The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Anything related to the garden railway world that is not catered for in another board
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BertieB
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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by BertieB » Fri Oct 08, 2021 12:04 pm

Melbournesparks wrote:
Fri Oct 08, 2021 11:14 am
"...no line can be allowed to escape inspection!..."
Blimey! I hope not... But what a wonderful set of pictures. The volunteer run heritage tramway looks amazing.

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by ge_rik » Fri Oct 08, 2021 1:33 pm

A wonderful set of photos of a forgotten corner of the continent.
I too was intrigued by that single slip - something you built yourself?

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Lonsdaler » Fri Oct 08, 2021 6:07 pm

This is good stuff! A really evocative set of pictures, with the hint of a back story to come. Though I must say I am deeply disappointed Mr IN Spectre resorted to physical force on the bolt. Surely his sonic screwdriver would have sorted it in a jiffy :lol:
Looking forward to the next instalment.
Phil

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Melbournesparks » Sat Oct 09, 2021 2:53 am

Thanks for reading so far! Apologies in advance this ended up rather long, part 2 is coming shortly
ge_rik wrote:
Fri Oct 08, 2021 1:33 pm
A wonderful set of photos of a forgotten corner of the continent.
I too was intrigued by that single slip - something you built yourself?

Rik
It is a conversion of a simple crossing, the single bladed points allow the curved route to have a larger radius than would be possible if it used double bladed points.
Lonsdaler wrote:
Fri Oct 08, 2021 6:07 pm
This is good stuff! A really evocative set of pictures, with the hint of a back story to come. Though I must say I am deeply disappointed Mr IN Spectre resorted to physical force on the bolt. Surely his sonic screwdriver would have sorted it in a jiffy :lol:
Looking forward to the next instalment.
Ah yes, maybe he left it in his case!

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Melbournesparks » Sat Oct 09, 2021 3:22 am

Part 2: The Journey

My somewhat improvised accommodation proved to be at least satisfactory, and better than the alternatives. I woke up with the magpies and kookaburras singing, and.. the unmistakable screech of flanges?

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I rushed out onto the platform, almost not believing my eyes at the sudden appearance of a little 4 wheel tram and bogie trailer arriving from the direction of the hills! Apparently my pessimism about the continued existence of the tramway preservation society was unfounded.

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Passenger loading is done on the non platform side, the rollingstock being unsuitable for the high level passenger platform.

I immediately sought out the crew and introduced myself to driver Erin, conductor Malcom and shunter/pointsman/whatever Steve.

"Oh.. you're THAT mr. Spectre! We were definitely expecting you!" Steve was saying
"what"
"we were?"
"It was in the weekly notice"
"you know I don't read those"
"I had notifications turned off"

I noted that the timetable taped to the window of the station building did not seem to match reality.

"Yeah that is actually the public holiday timetable" Malcom was saying.
"Though we normally would have run yesterday, but SOMEONE had to work"
"Some of us also get paid to drive trams."

I inquired as to when the return trip was to depart, as soon as we finish shunting apparently.

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I observed with interest as Steve pulled the coupling pins. There did not appear to be any continuous braking system. Erin ran the tram down to the stop board and swung the trolley pole while Steve changed the points. With the interlocking and point rodding long gone apparently the preferred method is a crowbar!

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A handful of intending passengers milled around the yard, apparently zero attempt is made to separate passengers from rail traffic here.

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Normally I would be highly critical of allowing passengers to board while shunting was in progress, riding on the steps, lack of proper point locking and several other points, but apparently all of those things a rather more relaxed for a tramway.

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I inquired as to the lack of a continuous braking system. I observed that the tram and trailer were actually from two completely different Australian systems and the straight air brake on the tram was incompatible with the Eames vacuum brake on the trailer.

"Yeah it is a bit of an improvisation" Malcom admitted.
"We always have problems with capacity as traffic starts to pick up this time of year. We don't have enough qualified crews to run more frequently."

"what would you do if the set became separated?" I asked. This seemed highly improper.
"I'm not leaning on this handbrake wheel for looks" Steve said.
"It isn't any different to operating a passenger tram with handbrake only which is perfectly allowed"

I conceded that might have been technically correct ("The best kind of correct!") but nevertheless I elected not to ride on the trailer!

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Erin answered Malcom's right away with two bells and we're off.

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As we roll along through the weeds Erin is giving me a rundown on the line.
"The tramway took over the former Mt Pleasant line in the early 1990's, it is now one of the longest heritage tramways in Australia. We usually operate three return trips a day on weekends, more on public holidays. The main traffic is tourists, tramway enthusiasts and bush walkers"

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"This is one of 5 tunnels on the line" Erin was saying as we headed into the darkness.
"This part of the line is pretty flat, but there is a significant climb up into the hills."

I remarked that I would like to inspect the tunnels and other permanent way infrastructure in some more detail.

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"We assumed you would. You might be in luck today, as well as us the other guys are doing a test run their EMU set today, you can probably get them to stop wherever you need to"

The what?

"We share our depot with some privately owned rollingstock, they're not part of the tramway preservation society."

Malcom is announcing the first timetabled stop of Grasslands Loop.

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The loop clearly had not been used in many months, and I found the quantity of spiders in the primitive platform shelter to be excessive.

At this point I thought it prudent to inquire about the safeworking system

"It's actually a staff system" says Erin, gesturing to a collection of staffs hanging from the handbrake wheel.
"unless it is the public holiday timetable or specials are running the loops don't get a lot of use, so we just take all of them with us. It is technically staff and ticket, but without a written ticket. For following moves the staff is carried on the last tram, driver of the first one just has to sight it"

That seemed rather improper.

"Line of sight only for following moves is standard for a tramway"

I would have commented further, but my attention was rather diverted by the condition of the track as the tram rolled from side to side.

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"This is the best bit!" Erin said a little defensively, swinging the controller to full parallel as if to prove it.
"they did 1 in 4 steel sleepers back in heavy rail days, this section is good for 80km/h.

Needless to say I was horrified, even if this tram set was not capable of anything like those speeds.

"Oh we've gone faster for test runs, though it was a little exciting" Malcom was saying.

What rollingstock does the tramway preservation society have that is capable of those speeds?

"the steam railcar."
"The steam tram motor"
"haha allegedly!"
"Don't you want to test it? They supposedly did that on Bondi expresses back in steam days."

Clearly this was going to be one of THOSE operations.

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Fortunately my fear for my life was short lived as Erin applied the brakes.
"Malcom, we're stopping at Gang Gang"

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Apparently informally stopping like this for bush walkers is standard practice, though technically this is a request stop.

Malcom gives the right away and the set picks up speed quickly on a short falling grade.
"See those hills?" Erin says, pointing ahead at where the grade pitched up like the roof of a house.
"1:20 average grade all the way to Falls Loop from here"

I observed this was an extremely steep gradient, i have criticized other lines for less!

"no problem for electric traction" Erin was saying, controller to full parallel again.

What about adhesion?

"That is.. generally no problem, when it is dry. Except for that spot" She said stepping on the sand button as the sound of the traction motors rose suddenly.
"We do have problems with squashed plants on the rails sometimes, you'll have to have a look at the scrubber car later"

Would it not be better to just remove the vegetation?

"what"

Nevermind.

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We made it into Currawong Loop, the main intermediate crossing loop on the line. Facilities are once again appreciated by spiders much more than me.

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The line twists and turns on the climb up to Falls Loop.
"Don't worry only 25km/h for this section" Erin was saying, sensing me eyeing the rough track and precarious looking wooden trestle bridges. I noted that other lines I had recently visited in the Dandenongs had substantially better constructed bridges!

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The vegetation is also changing, the dry open bushland giving way to rainforest in the deep gullies.

Suddenly the lights flickered off and the tram came to a stop. What was that?

"lost the pole" Erin said, leaning out the doorway and pointing at a branch sitting on the overhead which had caused the trolley pole to dewire. "Can you please get that Steve"

"It is a thing that happens down here sometimes, we're pretty reactive with the vegetation cutting. I'll note it for the track gang later."

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The shriek of flanges echos off the cliff faces as the tram set climbed higher into the hills. After doubling back along the ridge, the line curves back again into
"Tunnel 2, the longest tunnel on the line" Erin was saying.
"Curves through more than 90 degrees, and a significant radio dead spot."

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Another short tunnel is encountered just after the Mt Galah request stop.

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The rock walls of the cuttings were almost close enough to kick from the open doorways, I observed that the loading gauge was very restricted for a former heavy rail line.

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Finally the top of the grade came into sight and we clanked over the points into Falls Loop.

I asked if all the passenger facilities on the line were of this condition.
"Yeah they're not great" Malcom admitted.
"we only have so many staff, and you know, priorities..."

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Soon after tunnel 1 was encountered, and the waterfall from which Falls Loop took its name.

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Erin brought the tram to a stop.
"Here we are at Mt Pleasant! I have to go and operate the crossing though"

I was interested to observe the arrangements here.

"One of only two level crossings on the line" she was saying as she walked across to the control cabinet.
"Annoyingly the roadway requires a height clearance far higher than our maximum overhead wire height, so we need.. this arrangement."

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Erin operated the key switch and the overhead wires dropped into position.
"Such a pain, but it was the only way to get it to work. We're hoping to automate this in future."

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Finally the tram set rolled into the Mt Pleasant passenger platform. Most of the passengers wandered off to see the local sights and the crew busied themselves shunting the set for the return trip.

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I am told that this is where the line's depot is and I am keen to see just what sort of rollingstock the tramway preservation society maintains. Despite the unpromising start it is looking like I still have a lot to see!

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by philipy » Sat Oct 09, 2021 5:26 am

Fantastic. Can't wait for Part 2.
Thanks.

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by ge_rik » Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:16 am

What a fascinating narrative. I love the arrangement for the overhead wires at the level crossing - presumably based on a real prototype??

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Peter Butler » Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:34 am

Fascinating storyline beautifully illustrated. I became so engrossed I felt I was there.
The best things in life are free.... so why am I doing this?

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by gregh » Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:52 am

What a fantastic railway.
Thanks for the enjoyable narrative, but the pictures just take over and I can't move on.
Greg from downunder.
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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by GAP » Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:20 pm

A masterful piece of story telling backed up by some excellent pictures made for an enjoyable read.
Very well done on the line.
Graeme from the home of the Ringbalin Light Railway
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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Old Man Aaron » Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:55 pm

Easily my favourite write-up so far. :salute:
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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Andrew » Mon Oct 11, 2021 1:25 pm

Wow, wonderfully atmospheric stuff!

In a parallel universe, not very far to the left of this one, I'm a tramway modeller - pictures like these bring that alternative reality just a little closer...

Many thanks,

Andrew.

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by invicta280 » Mon Oct 11, 2021 7:06 pm

The overgrown tracks give it the right ambience for a line, preservation or otherwise, that is struggling along with minimum staff on a budget.
So atmospheric. I've liked this one since I first saw a video of it.

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Lonsdaler » Wed Oct 13, 2021 5:13 pm

Old Man Aaron wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:55 pm
Easily my favourite write-up so far. :salute:
I'll second that. You capture the atmosphere of a down at heel voluntary operation beautifully. And the scenery is stunning :thumbup:
Phil

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Re: The Great Garden Railway Inspection Reports

Post by Melbournesparks » Tue Oct 19, 2021 11:34 am

Sorry about the delay in getting the next part up, thanks for being patient!

Part 3: The infrastructure

I had some time to kill before I would get a chance to inspect the infrastructure later today, so it was a good time to have a wander around the depot area.

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A lot of the trackwork here clearly dates after the heavy rail era, installed by the tramway museum from parts from various Australian systems. This double crossover is ex Sydney. The majority of the points are single bladed tramway types, there is no interlocking or signals.

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Erin had given me a rather cryptic warning to watch out for the "clever girls", whatever that means.

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In the other direction is the depot, with a three road shed and one outside siding. The points here are more single bladed tramway types.

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Here I got to see some of the other rollingstock belonging to the tramway preservation society, apparently from a variety of different Australian systems. Not all of it was here though.

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I was a little unnerved by the goannas that live in the depot. They like to sun themselves on the concrete out the front apparently.

I pointed out to Malcom the depot seemed a little small.

"That's because it is. We actually don't even stable rollingstock overnight here any more, we now have a new depot at Mt Pleasant South. It is a bit further away so more empty running, but much bigger"

Evidently that is where the other line that branched off just after the crossing went, from the direction of which I could now see a train approaching.

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This was not what I expected to see here.

"Yeah those guys like their ex Switzerland rollingstock" said Malcom. "We let them live here because we're nice though."

"We also crew their trains apparently" says Erin.
"I thought you were on the regular service"
"Steve's got it. This one needs automatic air brake qualification"

I'm also introduced to Shunter/Guard/conductor Andrew who had brought the train out from the depot.

Clearly the lack of qualified crews causes some stretching of what the duties are for each position.

Also along for the ride is electrical engineer Anna to check on the operation of the traction system.

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The plan basically was to stop at all the major features along the line, since the empty cars test run had no timetable or operational constraint apart from crossing the regular service somewhere.

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Tunnel 1 was first up. Tunnel 1 is unlined rock save for a concrete portal at the down end.

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Lots of water ingress at the up end.

"Electrolytic corrosion, problem as old as electric traction" Anna was saying pointing at the heavily corroded overhead fittings.
"Happens anywhere a few amps go to ground. Those insulators don't exactly meet the modern spec do they"

"nooo" said Erin.
"are we going to replace them at some stage?"
"probably noo. Unless someone manages to get us more stuff from work" She looks back at Anna hopefully.

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Bridge 2 and 3 are wooden trestle bridges of.. questionable condition. There are 14 major bridges between West Grasslands and Mt Pleasant of varying construction types.

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Bridge 3 has had some rather unpromising looking "repairs" made at some stage.

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I pointed out that a 5km/h speed restriction isn't really a substitute for proper bridge repairs after re boarding the train.

"Pretty sure I remember seeing something about renewal in the long term infrastructure plan" Anna said, leaning against the back wall of 34M's cramped cab as we arrive at Falls Loop.
"We could avoid worrying about it for a long time, but axle loads have started to creep up again now"

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We wait for the regular service to catch up with us at Falls Loop. They will be following us to Currawong Loop but Erin still has to sight the staff for section authority.

Even though this is supposed to be an empty cars test run there seems to still be a number of passengers.

"What's the story with this train anyway?" I asked. "Long way from home isn't it?"

"It's privately owned by a member, but he let us use it. It fills an important role for us for railfan specials and charters. He's the dude with the hat in the van, never misses an opportunity to come for a ride."

They couldn't get any suitable rollingstock closer to home?

"Actually no, there was nothing available at the time that would fit our loading gauge. We don't exactly have an overabundance of narrow gauge direct current EMU's in Australia. I think there's a plan in the works to acquire an ex Wellington English Electric set, but that's a while off yet"

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We commence the long steep decent to Currawong Loop. Trams on this kind of gradient are one thing, but I have previously criticized having such steep grades on a heavy rail passenger railway.

"This train was designed for much bigger mountains than this mate." Erin said. "I haven't even touched the air brake since we left Falls, all on the rehostatic brake."

No sooner had she said that than she reached for the air brake valve and swept it to full emergency, I had to grab the handbrake wheel as the air dumped.

"what-"

"we forgot about the branch we found on the way up"

"Always have to do someone else's job for them." Anna went to poke at it with a fiberglass pole.

"It's something we have to look out for. A dewired trolley pole is annoying, but hitting a branch with a pantograph can cause serious damage."

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Bridge 7 was the next stop, another wooden trestle bridge with both horizontal and vertical curvature. Out of respect for the height above the steeply sloping hillside this one has a check rail at least.

With the regular service following behind we had to skip tunnel 2, we'll stop there on the way back.

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The museum tram following us has just passed the Mt Galah request stop while our train is half way between tunnel 2 and Currawong Loop. Even though these locations are close together as the crow flies there is a significant elevation difference.

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Arriving at Currawong Loop. The 4 car train only just fits, Andrew says it is the longest train that it is practical to run here.
"That's why we run it with a motor car on each end like this, saves shunting. All the cars have been through cabled for multiple unit"

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Again the elevation difference is very obvious compared to where we were only a couple of minutes previously.

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As we roll along towards Succulent Valley Erin is filling me in on the differences between operating the trams and heavy rail rollingstock on this challenging line.

"It's mainly in the curve speeds, Some of the transition curves are... non existent so the coupling swing can be pretty savage. Be careful walking between the cars."

"these little narrow gauge M cars are great, not much bigger than a tram really but very powerful. Running both together like this they'd drop the substation if we really made them work."

She swings the controller back into the power notches as we pass through tunnel 3, a round concrete lined tunnel that marks the bottom of the long descent.

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"Speaking of, how are we going Anna?"
"It's fine.. line voltage dropped about 100v when you started powering." She was looking at her data logger who's leads disappeared into the electrical cabinet behind her.
"I didn't even notice. It's more than we'd normally live with on the big tramway but still plenty fit for purpose for us"

Anna is explaining how the electrical system works.

"The substation is in the Mt pleasant maintenance facility, with feeders that run in reservation to Succulent Valley and Grasslands loop. We can live with a 20-30% voltage drop normally, though the length of the line is pushing it for a single substation when we're running like this. We'd have to think about a second substation at West Grasslands if the line was to be restored any further."

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I observed that most of the overhead wire poles were wood of varying condition.

"It's not that unusual" says Anna. "I remember when they were all wood in the outer Melbourne suburban area.
"before my time" says Erin. "though there's still the odd one on the tram network".

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Next stop was bridge 13, one of the longest on the line. In places where overhead wire poles needed to be attached to bridges they were usually metal at least.

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Shortly after came tunnel 4, the second longest tunnel on the line.

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This one is concrete again, on a slight curve.

"You're lucky not too many bugs today" Erin said as I re boarded the train. "they get a little too comfortable when we haven't run steam in a while"

I was surprised to learn that steam traction was possible on this line.

"We actually have the original sentinel steam railcar that used to run here back in heavy rail days. Interesting unit, I'll show you when we get back to the depot. The Cockatoo Creek tramway has been here too."

Image

Finally here we are back at West Grasslands. The crew have changed ends ready for the return trip, back home to the Mt Pleasant stabling sidings and maintenance facility.

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