The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - Steam in Australia
New South Wales
1972, end of steam on NSWGR-5
The Short North Part 2

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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On 17th May 1972, after watching 5905 taking water and seeing Standard Goods 5365 arrive from Port Waratah to take up pilot duties I caught a train to Fassifern, a well-known location for railfans as the station sat at the bottom of a long steep grade.

I had gone to Fassifern to see the one confirmed daylight working at this time, the pick-up from Gosford rostered for a 59 class. Sod’s law was in operation as the train was running hours late and I had to give up my position on the grade to return to the station to await my train to Sydney (that connected with the overnight departure back to Melbourne). Predictably this was the signal for 5912 to arrive, a porter was waiting with a trolley to unload parcels and this allowed the fireman time to attend to his fire. The signal was off, but the porter was in no hurry and I had to abandon my position on the footbridge, as the Sydney passenger rolled into the station. Totally thwarted I thought that had been my only chance to have seen steam on Fassifern bank.

5912 arrives Fassifern station with the porter waiting to unload parcels.

The signal is off, but the porter is delaying the departure.

Grrrrr! With the engine ready to depart my train to Sydney and onward connection to Melbourne arrives, Sod’s Law!

The NSW Rail Transport Museum ran many tours in 1972 and on the 24th September 1972 I joined their “Double Garratt tour.” The tour departed Sydney behind 6042 which took the train under the wires to Gosford where it was joined by classmate 6029. The tour featured many photo-stops and I looked forward to finally getting a shot of steam locos at work on Fassifern bank.

The two Garratts are watered under the wires at Gosford, the water columns are spaced for double Garratts and protected from contact with the overhead catenary.

At Awaba the train reversed direction for a run along the branch to the Power station at Wangi. 6042 was sent light engine to Broadmeadow whilst 6029 was attached to what was the rear of the train to lead us bunker first to Wangi where the third tour engine 5439 was waiting to pilot us to Sulphide Junction.

Two photo stops were held on the branch, the two locos looking at home on the heavy train. Back on the mainline at Awaba the train headed to Fassifern where a photo run was held at this famous location, so I had my one photo of steam on the Fassifern bank!


Re-starting the train on the steep grade required some full power work from both engines, once over the hill they settled into a quick run to Sulphide Jn where they were removed to go to Broadmeadow. Ten minutes was allowed to change engines and direction, 6018 was attached to what had been the rear of the train for the return to Gosford. The tour had used half of the remaining active 60 class fleet and the end was only months away.

In December I was back again for a few days to see final NSWGR working steam seeing the mine workings and observing the Maitland coal trains. On the night of the 19th December I stayed overnight at the old “Grand Junction” hotel in Maitland, I had no need of an alarm clock as at 5.15a.m. I was rudely woken by a shattering noise, which turned out to be a 60 class Garratt blowing off from its safety valves. I stumbled out on the veranda to see 6042 shrouded in the mist getting its train underway, what a start to my final day here! 6042 could be heard for quite some time as it got it worked against the grade; if I had put any thought into it I should have headed to Thornton for the return working; but I was determined to try my luck on the Wangi branch.

On 20th December 1972, at  Awaba Junction, 6037 leaves the Awaba branch and crosses to the mainline.

Reaching Awaba in the afternoon I was told that a 60 class was returning from the power station with a load of empties that would be left near the junction. I tried walking down the branch, but the extreme heat thwarted this and I retreated to the station. At 3.45pm 6037 towing a double bogie brake came off the branch, whistling for the signal. The engine crossed to the main and stopped in a loop to detach the brake van. 

The crew abandoned the engine seeking shade under a tree where they were joined by the guard clutching a bunch of wild flowers collected that morning. I asked permission to have a look in the cab, which elicited comments of “Mad dogs and Englishman”.

In the cab I found the fire-hole doors were closed, but the dull orange glow of the fire could be seen, as the doors were incorrectly aligned. The fireman joined me to attend to the injectors and set the auto-stoker controls, the auxiliary steam engine cut in to turn the screw. The engine seemed run down, with rust on the motion and little sign of oil, the Westinghouse pumps were disguised under a heavy layer of grime; neglect had set in. The driver told me it was probably his last working with steam as the depot would withdraw all its steam engines by Christmas.

Years later I found 6037 was officially withdrawn the following day and the Awaba branch duty was its last revenue run. 1972 was the year I turned 18, I had seen the last of British Railways steam when I was 14. Now no Australian Government system retained steam, it was time to dream of new opportunities.

Rob Dickinson