Rather disappointing to travel 3400km to travel on an advertised "Steam" service only to find that there is not only one but 2 diesels attached and quite often working hard.
I agree that the 36 was often working hard but the balance of power ratio could often be felt/experienced onboard.
It is a shame to hear it - the diesels come about from too many cars being on the train for the single steam locomotive to handle the weight of the train. I agree that perhaps it would be better to put a stringent limit on the number of cars on the tour, and if it books out - well, then it books out! Perhaps the tours are a victim of their own success, too much demand versus not enough steam motive power to haul the train?
Out of interest, how far back was the buffet car on the train? I recall the air conditioned dining and sitting cars were the rear two cars of the consist, with the CFCLA car the third from the back - obviously those in sealed carriages are not too concerned about poking heads out windows, so this is a fair decision I feel.
From an interstate travelers point of view the organisation of this tour was poor - the booking system failed to represent the way the train was marshaled, meaning Tickets booked were all in the wrong places due to the train being back to front and cars in wrong places.
Out of interest (again), did you book online or call them? Perhaps this is feedback you could provide to the company - if they don't know people are unhappy, they cannot fix it?
I appreciate that there were network issues which caused problems but these seemed to be known well in advance by booking office staff and nobody could indicate what way the consist would be pointing and why was the booking system not changed to reflect the situation?
Network problems? Perhaps you refer to the trackwork on that weekend which meant the tour picked up at Liverpool, Westmead and Penrith rather than Sydney Terminal.
And then there's the info provided - the information provided with the ticketing with respect to how to get to departure points was minimal and incorrect, ie from Central "Travel on the Cityrail Western Line service to Westmead" - Funnily enough (as most of you will know) this service doesn't go anywhere near Westmead and requires a change of trains to be in the right place. To out of towners who know nothing of the network, this very basic info provided is not very helpful.
I'm confused by your comments here - the Western Line service operates from Sydney Central Station to Penrith and Richmond - aside from some peak hour services, all trains stop to pick up and set down at Westmead. I'm interested as to where you were travelling from, and how you had problems? Perhaps you could give us more details?
I disagree that the onus should be on the tour operator to get oneself to the starting point of the tour - they say that you can board the train at Liverpool, Westmead or Penrith. It is then down to the passenger to do their research and get themselves to these locations. I agree that it's inconvenient for someone from out of town, but if I were visiting Melbourne to travel on a tour, I would (and have done previously) research how to get to the tours starting point myself. For example, when travelling on a Steamrail carriage transfer from Newport to Ballarat as a guest of Steamrail, I stayed in Melbournes CBD overnight. The afternoon of the tour, I'd figured out which train I would have had to catch to Newport, allowing plenty of walking time (along with a printout of Google Maps) as to my destination.
I'm not saying you don't have valid concerns, I'm just suggesting that you are incorrect in stating that the western line services do not stop at Westmead, and that it shouldn't be the tour operators business how you get to where the tour starts. Consider tourist railways, aside from those on main lines like Zig Zag, most of them do little more than provide an address and perhaps directions from the nearest highway.