How about a few pics of steam at night?
Here is a photo of D3 639 being stabled at Maldon loco depot, after running a friend's wedding charter. The fire has just been dumped, and the glowing coals can be seen underneath. The loco will soon pull forward over the pit to be parked up for the night. 24/8/2013.
A2 986 under restoration at the former Newport Workshops. Newport is a suburb of Melbourne. I think the BBP team will probably appreciate this photo, and the amount of time it takes to restore a lump of scrap back to a functioning machine. All up, the restoration of this loco took over twenty years to complete, using paid staff and volunteer labour. 7/9/2013.
Some of you may have heard of the Puffing Billy Railway in the Dandenong Ranges. The railway is of 2' 6" gauge, and runs on the Belgrave to Gembrook section of the former Victorian Railways line from Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook. The main motive power are the Baldwin designed nA 2-6-2T locomotives, of which five of the six surviving examples are operational. The last of the nA's to be restored was 1906 built 6A, which re-entered service in early 2002 after a twenty year sabbatical. 6A is seen outside the loco shed, prior to heading a night special to the Nobelious packing shed, some seven miles distant. 14/7/2014.
A hand held long exposure - a grand total of one second (all the above photos a tripod was used). The platform lighting bounces off of former New South Wales Government Railways' 5917 at Cootamundra. The D59's were imported from Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton, Philadelphia, PA in 1952-53 to cover a severe locomotive shortage. All were oil fired when delivered, but the majority were converted to burn coal after a few years. They have a distinctive "Yankee" appearance, and even feature a U.S riverboat style whistle. 5917 had earlier worked a special to Junee (about thirty miles south) and return. 11/10/2014.
Remember R711 from earlier? Well, Dear Reader, let me tell you a tale...
R711 was built in 1951 by the North British Locomotive Company of Glasgow, as the twelth member of a fleet of seventy express passenger locomotives. R711 was stored following it's withdrawal from service in the mid 1960's. It spent some time stored at Geelong, before being towed to Newport. In the early 1980's, a company called Steam Age Australia was formed, with the view of running a luxury steam hauled train around Victoria. Carriages were acquired from South Aus, and R711 was acquired from VicRail. Rather than restore R711 (as they arguably should have), the idea was floated to swap it with sister loco R766, which was preserved as a static exhibit on a plinth near Bendigo Railway station. The reason for the swap was that R766 had been driven onto it's plinth, and was thought to be in better condition as a result. So in 1982, a complicated swap was carried out using temporary track panels which allowed R766 to be towed out by a diesel locomotive, and R711 to take it's place. R766 was then towed to Melbourne for restoration. Ownership of both locomotives swapped, with Bendigo City Council taking ownership of R711, and Steam Age of R766. R711 was to remain on that plinth for another thirteen years.
In 1993 the Victorian State Government under the control of a Conservative party, decided that many of the state's assets would be better off privatised. In addition to the utilities; the railways were also placed on the chopping block. Many passenger services were cut as a result. One of these passenger services was the one which ran between Melbourne and Warrnambool, a distance of one hundred and sixty five miles. A company called West Coast Railway was formed in early 1993, with the view of operating the services. WCR went about acquiring a fleet of six B class locomotives of 1952 vintage, and four S class, dating from 1957 from the Government to run the services. A fleet of air conditioned steel bodied carriages was also acquired, some of which had been a part of the "Spirit of Progress" streamlined train of 1937. The first service was run on the 19th of September 1993 using a locomotive hired from V/Line (formerly VicRail). Over the next two years, WCR gradually fazed in their own motive power to haul the trains. A maintenance depot was setup at the vacated Ballarat East locomotive depot, where all mechanical and cosmetic work was carried out.
At some point soon after WCR's inception, the directors of the company, led by the late Gary McDonald, decided that an extra drawcard was needed for the Saturday morning departure of "The Westcoaster" (as the service was known). The logical answer was to put a steam locomotive on the front, but it would have to be able to maintain the tight schedule set by diesel locomotives. The search for a suitable locomotive began, and it wasn't long before R711 came onto their radar. Negotiations began in earnest during 1994, and were finalised soon afterwards. The job of retrieving the loco from it's plinth then had to be tackled. The sidings which were used to connect the temporary track panels to in 1982, had long since been removed and the site developed into a shopping complex. The loco would have to be trucked a short distance to reach the nearest railhead, from where it could be towed back to Ballarat East via the now closed line between Castlemaine and Maryborough. This was completed in mid-1995. The loco then sat at Ballarat East for a few weeks, before dismantling began to assess what was needed to bring the loco into traffic.
As WCR were a commercial concern, paid staff were used in the overhaul of the locomotive. To maintain the tight timetable, many modifications had to be made to ensure the locomotive was capable of the task. Conversion to oil firing was a must, as steam needed to be "on tap" at all times and would also reduce servicing times between runs. A pneumatic lid for the water filler on the tender top was fitted, so that water could be taken from an overhead water column at Colac (the halfway point) without the crew needing to leave the cab. A steam powered reverser of the Hadfield type replaced the manual reversing screw, so that the engine could be placed on the block with minimal effort. The most noticeable modification was the dual Lempor chimneys, which were designed by the late Phil Girdlestone of South Africa. The Lempor exhaust system works similar to extractors in a car to reduce back pressure, and increase efficiency. The valves and piston heads were fitted with extra rings to prevent steam leakage. Diesel controls were also fitted to help with taking off from stations if needed, or extra power on grades. The overhaul was completed in November 1998, and the much modified R711 took to the mainline under it's on power for the first time in thirty three years.
The modified loco was not without problems. The first reared it's head fairly early in the piece, whilst the loco was still undergoing trials - it was discovered that one of the driving wheel tyres was loose. So as to not take any chances; a completely new set was ordered from South Africa. The loco was taken off of it's wheels so the new tyres could be shrunk on, and didn't see the rails again until early May 1999, when trials recommenced. R711 passed it's trials successfully, although it was found that due to the steam being superheated too efficiently; the lubrication to the cylinders was virtually evaporating. The loco was again taken to the workshop, where the pistons were taken out for inspection. Upon being taken out, the piston rings virtually disintegrated. A new direct to the cylinder lubrication system was then fitted, and higher viscosity cylinder oils trialed as a result. The new cast bronze valve heads were replaced with cast iron units, retaining the extra rings. Shortening the superheater elements was carried out later on, I believe. On the 7th of July 2000, R711 suffered a major failure when accelerating away from Birregurra. At a speed of around 50MPH, the right hand crosshead failed. As a result, the piston head punched through the cylinder head cover, and the connecting rod was bent into a 'Z' pattern, after hitting the ground. Luckily the loco didn't derail. Emergency repairs were affected so the loco could be towed back to Colac, so the line wouldn't be blocked. R711 was later towed to Ballarat East where it was repaired using some parts borrowed from R766, and re-entered service thirteen days after it failed - a mammoth effort by the workshop staff. R711 then settled into it's role, and gave reliable service. The only further modifications being the removal of the extra piston and valve rings c.2001, and changing the rotary burner for the oil firing to a Weir type.
R711 ran it's last train for WCR at the end of November 2002. Following the death of Gary McDonald in early 2003, the drive from a management level for the steam services wound down dramatically. R711 spent all of 2003 laid up at Ballarat East, along with R766 which had been acquired by WCR on lease as a backup unit for R711, and modified in a similar fashion. R766 also suffered a major failure of the left hand motion gear at Little River on Easter Saturday 2001. The connecting rod lifted the loco in the air at 70MPH. Thankfully it didn't derail or capsise, however the connecting rod dislodged the air brake reservoir tank from it's mountings on the running board. The air reservoir tank then shot off along platform two like a rocket, and surely would have killed anyone standing there. The connecting rod also tore the blowdown valve and muffler from it's studs on the bottom of the firebox. Thankfully, the loco had been converted to oil firing by WCR, so the fire was able to be extinguished almost immediately by shutting off the oil. It took nearly a mile for the train to grind to a halt. It was later discovered that the left hand main driver had been turned out of quarter as a result of the failure, which would require the wheel to be removed from the axle, and new key ways cut to return it to Quarter. In early 2004, all of WCR's diesel fleet were found to have serious frame crack issues around the bolsters for the power bogies. WCR then had to hire a complete train set from V/Line, as V/Line wouldn't allow their locos to haul carriages with WCR' branding. The Victorian Government also decided to not renew the contract for the Warrnambool service, and it passed back to V/Line's hands (V/Line itself having recently been handed back to the Government by a private company). The writing was well and truly on the wall for WCR, so they set about the disposing of their assets. As the Bendigo City Council retained ownership of R711, the loco was placed in the care of Steamrail Victoria. R766 was leased to another company in NSW who planned to convert the loco to standard gauge. On the 11th of May 2004, R711 and R766 double headed to Newport light engine, bringing to an end WCR's steam operations.
Upon arrival at Newport, R711 was assessed and a plan drawn up for it's overhaul. Many of the modifications fitted were dispensed with, such as the Hadfield reverser and the Lempor front end arrangement. The oil firing was retained, however, as was the diesel control stand. The idea of re-converting the loco back to a more 'stock' condition was to bring R711 back in line with the other operational units in the fleet and also to reduce maintenance and standardise parts. Most of the works were completed by early 2005, which included repainting the loco from it's WCR livery, into a dark blue and yellow livery based on that worn by the long since scrapped S class "Pacifics" of Spirit of Progress fame. Steamrail faced many red tape issues with R711, due to there being no paper trail relating to the modifications carried out by WCR. The paper trail then had to be created retrospectively, and signed off by a rollingstock engineer - a process which would take nearly four years to complete between other projects, and general maintenance of the operational loco fleet. The loco was finally signed off in July 2011, and carried out a light engine trial Sunshine on the 30th of July 2011. This was followed by two more test runs. The first being to Bacchus Marsh on the 7th of August 2011, and another to Seymour on the 3rd of September 2011. R711 ran it's first public train on the 22nd of July 2012, being second to coal burning sister, R761 on a "Snow Train" to Traralgon in the the Gippsland region. R711 headed out on it's first solo run for Steamrail Victoria on the 21st of October 2012, when it ran to Bendigo to take part in the 150th Anniversary of the railway from Melbourne. It has been a reliable part of Steamrail's steam locomotive fleet ever since.
Now what of this photo? One of my mates, Eddie, hails from the Warrnambool area. He was a regular part of the WCR service crew at Warrnambool when R711 ran regular Saturday "Westcoaster", and also when it ran to Echuca or on enthusiast specials. He is a member of what many rail enthusiasts in Victoria refer to as the "WCR Black Armband Brigade", in that they're constantly lamenting the 'death' of the company, and have an emotional attachment to it. Eddie always wanted R711 to return to Warrnambool to relive a little bit of our recent past. So enthusiastic was he, that he bankrolled the train - $30,000 all told (or £15,000 to you lot), and sold tickets. Word spread quickly, and many former WCR employees and volunteers bought a ticket to ride behind their former loco. The rail enthusiasts rapidly snapped the rest up. The tour, billed as "The Warrnambool Westcoaster", sold out in just under a week from when bookings opened. The WCR reunion was emotional for quite a few present, and would be the last time they were all together, as a few have sadly passed away since. Eddie more than made his money back, and after his out of pocket expenses had been reimbursed, the rest was donated to Steamrail to keep mainline trips operating into the future. The tour ran on the 12th of May 2018. This photo was taken on the return journey when the train was refuged in the siding at Camperdown. After taking this photo, I had to shoot off down to the supermarket to buy three slabs of beer, as the train had virtually been drunk dry! The last slab of beer was hurled through the door of the carriage as the train took off from the platform - the things we do as volunteers!
Here's a photo of the recently restored A2 986 passing through Melton railway station on it's return to Melbourne, after running a Cruise Express charter to Ballarat - even the local rozzers rocked up for a bit of a gander, and can be seen on the left waving as the train goes past. This photo is hand held, and was taken with a high f-stop, and high ISO as the train sped past. 20/7/19.
Another couple of hand held night shots. The first is of K190 at Castlemaine, with a special to Maldon. They are awaiting authority to set back onto the branch line. K190 is painted in an non-historic crimson lake livery, based on that used by the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). 17/8/19.
Finally, another shot from last year's enthusiast special at the Pichi Richi Railway between Quorn and Port Augusta in South Aus. As a part of the special, photostops were held at night - something which hasn't really been done before. The organisers of the event hired a mobile lighting tower, which was setup at various places along the line on the first night of the weekend event. The first spot was at Woolshed Flat, where participants enjoyed a three course carvery meal. After tea, the lights were switched on, which allowed photos of Yx141 with it's train prior to departing for Quorn. I quite liked the idea, even if the train was stationary. It allowed the dying light receding in the background to be included. The two other photostops held en route to Quorn were of the setback type. This is were the train is reversed back a fair distance, and is then run forward again allowing photographers to get photos of the train in action. Usually a fair bit of clag from the chimney is also poured on for effect.