Heritage Express "Blue Mountains Flyer"

 
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
I am surprised that nobody has started a thread on this yet!

Yesterday, 3642 led an impressive train (with 4520 and 4490 hanging on the rear) from Thirlmere to Clarence Colliery and back, stopping to pick up at Liverpool, Westmead and Penrith due to trackwork between Granville and Central. The cold air all day really allowed the 36 to blast some impressive clouds into the air, and the diesels really didn't appear to be doing much work at all, whenever we saw the train.

We shot the train at Yennora, Glenbrook, Valley Heights, Wentworth Falls, Mt Victoria, Hartley Vale and Newnes Junction, before saying goodbye to the return run due to increasingly nasty weather.

Yennora:
[img]http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2853/9110746373_34bbbc355b_n.jpg[/img] [img]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7295/9112970484_a700db8826_n.jpg[/img]


Glenbrook:
[img]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7306/9112971634_dc738385bb_n.jpg[/img] [img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3721/9110749787_afa0bc3947_n.jpg[/img]


CityRail were also running a half hourly service between Sydney Terminal and Katoomba/Mt Victoria for the Winter Magic Festival, with most trains being 8-car V Sets. A handful of 4-car trains were seen, but the majority had been built up in an impressive display of fleet size!

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  TheFish Chief Train Controller

Location: Pyongyang
Great shots there!  I was watching it yesterday as well and I noticed mounted forward on the coal bunker on the right hand side some kind of small frame that is inside the bunker wall protruding up at the top.  You can actually kind of make it out in the last of Raichase's photo's.  Does anyone know what this is?
  SJB Deputy Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Part of the ICE radio system.
  prrs2 Beginner

Part of the ICE radio system.
Archer

Is this the first steam loco fitted with ICE radio, great leap forward for a steam loco, must be hard keeping it clean and dry.
  SJB Deputy Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
I believe it has been placed in its own protective case under the drivers seat on 3642.
  hellraiser Chief Train Controller

Location: Newcastle, NSW
Nice collection of shots there Trent thanks for sharing, it was we just didn't get out to video this time.
  Alonzo Trumbull Beginner

Location: Central Coast
I especially like the first pic, but all really nice. Thanks.
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Thanks for the kind words everyone - I'm surprised nobody else has posted photos yet? I thought there would have been a few members either on the train or trackside! We did see a few people taking photos, but not as many as previous years.

Here are a couple more I've uploaded this morning from the section between Mt Victoria and Clarence.

Hartley Vale:

[img]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7365/9120771447_8563b657b6_n.jpg[/img]


Dargan:

[img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3801/9120772595_e7b8df8364_n.jpg[/img]


Darling Causeway (on the return to Bell):

[img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3788/9120773607_004390ffa5_n.jpg[/img]
  BM3801 Lobster

Location: Go Hard or Go Home!
Few of my shots from today. As Raichase said, not many people out and about on the day, maybe the weather was too much! Far from warm up there, but still was a good day out nevertheless. I did the entire run from Emu Plains on the down to Thirlmere on the return, but my shots focus mainly on the mountains due to factors such as crosses and, in the case of Picton, total darkness. The NSWRTM really put on a good show with 3642 this year, was a pleasure to chase!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bm3801/9114662102/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bm3801/9114657672/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bm3801/9114649868/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bm3801/9112421597/
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
Nice shots Ben. The first one is a ripper!
  ssaunders Train Controller

Looks to be quite a lengthy train.

ss
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Looks to be quite a lengthy train.

ss
ssaunders
It sure was! As well as the expected GMS and "traditional" sitting cars, towards the back of the train was CDAY 1X (The CFCLA "Presidents Car"), the dining car and the air conditioned car with the generator at the back. I imagine the diesels were on the train to assist the 36 with the extra weight, but whenever we saw them, the diesels were far from full cry, the 36 appeared to be pulling the bulk of the train admirably.
  1213Driver Chief Commissioner

Location: Perth Western Australia
Raichase
I imagine the diesels were on the train to assist the 36 with the extra weight, but whenever we saw them, the diesels were far from full cry, the 36 appeared to be pulling the bulk of the train admirably.






Great Pictures Fellas!

With respect to what the diesels were doing - Its an eerie feeling to be doin 40 or 50kph or more, uphill behind steam without a Chuff to be heard!
Cant say that I have ever experienced that until Sat morning whilst travelling on this service.

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.

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.
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?

After limited info from booking office staff and no response from emails sent, I chose seats in the Buffet car as this was the only place I could determine would be in a consistent place on the train and even then I ended up on the opposite side of the train. Had I been able to determine that the GMS Observation car would be at the front of the train, then that's where I would have been with cost being no issue. Certainly didn't want to be at the back of the train! even worse with diesels roaring in your ears!

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 am aware of at least one vocal couple who arrived at Katoomba on the following Electric service who were not happy! How many others were there that missed the train completely?
It took me some time to work out what was required to get to Westmead and I drive sparks!

These issues aside - It was a enjoyable day out and if I hadn't been travelling with a non train friend (who didn't see me for most of the climb up the hill due to being off finding out which half doors were not locked to stick my head out of), then I would have also travelled out to Mt Vic??

The crowd at Katoomba was impressive and oppressive at the same time - cant say I was there for the event but good to see that towns like Katoomba can pull a good crowd for their event. Thanks to the staff onboard the train who were generally most helpful.









  TheFish Chief Train Controller

Location: Pyongyang
Part of the ICE radio system.
Archer
Wow, that is interesting, thanks.
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
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.
1213Driver


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.
1213Driver
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?
1213Driver
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.
1213Driver
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.
  VRfan Moderator

Location: In front of my computer :-p
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.
1213Driver

Given the length of that train, there is no way that the 36 would be able to pull it on its own. What I suspect happened is that the 36 was working hard with the diesels providing just enough assistance to keep to the timetable. Up the front it probably sounded great.

The last RTM trip I did was the triple header to Moss Vale via Robertson in 2009. We had the 35, 36 and 38 up the front and it sounded great from the 1st class carriages. I went down the back to get a photo at one point and what struck me was all you could hear was the sound of the 44 and 45 on the rear.
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Further to my post above, please permit me the luxury of casting ones mind back to a couple of years ago.

On June 19th, 2010 the same train was operated to Katoomba (and on to Clarence to turn). The consist would have been more or less the same (perhaps one or two fewer cars, and perhaps different carriage codes). 4490 and 4520 were again pushing on the rear. A problem with the 36's fire at Penrith meant that it was unable to pull the train up the mountains, and it was audibly and visibly stuggling the entire way. At a number of photo locations we chose, it was possible to hear the two diesels pushing BEFORE any hint of sound from the 36. This problem was rectified at Katoomba during the servicing time, and a roaring fire was built up for the rest of the days tour, but it would have been very disappointing for anyone travelling anywhere on the train (excepting perhaps the front car, as mentioned above).

In a similar vein, I recall travelling on a NSWRTM triple header tour to Zig Zag with a number of friends. The most memorable part of the trip was the first leg of the journey, from Sydney to Valley Heights when the train was hauled by 3265 on the front, and a pair of diesels actively pushing on the rear (this was obviously required as there was no way a 32 would be able to haul all ten or twelve cars to Valley Heights unassisted). Despite the roar from the back of the train, the beat of the 32 was audible the entire way to Valley Heights.

At any rate, it is something that those at the RTM are painfully aware of - do they limit the number of cars so that the diesel is literally "along for the ride" incase of an emergency, and thus limit the amount of seats on the train for intending passengers, or do they continue to put more cars on so more people can enjoy the tour, albeit with diesel assistance? Either way, as I understand it, whenever possible the steam loco on the front is used to haul the bulk of the weight, and if possible the diesel is left behind (or trailing light engine, as happened last year when the 36 returned from overhaul for a Newcastle Flyer tour, with 4490 running one section behind the steam special, light engine).

It's not an easy position for the RTM, and I sympathise - less cars means turning people away and leaving them unhappy, but it also means less revenue per train. With the expensive empty running between Thirlmere and Sydney in both directions, as well as the other costs associated with upkeep and maintenence of the train, is it worth having the company take a financial hit to ensure that everyone gets their steam fix, even if it means that steam tours might eventually become one off events due to the cost to revenue ratio?
  Camo3801 Locomotive Fireman

Location: Western Sydney
Regarding the carriages, after the Great Train Weekend at Central, the carriages were out of order due to the last Goods Line shuttle. When the whole train got back to Thirlmere, the GMS, Dining (ABS) and Power Car (PFZ) were the only cars facing the right way, with the Standard and Premier Class carriages round the opposite way. The full consist usually goes GMS car, 3 Premier Class Carriages, 6 Standard Class carriages, Dining car and the A/C Power Car.
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Regarding the carriages, after the Great Train Weekend at Central, the carriages were out of order due to the last Goods Line shuttle. When the whole train got back to Thirlmere, the GMS, Dining (ABS) and Power Car (PFZ) were the only cars facing the right way, with the Standard and Premier Class carriages round the opposite way. The full consist usually goes GMS car, 3 Premier Class Carriages, 6 Standard Class carriages, Dining car and the A/C Power Car.
Camo3801
This is curious reading.

I was on the Sunday goods line tour, and instead of running along the northern leg of the Meeks Rd triangle, the train ran to North Tempe, and 4520 dragged the train from North Tempe to Sydney Terminal. The reasoning for this was "we don't want the cars out of order for the next tour".

I would have thought that the cars would have arrived in a certain order on the Friday. This order would have been reversed by running around the goods line on the Saturday. Surely by doing the same loop on Sunday would have put the cars back in the original order/direction of travel again?
  lsrailfan Chief Commissioner

Location: Somewhere you're not
As RAICHASE has pointed out, The Steam hauled Tours are very Popular with a lot of people, and the fact that there are 2 Diesels on the back, means that there is too much weight for the 36 to carry by itself

Take the Tour to Robertson via the South Coast on Saturday July 27th, you can bet that there will be 2 Diesels on the back for that, As it is a very Steep Climb from Unanderra up to Summit Tank, but I would Imagine for that trip as well, The Steamer and the Diesels will be working equally as hard as each other, So really, you get the best of both world's Very Happy

Kind Regards
  Camo3801 Locomotive Fireman

Location: Western Sydney
This is curious reading.

I was on the Sunday goods line tour, and instead of running along the northern leg of the Meeks Rd triangle, the train ran to North Tempe, and 4520 dragged the train from North Tempe to Sydney Terminal. The reasoning for this was "we don't want the cars out of order for the next tour".

I would have thought that the cars would have arrived in a certain order on the Friday. This order would have been reversed by running around the goods line on the Saturday. Surely by doing the same loop on Sunday would have put the cars back in the original order/direction of travel again?
Raichase



I was suprised to see the carriages around the same way on the way to Thirlmere as I saw them after the Saturday Good Line run because the STN had both trains via the Marrickville Junction.

Hopefully they'll change them around during the School Holiday runs around Sydney next month.
  1213Driver Chief Commissioner

Location: Perth Western Australia
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.



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?

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.

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.
Raichase
Hey Raichase

I fully appreciate the reasoning for having diesels on the train including other reasons you have not mentioned such as insurance for failures, timing/scheduling etc. I guess my problem with it is that the addition of Diesels is not mentioned in the advertising for tours and thus is misleading. The Katoomba info started with the statement "Full Steam up the Blue Mountains" - if that's not misleading I don't know what is, not to mention that there is no disclaimer etc to indicate that diesels may be added.
It was nice to see the Preserved Diesels, but it would seem I should have chosen to travel on the Steamrail snow fields tour for an all steam experience.
Lets face it there is nothing better than Steam doing its thing unassisted whether it be at speed or on its hands and knees grunting, slipping and steadily climbing towards its destination.

The buffet car was the 4th car on the train and pretty sure being car "E" was shown on the online booking system as the 5th Car in the consist hence my choice of seating (being unable to ascertain front to back) knowing that with most tours Buffet Cars tend to be situated somewhere in the middle of a consist, thus my booking ended up one car closer to the front.
Choice of seating however was not so lucky with booking on the Right hand side and forward facing being turned into Left hand side and travelling backwards. If the seats booked had eventuated in the correct orientation then I would have most likely been able to stay in my seat, have the window open, video etc and enjoy the view from the sunny side of the train. I instead spent the outbound journey in the front of the 6th car at the first unlocked half door I could find, instead of being sociable with my travel companion.
Thus it would seem the booking option of "LHS or RHS" of the train provided in the online booking facitlity is really a useless/pointless option if there is no positive confirmation/knowledge of which way the train might actually travel or the what the consist formation might actually take.
2 calls to the booking office prior to booking tickets also failed to provide any positive answer to my questions.

Yeh such a pity the train didn't originate from Central due to the Network works program - Apologies for my bad on the line info, I was referencing from the wrong timetable booklet I was provided being for the Inner West line which was given for getting to Liverpool where we boarded. Others mentioned in previous post had been caught out to their detriment and obviously misinterpreted the info.  The altered departure points certainly made for a much earlier start from Central!

It would seem despite both phone calls and unanswered emails, that the organisers are in a situation of being a little unprofessional where the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing.

Katoomba was still a good day out and likely wont deter me from future travel - previous travel on a Newcastle Flyer (unassisted by Diesels) was a brilliant day out in all aspects and will still be held as a quality Steam travel experience provided by the organization.
  1213Driver Chief Commissioner

Location: Perth Western Australia
Given the length of that train, there is no way that the 36 would be able to pull it on its own. What I suspect happened is that the 36 was working hard with the diesels providing just enough assistance to keep to the timetable. Up the front it probably sounded great.

The last RTM trip I did was the triple header to Moss Vale via Robertson in 2009. We had the 35, 36 and 38 up the front and it sounded great from the 1st class carriages. I went down the back to get a photo at one point and what struck me was all you could hear was the sound of the 44 and 45 on the rear.
VRfan

It did sound great when the 36 was working and that was a lot of the time. There were times where the train was noticeably travelling uphill at speed with the regulator seemingly Shut ie no blast, no steam , no smoke - you know the things that tend to occur when a loco is steaming hard uphill. Its quite weird to hear the locomotive slipping with no effect to the motion of the train as happened in places.
Most disappointing was the departure from the Valley Heights stop where I think most of the train was lifted on the grade by the diesels.

Perhaps the load on the tours should reflect the capabilities of the Locomotive particularly if advertised as a steam hauled service - The diesels at the rear of the train is however a great compromise (if required) to enable their sound to be omitted from hearing the Steam loco when near the front of the train. Too bad if your at the back I guess. Glad I didn't choose car A in the booking system which ended up on the nose of the 45.
  Salty21 Junior Train Controller

Location: Canberra
It did sound great when the 36 was working and that was a lot of the time. There were times where the train was noticeably travelling uphill at speed with the regulator seemingly Shut ie no blast, no steam , no smoke - you know the things that tend to occur when a loco is steaming hard uphill. Its quite weird to hear the locomotive slipping with no effect to the motion of the train as happened in places.
Most disappointing was the departure from the Valley Heights stop where I think most of the train was lifted on the grade by the diesels.

Perhaps the load on the tours should reflect the capabilities of the Locomotive particularly if advertised as a steam hauled service - The diesels at the rear of the train is however a great compromise (if required) to enable their sound to be omitted from hearing the Steam loco when near the front of the train. Too bad if your at the back I guess. Glad I didn't choose car A in the booking system which ended up on the nose of the 45.
1213Driver
Hi Guys

Well it won't be too long and a lot of these problems will be taken away due to 6029's restoration with the 36 or 38 up front plus the Garratt there should be minimal requirement for diesel assistance!
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Perhaps the load on the tours should reflect the capabilities of the Locomotive particularly if advertised as a steam hauled service
1213Driver

It might be worth re-reading what I've written above - this is a great idea in theory, to limit the number of cars and just say "it's booked out" when the train is full.

However, this means less income for the tour, and with all of the dead running between Thirlmere and Sydney currently before and after each trip, it would make running trains a very expensive exercise indeed - it might instead become a once or twice a year event to see mainline steam, rather than every other weekend.

Again, I'm glad you've responded to the thread in a mature way, and I've enjoyed reading your responses. It is a refreshing change from the first time diesels started appearing, which was along the lines of a child having a tantrum because it "ruined" trackside photography (that's right, the people paying not a cent to the tour felt they had a right to complain).

Rather than phone calls, I'd encourage you to put your points in writing, especially about the booking system and the cars, and post it to the RTM - at least then you have a chance of someone reading it who can actually take it on board, or give you a factual reply. My previous instances with dealing with volunteer staff at the booking office also involved a number of mistakes made with my booking (wrong day, no group discount, drawn out process which took longer than it should have), and if you call them with feedback, it may fall on deaf ears.

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