Crikey a Critter at Manildra
Back in march I was zooming around the Central West hunting for a replacement car. Proceeding west, I decided to continue to Manildra, no car yards out there, but I had not been out there for at least 6 years. To my surprise there was a "critter" shuffling too and fro. I grabbed the camera and aimed it at this thing. I yelled at the crew; "have you got rid of the old beast?" "No, it is still here, but we now use this", came the reply. To which I quickly yelled back; "but, that thing wouldn't pull the skin off a rice custard". A fading retort from the driver as the thing shuffled away; "it can lift 1000 tonne !". Well, the westerly grade out of the yard is only 1.6%, so not really a challenge for this thing.
I drove back to the small park overlooking the station and was startled to find a viewing platform jutting out above the embankment. I was later informed that this was indeed a rail fan viewing platform constructed by the local council in an effort to prevent tresspass. MM01 was stabled at the loading bank on the back road. I presume that in these days of financial crisis it is much cheaper for Manildra Mills to feed the 460 horses of
MM03, the little GE L80T ex BHP 51 critter rather than 875hp MM01 G8C ex NSWR 4907.
Back before the axe of privatization descended upon us, Lithgow crews worked the west facet of the Manildra job (domestic flour train 1851/8252 operating between Manildra [239 miles west of Sydney] and Nowra [95 miles south of Sydney]). Manildra Mills had acquired MM01 in 1994 when the NSW (state government) SRA motive power purge began. Shortly afterwards 7340, a Cat D379 powered diesel hydraulic 650hp GH700V was acquired, however this more modern unit (4907 built in 1962, 7340 built in 1972) was rarely used. I shot a hasty snap of 7340 stabled on the dead end from the cab of a Freightcorp (SRA) 81 class while shunting the incoming Manildra job in late 2002. 7340 has since been relocated, probably at the time that MM03 arrived on the scene. MM03 nee BHP 51 was built by Goninan in 1961 for the steelworks at Newcastle, hence being actually a tad older than MM01. The roster of BHP Newcastle critters becoming availabe when the steelworks closed in 1999.
The Manildra job was also shunting the eastern end of the yard, so I drove back around to the level crossing to aim the camera. As the "boring" 81 class JT26C2ss things thumped past a head appeared yelling at me to go to the station. I drove back to the park and scrounged in the car for a safety vest. To reach the station (no passenger train has paused there for quite some time) I would need to cross the tracks and therefore needed a safety vest. I waited about an hour until they finished shunting, the bloke an ex Lithgow SRA cohort hoofed over to chat and regale me with his saga since privatization. The Manildra contract had gone to ARG (Genesee and Wyoming) along with him plus 7 other Lithgow cohorts. I had remained in Lithgow being absorbed by Pacific National. When ARG went kaput in NSW, QRN had been handed the Manildra contract. This didn't last long either. The Manildra contract being now with PN, but the operation only continuing to exist due to financially bereft PN being subsidised by the NSW government to continue to operate wheat trains. The sale of PN continues to linger in limbo due to the global financial crisis, so the future of the Manildra job also lingers in limbo. The export flour Manildra container train has been cancelled by PN. He had relocated a number of times since I had last seen him, now at Parkes NSW with PN. He concluded his saga by stating that he would not need to depart Manildra as he had to cross a westbound about 1630'ish. The Enfield PN (Sydney) crew resting in a Motel in Orange would be soon driving back west to Manildra to relieve him. As he trotted off to perform the train brake examination, I hoofed over to the local shop for a cold drink. I decided to loiter a tad longer at Manildra to see just what this westbound was. I waited for over two hours. NADA, Zilch. As the sun was sinking I decided to give up and motor back home. Such are the joys of being a train nutter here in the Central West of NSW. A magnificent rail fan viewing patform at Manildra, but alas only a critter plus one train to see.