Dinkum Dinky Toys
One of my favourite locomotives, even though a tad cramped in the cab, are the DL531 900/950 hp aussie alcos built by A. E. Goodwin from 1959. Here in NSW the largest locomotive class titled the 48 class by the NSWR (state government railway). These things have seen service in three states; (I am not sure if any have ventured further in recent times), NSW, South Australia and Tasmania. From memory 210 of these small beasts were built, 165 for the NSWR. Over the years the NSW variety appeared in a number of different paint schemes, "traditional", the reverse scheme, candy stripes, green, red terror, bicentennial and most recently coprporate blue of Freightcorp which was adopted by Pacific National when the axe of privitization fell. During 1994/1995 a number of these beasts fell to the scrapper's torch, however many did survive being acquired by a number of private operators. These units were very versatile, being traditionally dubbed "branchliners" having a light axle weight could treat the light pound rail of the state's branchlines plus also squeeze into tight locations for shunting. Out on the mail line they would slog along at 8 MPH climbing the numerous 1 in 40 (2.5%) grades with a full load. But, as crews began to venture further as traditional crew districts were abolished, many hated these small things. The union actually banned them from being used as lead units for a period during the late 1990's. This photo shows the first train that I was rostered as driver. The over night job from Lithgow north to Mudgee (the Mudgee branch now closed north of Kandos). I had stopped the short train comprising some empty wheat hoppers plus some oil pots on the rear on the wonky old trestle near Mount Frome just to the south of Mudgee, and snapped the photo, before continuing on to Mudgee, shunting and then to bed in the old barracks.
Two of the DL531 units were built for Silverton who operated initially the narrow gauge line running west from Broken Hill NSW to Peterborough in South Australia. Galena ore was mined in Broken Hill and sent across the border to SA. When the standard gauge finally stretched across the continent to Perth in 1970, the Silverton operation was truncated to just the shunting of the couple of remaining mines around Broken Hill. Eventually, the mines closed and Silverton had to look for other rail work becoming one of the various private operators in NSW. The original two DL531 units on the Silverton roster were 28 and 29. However, as other units became available they obtained a couple more. One of the Silverton units actually ventured down to Tasmania to work on the narrow gauge system. But, the Tasweigans didn't think much of the small alcos. Only one DL531 remains in Tassie today being at the Don River Railway museum near Devonport.
More of this saga when I can next visit this library, my brief 30 minutes allocation on the WWW has expired today.
Ok, back at the library and continuing the saga, over in "crow-eater country" South Australia the SAR acquired 45 DL531 units titling them the 830 class. During 1979 some 830's ventured across the border into NSW and they were painted in a scheme referred to as the "mustard pot". These units operated on all three gauges found there in SA, 1600mm broad gauge, standard gauge and 1067mm narrow gauge. After the creation of Australian National the 803's appeared in the AN yellow and green livery, a number of the narrow gauge 830's were sent down to Tasmania, but were eventually returned to the mainland being unpopular on the "apple isle". With the start of DOO (Driver Only Operation in SA) AN chopnosed seven 830's calling these the DA class. After the privatization of AN in 1997 the 830's appeared in a variety of paint schemes. The remaining 830's operating today wear the schemes of Genesee Wyoming Austalia and Coote Industrial.
Here in NSW Austrac and Silverton were two early private operators to acquire DL531 units as they became available during the NSW (government) SRA motive purge of 1994/95. Austrac based in Junee and Silverton relocating from Broken Hill to Parkes with the end of the galena ore mining. Both companies as such did not survive, however the paint schemes continue to exist on a handful of units.
To perform trackwork within the Sydney city underground (rat holes) three 48 class were fitted with a water scrubber modified exhaust system. After all we can't have the Sydney commuters suffocated down in the rat holes by aussie alco exhaust. However this modification was not really a success. With the separation of the NSW SRA functions into government corporations, Rail Infrastructure Corp acquired these units and painted them in a bright orange scheme. However after the motive power purge, a majority of 48'ers remained with Frieghtcorp (the freight rail government corporation) and were painted in the so called blue and yellow Corporate scheme. Freightcorp also decided to chopnose 7 of the 48'ers to be utilised on push/pull trip (transfer) train service between the various Sydney portlink yards. The PL (Portlink) units were not initially a success with the intended radio controlled DPU style equipment and both front and rear units remained crewed. It was even claimed that when two PLs were attempting to utilise the DPU radio system in the vacinity of Mascot Airport a 747 experienced control difficulties.
Today the remaining 48'ers wear the paint of Pacific National (privatized Freightcorp plus National Rail), Junee Railway Workshop (nee Austrac), Coote Industrial (acquiring the Silverton units), Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia and Rail Corp (nee RIC).
The 48/830 class DL531 units being the most plentiful diesel unit in Australia are probably the most versatile and enduring diesel locomotive Down-Under. I believe that this Alco design, also known as the RSC8 has appeared in a number of other countries. Though cramped in the cab, especially after the installation of modern control radio and other ancilliary equipment, they can slog it out all day on the main line, plus are very responsive for shunting (switching). I did enjoy working on them, though I must admit that after the union bans were lifted (private companies don't like union bans) and the 48'ers were once again permitted to lead on mileage jobs, slogging back home from Dubbo ( 191 miles to Lithgow ) climbing the numerous 2.5% grades at barely 8 mph did tend to drag on a tad.
One trick that I learnt very early during my career, you could surreptitiously insert your finger into the reversor slot of the opposite control stand and push up the lock pin to then be able to open that throttle.
Many a time a novice engineman was tricked by this ploy, his offsider revving the locomotive or even tempting a broken finger and throwing the reversor and powering the locomotive (if the operating control stand reversor was in centre position) much to the astonishment of the startled novice sitting at the operating control stand. This ploy naturally best applied when in the confines of the loco shed or yard on the shunter. If attempted when actually working a train, after the driver had shut off power to begin the descent of a grade, or approaching a reduced track speed, you are tempting fate if the bloke driving panics. Another ploy, the handbrake being located inside the short hood, the driver would tell the novice to release the handbrake and no sooner the novice enters the short hood release the engine brakes, the novice copping an ear full of the loud exhausting air from the distributing valve.
Numerous modifications were trialed on the 48'ers, and I remember one epsiode when a low speed control system was being installed to enable using the untis to load coal trains, I found that I was able to power the unit when there was no air in the brake pipe. Some how this slow speed controller had bypassed the Pneumatic Control Switch (the PCS disabling the main generator output by returning the engine to idle when the brake pipe pressure falls below that available for effective train brake operation). I quickly informed the shed maintenance staff who were at first quizzical until I demonstrated this anomaly.
But, fun beasts they were, belching heaps of turbo lag black exhaust in the best of Alco tradition. Plus back in the days of loco hauled passenger trains, screaming and rattling along at 115 kmph in the couple of maximum loco hauled speed zones around the system. Even though, due to their diminutive size the 48'ers were restricted to a maximum permissible speed of 105 kmph, the timetable required you to belt them along.
Thanks for posting Steve - very interesting insights into this little monsters. They remind me of the MLW built units on the White Pass & Yukon in Alaska. Here's a link with some info:
Them Whitepass RR beasties are interesting. I remember seeing a TV docco quite some years ago about the Yukon which also included the Whitepass RR.
I gather that the Whitepass is mostly a tourist concern these days, and that the ore cargo ended some time ago. Knowing how our Aussie narrow gauge railway trains "wobble" along (excluding naturally the modern QR main lines featuring tilt trains), I am curious as to how goes the ride aboard the Whitepass.
Also, I have been hunting at home for a specific slide that I shot many moons ago, which I had wanted to include in this posting. I have finally unearthed it. The SAR mustard pot scheme 830 class briefly ventured across the border into NSW and I had shot at one at Bathurst. When Aussie National was created at the end of 1980, these dinky toys were gradually painted in the AN green and yellow scheme. In this photo, the 830 is hooked onto a NSWPTC 49 class G8C. The 49 class were based out here on the west, being a pseudo tunnel motor style. But, I know which cab I would prefer to be in. Give me an aussie alco any day.