Volume 1 - Off Shed to Blowdown
This disc is my first compilation of recordings recently digitised from cassette by my good friend Jacob Cash. Back in 1982, when still at high school, I caught the steam bug rather badly and later, while working at our local railway museum, I met a friend who had nearly 100 LPs of steam sounds. Well, after listening to a recording of some Queensland Railways steam, I became a firm steam audiophile, much to the consternation of my parents, and to the detriment of my studies. I have been an avid collector of steam audio ever since, and made numerous recordings over the period up until the early 90s, though since getting into live steam and then getting married (luckily in that order!), I didn’t seem to have the time to do them, preferring video instead.
Most of my recordings were done on stereo cassette recorders, usually the best I could buy, but being a student, they weren’t anywhere near being professional. The stereo microphone I used in later years was a twin head Radioshack model which seemed to work quite well, especially when I used chrome dioxide cassettes.
What I have tried to do with this disc is to compile a variety of recordings in no set order, of various Queensland Railways locos, starting with leaving the shed after lighting up, through various tracks out on the mainline and branches, turning the loco and shunting when at the destination, and then the return home, finally shunting the coaches into the yard before returning back to the shed for blowdown.
I hope you enjoy these tracks as much as I enjoyed recording them.
15 Tracks - 69 minutes Full CD Quality Steamsounds with full track notes (see them below)
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Volume 1 - Off Shed to Blowdown
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Track 1 - BB18¼ 1079 - Off shed at Ipswich Workshops - 0:53
Track 2 - BB18¼ 1079 - Shunting coaches at Ipswich Yard - 0:56
Track 3 - C17 974 - Climbing East Ipswich Bank - 3:10
Track 4 - PB15 732 - Departing Ebbw Vale Station - 2:04
Track 5 - C17 974 - Coasting into Lowood - 0:48
Track 6 - PB15 448 - Swanbank - 1:27
Track 7 - C17 974 - Mt Hallen - 2:58
Track 8 - BB18¼ 1079 - On train - 7:12
Track 9 - PB15 732 Departing Rosewood - 1:01
Track 10 - C17 974 - Climbing the Blackbutt Range at Benarkin - 4:20
Track 11 - PB15 732 - Karrabin - 1:33
Track 12 - C17 974 - New Farm Park - 1:32
Track 13 - BB18¼ 1079 - Newstead - 2:24
Track 14 - C17 974 - Between Esk and Toogoolawah - 2:35
Track 15 - PB15 732 - Arriving at Grandchester - 4:24
Track 16 - PB15 732 - Shunting at Rosewood - 1:15
Track 17 - PB15 732 + C17 974 departing Borallon - 4:15
Track 18 - C17 974 - Gilla - 1:14
Track 19 - BB18¼ 1079 - Departing Petrie - 2:13
Track 20 - C17 974 - Climbing Ottaba Bank - 3:42
Track 21 - BB18¼ 1079 - Departing Rosewood - 2:25
Track 22 - C17 974 - Borrallon - 6:12
Track 23 - C17 974 - Putting the train to bed - Ipswich Yard - 3:25
Track1 - Pacific BB18 ¼ No. 1079 comes off shed from Ipswich Workshops where she is usually stored. The cylinder cocks are open as she passes to let out excess moisture from the cylinders which have built up while raising steam. Just after she passes, the driver whistles up the cabin on the other side of the Bremer River to give him the road to cross over the new bridge to the yard.
Track 2 - Now in the yard and turned on the table next to the end of Ipswich Station, 1079 has coupled up to her coaches and prepares to back them up towards Thomas St in preparation for heading to Brisbane to pick up the patrons of today’s tour.
Track 3 - Just out of Ipswich Station on the way to Brisbane, locos face the stiff gradient to East Ipswich. C17 4-8-0 No. 974 tackles the grade in fine style with around 200 tons behind the tender and one rather noisy young rail fan.
Track 4 - On most western tours from Brisbane, two or three stops were made to pick up additional passengers. One of these stops was Ebbw Vale. Only a small suburban station, it was always an exciting start being on a sharp curve and uphill. If it wasn’t for the nearby busy Ipswich Rd, it would have been a perfect recording spot, but I usually gave it a go on the chance the traffic would be quiet. As you can tell, I wasn’t all that lucky with the traffic, but 4-6-0 PB15 No. 732 has all sorts of trouble trying to lift her heavy train out of the station and over the hill down to Bundamba. Being a saturated engine, 732 was always quite firm on her feet, so this recording of her having a bit of bother getting the train underway more than made up for the road noise.
Track 5 - Off the mainline, we follow C17 974 again, this time on her way to Yarraman, about 100km north west of Ipswich. Normally we strive to find good grades to get our recordings, but in this case, I wanted to get a recording of the C17 coasting, as they had very unusual sounding snifting valves located over the steam pipe to the cylinders and have a lovely pinging sound when the engine is coasting. We are close to the track about 100 feet above the mid-Brisbane River near the town of Lowood. 974 comes pinging past and you get a very close listen to the coaches, including the sound of the internal combustion motor on the Griddle (restaurant) Car!
Track 6 - With the rolling call of cicadas in the background, we hear Stephenson’s valve geared 4-6-0 PB15 No. 448 climbing the last part of the grade into Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway’s Swanbank Station and whistling for the level crossing prior to entering the balloon loop.
rack 7 - The Yarraman branch was one of my favourite lines, especially since it was the one I took my first steam excursion on back in 1982. A little more recently, on what was to be the second last full length tour of the branch, we hear C17 974 climbing Mt Hallen bank, between Coominya and Esk, and scene of one of the best recordings of a steam locomotive (C17 963 on Steam in the Sunshine State LP). On this occasion, 974 has the measure of the grade and sounds well when it first becomes audible, but as it gets closer, things are not so well, and it is obvious that there is a bad blow between the steam and exhaust side of the cylinders, which seemed to get worse as the day went on (as we will hear later).
Track 8 - Transport Week celebrations in the late 80s and early 90s were always good for catching steam, as there were usually some specials running. Occasionally, we would be lucky to get steam running a stopping train on the suburban system, so here we are riding in car 1 seat 1 (the only place to be!) behind pacific 1079. Surprise, surprise, we have a leaky cylinder cock to spoil things a little, but leaky cylinder cocks were a very common occurrence with this loco, so the majority of my recordings of her had to be positioned to minimise the effect of this. In this case, not much could be done, and while the wind noise is also sometimes detracting, getting to ride behind steam on a stopping suburban train was just not to be missed. We join the train approaching Oxley Station, then after picking up a couple of passengers, we head off for the next stop at Corinda, which is reached in quick time (especially with a little edit!). The start out of Corinda is also very quick and Sherwood is reached soon after. Note the whistles on leaving each station, first on “right away”, the signal from the guard to depart, then another for “second right away”, which I never quite understood was for either saying that the train had cleared the platform, or that no-one was running for the train!
Track 9 - PB15 732 hasn’t seen an outing for many a year, but she used to be a popular tours engine, able to go just about anywhere in the system. Here she is heard leaving Rosewood, on her way to Grandchester. If you listen carefully, you can hear the unique whistle or screech that was a characteristic of Walschaerts PBs. For those who have the Trainz Railway Simulator program, you may recognise this sound as the default steam sounds in the game, which were recorded from sister engine No. 738.
Track 10 - Back on the Yarraman branch we go with this track. This time 974 is heard climbing the last part of the Blackbutt range into Benarkin, a little sawmill town at the top of the grade. The climb has taken 974 over 1 hour to surmount and the blowby is now sounding quite loud, but it gives great echoes through the surrounding state forest. This recording was actually done in two stages as the tape ran out on one side well before the loco went past and I hade to do a quick flip to get the rest of the climb. The tests we face when trying to record railways!
Track 11- We hear 732 again on this recording starting slowly past Karrabin on the main line to Toowoomba, west of Ipswich. Due to wrong road working, the gates at the level crossing weren’t triggered automatically, so 732 had to stop prior to the gates being lowered manually. She makes a fine sound accelerating after the stop though.
Track 12 - Earlier we experienced the delights of a suburban stopping train during the celebration of Transport Week. Well, a few years prior to that, once again as part of Transport Week, steam specials were worked out of the Bulimba Branch (funny name considering Bulimba was on the other side of the Brisbane River!), running round trips out of New Farm Park, through the Exhibition loop and City stations back to New Farm. It is hard to believe that this all occurred within a 3-4 km radius of the Brisbane CBD. 974 has the honours on this trip starting out of the Park and past all the old wool stores which have now been turned into exclusive apartments. For those who like aircraft, you may also enjoy listening to a now long gone Ansett A320 flying over before the train comes past.
Track 13 - A little later the same day, pacific 1079 is heard starting off from just after the level crossing across Breakfast Creek Rd, heading up the junction with the suburban lines. The driver has to get stuck into it though, as the climb up through Bulimba Junction is quite a tough one. It’s obvious that the driver knows what he is doing though as she slows down just enough during the climb so that he can go through the crossover at the correct speed, onto the third road on the suburban.
Track 14 - Once again we continue our journey on the Brisbane Valley branch with 974. In this recording she is heard climbing the last bit of the bank prior to running downhill into Toogoolawah. It’s obvious that someone has been a bit overzealous on the shovel though, as the safeties have lifted and only close just before getting to the microphone. This “enthusiastic” firing is probably not advisable on a long trip up the Yarraman branch as we will hear later on…
Track 15 - Our little 4-6-0 732 is heard arriving at the birthplace of Queensland Railways, Grandchester, or Bigges Camp as it was known back in 1865 when the “pony railway” arrived from Ipswich. 732 has to stop outside the station loop to await clearance into the station. Typical of Queensland locos is the panting of the air compressor pumping up the air used to bring the train to a halt. Once clearance is obtained, 732 steams into the station.
Track 16 - We’ve been travelling a fair bit to get to our destination, but now 732 is heard shunting coaches around at Rosewood Station after changing direction on the turntable located on the other side of the main line. Once the coaches have been set back into the station, 732 is then heard departing with her train full of passengers.
Track 17 - On our way home now, we hear the sound of a chime whistle echoing through the dry sclerophyll forest. 732 and 974 are double heading a train of happy passengers after a day out to Bellevue Homestead at Coominya, on the Brisbane Valley branch. For a while, the local bird life is quite oblivious to the intruders, but soon are drowned out by the sound of the locos working hard up Pine Mountain bank near Borallon. Following closely behind is a ganger’s trolley ready to put out any fires started by the locos.
Track 18 - A bit further up the branch towards Yarraman, 974 can be heard near Gilla, rushing home with her train from the branch terminus. Those safeties are still lifted, so I wonder how the coal supply is holding out?
Track 19 - While I was still a student at Uni, one of the best bits were getting lots of holidays. Even better was the chance to chase school holiday steam specials when they ran. Most trains called at Petrie station on the way north to Nambour, which was usually pretty good from a recording point of view as it was at the start of the Dakabin bank, one of the ruling grades on the North Coast line. In this recording, you can hear 1079 starting out of the station and working hard past the microphone. A little further up the hill, we hear the cheerful hoot of the driver of a 2000 class railmotor, now gone from QR’s fleet, which worked local shuttle trains between Petrie and Caboolture before the electrification was extended out to the latter.
Track 20 - Next we hear 4-8-0 C17 974 climbing Ottaba Bank between Toogoolawah and Esk and we first hear the loco travelling at close to line speed (60 km/h), but the grade takes it's toll, and by the time she reaches us, things have slowed down somewhat. In true QR driving practice, as soon as the top of the grade is reached, the driver shuts off and the train coasts towards Coal Creek and the township Esk, with the characteristic pinging of the snifting valves that made the C17's somewhat unique. That, and the sound of the Westinghouse pump which sometimes made the engine sound like it had an extra exhaust beat. By the way, the background noise is not electrical interference, but some awfully noisy crickets!
Track 21 - Once again we hear 1079, this time departing Rosewood on the return leg of a Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers tour on 29 September 1990. Bill Boden was another driver (also from Toowoomba, there must be something in the water there!) who could be relied on for a show. On this occasion, I was lucky to catch up with him before leaving Toowoomba for the run home and asked him if he could make like the old Wallangarra Mail (26 up / 37 down) whenever he got the chance. Well I wasn't the only one who benefited by this, with one of Australia's best railway recordists, Dennis Ritson, making a fantastic recording of her climbing the Little Liverpool Range (if you can find a copy of the ABC's Sound of Steam CD, you can hear it on there). Bill didn't muck about with his departure from Rosewood, though while the start is a little hesitant, once the train is moving and she is notched up, 1079 heads past at a great rate of knots.
Track 22 - After a long day on Yarraman branch, C17 974 pulls up at Borallon Station on the return journey, at the foot of Pine Mountain bank. Once the staff is exchanged, the driver gives a long blast on the whistle which echoes nicely through the surrounding eucalypt forest. When the throttle is opened though, all is not well, as 974 is showing signs of badly worn valve rings with a big blow through from the steam to exhaust side of the valve chest. After letting her roll back a bit, the driver gives it another go and the old girl finally gets the train underway. Following closely behind is a ganger's trolley on fire patrol. Luckily they are there, as by this time, 974 has run out of coal through some rather "enthusiastic" firing earlier in the day and the tender has been replenished with some old sleepers lying around at Fernvale, back up the line. The fireworks had to be seen to be believed as 974 climbs well up the bank, with the trolley keeping up the rear.
Track 23 - To finish this first CD off, I thought it appropriate that we hear the train being “put to bed” as it were. After slogging it out on the branch, 974 can be heard wearily pushing the coaches back with the signalman telling the guard to let the shunter turn the lights out in the coaches. With some signals and points changed (love that clattering sound), 974 runs the coaches into the yard to finish off a big day.
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