The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - Steam in Australia

Terry Case writes about his travels for steam. Further tales will follow from time to time covering more of Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.

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For other Australian tales please see:

My family had migrated from Britain in November 1968, I thought I had seen the end of working steam but Australia gave me a brief reprieve.

My parents did not mind my wanderings, as a young rail fan in Britain I had already been given plenty of freedom. First journeys in Australia were to explore Melbourne trams and trains and then to the provincial cities where steam pilot workings still existed. Unlike Britain rail fans were not often seen, it took me a couple of years to find a network and gain an understanding of the Australian scene.

A part time job meant I could buy a 35mm automatic camera and I was now armed and ready to go! The first photos of steam action were taken near where we lived in Croydon, an outer suburb of Melbourne.

In December 1974 2-8-0 K 153 entertains the kids as it storms upgrade near my home in Croydon. This was a charter working. Victorian Railways had retained a number of steam locomotives for fan trips, but for a brief time got in the act themselves by hiring trains to community groups and running excursions.

By 1971 I was beginning to visit provincial centres such as Geelong where a few steam locos eked out a living. Ballarat and Geelong were able to be visited in a day. Bendigo was more of a challenge, the first train from Melbourne did not reach Bendigo till late morning. I really wanted to see some early morning activity, that meant spending the night in Bendigo, but I did not have the money for a hotel so it would be a matter of sleeping rough.

31st January 1972 saw me on the evening train to Bendigo, a walk alongside the railway found me a suitable bridge to sleep under; all set! Early the next morning all seemed to be going to plan as 2-8-0 J 550 came off shed to do an initial shunting move. Then disaster as the crew returned the loco to the depot for attention. Thwarted I set out on a lengthy walk to the Workshops where I observed K 174 and K 176 shunting the yards. From my hillside vantage point I was able to observe the Ks shunting freshly out-shopped 4 wheel wagons.

Returning to the station I first spent time in the town centre watching the trams (single and double bogie versions). The system was due for closure so even though trams were not a priority I took some photos, glad I did!

Back at the station I found J 550 had recovered and was shunting the stock from the 11.15 ex Melbourne. Note the wooden body guards vans and coaches still in use.

There was still working steam of sorts closer to home. I joined Puffing Billy as a young volunteer in 1970. The trains were still listed in the VR Working Timetable and operated by VR drivers, firemen and guards. Volunteers filled most other duties on the railway. After the normal excursion work finished there was the occasional permanent way train rostered.

Belgrave, a VR Guard signals for the driver to back down on stock for a p.w. train

At Menzies Creek yard, the crew collect more wagons as some of the volunteers look on.

Both Puffing Billy and VR workshop pilots would provide continuing interest, my new focus in 1972 was the remaining steam workings in NSW.

Rob Dickinson