I made reference to a down 'Jet' that we had problems with a few weeks back. This weeks roster is where you'll find the details, just scroll to Friday if you want to read ahead.
Roster 21A began with an OR on Sunday.
BJ and I signed on at 1435 on the Monday to work the 1500 Conversion Pilot but this had been scrubbed so we adjourned to the meal room instead, at least briefly. Manpower fairly quickly found us a job, to run a train from Tottenham Yard to Broadmeadows, bound for somewhere further north. H2 was allocated to this train so were took it off the depot at 1540 to run ‘light’ to Tottenham. Backing into the Yard we were coupled to the train and examined. Once everything was ready we departed for Sunshine and the Albion loop line. Merging with the suburban lines we stopped the train in the platform where our relief was waiting for us. Relieved of the train we then caught the first spark back to North Melbourne to wander back to Dynon where we signed off at 2135.
Tuesday was a 1345 sign on for a Newmarket Pilot, which, no surprise, had been cancelled. Instead I teamed up with Driver P Hampton to run the 1410 Arden St Pilot. I’m not sure what happened to BJ, presumably he ended up in the meal room on standby, without a fireman. On arrival at Arden St we found Y129 waiting for us, so the three of us worked the sidings until 2125 when we crossed the suburban lines and returned to Dynon to sign off at 2235.
Wednesday was a bit out of the ordinary, as I had an appointment with the RMO (Railway Medical Officer). So I turned up at Dynon at 1330 to then make my way to VR Headquarters on Spencer St to room G30. Whatever they wanted me for was dealt with and I then made my way back to Dynon where I reported back to Manpower at 1520 to go on to solo standby; not something a fireman wanted as it required another fireman to not be available before you found a job. My luck was in as at 1610 I was teamed up with Driver A Martin to run a 1735 Bendigo goods out of Tottenham Yard. We took Y112 off the depot ‘light’ and found T331 already at Tottenham, also rostered to run this train. So I coupled the two together, which was relatively easy as all I had to do was couple the brake pipe and plug in the jumper cable. No main reservoir or nos. 3 and 4 brake pipes to deal with unlike on any main line locos, courtesy of the fact that the Y class used Westinghouse No. 4 brakes, not A7EL as on most VR locos nor 26L, as found on the New X and C. We don’t appear to have actually left the Yard as I made no note about what we changed-over with or where other than we handed over the locos and were back at the depot at 1855. Nothing further offered itself to relieve our sitting on standby and either I, or both of us, decided to finish at 2105.
In a continuing theme, Thursday’s job was cancelled, so BJ and I went straight onto standby at 1310 instead of a totally obscured job. Manpower called on us at 1420 to relieve the ARC Pilot, which was being worked by Y106. We more than likely made our way to where the Pilot was by taxi and finished off the Pilots’ work including returning wagons to Tottenham Yard and return the Y to Dynon at 1830. Nothing more required our services so, in BJ’s preferred modus operandi of knocking off early instead of doing Fuel Point, we finished at 2010.
Friday’s start was 1345 for the 1530 Serviceton ‘Jet’. S312 and X52 were already coupled together for us in the depot yard with the S to be our lead loco. Either these two came in together as they were or the way they were facing when they returned to Fuel Point made it easy for the fitters to couple them together this way; this was something that we came very close to regretting later in the day.
Boarding the New X, we departed the depot, to change to the S class at the reversing point below the hump and entered North Dynon Yard from the east, where we coupled to the train. We were advised by the guard that our tonnage totalled 1527 so this was going to be interesting trip. Once the train was fully examined, and we were ready to depart, the dwarf cleared so we could set off towards the Maribyrnong River crossing and the Bunbury St tunnel. Clearing the tunnel, we proceeded on to pass Tottenham Yard on the Down Independent Goods line and dropped down towards Sunshine. When the home signal cleared to allow us to join the main lines BJ got the train moving again to proceed through Sunshine platform and diverge onto the South line. Along the flat line we were able to work up towards maximum speed for a ‘Jet’ until the climb up to Deer Park West Junction where the line became single however it wasn’t much of a grade and the subsequent momentum grades weren’t really a problem. As we approached Rockbank I prepared to collect the first electric staff. With a successful pickup we continued along the continuing momentum grades towards Melton where I prepared for a full staff exchange. With the exchange completed successfully we descended towards the Melton Weir passing over it and continuing on towards Parwan and another full exchange, completed successfully. Working our way through the Parwan curves we approached ‘the Marsh’ where the staff was handed up and Brian applied power to tackle the grade and curves out of Bacchus Marsh. Working our way up to the flatter stretch of track, beyond Rowlsey, Brian kept the power on as we prepared to take on the grades that commenced just before the horseshoe curve leading on up towards Bank Box loop. As we powered into the curve leading up to the bridge our speed started to bleed off and this drop in speed continued as we left the curve to straighten up, running parallel to the valley we’d just passed over. Moving on from the straight into the series of shallow curves, in cuttings, leading away from the valley our speed continued to drop even though the locos were in notch 8 and both working their hardest. As we worked our way up these curves the weight behind us continued to drag our speed down until we were moving at little more than walking pace and even then our speed continued to drop. It got to a point where we were only just inching forwards and this worried both of us. Brian was repeatedly standing on the sanding button mounted on the floor at his feet but it didn’t appear to be making much difference. As our speed became virtually nothing, he asked me to check to see if the sanders were actually working, so I stood up, punched the VC, moved behind my seat and opened the door. Grabbing the handrails, I descended the steps to the lowest one and then stretched out backwards as far as I could to be able to see the sanding pipe in front of the leading wheel. As Brian stomped on the button again a few grains trickled out of the pipe to hit the railhead and either drop off it immediately or disappear under the wheel with no real effect. I called up into the cab what I was (not) seeing and continued to hang there watching for sand as we slipped to a stop. The wheels continued to rotate but the trains weight was holding us back and the prospect of having to deal with a full-on stall loomed large. Should a train stall the process was to split it in two, using the driver’s judgement where it was best to do this, and take the front portion to the nearest location where that portion could be put aside so the loco(s) could return for the rear portion. To do this the hand brakes would have had to be put on a fair part of the rear portion to prevent it running away back down the grade if the air brakes bled off while the loco(s) were not attached. To suffer a stall was not great, due to the amount of time required to tie down handbrakes, separate the train into two parts, ‘lift’ the first portion to a station clear of the grade then return for the remaining portion, release the hand brakes, bring the rest forward and re-combine the train. The guard would also have had to protect the rear of the train with the additional delay of him walking back to the guard’s van when the rear portion was ready to be taken forward. Our luck was in, since, while I was still hanging outside the loco, the wheels gained traction again and we started to crawl forward. As our speed continued to increase, very slowly, I climbed back into the cab and closed the door, to grab the log book and record the fact that the sanding pipes had to be blocked as we would have expected no. 312 to have had its sand boxes filled up at Dynon before we even signed on that morning. Our speed continued to increase slowly so the threat of stalling appeared to have disappeared. Eventually, we cleared the last cutting with our speed continuing to increase especially as the line leveled off on the approach to Bank Box loop. The home signal was showing ‘bottom yellow’, a yellow light under a red, technically called medium speed warning, which meant passing the signal at a maximum of 40kph, being prepared to stop at the next (home) signal. This was because we were being put away in the loop as the up, our changeover, was somewhere on the line from Ballan. We stopped at the down home departure signal at 1725, greatly relieved to have actually made it that far. Our thoughts were that either the train was heavier than we were told or, more likely, the VR ignored the load limits that EMD specified for the locomotives they built, and expected them, and us, to work heavier loads up grades than the manufacturer thought they should. About 10 minutes after we stopped, S310 appeared from the direction of Iron Bark Gully, double-headed with S311, and drew to a halt next to 312. As he climbed into the cab of no. 310, preceded by his kitbag, Brian advised the Ballarat driver of the problem with the sanders, although it wasn't likely to be a problem for him as he wouldn’t have any severe grades to climb since we’d faced the worst of them already. We discovered that the up we were taking over was over 1300 tonnes so we gained tonnage allowance in both directions. At 1745 we got the up ‘Jet’ under way again until the vans were level to effect a change-over of the guards. With ‘top green’ showing on the up departure home Brian prepared to engage the dynamic brake to hold the train as we descended the grade that had nearly caused us grief on the down journey. ‘Top green’ was a green over a red light and, technically, was called clear normal speed, indicating the next signal was showing a proceed aspect and we could travel at maximum line, or train, speed; in our case, 80kph. We descended the grade back to the horseshoe curve bridge with the dynamic brakes working to retard our speed and obviously had none of the issues we’d had going the other way and dropped down into ‘the Marsh’ to start collecting the staff again. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we deposited the train in the Arrival Yard, were uncoupled and returned the paired S to Dynon to sign off at 2015.
Saturday was, thankfully, OR.