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Welcome to Steamsounds AU
The home of Australian Steam Train Sounds (and the occasional diesel)
Driver for a Day (or two...)

The 27th and 28th of June 2009 was a very auspicious day for me, as this weekend was scheduled for the theory and practical examinations that had to be passed in order for me to achieve my "steam ticket", or accreditation to operate a boiler and reciprocating engine.  The theory turned out to be a full day of testing, with over 100 pages of questions to be answered.  Thankfully, the practical test, while a little nerve wracking as I wasn't sure what was to happen, turned out to be far more enjoyable, with the chance to drive PB15 No. 448 out on the Box Flat branch being the way of assessing our prowess in handling a boiler and reciprocating engine.  There were a few of us on the course, and we all took turns to fire and drive.  I was fortunate  at being one of the first to have a go, so managed to spend the rest of the day riding the train while the others were going through their assessments.  This recording is of 448 running tender first from Box Flat, up one of the steepest grades on any current Queensland 3'6" line, with sections of 1:33 in places.  We start off from Box Flat with the cylinder cocks open which are soon quickly closed and the engine is opened up for the first steep climb.  With 100 tonnes on the drawbar, the engine is worked reasonably hard, but not thrashed up to the point where we reach a short downhill grade where she is shut off.  We then hear the sound of the snifter valves releasing vacuum to the cylinders until the throttle is open again and we move along at a reasonable pace with the typical "whistling" chuff that PBs make when they aren't being worked to hard.  This soon changes as the grade steepens again, but the engine settles down to a reasonable beat and the grade is soon crested and we coast into Swanbank station accompanied by the whine of the Pyle National light generator and the Westinghouse pump. 28 June 2009


                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 6.4 MB  6 min 50 secs)
Accompanied by the sounds of crows and lorikeets, we hear PB15 448 pushing back her train into Box Flat yard, so that the crew can have their meal break.  It's so nice to be able to record a stephenson valve geared loco in Queensland again, being nigh on 12 years since we last heard those sounds in our state.  28 June 2009


                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 1.5 MB  1 min 39 secs)
(Click on the image to enlarge)
(Click on the image to enlarge)
Another UK Visit

Once again I was fortunate that in November 2009, work gave me the opportunity to travel to the UK.  While the work was full on, at least I had the weekends free to go hunting for steam.  When it looked like my trip was firming up, I saw that the newest mainline locomotive in the world, Peppercorn A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado, was scheduled to haul the York Christmas Special from Kings Cross to York and return.  Fortunately, I was able to make it up to York on the Friday evening just in time to catch the celebrity locomotive.  When I arrived, my good friend David Bailey, of www.steamsounds.org.uk, met me at the station and after giving the loco a pat, we headed over to another platform to record the departure.  In this track, given the loco has been sitting for sometime, the departure is heralded by steam escaping from the cylinder cocks to clear out excess water from the cylinders, however once underway, the three cylinder beat comes back to us as the coaches leave the platform and other observers make their way back home.  Friday 27 November 2009.



                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.2 MB  2 min 26 secs)
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The very next morning after seeing Tornado, David and I headed out early  to catch ex BR/LNER A4 Pacific 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley which was heading to Kings Cross from Newcastle.  We  are situated next to the East Coast Main Line at Challenors Whin, just south of York.  First we hear the  Gresley 3 chime whistle in the distance before the sound of an A4 accelerating to line speed reaches the  microphone.  Given we are next to a busy 4 track mainline (and also near a busy road!), its no surprise that  a service train briefly interrupts the sound of steam before the A4 races by us on its way to Kings Cross.   Saturday 28 November 2009.



                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 1.9 MB  2 min 06 secs)

After seeing Sir Nigel in the morning, we headed over to Skipton to see 5690  Leander, the ex LMS Jubilee 3 cylinder 4-6-0 which was also running around the mainline that morning.  As is  the recordists lot, while we found a great spot at Connelly, for a recording location, it made for an  excellent photo (as can be seen below)! As there was very little noise to be had, we spent the rest of the day sight seeing around  the the Settle and Carlisle line (Ribblehead Viaduct is amazing!) and Yorkshire Dales.  There had been a lot  of wet weather in the days leading up to the weekend with considerable flooding and most of the rivers running a banker, so finding dry spots to set up during the day was a bit of a challenge, but at night...   In the evening (i.e. any time after 3.45pm!) we headed over to Gargrave, just before Hellifield where we  knew the loco would be having a water stop.  After searching around in the dark and giving up on one very  wet field, we walked along the old canal and set up in a slightly dryer spot just in time to hear 5690  working well upgrade towards Hellifield with the sounds of a nearby river for accompaniament.  Saturday 28  November 2009.


                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.6 MB  2 min 50 secs)
(Click on the image to enlarge)

Since Leander was stopping at Hellifield for water, we headed over to  Giggleswick, just west of Settle Junction where the line to Carnforth and Settle and Carlisle lines split.   The night was very still and a long way from most roads, however given the still air, the sounds of the A65  road carry back to the microphone as we hear a faint whistle in the distance and the sound of 3 cylinders  accelerating a train back to line speed after negotiating Settle Junction.  The sound builds ever so  gradually, with more whistles as the train heads through Giggleswick station and roars past the microphone,  heading under two overpasses before cresting the bank and accelerating down the other side, with the 47 on  the rear doing only enough to negate its weight and provide nice electrical heating for the passengers.   After the train passes, some local geese (who must have been motorcading!) chase the train west.  Saturday  28 November 2009.

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 6.8 MB  7 min 25 secs)

On Sunday 29 November, keen to maintain my  previous record of 5 steam locomotives in 48 hours experienced the previous year, we headed to the Keighley  and Worth Valley Railway where Santa trains were running for the children (and a few adults too by the looks  of things).  After taking photos of one train, we set up for the next train at a spot near Damems loop.   With two locos and 6 cars (plus diesel for the return), the engines aren't working too hard as we hear them  climb up hill toward Oakworth and Oxenhope.

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 1.8 MB  1 min 59 secs)
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I have seen lots of videos and heard even more recordings of  departures from Keighley, which confronts trains immediately with the combination of a steep grade and tight  curvature.  We are set up on a stone wall at the top of the cutting, about 2/3rds of the way around the  curve out of the station.  After quick whistles from exLMS/BR Ivatt Class 2 tank 41241 and BR Standard Class  4 tank 80002, the engines start out with cylinder cocks open.  These are soon shut, first on the class 2,  then on the Standard, and the engines head towards Oxenhope with another train load of happy kids and a  class 25 on the rear to save running around at the other end.  Sunday 29 November 2009.

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.6 MB  2 min 47 secs)
The following weekend I had the opportunity to again spend some time chasing trains with David.  The weather had been reasonably kind to us over the last  weekend and the Saturday of this one, however the Sunday did not start well, with rain about.  The  forecast suggested sunny spells in the afternoon, so we decided to head the North Yorkshire Moors to record Santa trains on both the Esk Valley line to Glaisdale and on the Moors line itself.  After finding a suitable public footpath near the line, we set up in a field in the Valley.  The weather was looking  promising, with nice areas of blue sky, however as is the recordists luck, just before the train arrived it started bucketing down as you can hear in this recording.  The train had slowed down for a speed restriction over a bridge, but once past it, the Schools class 30926 Repton, a 3 cylindered 4-4-0, is opened up.   Unfortunately, so is the diesel assisting, so we get mixed sounds of steam and infernal combustion working  upgrade.  Luckily, the rain eased while the train passed, but then came back with a vengeance just after the diesel goes by.  Oh well, I suppose you have to take the good with the bad, but I just wish I had a dry set  of clothes!  Sunday 6 December 2009.

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.2 MB  2 min 26 secs)

The rest of the afternoon did actually turn out quite pleasant, though  the wind was a bit lazy, especially standing in a soggy playing field just outside of Grosmont with the air  temperature hovering around 4 degrees Celsius.  Given the lack of much noise on the Esk Valley, we decided  to record the departure out of Grosmont with the Schools again at the head.  At least in this one you can  hear the 4-4-0 working well on the start out of the station and even after the diesel gives a bit of a push,  the 3 cylinder beat drifts back to the microphone as the train heads up the Esk Valley again.  Sunday 6  December 2009.

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.3 MB  2 min 32 secs)

On the Moors line, Santa trains were running between Pickering and Levisham,  with only the dining train running through to Goathland.  This was due to preliminary work being carried out  on Bridge 30, between Grosmont and Goathland, which was to be replaced over winter.  The only good bit of  hill to record steam was the climb out of Levisham, however the diesel was on that end on the run to  Goathland to save running around, so we had to make do with Black 5 45212 heading up the slight grade out of  Goathland through Moorgates.  I'd previously made a half decent recording of Southern S15 825 at this spot,  so was hoping for some good noise, but again, the diesel was helping a bit, so 45212 is only lightly working  the train as it comes past.  Sunday 6 December 2009

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.2 MB  2 min 26 secs)

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We headed down to Levisham to see the "Pocket Rocket" BR Standard Class  4 2-6-0 76079 arriving with the Santa Train from Pickering.  After running around, the engine coupled on to  the train and we started recording ready for the departure.  Well, the departure time came and went, and  after several more minutes, we found out why.  45212, the Black 5 which had worked the dinner train, was  returning light engine heading back to pass gingerly over Bridge 30 and down to the engine shed at Grosmont.   We hear the 4-6-0 whistling for the home signal, then passing quietly behind the Santa train, exchanges  tokens and after another whistle, is heard moving off towards Goathland and Grosmont.  After the driver  retrieves the token for travelling back to Pickering, we hear the guard climb aboard, whistle "Right Away!"  and the train heads back towards the other terminus, accompanied by the sounds of a generator on the rear  coach, and some volunteers digging a new ditch to get rid of all the water from the recent flooding rains.   Sunday 6 December 2009.

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.2 MB  2 min 26 secs)

Suburban Steam

Queensland Rail is unique among railway operators in Australia in that it still owns and operates steam locomotives in heritage service.  Given that it has been over 40 years since steam traction finished as regular motive power in the state, drivers and fireman who were qualified on steam in regular service are very thin on the ground and getting thinner every year.  To help alleviate this, QR ran a few "steam schools" with one run back in 1997, but with 3-4 more retirements amongst steam men coming up, the opportunity was taken again to run one during April 2010.  To assist with practical training, an all stations suburban service was run and this was initially publicised through one press release with only a few people knowing about it.  We started off from Ipswich station right behind a preceeding electric service, so initially there weren't too many other passengers, however as we travelled further towards Brisbane, given we couldn't keep up with an electric timetable, we started to see full platforms of commuters waiting for the next electric service which was catching up to us.  By the time we were at Toowong, the train was completely full and it was standing room only.  Toowong Station is built over, so the station is completely enclosed, hence the noise of the loco was well amplified, so that, combined with a full train, and an aggressive start by the driver, meant some good noise was to be had on departure and for the acceleration to our next station stop at Auchenflower where the recording ends.  19 April 2010


                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 2.2 MB  2 min 20 secs)
The train ran all stations from Ipswich, through the city, to Shorncliffe station where the loco was turned and a return all stations service was worked.  We join the train at Sandgate Station, and after the automatic doors close, we hear the "Right Away!" given to the driver and the loco heads off with a deep throated bark echoing back off the station.  We then run all stations through Deagon, North Boondall (where we have an excellent start along the former "speedway" now rudely interrupted by the new Boondall station) and Boondall and we leave the train as we accelerate away from that station.  The wind noise was very hard to avoid as the train was completely full again right from the start, so the microphone was outside for most of it to reduce the chatter coming from inside the train.  19 April 2010 9.1MB 9m 42s

                    (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 9.1 MB  9 min 42 secs)
The main stations on Brisbane's suburban network are Fortitude Valley (formerly Brunswick St), Central and Roma St, with the latter being the main station for long distance and interstate services as well.  We join the train at Brunswick St as we hear the air being slowly released from the brake cylinders, the guard gives right away and then we are off, starting out under the large confines of the station now completely built over.  The train breaks out into the open before heading into the long tunnel to Central and we keep accelerating along the long straight of the tunnel before easing up ready for the sharp curve and into Platform 3.  One my earliest memories of riding suburban trains was the sound of the air brakes on these SX cars, the Budd Car Co. stainless steel coaches that were once destined to be Queensland's first electrics, but due to political whim, became loco hauled for their entire carrier, and the sounds of the air coming on and being released brings back many of those memories.  When we arrive at Central, we hear the unique station announcement of being able to board a steam train service stopping all stations stopping to Ipswich, then another right away, and we are off, now under the completely enclosed (well nearly!) Central station.  This is very reminiscent of the former Central station, which had a large station canopy, and the sounds are much like that heard in other departures of steam recorded hear during steam days.  We then head into another shorter tunnel before coasting into Roma St Station where the sounds of the air brakes releasing signal the end of our journey.  19 April 2010 6.2MB 6m 43s
                  

                       (Click on the icon to listen  128kbs stereo 9.1 MB  9 min 42 secs)
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