A Visit to the Goldfields
Back in March and April 2008, we had a family holiday down south, in particular to particpate in the Australian Association of Live Steamers Convention in Cobden, Victoria. Now, while on a holiday that has a strong railway component, it is always important to do other MPS (mother pleasing stuff) in order to present at least a semblence of balance. Even so, I managed to keep up the railway theme by suggesting a visit to the Victorian Goldfields Railway, which runs between the pleasing towns of Maldon and Castlemaine in Victoria. (see their website here www.vgr.com.au)
If you have never visited the railway (which I hadn't until then), I strongly recommend a visit, as it captures the very rare (in this modern era) atmosphere of a steam powered branch line, not only in the motive power and rollingstock, but also in the structures and permanent way. Most of the rail is short section, so you have that real rythmic rail joint sound typical of branch lines. The station at Muckleford, part way along the line, also has a very rural halt feel to it, and the railway's terminus at Maldon is a modest, but impressive, country station.
On the day we visited, our trusty steed was ex Victorian Railways J Class 2-8-0 No.541 which had recently been restored and was oil fired. The trip to Castlemaine from Maldon was pleasant, however we were a couple of cars back, so the noise wasn't anything spectacular. On the way home, it was a similar story, though we were closer to the engine (car 1 seat 1!), so the sounds were more prevalent. Still, being on a branch line, a light load on the short section rail sounded quite appropriate, and something not all that easy to replicate on our modern railways. Here is J541 hauling 4 cars between Castlemaine and Muckleford on 19 April 2008
(Click on the icon to listen 128kbs stereo 2.9MB 2 min 24 secs)
Chasing the Rattler
Christmas holidays in 2007/2008 saw us travel up to Maroochydore to spend some time at the beach. Well, for those who remember, it was probably the wettest and windiest Christmas up there in some time, so much of it was spend reading books and watching DVDs in our little holiday apartment. To escape and hopefully avoid a bout of cabin fever, my eldest lad and I decided to head back to the Mary Valley Heritage Railway (see their website at www.thevalleyrattler.com)
The day we visited, the railway was running their regular Wednesday service from Gympie to Imbil and return. While the weather wasn't looking all that promising, it still made for a great day out and much better sitting in a flat watching another DVD.
We first caught C17 802 near Monkland, heading up grade after crossing the Deep Gully bridge.
(Click on the icon to listen 128kbps stereo 1.7MB 1 min 53 secs)
Further down the track, closer to Imbil is a short tunnel. By this time, the sun had come out a little, and as you can hear, the Cicadas are rejoicing. They were so loud in fact that they nearly drowned out the sound of the train, but 802 eventually wins over before the cacophony of cicadas again takes hold. While it is distracting from the sound of the train, this is a very typical Australian bush sound, especially during our long, hot summers.
(Click on the icon to listen 128kbps stereo 2.0MB 2 min 11 secs)
On the return, the drizzle returned, and this meant for a tough climb up Kandanga bank. My lad and I set up near the top of the bank and we were able to record the whole climb. I was sure that the engine was going to stall, and as you can hear by this excerpt, it does not sound promising, but skillful driving and firing saw the train crest the hill. The whole recording of the climb went for over 11 minutes, so in the interests of conserving bandwidth (both yours and mine!), here is a short section showing how much trouble was had.
(Click on the icon to listen 128kbps stereo 1.7MB 1 min 53 secs)
Our last sighting of the train was on the climb back into Dagun station, usually where the train pauses for 15 minutes or so as there are some local produce and wines available for tasting (I can thoroughly recommend the cheeses!). In this recording we hear 802 slogging it up the last few hundred yards into the station, whistling for the level crossing just prior to arriving. (Photo by Lachlan age 8)
(Click on the icon to listen 128kbps stereo 3.0 MB 3 min 15 secs)
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Carnival of Flowers Tour 20 September 2008
Each September sees the annual Carnival of Flowers in Toowoomba and as part of this, the Australian Railway Historical Society - Queensland Division runs a very popular steam train tour to the festival. This year, BB18 1/4 1079 was doing the honours. Now, the climb up the Little Liverpool Range between Grandchester and Laidley is always good for something spectacular, given both the steep grades and sharp curves, and this time was no exception. My young lad and I got up early, drove out to the location and hiked to our spot. All was set up well, the equipment was checked and we walked down to a spot to watch the train go past, which it did in fine style. Feeling pleased with the effort to get a good recording, we walked back to the microphone and I looked at the minidisc in horror. Some silly fool had forgot to take it off Pause after checking the equipment so I had missed the whole lot. Oh well, it was a nice walk in the bush...
The afternoon was a different story. I took my other lad out and we found the train at Helidon and I was pleased to see both Toowoomba driver Bill Boden, and Driver in Charge - Heritage Brian O'Sullivan, ably assisted by the fireman (whose name I missed sorry!) mulling over their charge. After a quiet word to Bill and Brian about making a little noise going up the Little Liverpool, we headed off to our location, set up and double checked things were actually recording this time. Well the train came up the hill in fine style with plenty of noise and a wheel slip thrown in (no, I didn't ask for that!), but just after the train passed, a loud crack was heard. I thought at first that a detonator had been placed on the line, however the train came to a stop just around the curve. Here is how it all sounded
(Click on the icon to listen 128kbs stereo 1.4MB 1 min 15 secs)
After running ahead to advise the crew what had happened (they already knew due to the flowmeter going to zero), we set up again for the departure after the faulty air hose had been repaired. Well, the start was one of the most amazing displays of enginemanship I have seen. Apparently, as soon as Bill had realised they lost air, he pulled on the sanding lever as they stopped, meaning that the loco had a nice firm footing to start. Brian was at the throttle, and he displayed consummate skill in getting the heavy train (part of which was still around the 30 km/h curve) started and accelerating towards Yarongmalu.
I think we often take the crew for granted, focussing more on the loco or the destination, but for me, this display really made me appreciate the professionalism and hard work that goes into providing us with the entertainment we like to enjoy. Well done to the fireman, Brian and Bill and thanks for all your efforts in continuing to show what these machines are capable of. Have a listen to the train getting underway again (accompanied by rumbles of one of the wickedest series of electrical storms so far this year).
(Click on the icon to listen 128kbs stereo 2.9MB 3 min 10 secs)