Every year, the Transport Heritage Expo is held at Central over the Queens Birthday long weekend and this year is no exception. The event almost slipped my mind, because I’ve been way too busy, but thanks to a heads up from David Griffiths, I juggled around my schedule to make sure I could attend and meet with David.
Because David was involved with the running of the Great Train Race and that was to depart from the Central at 9:30am sharp, I had to make sure I got to Central before then to give me enough time to photograph the trains before they left.
Getting Ready to Race
Last year, I missed the race entirely, but then again, I didn’t have any intentions of seeing it. I was more interested on the trains for show. This year, the race is a little different – three trains raced from Central, including a vintage electric, a diesel set and a steam train. This is the first time in my memory that the vintage electric has seen any passengers and revenue service. Outside of the race, the steam train operates rides and the electric also operates shuttle services. It makes me happy to hear it, and I very much hope the passengers enjoyed it.
Of course, such a race requires a lot of preparation. Once I arrived at Central at 8:31am from Granville on a Blue Mountains Line service, the stands and displays were all already set-up, and people were already beginning to bustle about.
I couldn’t help wandering around to take some photos of the trains while they’re still hanging around, and while the density of crowds was low. After all, when the race is on, most of the carriages would be away from the platform, and even before the race, they were closed so you couldn’t wander through and appreciate their interiors. You’ll see the results of my photo-taking a little later.
Of course, time was ticking and I knew I had to meet with David as soon as I could so that we could have a chat before the trains left. Right at the point I managed to find him, he had to sneak off to a briefing, so I took advantage of that to get a few shots of the steam locomotive 3642 getting ready to depart.
Safety being the utmost importance, everyone was having briefings around that time.
Even though it was only just getting towards 9am, the turnout was actually quite good, and I was having a hard time keeping people out of my shots. Many of them exclaimed at the big wheels and children seemed to be particularly drawn to it.
Steam locos take a lot of work to run. Just like last year, the firebox is in full view from time to time, with it constantly being fed to keep the boiler going.
Between that and taking a few sips of coffee, there was time to take a few important phone calls to make sure everyone had the right information.
The atmosphere was wonderful, because it seemed to me that everyone that had turned up that morning had a real interest in trains to some degree. Everyone seemed to love what they were doing – and the driver was even kind enough to give a curious member of the public an explanation of how the shovel and its handle was used, and why he (in particular) didn’t use gloves.
It was still close to 30 minutes to the off, but the steam loco was making its presence known with a small plume of steam rising from a valve.
It had been around 10 minutes, so I circled back to meet up with David. It was rather interesting to have met with someone who shares many of the same interests as myself, and we had a long and varied number of topics. It was especially heartening to hear that he has enjoyed many of the postings I’ve put online – it’s especially vindicating to know that my efforts aren’t just being “put into the ether”. Our chat only ended minutes before the race started … so I rushed to try and nab a good position for some photos, only to be beat by everyone else. I still tried my best.
The steam engine was an experience within itself. Having never been near a steam locomotive when it was prepared to run, I had no idea it was so loud. The hissing of the steam reached such loudness while walking by that my ears went from hearing just a pure white noise to something more like an overdriven, distorted speaker developing overtones and harmonics. I got out my in-ear headphones and plugged them in for some makeshift ear protection. It made its presence well known.
To my surprise, the first to depart was the vintage electric single decker, set F1, fully laden. I almost missed it because I couldn’t hear it over the steam engine. I suppose it probably needed a head start anyway.
That was soon followed by the diesel loco. While a diesel might be loud in the suburbs, its small plume of smoke and engine note was no contest compared to the steam engine, along with its whistle. Besides, the steam engine had a charm to it, that the diesel … just didn’t quite have.
That just left the final contender, the steam train, to leave the station. With a loud hiss, it let off quite a large plume of steam, emerging from the underside and billowing upwards towards the end of the platform where everyone was standing with their cameras.
We literally got a small sprinkling from that.
The train tried to hide behind a cloud of steam and coal smoke with its very distinctive smell. But soon, even that dissipated, and the train was truly off.
The drivers seemed quite pleased to get going.
Just a few tens of meters down the platform, they came to a halt, as a red signal blocked their path for a minute.
Soon after, it resumed its travel, being pushed behind by diesel loco 4490. Just like that, three trains had run away from Central to do their race towards Granville. I don’t know who won in the end, but it wouldn’t have been an easy ride especially since the Blue Mountains/West express line between Lidcombe and Strathfield was closed off due to some track work repairs.
Photos from Before and After the Race
Before the race, I walked by diesel loco 4001, a blue engine which is part of the race.
As in the other cases, the proud driver was happy to chat to the public. It looks like he had a good day as well.
3801 Limited was here as usual, with carriage CAM 502, named in tribute to Vale Ken Butt.
After the train race had left, all the spectators were left with very few things to admire, so many of them packed into the car to take a sit down and look around. The media were also around, with a camera-person on the steam train running in the race, and a news reporter from Channel 7 caught reading an information placard. (Sorry, don’t watch enough TV to recognize who it was.)
This was hooked up to diesel loco 42101, in a somewhat matching brown and yellow.
Just opposite, we saw the rear of the diesel loco race train, which had diesel loco 4520 heading up the rear.
I didn’t get a good look at the carriages attached to the diesel loco, but I saw various sorts, including the more regular red/yellow ones as well as an upper class metal body one which was Southern Aurora last year (if I recall correctly).
The train that really caught my eye, funnily enough, was the vintage electric that I walked through last year. While not as full of character as the steam engine, it has its own charms.
It was proudly wearing the expo sign, and I suppose its set number is oddly appropriate given that it’s a racing train! I took some time to look at the whole consist from the outside.
The rear-most carriage was C3426, with a “newer” double-diamond pantograph that’s smaller than the original. These were run on the old S-set silver double-decker trains. The windows were rounded and sliding, as was in the double-deck Tulloch trailer cars. As it is a C-type car, it’s likely a motor car with drivers’ compartment.
Next one up was T4527. Unfortunately, with the size of the platform, it wasn’t possible to get nice straight-on shots, and glare was an issue. This was a trailer car, with a guard’s compartment. It had mostly square windows except for the guard’s.
The one further up is a C3218, also with square windows. It looks like the driver’s compartment had square windows on the door was well. This has what appears to be an original “massive” double-diamond pantograph with very thick shoes. Very impressive.
The lead carriage was C7396 with similar features but slightly different layout. That makes this vintage electric an odd setup, with three motor cars and a trailer car. I suppose for the sake of demonstration, such setups are fine, but it probably wasn’t how it was run in service (e.g. motor-trailer-trailer-motor is the normal configuration).
I didn’t make any concerted effort to photograph all the carriages on the steam train or catalogue them, but I did peer into the guard’s compartment which looks a little run down. Interestingly, underneath the seat, there is a pile of brake shoes. That seemed rather out of place … I’ve never known a guard to do their own mechanical maintenance!
Early on, walking along, I also peered through another door to find the bar.
The train itself had carriages of many different styles – just looking at the windows gives it away.
Some various shots of the sides of the cars shows the differences, especially in class.
A final treat for everyone, is the Warratah train, set A65 which will spend the long weekend at the platform. As noted by David, they even made the sign say Waratah, which was a nice touch.
On the train, you can enter the driver’s cabin and take photos. It was a very interesting experience for me to see just how technologically advanced their systems are. The guards have a very nice view of the in-carriage cameras with tell-tale indications if the stream is “working” or not. They have push buttons for selective-door opening where platform overruns occur. Underneath and next to that is the panel of circuit breakers.
The other side of the wall on the doorway is the train radio handset, which doubles as a PA microphone for announcements inside the train, and outside on each side of the train. Crew door controls are also on this wall.
The seats seem particularly advanced with many adjustments for optimal driving position. The “cockpit” features colour LCD displays – similar to a glass cockpit in a plane. That doesn’t remove the need for a large amount of rotary switches and push buttons for various different modes and actuating different devices on the train. A few analog dials are also provided, probably as back-up.
A Seimens train radio is also seen on the console, and I spotted even a voltage and current indication for the overhead wiring – at the moment the photo was taken, the overhead seems to measure 1693V (nominal 1500V) and load is 12A (20.316kW). I suppose this is a nice feature for the nerds, but also helps spot low-overhead conditions and hopefully convince drivers to “back off” on the traction motors a little to stop trains from locking up, like the Millennium trains did, as they over-strained the substations and overhead infrastructure on some lines.
There’s a secondary console as well for the guard or possibly for training purposes. While everything is well labelled, the computer system features a lot of pages, and can lock-off carriages, check their air-conditioning and toggle their operation modes, etc. It’s very nice stuff.
As necessary, the cabin also has an emergency escape ramp, as escape is from the “ends” of the train. The instructions are printed on a sign inside.
I never had the chance to see this equipment up-close, and it’s really fascinating to me to see just how many of the technologically possible features they have actually available to staff in their currently serving trains.
From what I could see, it was another successful Transport Heritage Expo. The turnout was good, the atmosphere was great and the level of interest was excellent. People were having friendly chats everywhere – and I managed to meet one of my readers and have a nice chat as well. I managed to catch the race this year, at least the start of it, and get my ears checked with the roaring steam engine.
While I can’t claim to be a true train buff – after all, my terminology is shaky, and my knowledge mostly derived from observation, I tried my best to “take it all in”.
I managed to take some photos, although, I suppose things didn’t quite turn out as well as I would have liked because of the rush and early morning for me. Given that the heritage trains on show were also mostly the same units on show last year, I have some photos in that older post that might be worth looking at as well.
There were also vintage bus services running, but because of time constraints, I didn’t end up visiting nor taking any photos. If you’re interested in trains or buses, be sure to turn up before the end of the long weekend. If you want to participate in the train race, then that will have to wait till next year, but there are still shuttle services and steam train rides for those interested.