As part of the 2017 Junee Rhythm n Rail Festival, Pete’s Hobby Railway conducted our first two publicised Operating Days, where we operated the trains and had the public visitors to the Rhythm n Rail Festival viewing, from the street, the Hunslet steam locomotive and the Ruston Diesel locomotive hauling our passenger carriages. We even had our Sheffield trike running one afternoon.
This Progress Report covers the events in the lead up to the weekend and our operations over the two day Festival.
For the full story, with illustrations, please read on.
Approval to Operate or Not?
I considered loud-and-long as to whether this section of the Progress Report would be included… in deciding that the story should be told, I do so in order that it can be seen that the development of Pete’s Hobby Railway has not all been plain sailing.
Although the Hobby Railway provisions of the Rail Safety National Law strictly prohibits the general public from being allowed on to my property to view or ride on Pete’s Hobby Railway, there is nothing under the Law to prevent them from viewing operations from the street outside my front fence.
I have always wanted to be able to share Pete’s Hobby Railway and so one section of the line was constructed close to my front fence. This would allow for public viewing as a part of tourist activities in my Riverina town of Junee, particularly during the annual Rhythm n Rail Festival held in March each year and still meet the requirements of the Law.
However, this was complicated by the fact that the Development Approval from the local Council only permitted Pete’s Hobby Railway to be operated on weekdays between 0900 and 1600 hours, and on Saturdays from 0900 to 1300 – but not on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and public holidays. This meant that I could not operate for Rhythm n Rail which is held over the second weekend of March, apart from the Saturday morning when a town parade was being held.
Since I wanted to be able to operate Pete’s Hobby Railway for Rhythm n Rail, I thought that it would be a simple letter to Council for approval to run on the weekend… but NO! I would have to lodge a formal Application to Vary Development Consent, together with the payment of a fee of $110. Because I would be getting nothing out of it (apart from satisfaction and helping the town out tourism-wise), I decided not to proceed and advised those concerned accordingly. Historic Junee – the 1870s railway town… ???
I thought that would be end of it. Not so… a couple of days later, I had a deputation at my front door from the Rhythm n Rail Committee and the Junee Business and Trades Association – an inspection to see for themselves exactly what Pete’s Hobby Railway was all-about! They considered that the operation of the railway could become a major part of the Rhythm n Rail Festival, so I was persuaded to proceed as desired by Council – they had a completed Application for me to sign, together with a signed cheque from the Business and Trades Association made out to Council. As far as I was concerned, it was not the $110 (which I could quite easily have paid), it was the principle of the thing.
The next morning saw me front up to Council with the signed application and lodgment fee, together with a representative from the Business and Trades Association (just to make sure that I did so!). Council suggested that the Application should be changed, from one simply for the coming Rhythm n Rail, to any six days in a calendar year ad-infinitum – which of course, I readily agreed to.
Surprisingly (to me), Council advertised the proposal in the local Southern Cross newspaper and circulated it to surrounding residents.
There was no Council General Meeting scheduled for January, the first being on Tuesday 21st February – only a couple of weeks prior to the actual Festival!
When the Meeting Agenda was made public on the prior Friday afternoon, all seemed favourable until the small print was read! There were two submissions against and one supporting, the latter from the Junee Business & Trades Association. The recommendation to the Councilors was that the Application should be approved. (But this was also the case with my original Development Application for the construction of Pete’s Hobby Railway, which was not initially accepted by the then Councilors.)
However, one of the proposed conditions of consent was that the applicant or event organiser would have to submit to Council, at least 28 days prior to the event, an application to Council to permit “an event on a public road”, including a Traffic Management Plan and a Traffic Control Plan. In addition, all neighbours in my street over a distance of several hundred metres would have to be given written notification not less than 28 days before the proposed event. Assuming the Recommendation was passed by Council, there would be less than 18 days until the commencement of the Festival! Neither were practical if Pete’s Hobby Railway was to be part of the 2017 Rhythm n Rail Festival.
Quick action was required! I contacted the Chairman of The Omnibus Preservation Society Inc., whose buses would be providing the linking services. Being a Roads and Maritime Services accredited bus operator, the Chairman was able to undertake the appropriate risk assessment and location for the proposed bus stop outside Pete’s Hobby Railway… this was delivered to Council on the day before the Council meeting. I also hand-delivered a submission to Council, pointing out that if the Recommendation as proposed was agreed to at the Council Meeting, Pete’s Hobby Railway would not be able to operate for this year’s Rhythm n Rail Festival.
Nicholas (as the Events Coordinator for Pete’s Hobby Railway) and I attended the Council Meeting, where we were handed an amended Recommendation for consideration by the Councilors. While the original conditions remained, approval was recommended to operate for Rhythm n Rail. Of the eight Councilors present, seven voted in favour and one against. Pete’s Hobby Railway was thus able to operate over the weekend for the 2017 Rhythm n Rail Festival!
Leading up to Rhythm n Rail
With the approval to operate given from Council and only a couple of weeks to go, fast action was required, particularly on Nick’s side as the PHR Events Coordinator, for suitable publicity.
Decisions had to be made on our actual operating times. In the end, it was decided that although we could now commence at 0900 if we desired, a midday start would place less pressure on the team and besides the first run of the heritage Omnibus service wouldn’t commence until Midday anyway.
There were announcements that we would be operating over the Rhythm n Rail weekend needed to be posted to our website, which subsequently get pushed to our Facebook page and Twitter feed. Once our announcements were published to Facebook, then we had to share them to various other Facebook Pages and Groups — those with a local community focus and various train enthusiast groups. The more coverage we could achieve the better attendance we would have.
Information about PHR and some of the most Frequently Asked Questions was compiled and supplied to the local Tourist Information Centre, along with a flyer announcing we’d be operating. A copy of this flyer was also placed on the Local Community Noticeboard in the main street of town.
Text and images had to be supplied to the Rhythm n Rail committee so we could be listed properly on the Rhythm n Rail website. Ultimately, an official RnR branded flyer was supplied to us by local photographer and designer, Struan Timms.
A copy of this flyer along with text was supplied to the local tourist promotion website and it turns out we were the only event to supply our own specific information for this site. Everyone else seems to have relied on the overall advertisement for the entire Festival.
However while Nick was handling all the “media releases and publicity material”, I had my own concerns to worry about — when the Hunslet last steamed (for the Grand Opening on 6th February), Ben had drawn my attention to some ominous droplets of water forming on the frame near the front of the firebox. There was the slightest of a weep evident, but no “blow” of any kind. It was difficult for me to see and impossible to photograph. Because of this, and other operational problems that had emerged since being first steamed after its Goulburn overhaul, consideration was being given for its possible return to Goulburn for adjustments. To attend to the weep, which I thought may require patching by a qualified pressure vessel welder, would require removal of plumbing and one side tank to gain access – work which could easily not be undertaken at Junee.
Friday 10th March 2017: A Work Day
Friday was not advertised as a public (viewing) operating day, although it was listed on our website as a “Work Day”.
Dave has worked with me on the Hunslet loco from the time of its recommissioning at Weavering Light Rail at Loftus, Sydney and was fully trained in its operation and it was now his time to light the fires at Pete’s Hobby Railway. He had been warned about the weep and requested by me to keep a close eye on it… if it developed in any way, the fire was to be immediately dropped. But it didn’t, thank heavens!
Lachlan Valley Railway was unable to supply a steam locomotive for the Junee-Wagga-Cootamundra shuttles, so the Hunslet was to have been the only operating steam locomotive in Junee for the 2017 Rhythm n Rail Festival! Fortunately the trials on Friday allowed us to continue to be so!
By the time the Hunslet had steam and rolled down to Loftus platform, it was well after midday. Various trials were then undertaken to work out how best to showcase the railway to our public spectators, including running times, etc.
At the end of the day, the Hunslet, carriages and Ruston were stowed overnight at the rear of the property. As the locomotive was to be used on the following day, the boiler was filled with water to the top of the ‘glass, drain-cocks opened, reversing quadrant placed in mid-gear and the handbrake wound on – the fire being allowed to go out and the ashpan was raked out.
Saturday, 11th March 2017: Day 1 of Rhythm n Rail
(All images in this segment were taken by Peter, unless otherwise credited)
Rhythm n Rail had a street procession scheduled for the morning, so the heritage bus service was not due to commence until the afternoon – connecting at Junee station with the arrival of the first Lachlan Valley Railway Society’s CPH rail motor service from Wagga Wagga.
Despite the fact that we had advertised in all our marketing material that PHR would be operating from 12 noon until 1600 hours, the first of the public turned up at 1000! We had only lit the Hunslet up an hour earlier – because the boiler water was still warm from the previous day, we already had 10 lbs. of steam, but it would be another hour before we would be running!
With a good number of volunteers on hand, there were sufficient to get things operational. While Josh was cutting up timber for fuel, David was busily devouring same in the firebox of the Hunslet!
Ben and Rhys were erecting the two gazebos between the station platform and the static displays of the Perry and Fowler so that Nick would have a shady place for serving a barbeque lunch to our guests and volunteers. They also placed the tables and chairs (that we had purchased a week prior for this purpose) out.
Meanwhile Nick, Grace and Kat headed down to our local IGA supermarket to collect all the sausages, fresh bread and coleslaw that had been pre-ordered earlier in the week.
Since we were already operational for RnR, I invited two groups of friends over to share the occasion – the first of these was Tumba Rail from Ladysmith station and they arrived from around 1000 onwards. Rhys was placed at the front gate “to mark the roll” to admit the friends and keep out the general public!
The general programme was for the Ruston and two carriages to depart from Loftus station and proceed upgrade to the southern terminus… once stopped, the Ruston driver would advise the Hunslet driver by walkie-talkie that his train was stationary… the Hunslet would steam up the hill, coming to a stand just short of the carriages… depending on the skill of the driver, the Hunslet would drop carefully on to the carriages – sufficiently clear for the guard to couple the two together.
Otherwise, the Ruston would be used to push the carriages on to the Hunslet for coupling. After the Ruston was detached, the guard would release the carriage holding brake and give the green flag right-of-way to the Hunslet driver. No uncoupling/coupling was undertaken unless both train and locos were stationary.
A touch of the throttle was required for the short pinch of an up grade, before the long descent to the driveway level crossing and Loftus station. The second person was given the job of keeping the descent to a low speed by the judicious use of the hand brake while the driver kept an eagle eye for the green flag from Rob at the level crossing.
If the combined skills of the driver and second person were in unison, the train would roll through Loftus platform, requiring a short thrust of throttle for a minute up grade at the western end, before entering the semi-circle curve to the current end-of-track just before the car-park outside my humble abode. Torpedo 2 (the Sheffield pump trike) was parked at the end-of-track, protected by a temporary post bearing a red flag. This last ten metres or so was on an upgrade, compounded by the curve being on an extremely sharp radius – again, requiring the skills of the driver.
Although the driveway level crossing near the front gate was the block-post, the okay for the Ruston to follow on was not usually given until the train had come to a standstill. With the carriage handbrake applied, the Hunslet was allowed to drop back an inch or so, loosening up the coupling ready for the carriages to be detached from the steam engine once the other end had been attached to the Ruston.
It was then up to Ben on the Ruston to convey the train back to the platform, where a stop was made to allow passengers to detrain and/or others to join. Once clear of the driveway level crossing, the Ruston would advise the Hunslet accordingly, allowing it to run slowly back to the station – and so the procedure was repeated.
If no repeat trip was immediately warranted, the Ruston and cars would come to a stand at the eastern end of the platform, the Hunslet (after being “warned” appropriately) would follow, stopping at the western end.
During these times, Rob had the main driveway gate chained shut – and in between giving the level crossing green flag to the loco drivers, would hand out a simple brochure to interested members of the public outside the fence, as well as answering any questions they may have.
It was not until around 1240 or so that the first of the heritage omnibuses arrived to drop off public to view the railway… otherwise, the bus would stand for a few minutes to allow those remaining on board to view the passing parade! A twenty-minute frequency was advertised for the service, although on one occasion, we seemed to have been missed out on one trip, much to the consternation of several intending passengers.
The fears of Council and others of the street being blocked with throngs of cars and public visitors did not eventuate… at no time were there more than six cars parked on the grass verge of the street towards my front fence, while the heritage omnibuses were well able to cater for those availing themselves of the service. We received anecdotal reports of throngs at The Roundhouse and elsewhere, but (regretfully!) not at Loftus platform. The obvious reasons were that I was not permitted to allow the public onto my property itself, nor able to offer rides.
It was great having Dave around as a second trained “steam” driver… this allowed me to circulate amongst my Tumba Rail friends, with many a lengthy discussion taking place as a result!
From mid-afternoon, my Tumba Rail friends gradually moved on to enjoy the other events and festivities of Rhythm n Rail, but we had a another small group of friends arrive – a local family who had been meaning to visit me for a while so the boys could check out all the trains, but to date hadn’t had a chance to do so. So they joined us in the carriages and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The opportunity was taken to give the Sheffield quadracycle a few runs, testing the muscles (or otherwise!) of the volunteers, particularly on the adverse grades!
However, by 1600, things were “dead”. We were running out of fuel for the Hunslet, but left the train around the platform until around 1630 when the Ruston hauled the carriages back to the southern terminus to stable for the evening. With only 60 lbs. pressure or so left in the boiler and no fuel on board, Dave took the chance to get the Hunslet home to bed light engine… just managing to make the grade… if he had stalled, the Ruston would have been needed!
Unexpectedly, at around 1640, another bus turned up, with passengers anticipating a view the railway in operation, but alas, this could not be – there was next to no steam left in the boiler and we had commenced filling the boiler with water. Pete’s Hobby Railway had been put to bed.
Sunday, 12th March 2017: Day 2 of Rhytmn n Rail
So far, the weather gods had been kind to us with sunny conditions, little or no wind and temperatures just above 30 degrees Celsius. It was around 0700 hours that I took a mobile phone call from Rhys – a Total Fire Ban had been declared for much of the State, including the Riverina (South West Slopes) area around Junee. Normally, today’s main line heritage steam locomotives do not operate on days such as this – but the temperatures were not forecast to be high and there was no wind to speak of. Would the Hunslet operate?
We have always advertised that on days of total fire ban, the steam locomotive would not operate (and even on days when temperatures were forecast to be above 30 degrees Celsius) but may be dead-hauled by the Ruston diesel and/or placed on static display at the station.
As to whether the Hunslet could operate on a Total Fire Ban Day had previously been discussed with the Captain of the local Junee Fire and Rescue Service. Because it was a totally enclosed fire, with any ash residue dropping into a wet Ashpan, he could see no problem with the steam locomotive being able to operate. Never-the-less, I again contacted him that morning – he was still okay with it running. To be doubly sure, I also contacted the Rural Fire Service Headquarters in Sydney, receiving the same answer. Thus, it was still “all systems go”. However, I took the additional precautions of running out garden hoses to the southern terminus of the line and to Loftus station, also placing tubs of water at other strategic locations near the track. In addition, the train itself also carried a firefighting knapsack full of water – so we were well prepared. The plan was for an immediate response should any fire start, before it had any chance of catching and getting away.
Today, Joel Rowse was the nominated official photographer – I didn’t take even one photo! The real benefit of this was that Joel took some of his photos from differing angles compared with Ben, Rhys, Josh and/or myself. The photos with today’s report are thus from Joel exclusively.
Dave was again in charge of lighting up, with Josh wielding the splitter for firewood fuel. Without the benefit of an inspection pit, Josh was still able to crawl under the loco to carry out the internal lubrication of the eccentrics – oh, that I wish I was still so thin to be able to do this!
For today, I had my friends from the Wagga Wagga Rail Heritage Station Museum as my guests to see the operations of Pete’s Hobby Railway and to participate in a BBQ in appreciation of their assistance during my 75th birthday celebrations.
Rhys was on the gate initially to “mark the roll” as they arrived and by 1100 the majority were on site.
There was still only minimal pressure in the Hunslet’s boiler, so Ben in the Ruston gave Dave a gentle nudge over the crest of the hill, allowing the Hunslet to roll down into the platform to be on display as pressure was built up.
While the Hunslet continued to build up pressure, a couple of passenger runs were operated with the Ruston doing the honours – from the platform to the south terminus.
Dave had to leave us just after midday – he had been called in by his masters as the rostered driver for that afternoon’s XPT to Sydney had called in “sick” and so a replacement driver was required.
By the time the BBQ had been served, operating pressure had been reached and so the Hunslet was able to perform. Initially, Saturday’s procedure was followed, but later the Hunslet was allowed to push the carriages up hill to the south terminus.
By mid-afternoon, my Rail Museum friends had drifted off to have a gander at what else Rhythm n Rail had to offer, so the volunteers and I were by ourselves for the final hour or so, apart from the few public visitors turning up, either on the heritage omnibus or in their own motor vehicles. Again, the simple brochure prepared by Nick was handed out to those interested.
Shortly after 1600, the trains were put to bed at the south terminus… the Hunslet had its fire dropped and the ashpan cleaned out. The next day, the Hunslet would be loaded for transport by road to Goulburn, but that will be the subject of my next Progress Report!
It was around 1900 when the mini-cyclone cum-dust storm arrived! Such was the intensity of the wind that Nick and I had to retie to covering on the Sheffield which was flapping so madly it threatened to blow away. Luckily, the volunteers had dismantled the two gazebos and packed them away – otherwise, they certainly would have ended up taking off to who knows where – perhaps the Land of Oz?! The dust flying around darkened the heavens… possibly, it was this anticipated dust storm that evoked the Total Fire Ban as any fire that was burning at this time would have taken off uncontrollably.
My appreciation extends to…
It is always dangerous to individually list those who made the weekend a success, for inevitably, one or more are unintentionally omitted. Some, I have already mentioned in these RnR Progress Reports. Others, I haven’t, but their behind the scenes endeavours were just as necessary for the smooth flowing of Pete’s Hobby Railway.
However, I would be very amiss if I did not single out Nicholas. Nick professes to have no interest in railways in general (except as a luxurious means of getting from A to B, particularly if dining facilities and a Bar are available). Nick initially volunteered to co-ordinate activities for a small Opening Ceremony of Pete’s Hobby Railway which then grew in to a three day extravaganza to celebrate my 75th Birthday last month, culminating in to the “Grand Opening” of Pete’s Hobby Railway. Somehow, this has grown into himself creating the position of Event Co-Coordinator, and taking on the responsibility for the day-to-day organising of the Public Relations side of the PHRs involvement with the Rhythm n Rail Festival, including our publicity and not to forget the BBQ arrangements! I simply became the “Chief Financial Officer” funding the PHR activities so far as Nick was concerned… but as you have read in these Progress Reports, I certainly wasn’t taking a back-room position!
In no particular order for the others… Ben was in charge of the Ruston, Rhys was generally train guard (although he did share these duties with Josh, especially on the Sunday afternoon when I took over the Hunslet from Dave) and also looked after the train radios which made operations so much easier. Josh also cut much of the firewood – fuel for the steam loco, without which it could not have run, and managed (somehow!) to crawl under to loco to lubricate the internal eccentrics. Dave looked after the Hunslet until called away for a faster train on the Sunday afternoon! Rob was the gateman, level crossing protector and public relations spokesman to our public “train spotters”. As mentioned, Nick handled the BBQ in order to feed my visitor-friends and volunteers, ably assisted by Grace from Melbourne and Kat originally from Albury. Grace and Kat even managed some train rides as well as a trip or two on the Sheffield! Last but not least was Joel, who also made the trip from Melbourne, to act as our official photographer.
My thanks to you all! I think we all had a most enjoyable couple of days.
The De-Brief or Post Mortem
At the time of writing, we actually haven’t had this as yet, although a number of aspects became evident;
- Despite the concerns of Council and one or two of my neighbours, Wardle Street outside Pete’s Hobby Railway was not inundated with a massive increase in vehicular traffic. At no time were more than half a dozen cars parked for viewing and these were always parked off the road on the unformed grass verge. No traffic jams!
- The heritage omnibus service worked well, although some method of contacting drivers (or a supervisor) to ascertain if there was a delay would have been advantageous. Possibly a shelter of some kind for waiting passengers.
- Operationally, it will be nice when the station has its covered waiting room! Also, more track to run on – terminating on a sharp curve is not the best.
- Some good quality coal would allow the Hunslet to perform better.
Still, everyone, including our volunteers, thoroughly enjoyed themselves, even if they were a little tired!!!!!
Now, when’s the next operating day?
ps: if you haven’t already, don’t forget to watch the video of our train, and trike, operations during our 2017 Rhythm n Rail Operations Days.