Top Ten rail photos – 2012

Well as we have just entered the new year, despite still being behind on the blog (and indeed even uploading photos), it’s time to look back at which of my rail related photos from 2012 I was happiest with. They may not be technically perfect, but they are those that tickle my fancy the most.

It has been an interesting, difficult, and in one regard a disappointing exercise – about half of the photos were certain of a place in the top ten, but the other places were much harder to fill, and after more than a week of going over them on and off, I am still not certain I have them right. As such I will explain with each, and also link to the alternatives.

The disappointment came from the fact the all but one are from the first half of the year – January and April in particular were very good to me, but then things got very busy, and a long holiday to Europe was plonked in the middle, and I don’t seem to have fully gotten back into my stride. I took a small number of rail related photos in Europe, but sadly these did not make the cut either. Interesting also is the fact the majority are in Black and White – a medium I am getting more and more comfortable with.

Anyway, let’s get on with it – I will place them in chronological order, and let you decide for yourselves which you like the most …

As usual, you can click through to Flickr for larger versions of the pictures.

Photo one – Hunter Valley Coal: (January)
The endless procession of coal trains in the Hunter Valley never ceases to amaze me – this picture was taken at Sandgate station, and captures an Xstrata empty coalie snaking it’s way through the section near the flyover, as a QR National (if I remember correctly) loaded coalie is stopped awaiting a path into port.

Photo two – Lost in the Trees: (January)
I am the first to admit this is not the perfect shot – it was rushed, and was questionable whether it deserved a spot. Whilst I got the framing of the trees, they are perhaps a little too dominant in the foreground, and the second loco is obscured by a branch. The locos being dark are also a little lost in the picture. Despite all this though, I like the country feel to it, and it makes me want to head back up that way to see what other scenes there are.

Photo three – Xploring Gunnedah: (January)
There is not much I can say about this shot, except it is not just a favourite of 2012, but of all time. I’ll let the photo tell the story …

Photo four – Parked in Parkes: (April)
Quad 48s pulled up breifly at Parkes station. This was another I wasn’t sure about – night shots are something I am still getting to grips with, and I know I pulled this one off, but can’t help wonder if the 81 in the background adds to, or interferes with the shot?

Photo five – Country Steam: (April)
On Easter Sunday, LVR’s 3237 was running shuttles between Parkes and Forbes, and I got photos at various spots along the way. I expect this may not be a popular choice, as the feedback since originally posting it has been nil. It suffers from 3237 being tender leading, and the back of the train being tucked behind the tree, but again the countryside really does it for me, and this is a personal favourite.

Photo six – Relaxing on the Aurora: (April)
April marked the 50th anniversary of the Southern Aurora, and I was at Sydney Terminal just prior to its departure. Again I will let the picture tell the tale.

Photo seven – A Sad Sight: (April)
Earlier in the year, IRA’s MZ1438 was involved in a shunting accident in Botany, which bent the impacted cab downwards. When I heard it was to be moved by truck to Braemar, I headed down there to capture some pictures before the headed off – I wound up there both the Saturday when the MZ still sat sadly alongside the track, and Sunday where it had already been loaded on the truck. Here it is on the truck already, with a chain across the distinctive headlight fitting to help secure the load.

This was a toughy, not because of anything I dislike about this picture, but that there were three contending pictures from these two days to choose from – for more pictures, see my blog post Bent, battered, and broken – MZ1438.

Photo eight – Werai Grain: (April)
This photo was always certain on a place – yes, it is at Werai (a known hack spot), but a lesser used spot at the other end of the curve, and is a not often seen (by me at least) sight of an entire CFCLA train on hire to El Zorro. This shot was also a challenge – those that know the spot will know the small bridge has extremely high walls, and I had nothing to stand on except my toes, only just being able to peek over the top.

After a morning of exceptional luck and timing, this was basically the end of my run that day as I missed every other freight I was after in the afternoon – after this shot though I didn’t mind. I also didn’t mind freezing my butt off in strong winds whilst waiting for this shot, though my wife who was in the car may have had different views on that …

Photo nine – Spoiled: (May)
Suburban spoil
As you probably know from my blog, perway equipment is a particular point of interest for me – luckily on afternoon train during trackwork on the inner west line I got the perfect lighting to get something a bit more than your standard reference shot (which most my perway equipment shots are). The one problem I do have with it though is I also took this wider angle photo in colour and it frequently changes for me as to which one I prefer – at least one deserves a spot though, so I’ll give it to the B&W …

Photo ten – Goulburn Yard: (September)
This shot was a late contender as I finalised the list – I know it’s not perfect as the scene is a little bit “busy”, but I still feel it has a nice, overall feel to it.

Well, there we have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my pictures throughout the year, and hopefully 2013 will see many more to come …

Easter 2012 road trip


This gallery contains 1 photo.

Needless to say this post is more than a little bit late, but over the Easter long weekend the wife and I hit the road for three days, once again chasing trains. The basis of our locations was meeting some … Continue reading

Southern Highlands NSW – 25 April 2012


This gallery contains 2 photos.

On Wednesday, despite it being about 11 degrees celius there with strong winds, the wife and I went for a drive up the Southern Highlands of NSW, with the primary focus being to photograph trains. The main south line is … Continue reading

CityRail and the proposed job cuts


Let me preface this by saying I am not an expert in these matters, and nor do I claim to be – I am just a regular commuter who happens to be a train enthusiast also. The following is just my opinion on issues relating to CityRail following reading this article on the SMH.

I suggest reading the article first.

So CityRail is bleeding money at an astonishing rate – I don’t think that will come as a great surprise to anyone familiar with them. The Libs recognise this and want to do something about it – this is good. What is bad is the way they want to do something about it – it is the typical knee jerk reaction of “jobs must go” without analysing the underlying causes of the issue.

That said, some fat can most likely be cut from the staffing also, but not necessarily where the Libs want to cut from. Now, if the article is to be believed (and let’s face it – the Australian media are about as reliable and accurate as CityRail is efficient and cost effective), in the last financial year CityRail employed 40 managers at over $240,000 a piece – that’s close to $10m per annum right there, and I imagine no one really knows what they do. Reports abound of layers of management, who only manage other managers … seriously something that needs to be looked at. Another item is the cited growth in staff numbers over the last seven years, but where are they? I don’t see them on the trains or at the stations.


But of course the Libs’ main focus IS on the front line staff – the people who directly work to get you to and from work every day. The guards have been in a tentative position since the design of the Waratah, with no middle cabs, and cameras to monitor the doors. Within the community it was recognised this would be a step towards Driver Only Operation. But I ask you, do you as a commuter want only one staff member on the train, distracted by monitoring the cameras when they are trying to focus on driving? In case of emergency if you are at the back, and the only person to help you is at the other end, what happens? If something happens to the driver, such as the heart attack that caused the Waterfall tradegy a number of years back, who is there to help you? And for those in wheelchairs, who helps them on and off the train at short platforms where the driver’s cabin is past the platform?

That last point may not sound like an issue when there are station staff to help, but most stations with shorter platforms are those with lower patronage, and therefore are the next target of the Libs. Again I do not like the idea of cuts in this area – imagine sitting in a remote, unattended station late at night when someone threatening approaches – it happened to me a number of years back at Arncliffe which isn’t even remote, where someone blocking the only exit was yelling abuse at me with no provocation, excepting that my skin colour was different to his. Ok so stations have help points, but by the time someone actually gets to the station to help you it may be too late.

That said, some station staff can probably be cut, but not at the small stations. There is one larger station (which will remain unnamed) that most times I pass through have staff that sit around chatting to each other – it is clearly overstaffed, and I am sure there are other examples. These stations should be the focus rather than the smaller ones, as having unattended stations is a security issue for passengers.


So, if we aren’t going to touch much in the way of front line staff, it’s back to head office, and back to unnecessary layers of management. But that is not the only area savings can be made. Judging by the regularity of anti-corruption roles advertised, I think it is safe to assume corruption is a bit of a problem, but at least they seem to be trying to deal with it – how much I wonder is lost each year though to corruption alone? And then there is trackwork – the work itself needs doing to ensure the ongoing reliability and safety of the network, and staff are needed to do it, but I wonder when equipment is hired from outside do they take into consideration the length it is required for? For a two day shutdown, do they hire for four days (allowing a day either side to get the equipment to and from the site), or do they hire it for a week? Is there equipment hired every week where the cost of hire is greater than the long term cost of buying outright? I think this sort of thing needs to be audited to ensure no wastage.

Another clear, and costly area of wastage is the government itself – well the previous government, but I doubt this one will be much different. The highlight of this was the Millenium Train debacle – ordered in three tranches. When the first tranche started coming into service, they were rushed in I suspect for political purposes as they were already a couple of years late. Being rushed into service meant the bugs hadn’t been ironed out yet, and there were very well publicised failures – the most memorable probably being one set blocking Milsons Point during peak hour because a set of doors wouldn’t close properly. This was entirely avoidable, and at least CityRail seemed to have learned their lesson by phasing in the OSCars and Waratahs more sensibly. BUT, whilst the government did go ahead with the second tranche, they cancelled the third even though by this point the Milleniums were reportedly proving to be the most reliable in the fleet – the only justifiable reason for cancelling the third tranche was that the government had already had to bail out the project, but after investing so much money already the real reason was more likely political, as they had bad publicity at the start.

So, a few years later, and we need more trains – OSCars are coming in but aren’t configured for suburban work, so the government put out a new tender – the tender goes to Downer EDI who built the Milleniums, but instead of ordering more of the same (and I will say it again – reportedly the most reliable in the fleet) where all the R&D is done, they insist on a totally new design adding who knows how much to the cost of the project. A different fleet also means less sharing of parts adding to the ongoing maintainence costs. As the Waratahs start to come on line, there are reports of another bailout being required … is it Downer EDI that’s the problem here, as I don’t recall hearing this sort of thing regarding the OSCars (built by UGL)? My favourite part of this article is that (in reference to the government becoming the sole shareholder) “Sources said the Treasurer, Mike Baird, was expected to sell the negotiated deal as ”an investment” for taxpayers because there would be an immediate return on the money from 2018 through a 30-year train maintenance contract Reliance has already signed with RailCorp.” – so even the Libs are into creative accounting as technically they will be paying themselves – I don’t see any investment for there. So, Libs, the ball is in your court to ensure future rolling stock purchases are properly scoped out, that the manufacturer doesn’t have a history of requiring bailouts (a shame, as I like the Millenium’s build quality over anything else in the fleet), and that excessive requirements and changes aren’t put on the manufacturer when an existing design is proven.


You can add to this sort of thing the previous government wasting tens of millions of dollars on a study to say what every man and his dog could have told you – that a metro from the CBD to Rozelle wouldn’t work, and wanting to later extend it through an area where the most populated areas couldn’t have stations due to agreements signed with operators of pieces of motorway.

However, assuming all these issues can be addressed, then if the article is to be believed, I expect that CityRail would still be running at a large loss. Some of it could be recouped through small increases in ticket prices, but I think we are already close to the point where price increases will drive people away, meaning that overall income may even decrease. But this brings me to my final point:

CityRail is a service, not a business.

Yes, there are aspects of big business that can be carried over to services such as CityRail, but you need to to remember what it is there for in the first place – in this case to get passengers from A to B safely, quickly, and relatively comfortably. As a side note I might add I am a passenger, not a customer – passengers are by default also customers, but the very fact the CityRail call us customers now shows they have forgotten the service they are there to provide.

As much as they need to cut costs, I think over the longer term CityRail will never break even let alone be profitable – the sizeable, aging fleet (though the Waratahs will help there), combined with a vast network with poor alignments and slow travel times will always ensure that. Add to that the Sydney/New South Welsh mentality that a journey must not involve interchanges, and the expectations that “Intercity” rolling stock must be maximum comfort at a low ticket price, and they are screwed.

There needs to be more investment in infrastructure also to increase capacity and draw in more passengers, such as a second city/harbour crossing and extending the line from North Sydney out Manly way, but of course it is cheaper to run buses so that will never happen.

A possible solution is not privatisation, but to nonetheless get a third party in (most probably from overseas) that knows how to run a large network like this efficiently.

CityRail Waratah

I finally got to ride on a Waratah tonight (set A5, car N5405), and I must say I wasn’t impressed. The key issue I had was sideways wobble – it was significantly worse than a Tangara even, and I was feeling a little motion sick by the end – I didn’t even realise the track was so rough around Petersham until today. I take it the suspension is different to the Milleniums, and perhaps a single cushion. Aside from that the seats were extremely hard (harder than I ever remember the M bug’s seats being when first introduced), and the stairway handrails are thin which would be uncomfortable if you had to stand for a long trip.

The quality of the fitout seemed ok though, and the motion of the seats was very nice. The automated announcements were rather quiet and were often drowned out by background noise, but I expect this is a simple setting. The interior seemed to be modernised just for the sake of modernising it, when the M bug interiors are still fine. Unfortunately they are just as subject to vandals as any other train, with the windows being scratched up already.

Overall verdict – they should have stuck to the proven Millenium design, and really need to do something about the sideways wobble.