The driver and fireman pick up their logbook, their train orders
from the dispatcher and walk to their locomotive. On the way they discuss the usual
inanities of home and family life and begin the day.
The Hunter Valley Line has a pretty narrow assortment of
locomotives, but today there is a mixture. A modified GP38-2, made for the Australian
loading gauge and an Alco DL 531 (ex SRA class 48) sit in the yard awaiting them.
Climbing aboard the 48 class they settle in and call the tower for
clearance to move into the yard to pick up their train. Today it is a trip working to the
other end of the system and return.
In the pre-dawn light the Alco spits out her thick exhaust as the
two locos cross the yard throat and back down on train 1TRE.
The Fireman alights and secures the train, checking that all hoses
are correctly fitted and that brakes are working. Next it's a brake check and then a call
to the tower to ask for the road.
In the growing light the two locomotives make light work of the
train as they set off toward the coast. Here on the high plains it is a little cool this
morning so a cup of tea adds to their comfort on the short run to their first stop today,
As they coast into the passing loop at Summit tank, driver checks
the brakes again bringing 1TRE quickly to a halt. Ruling grades of 1 in 30 mean that the
brakes will be working over time this trip. A short wait now in the passing loop for a
down passenger service, one of many they will see today on the line.
The whine of the passenger train can be heard cresting the summit
before it rounds into the station and passed the two locos. With the section clear and a
green light 1TRE sets off on its descent.
Robertson is our next stop some 23 miles away. The scenery is
green and lush as we begin our descent, reminiscent of the lush countryside of the coastal
plains, though much colder in the cooler air of the highlands.
As the grade increases the whine of the dynamic brakes grow. The
descent here is the steepest section on the division.
As we approach Robertson another freight is facing us in the loop.
This one the first westbound movement of the day. Our time in Robertson will be spent
cutting out some of our load for the various industries.
Robertson has several industries that provide a local employment
base, and lots of rail movement.
Our first drop off today is to the warehouse of Highland Framing.
Several cars of pre-sawn timber for window framing, house frames and other construction
purposes come in here during the week. As we move into the spring months this traffic
reaches a peak matching the activity in the housing industry.
With the timber now cut out of the train we move onto other
commodities. Kandos Bulk Cement Company requires a steady flow of aggregate, sand and
other ingredients the company uses to make its products. The company ships out bagged
cement, concrete, sand and pre-stressed concrete forms for buildings and structures. What
is good is that it all goes by rail.
After the bulk goods are dropped off we pick three wagonloads
bound for Sydney building sites. These are marshaled into the train and we wait for the
two trains timetabled ahead of us to clear the line ahead.
A passenger service arrives first. Quickly it moves on again and
all is quiet, except for the rumbling of our diesels. It is a little after 9.00 am now and
the sun is beginning to make its presence known.
In short order freight 5EX1 comes thundering through Robertson
with an all Alco lash-up. Soon the green light awaits us and with another test of the
brakes we begin our descent again to the coast.
The grade on the next section between Robertson and Port Harbour
is not as severe as the last and the whine of the dynamic brakes, while steady never rises
above a racket. The trip takes a little over an hour to safely cover the 25 miles to our
next crossing point.
At Port Harbour we meet 5SF1, a super-freighter. Originating in
the Sydney yards this train, hauled by the SRA's latest locos, powers through
Port Harbour on its assault up the grade. Soon it is just a memory
and we take our last short hop, all of two miles into the Port Harbour yard.
The HVLs east yard is the end of our journey today, but not
the end of the work for us. We have about an hour before we finish with shunting our
return train. Then time for a quick lunch in the crew room before commencing the journey
home on a fast freight.
We were glad to have you aboard this morning and hope you'll
ride with us again soon. Mind your step as you get down. I do not need to have the safety
officer see a member of the press fall off a locomotive of mine.
With a five-chime poop, and a blast of Alco exhaust we set about
the remainder of our morning's work.