Do you remember the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could”? It was one of my favourites. If you can’t I found this little Youtube copy of a film of it.
Why do I mention this now? Well, a few weeks ago Bathurst was lucky enough to have a steam train visit for a couple of days. Once we heard it was going to be here we booked some tickets, and they were selling fast. We decided to go for a ride on Sunday and just go and have a look at the train on Saturday.
Many years ago, a couple of old trains came to town. We went for a ride to Tarana (half way to Lithgow) one time and when the Flying Scotsman from England and the beautiful 3801 engine came to town at the same time we went train chasing. Great fun. We only lived a couple of blocks from the Railway Station then, so we could hear them coming along.
There haven’t been any steam trains here for many years.
When we arrived at the station on Saturday there were smiling, happy people everywhere.
We were just like a couple of big kids….well, me a bit more than Mick.
Our trusty steed was the 3642 Steam Engine built by Clyde in Sydney in 1928. Clyde had a factory in Bathurst from the early 70s till only a few years ago (although there were name changes). Mick worked there for twelve months just after he finished his apprenticeship.
Just next to the signs above was another little plaque which said “Bathurst”. This steam engine finished its days based here, so it in effect came home.
My first train ride was on a stream train from Bathurst to Lithgow, when I was very little. I can only just remember it. What I do remember was that when we reached Lithgow we discovered that the engine driver was “Mr Bill”, a family friend. (I couldn’t pronounce his surname, I was so little, so I dubbed him “Mr Bill”). He said we could have travelled in the engine if he knew we were there. Oh well, one of those lost opportunities. I wonder if this engine pulled that train? I digress……..
Once the train was loaded with her passengers we hopped in the car and travelled to the overpass bridge. It is a lovely old iron bridge built in 1888.
Back in the car, we followed her along as well as we could. Notice at the rear of the train there is a second diesel engine. I’ll explain more as we go along.
Isn’t she lovely.
We had to wait at the level crossing at Georges Plains. We weren’t the only cars following her.
It was a lovely day to be out and about. We drove along, losing sight of the engine until we found a suitable place to pull over and wait for the train to come past.
The train rides took about 90 minutes, travelling west to a small locality of “Wimbledon”. We waited ages for her to arrive. You see, just after Georges Plains there is quite a long, steep climb. This was too much for the steam engines to manage on their own, so they used to stop at Georges Plains and a second engine would hook up to the back and help push the train up the hill. I can’t remember the name of it. Then, at Wimbledon, where the grade evened out again, the train would stop and the second engine would go back down the hill to Georges Plains to wait for the next train that needed a push.
Finally we could hear that distinct “I think I can, I think I can” and the train came into view.
Once again gathering up speed as the track levelled out.
Lots of happy people were waving out the windows. The train finished its westward travelling just past here.
Then, the diesel loco pulled the train back down the hill, back to Bathurst. A much quicker journey.
We found ourselves a nice spot just west of Georges Plains to see it go past again. Only the smoke in the picture above gives away that the engine is actually going backwards.
Even the modern loco is nice to watch.
One last look at the train going home.
See there I am, grinning from ear to ear as we enjoyed our afternoon.
We took a few more photos near Perthville and got chatting to an old couple who had noticed Mick’s Isle of Man T-shirt. It turned out they had been there, raced bikes around the traps and had had quite a few interesting old bikes over the years – even sidecars. What a small world.
Sunday would be our turn to go for a ride. Bring it on.