THE RICHMOND RAMBLER TOUR
August in Sydney is traditionally the windy month, and Saturday 18th was certainly no exception with cold South Westerlys blowing across the platform at Strathfield Platform 2 as Set W3 tore into sight. Fortunately however the sun was also beating down, so conditions inside the train were very comfortable as long as too many windows were not opened!
Before long we were tearing up the Main Line to Sydney at breakneck speed, a tradition that was to be repeated throughout the day by our illustrious drivers. Whilst Geoff Moss had no difficulty enjoying the scream of AEI149's under 3702, poor pld Norm Thomas sat there just wishing that those "damn old drivers" would just ease off a bit on the old girl..
"Fat chance of that!" yelled a well known correspondent.. these beasts are built for SPEED! And speed it did!
After a 10 minute stop on Platform 1 at Central, we again sped off to return to Strathfield to pick up some extra late passengers before heading North past a freight train at North Strathfield sitting on the goods loop as we charged on over the Parramatta river and on to Epping to arrive 4 minutes early, a time keeping trend that was to continue throughout the day. After a fairly subdued photostop it was decided to jump back on board in an attempt to get ahead of the freight train and ensure our on time arrival at Blacktown. On the way back down we met the inevitable "K" set in parallel running and (as usual) it was subsequently left in the dust only for us to pull up at West Ryde nearly 10 minutes early but (unfortunately) still just too late to be routed in front of the freight. A slow roll then ensued back to Strathfield station as we could not go through the loop which was still occupied by the freight.
With the 10 minutes now lost to a 3 minute late start, we again charged off west from Platform 1 and slowed briefly at Homebush before getting back into the spirit of things past Flemo and again leaving the timetable in the soup by the time we passed Parramatta.
The reason for the early running was primarily due to the need to allow time to slow to 20kPh at platform faces where required - a procedure that was repeated at many stations particularly those with curves or those which had not been tested recently with the W set for width. The W set ate the grades and hills for breakfast, cruising up them as if they did not exist. - motors in weak field most of the way and screaming away nicely to the delight of traction fans aboard!
Left : No K set is gonna beat US! Right : Driver Mark "Ding" Wolff at the controls of Classic Electric Traction.
Fortunately we arrived at Blacktown well within time - the consequences of being late having possibly placed the entire journey into jeopardy if the local service got in our way at Quakers Hill - which fortunately it didn't.
The work being undertaken for the duplication of the Richmond Line was well evident, with work almost complete in places and ready for track. Virtually all of the old wooden poles have been replaced by steel staunchions ready for the extra contact wire. The amount of local development near the line past Marayong and Quakers Hill was also very notable - entire suburbs having been established since the last time the line saw a Red Rattler - with quite a few heads being turned at the site of this amazingly fast bullet hurtling past their homes.
Left: This shot just ouside Quakers Hill station clearly shows the works under progress for duplication of the Richmond Line. Right : The Fox sums up the mood of travelling passengers on board.
Picking up real speed, the W set displaced leaves, branches and trees at Mulgrave leaving a wake of natural debris as it tore through the platform which probably hasn't seen a through train the likes of a 110kPh "W" Set for many years!
The train the stopped at Clarendon to cross the local service and give passengers an excellent photo opportunity with the sun placed perfectly before charging off again on the last leg to Richmond, the run being interrupted only by a slow down for a depression in the track near the viaduct which could readily be felt as a very pronounced drop in the track by all aboard. The C130H Aircraft at Richmond Airbase presented an interesting backdrop as the train eventually pulled into Richmond's back platform to be greeted by the locals.
And what a greeting! The Tourist Railway Association Kurrajong (TRAK) had arranged an enormous welcome with a very impressive display of photos and information about their project. Every traveller was handed a "Freight rail" plastic bag containing information on TRAK and tourist brochures about the Hawksbury district, aswell as a special certificate of commemoration for being there at the "10th Anniversary of Electrification and the 75th Anniversary of "Pansy" (Pansy being the name given to the steam loco which used to ply the Kurrajong line). A very interesting and extensive display was also presented by the Transport Signal and Communications Museum and consisted of an entire station masters' desk, a table of vintage telephones and signalling equipment and various electric staff instruments and even a fettlers' trike.
Of course no community event such as this can be allowed to proceed without scoring at least some political brownie points, and so official duties of the day were handled by Parliamentary Secretary Kevin Moss who presented a brief speech to all there present, some of which were far more interested in following their noses to the scrumptious on platform BBQ being presented by TRAK than waiting for parliamentary permission to do so!
With an hour to spend, many passengers wandered over the road to the park where the Richmond Markets provided a real country atmosphere, whilst some also plied the main street of Richmond, a few ending up in the local fish and chip shop. Of course all were catered for, and the local watering hole was also put to use by passengers who might not have otherwise had the opportunity to quench their thirst given State Rail's "No Alcohol" policy.
Meanwhile locals attending the event also took the opportunity to inspect the "W" set whilst it stood at the platform, with many positive comments about the restoration work done. All too soon it was time to board once again and stoke up the pantographs for a roaring trip back up the line and home again under the watchful eye of our gung ho crew... as if it mattered... after all the control was just constantly in top notch anyway...
Early running all the way back to town was the order of the day before again pulling into Central Platform 1 to complete an excellent, relaxing and wonderful experience - the Richmond Rambler. Who came up with that stupid name anyway? It should have been called the Richmond Rocket!!
Special thanks must go to Driver Mark "Ding" Wolff, Guard Joe Mazzocco and inspector Peter Woods, all of which contributed to making the day a truly memorable experience for all, and in the tradition of the "happy free and easy" tours of decades ago coupled with the safety, efficiency and reliability of modern rail operations. Thanks must also go to Michael Logue at SRA Special Events who repeatedly goes beyond the call of duty to make tours like this a possibility in a corporate environment where they are seen as a liability and not an asset. Flemington Maintenance Centre must also receive thanks especially since they are now stuck with the W set until November. Thanks guys, we love you all!