Victorian Railways route to Albury and Shepparton. Only one passenger service, the Melbourne - Sydney XPT twice daily, uses the standard gauge while by contrast there is next to no broad gauge freight these days. The route to Albury is two parallel single tracks of differing gauges but is under conversion to become a standard gauge only route within a year. Shepparton trains will continue to run on the broad gauge for now.
With the camera slightly adjusted the next train south is also captured on film; this is an N-class of the main Victorian passenger loco type hauling an "N-set" of coaches from Albury to Melbourne on the broad gauge lines. This scene has altered beyond recognition since it was burned out by the catastrophic bush fires last February. The green is returning but it will be a few years before the lush growth seen here is back to its finest.
Finally broad gauge steam on the "main line" as a Steamrail Victoria-owned K class loco hauls vintage stock over the freight lines of Dynon working a public shuttle to Newport. The train is crossing Sims Street and is about to cross the Maribyrnong River (visible in the background) on a large girder bridge and enter Bunbury Street Tunnel beneath the suburb of Footscray. The freight lines here, as in Sydney, give access to the yards and docks on both gauges while keeping freight clear of passenger workings for the most part.
Posted 27 January 2010 - 08:46
Posted 27 January 2010 - 10:51
This train was running between Roma Street in Brisbane and Laidley out on the line to Toowomba. The stations at Grandchester (originally called Biggs Camp and terminus, I believe, of the oldest line in QLD) and Laidley no longer have passenger services but are both well maintained.
QR has kept triangles at many rural stations so turning locos on steam specials presents no problems.
Posted 27 January 2010 - 10:51
Preserved 4403, 4821 and GM36 at Bomen on an Australian Railway Historical Society special from Albury to Tamworth.
Same train at the summit between Bethungra and Frampton. Again the gradient is not exaggerated.
1210, built in 1878 when Australian railways were terribly British, sets back into the platform at Bungendore.
Seymour Rail Heritage Centre's very American looking C501, built 99 years after 1210, basking on the Seymour turntable.
Posted 27 January 2010 - 10:57
The above pic shows Laidley as it was a few years before the derailment of a coal train which 'modified' the trackwork - fortunately sparing the station structure.
Now we move back to the Grandchester area on the lineside just west of the station where the line begins to climb towards Laidley and the west
Posted 27 January 2010 - 11:06
Same train at the summit between Bethungra and Frampton
Would you have any pictures actually on the Bethungra (or Border Loop) spirals? I haven't managed to lineside either location to date.
The gradients are remarkably severe and arose from the need to lay early railways as cheaply as possible by going over rather than under some of the large ranges particularly along the eastern coast. There are tunnels but not so many. The main Melbourne - Sydney line climbs over a ridge at the remote location of Bethungra by using a spiral and passing through two curved tunnels although southbound trains now use a newer alignment made when the line was doubled and drop steeply over the edge of the hill without spiralling.
The Short North, the rail route from Sydney to Brisbane, also traverses a spiral and a curved tunnel at Border Loop. This is another quite remote and beautiful area and the State border is actually crossed deep inside the tunnel as the line passes beneath the Great Dividing Range which - on this occasion - it simply couldn't go over.
The only passenger workings around the spirals are the Melbourne - Sydney XPT (twice daily up Bethungra), but not the southbound trains, and the Sydney - Brisbane XPT in both directions on the single line of Border Loop. The northbound train to Brisbane and the overnight from Melbourne traverse the spirals in the dark meaning there is only one daylight passenger trip each day at each location, though there can be several daytime freights.
Posted 28 January 2010 - 02:09
I agree with Rick; it is a very beautiful area.
Posted 28 January 2010 - 21:31
RMweb is a truly international community with a not insignificant number of Australian-based members. Outside Australia however it is uncommon to see our railways modelled.
Indeed it is international, and there are a few expat Australian members too.
Sadly next to no opportunity is taken to exploit the expatriate market by the railway publishing industry in Australia. There is a market about the size of the city of Hobart in the United Kingdom, the vast bulk in or around London.
Further, the Brits are renowned for their interest in trains from all round the world, but most particularly in countries where there was a strong British input and influence on local railways. As one of the staff said at a London transport bookshop yesterday, recounting his long held frustration at his failure to convince an Australian publisher that there was a market for Australian railwayana in the UK, the guy 'couldn't understand why we'd be interested in Australian railways. Why? We only built the things, that's why!'
New Zealand publishers by contrast are far more inclined to notice the niche and cater to offshore interest.
The only Australian railway magazine available in London is Narrow Gauge Down Under, ironically the magazine with the least local content- every time I look at it, it seems to be focussed on American narrow gauge.
A wasted opportunity.
Posted 29 January 2010 - 07:58
This is an old signalling diagram showing the spiral from above.
Next are three photos taken from the position of the blue arrow. First a down XPT which is on the middle of the three parallel tracks. The down hill gradient is 1 in 40. This is the original single line.
Then the ARHS special on the up line.
The a few mins later, the same train after doing a 360 around the hill.
The new up line with the spiral was built in 1946 and has a ruling gradient of 1 in 66. The original rock walls in the cuttings either side of the tunnels were near vertical. In the mid 1990s the walls were cut back and reinforced with steel. At the same time the track was superelevated and relaid with 60kg/m rail.
The earlier head on shot was from about the position of the green arrow.
Here is a a view of the trip up the spiral.
The Olympic Highway where I took the above 3 pics can be seen at about 4 min and level crossing just after the 7 min mark is where I took the head on shot. You can see how much the train speeds up once it's off the 1 in 66 and onto the flat.
Posted 29 January 2010 - 08:39
The quality of most current locomotive releases is at or possibly above what we might expect from Bachmann; the quality of anything to hook on the back is often rather lesser and in particular the Powerline carriages are empty shells when most UK / US modellers would expect a detailed interior, not least given the price.
Over the years Lima and Hornby have produced some models of Australian outline stock. The locos from Lima are as good as anything else they ever made (i.e. noisy, a bit rough and little in the way of speed control), those from Hornby are from a much earlier time with all the limitations of the industry 30 - 40 years ago. The Lima carriages are said to be US-outline reliveried / rebadged and I have to defer to others with greater product knowledge to confirm or refute that. A train of fully-badged "Indian Pacific" or "Overland" stock can look quite respectable however.
For most Australian themes Code 83 track is probably the best match of the RtR stuff though many local modellers will build their own. Scenic creations are quite well catered for as the Woodland range, which is US-styled, can be used almost universally.
Posted 29 January 2010 - 09:02
I have relatives who stay near Campbelltown outside Sydney, I'm looking forward to seeing a bit of the network in the area as well as looking for some model shops in the Sydney area, my Mum has been before (it's my Aunt who stays there) and brought me back some Powerline stock the last time.
I'll dig it out and get some pics later today.