Volume 2 - Of Speed and Narrow Gauge
In Volume 1 “Off Shed to Blowdown”, we explored recordings of steam leaving the shed, running on mainline and branches, before returning back to the yard at the end of the day. Now, in Volume 2, we can hear subjects dear to my heart, steam at speed and steam working hard on narrow gauge.
Steam at speed is something that was once common in regular service, however it was something of a rarity on tours and preserved railways. Occasionally, we would be pleasantly surprised when a particular driver decided to make up time and show us what our trusty steeds could do, some of which are featured here. In addition to setting speed records, one of my other favourite railway subjects is narrow gauge, which is good, considering I live in a state with one of the largest narrow gauge 3’6” (1067mm) networks in the world! That being said, one narrow gauge railway very close to my heart is that of the Victorian 2’6” (762 mm) network, so ably demonstrated by the Puffing Billy Railway from Belgrave to Gembrook.
This disc has some of my most recent recordings made on a Sony NH-1 minidisc recorder coupled to a Sony ECM MS907 stereo microphone. I think you will find that some of the recordings made using these are amazing in terms of the clarity and stereo picture (even if I do say so myself!) and if you do have a decent pair of headphones, try listening to the disc with them on. Close your eyes, and you can hear it as if you were next to me while I was recording (as long as you were quiet!). Once again, I hope you enjoy this disc as much as I enjoyed chasing the subjects featured here.
15 Tracks - 69 minutes Full CD Quality Steamsounds with full track notes (see them below)
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Volume 2 - Of Speed and Narrow Gauge
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Track 1 - BB18¼ 1079 - Morayfield 1990 - 1:30
Track 2 - Puffing Billy G42 crossing NA 6A 14/12/2005 - 1:32
Track 3 - AC16 221A at Blaxland 15/10/2005 - 0:46
Track 4 - PB15 732 - In Cab at Rosewood 1990 - 4:34
Track 5 - BB18¼ 1079 - On Train 1990 - 6:46
Track 6 - AC16 221A at Oakey 15/10/2005 - 2:08
Track 7 - BB18¼ 1079 - Landsborough 1990 - 1:07
Track 8 - Puffing Billy NA 7A Lakeside 14/12/2005 - 3:00
Track 9 - AC16 221A Gowrie 15/10/2005 - 2:36
Track 10 - BB18¼ 1089 - Tennyson 6/11/2005 - 1:13
Track 11 - Kilrie 0-4-2T On Train 20/11/05 b- 13:09
Track 12 - Puffing Billy NA 6A Belgrave 14/12/2005 - 2:40
Track 13 - AC16 221A Laidley 15/10/2005 - 2:42
Track 14 - BB18¼ 1079 at Yarongmalu 29/9/1990 - 2:02
Track 15 - Puffing Billy NA 6A Lakeside to Belgrave 14/12/2005 - 27:45
Track 1 - While engines at speed has always been a particular passion of mine, the opportunity to get a recording of one has been challenging, with some of the old time drivers being less than enthusiastic. Occasionally, there would be one or two particular drivers that could be relied on for a show. Digger Winward in Toowoomba was one of these, and every so often one of the Brisbane drivers would also get stuck into it. On this occasion with BB18 1/4 1079, I knew things were going to be quick, as we had paced the loco doing a little bit more than the driving wheel diameter (51") + 10% rule, so much so that I had trouble keeping up with her in my old '68 XT Falcon ("the bitch" as I used to call her). We just managed to get in front of the train through Caboolture, as they had to stop to set down passengers, so here, a little bit closer to Brisbane near Morayfield, 1079 can be heard pushing the envelope of the 80 km/h maximum line speed as she roars past, going so fast that even the leaky cylinder cock is not very noticeable. (1989)
Track 2 - Next we move onto the narrow gauge (2’ 6”) Puffing Billy Railway in Melbourne. NA 2-6-2T No.6A, newly restored and fitted with a Lempor exhaust (a combination of the designs of Lemaitre and Porta) and other modifications, was in charge of the 2.20pm service from Belgrave . On the way to Lakeside, we crossed 2'6" gauge Garratt G42 returning with the lunchtime train. If you listen closely, you can hear G42 climb the last bit of the grade before crossing the road and coasting into the station while 6A pants impatiently at the station waiting for the road to Emerald. (14 December 2005)
Track 3 - Next we have recently restored 2-8-2 AC16 No.221A. These locos were brought to Queensland under the Lend Lease agreement during the World War II and fondly called the Yanks. Built by Baldwin, they introduced a number of new features to steam locomotive design in QR, which were subsequently adopted on newer locomotives. 221A survived the scrapper’s torch and has been working tours for the last couple of years, giving local rail enthusiasts even more variety. Here, 221A is heard at speed, returning from Dalby with the Meandarra tour. (15 October 2005)
Track 4 - When I was younger, I used to live for cab rides. There isn’t a form of motive power that I haven’t had a cab ride in at some stage, but steam was always my first choice. In this track, we board the footplate of PB15 732, a little 4-6-0 built in the 1920s. The tour train she was hauling did several shuttle trips between Rosewood, and the final destination at Grandchester, the birthplace of Queensland Railways. As we depart the platform running light engine, a range of different sounds can be heard in addition to the crew chatting with some others also riding the footplate. After a couple of shunting moves, we clatter loudly onto the turntable, and can hear the Westinghouse air compressor working hard to power the air motor that works the turntable. Once turned, the fireman gets to work preparing the fire for the next trip. (1990)
Track 5 - In Right Away! Volume one, we heard what it was like to travel on a stopping suburban steam train that was run as part of Transport Week celebrations in the late 80s. Here we are on the same train, but this time returning to Ipswich after turning at Roma St, the long-distance station near the centre of Brisbane’s CBD. We pick up the action running into Milton, one station west of Roma Street and listen to her arrive and depart at Auchenflower and Toowong. The Toowong arrival scared off a small child, and the departure, under the covered station, was quite impressive. At least the cylinder cocks had stopped leaking by the time the engine was turned (after a nice chat with the crew had them take a look at it). (October 1989)
Track 6 - Back to AC16 221A again. Now the Yank is departing Oakey with the return working of the Meandarra tour back to Brisbane. While the chime whistle is used liberally, luckily the driver controls himself while passing the microphone and the little mikado speeds her train closer to home. (15th October 2005)
Track 7 - Another high speed recording this time, once again with pacific No. 1079. Here she is heard running close to line speed near Landsborough on the North Coast Line (1990).
Track 8 - Well, in keeping with the title, we better get a bit narrower with our gauge again and go back to Puffing Billy Railway. This time we hear conventional NA class No. 7A climbing up from Lakeside at a location near Nobelius Packing Shed. Nestled in amongst the Mountain Ash forest, we can hear numerous bird calls, including the high pitch twittering of some Superb Wrens, so called because of their beautiful blue colouring. 7A is returning from Gembrook, the line’s terminus and hasn’t a full load behind the funnel as she works bunker first up the grade. Just before she passes, a Currawong flies off protesting loudly at the intrusion, while 7A continues upgrade to Emerald.
Track 9 - In the days of steam, Gowrie bank was the ruling grade for all trains coming into Toowoomba from the west. Double headed and banked trains were common and in winter time, heavy frost could make the trip even worse. No such worries for our 2-8-2 on this trip though, as AC16 221A ascends the bank towards Pengarry in fine style. As the recording opens, a Wood Dove is startled by the approaching train and we can also hear several motorcaders trying their luck up the dirt road we thought was pretty well deserted! After the train passes, a HiRail maintenance truck passes on the lookout for any lineside fires that might be started by our hardworking steam loco. (15th October 2005)
Track 10 - My all time favourite loco (well for this CD anyway) is BB18¼ Pacific No. 1089. As the last steam locomotive built in Australia, she was retired to the Queensland Railways Museum at Redbank in 1969. As a young lad, I used to ride my pushbike down to the Museum most Saturdays to keep her clean, scrape of the odd bit of rust and give her the odd coat of paint here and there. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that she may be steamed again, but due to a sympathetic QR CEO, 1089 was returned to steam and is once again plying the rails of Queensland. Being the last of the class, I had heard various drivers claim that she was built out of the leftover spares at Walkers, where she was built, and was not the best loco around. However when she was restored, the QR staff did a superb job to point where she is now running even better than new. Here we hear her working upgrade through Tennyson station on a Steam Train Sunday loop service on 6 November 2005.
Track 11- The preserved railway closest to me, Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway at Swanbank, near Ipswich is home to two steam locos. Stalwart performer PB15 4-6-0 No.448 (which featured on Volume 1) is currently undergoing restoration, so Perry Engineering 0-4-2T Kilrie is currently doing most of the work. On the day I last visited, Kilrie was in charge of two coaches, a beautifully restored BL and a CLV. While not too much of a load for a loco that spent most of her life hauling sugar cane, Kilrie still made enough noise to be interesting. The reason for the visit on 20 November 2005 was that QPSR has recently gained accreditation to run on the Bundamba to Box Flat section of the line to the Bundamba Racecourse, so with my two lads in tow and my good friend Jacob Cash with his two daughters, we went for a ride. This is how Kilrie sounded leaving Box Flat and heading onto Queensland Rail territory to Bundamba, being the only heritage third party operator currently operating on QR metals.
Track 12 - From an 0-4-2T to a 2-6-2T, this time we hear NA 6A shunting around the yard in Belgrave, coming off shed and then backing down onto the train. In the background, while the driver is waiting for clearance we hear the sounds of some rather happy tourists waiting to board the train for their trip through the Dandenongs. Once coupled up to the train, the sound of the Westinghouse air compressor drowns out their laughter as 6A pumps up the air in the train line.
Track 13 - Earlier we heard AC16 221A climbing Gowrie bank. Well this time, she is a lot closer to Brisbane, climbing the Little Liverpool Range towards Yarongmalu at the apex of the horseshoe curve. I was lucky to get this recording, as in my effort to get to a spot that would not be spoiled by Joe Public or other enthusiastic motorcaders, we tried out my two-wheel drive’s ability to be a 4WD, by negotiating a gully that quite wide enough. After a loud thump as one wheel dropped into a ditch and then scraping my passengers off the roof, we managed to crawl up the other side. As soon as we got out of the car, 221A could be heard approaching, so after a quick setup, this is how she sounded. If you are listening on headphones, this recording, has an excellent stereo picture (if I do say so myself!!), starting at the centre, moving towards the right, passing to the left and echoing back to the right.
Track 14 - Still on the Little Liverpool Range, though a bit closer to the top of the hill at Yarongmalu. This time it is pacific 1079 which is battling the grade. I was friends with Toowoomba driver Bill Boden and caught up with him at Helidon station while the loco was watering. I mentioned that I was wanting to do some recordings and asked if he could make like the mail, 37 down, the old Wallangarra Mail. Well Bill took this to heart, and attacked the Little Liverpool’s like I had never seen before. This is 1079 at her finest, developing nearly 1000hp on this climb (according to rail historian John Armstrong who was on the train). As Bill spots the microphone, he drops the reverser into full forward, and 1079 blasts past on her way into Victoria tunnel. For another version of this recording, try to find a copy of the Sounds of Steam published by the ABC. On this, noted sound recordist Dennis Rittson recorded 1079 near the same spot as I recorded 221A on Track 13, so their were two of us (at least) to benefit from Bill’s enthusiastic driving. Thanks Bill! (1990)
Track 15 - For our final track, we hop on board the last service of the day at Puffing Billy’s Lakeside station. A very nice guard let me ride in the front car of the train, which was previously locked up, so the microphone was rather close to NA 6A’s chimney. This was rather fortunate, as my on train recordings on the way to Lakeside weren’t all that brilliant, since 6A, now equipped with her Lempor exhaust system, is a much quieter loco (though a much better steamer according to the crew). We leave Lakeside on time, but as the end of the train reaches the end of the platform, the guard pulls the tap so that he can lock the points. Once back on board, we tackle the climb back to Emerald and the engine is heard working very well. After a quick stop to change the staff, we continue on and soon the engine is coasting down Emerald bank. The complete run down the hill was rather quiet, so we rejoin the action climbing back into Menzies Creek. Once again, after another stop to change the staff, we again head off to our final stop at Belgrave, and, after the run down hill (again left out), the engine works hard on the final grade back into Belgrave, priming a little, but getting us back safely. (14 December 2005)
Welcome to Steamsounds AU
The home of Australian Steam Train Sounds (and the occasional diesel)
Welcome to Steamsounds AU
The home of Australian Steam Train Sounds (and the occasional diesel)