Train travelling experiences on railways in Adelaide and elsewhere in South Australia, and around New South Wales with a Discovery Pass.
For the first 2 weeks of October 2018, Rebecca, Eliana and myself went on a family holiday to South Australia, visiting Adelaide and the surrounding region, and the Limestone Coast. During those two weeks, I managed to ‘convince’ them that we needed to go on some trains.
Overall I was pretty impressed with the Adelaide Metro system, both rail and tram / light rail. It is not overly large by the metro standards of other Australian captical cities, with 4 main suburban rail lines, and one tramway. But it seemed efficient, with a good coverage of services, and those services seemed to be mostly on time.
But it wasn’t just around Adelaide that I was able to see or ride trains and trams. In Victor Harbour we were able to see the Steamranger railway railmotor, and ride on the Granit Island horse drawn tram – a truly unique experience for me,.
For more railway related photos from our South Australian holiday, go to the South Australia 2018 photo gallery page.
After those two weeks family holiday, with Eliana back at school and Rebecca needing to be back at work, I still had 2 weeks of holidays left as I was on Long Service Leave. I had decided before we went on our family holiday in South Australia that I would take the extra 2 weeks holiday I had to do some train journeys, so I purchased a 14 day Countrylink Discovery Pass, and mapped out where I was going to go during that two weeks and booked the journeys. The plan was to go out to Broken Hill in western New South Wales, stay there a few days, then travel by bus to Dubbo, where I would catch an XPT to Orange. After staying overnight there, I would travel by bus, CityRail electric train and overnight XPT back to home. Then after a short stay, would travel by train and bus out to Deniliquin for a few days, returning home by the end of the working week. The caravan park at Broken Hill was already booked, and everything was in place. But I didn’t reckon on getting sick and what that would mean for my train holiday! By the time I got home from our family holiday, I was feeling very under the weather and basically didn’t leave the house for the whole weekend. On the Friday before the weekend I cancelled the travel reservations and was contemplating what to do. I decided I would do some train trips, but rather than staying in my tent as I originally planned (to minimise cost) I would stay overnight rather than multiple nights in a few places in hotel / motel type accommodation and do more actual train journeys. By Sunday I was starting to feel somewhat better, but I felt that an extra day of recovery would be required, but I had by that time more or less decided what my new train holiday itinerary would be:
- A return train trip on overnight and daytime XPT and daytime Xplorer regional trains to Canberra, Australia’s capital city, staying at Goulburn where accommodation is considerably cheaper. Leaving home around 11:30pm on Monday 15th October and returning home around 2:30pm Wednesday. Around 840km travelled.
- A return train trip on overnight XPT regional trains to Melbourne to visit my mum and dad. Leaving home around 3:30am Thursday 18th October and returning home around 11:30pm that night. Around 750km travelled.
- A return train trip on overnight XPT and daytime Xplorer regional trains to Armidale in the northern tablelands of NSW staying overnight at Armidale, travelling via a Sydney in both directions including a 2.5 hour layover in one direction and a 4 hour layover in the other direction in Sydney. Leaving home Sunday 21st October around 11:30pm and returning home around 3:30am on Tuesday. Around 2100km travelled.
- A return train and bus trip on multiple daytime XPT regional trains and a regional road coach to Dubbo in the Orana region of NSW staying overnight there, before returning home via an overnight stay at budget accommodation in Sydney. Leaving home about 12:30pm Wednesday 24th October and returning around 2:30pm Thursday. Around 1440km travelled.
Each of the trips would have at least some time at home between them and the next one, and would also include some trips on overnight trains to cut down on accommodation costs. Although admittedly I wasn’t sure how the overnight trips will go – I’d only done one overnight train trip before and I didn’t sleep particularly well on that one but I felt I was a bit better equipped for the overnight trips this time.
This itinerary may well be much better suited to a railfan like myself than my previously set one as I ride a lot more trains than the previous plan, and only one bus – a 4 hour journey between Cootamundra and Dubbo on the trip to Dubbo. But the accommodation cost approximately doubled as a result of staying in hotel / motel type accommodation instead of staying in my hiking tent.
By way of cost-effectiveness of the new itinerary and use of a Discovery Pass to pay for the travel, it is worth noting the cost of the Discover Pass was $232.00, and the total distance travelled will be around 5130km meaning the cost per km is around $0.04 (yes thats right, 4 cents) for the travel! To travel that in the car would be around $700 or more (around $0.13 per km), which means the train with a Discovery Pass for that distance is about 25% of the cost of the equivalent by car.
Goulburn XTP and Canberra Xplorer journey, 17th October
- 2018-10-15, Train CLK622, depart Culcairn 11:34pm.
- 2018-10-16, Train CLK622, arrive Goulburn 4:13am.
- 2018-10-16, Train CLK631, depart Goulburn 9:44am.
- 2018-10-16, Train CLK631, arrive Canberra 11:20am.
- 2018-10-16, Train CLK634, depart Canberra 12:00pm.
- 2018-10-16, Train CLK634, arrive Goulburn 1:27pm.
- 2018-10-17, Train CLK623, depart Goulburn 10:13am.
- 2018-10-17, Train CLK623, arrive Culcairn 2:41pm.
I left Culcairn around 11:30pm on the overnight XPT bound for Sydney and alighted at Goulburn about 5 hours later. After a 5 hour wait I caught the Canberra Xplorer to Canberra and back to Goulburn. Then after an overnight stay at Goulburn I caught the daytime XPT to Culcairn.
I noticed between Goulburn and Yass Junction there are a lot of single track cuttings and embankments. Some of those formations seem much more direct and less curved than the current double track mainline. The formations are on both sides of the current mainline. There is also an water tower, without any other buildings but I can’t tell exactly where it is except that it is on the northbound side of the mainline.
Between Yass Junction and Harden there are also some single track cuttings and embankments, as well as some disused stations. The station at Binalong is an island platform (disused), and there is a large water tower near the station as well. Galong station (disused) has quite a lot of interesting infrastructure as well as an old diversion or junction on the Sydney side of the station with the track still in place.
At Harden, which is still used, there is an old large signal box and other infrastructure worth looking at on the Sydney side of the station, as well as one on the Melbourne side near the cemetery. On the Melbourne side of Harden there are some old industrial buildings that might have had sidings at some point.
Between Harden and Cootamundra there are some significant looking brick bridges, as well as some disused stations and infrastructure.
Points of interest between Goulburn and Harden include:
- Jerrawa (disused station)
- A lot of re-alignment earthworks between Jerrawa and Yass Junction
- Yass Junction station
- An unknown, disused station between Yass Junction and Binnalong.
- Binnalong (disused station)
- Galong (disused station, junction?, ‘re-alignment)
I also saw a number of trains on the journey and quite a lot at Goulburn while waiting for trains. During the early morning between getting off the XPT and catching the Xplorer to Canberra there were freight trains roughly every 30 minutes, with some of them doing shunting or other moves at Goulburn as part of their journey. A veritable railfan paradise!
More photos of this train journey can be found at the Goulburn and Canberra train journey photo gallery page
Melbourne XPT journey, 18th October.
- 2018-10-18, Train CLK621, depart Culcairn 3:37am.
- 2018-10-18, Train CLK612, arrive Southern Cross (Melbourne) 7:30am.
- 2018-10-18, Train CLK622, depart Southern Cross 7:50pm.
- 2018-10-18, Train CLK622, arrive Culcairn 11:34pm.
The XPT train to Melbourne for this journey left Culcairn about 15 minutes late, around 3:50am. A bit after Seymour, we whizzed past a PTV / Vline N class hauling a passenger train – couyld this have been a bit railroad one-up-manship? The train arrived in Southern Cross, Melbourne, about 15 minutes late.
The locomotive 8116, which I saw at Cootamundra yesterday was at Dynon this morning as the XPT went through there, connected to 2 other 81 class locomotives.
I caught the metro EMUs to and from my parents house and spent a good number of hours with them, and was back at the Southern Cross railway station in Melbourne by about 5pm. Between 5pm & 7:50pm, at Southern Cross station, I saw the following trains:
- N470 – arrival, then Bacchus Marsh
- N474 – arrival, the Swan Hill
- N453 – Albury
- N459 – Geelong
- Vlocity 1153 DMU – arrival
- N471 – Geelong
- Y163 – station shunter
- N457 – arrival, then light out of station
- Vlocity DMU 1133 – unknown destination
- Vlocity DMU 1231 – Bendigo
- Sprinter 7006 – unknown destination
- N469 – unknown destination
- Vlocity DMU 1249 – South Geelong
- N462 – Warrnambool?
More photos of this train journey an be found at Melbourne train journey photo gallery page.
The Sydney XPT, with power cars XP2002 / XP2012, arrived late at Melbourne. But left for Sydney on time. And I arrived back at Culcairn by about 11:30pm.
Armidale (via Sydney) XPT & Xplorer journey, 21st & 22nd October.
- 2018-10-21, Train CLK622, depart Culcairn 11:34pm.
- 2018-10-22, Train CLK622, arrive Sydney Central 6:56am.
- 2018-10-22, Train CLK223, depart Sydney Central 9:30am.
- 2018-10-22, Train CLK223, arrive Armidale 5:35pm.
This journey involved another overnight start, catching the Melbourne to Sydney overnight XPT due to depart Culcairn at 11:30pm. The XPT departed Culcairn about 15 minutes late at 11:50pm, Goulburn at 4:25am, and Moss Vale at 5:20am. Before catching the train at Culcairn, I had a few hours sleep at home. I think this is a good way to go when getting an overnight train as it means I at least get a few hours of reasonable sleep before catching an overnight train and so don’t have to rely so much on getting sleepy on the train. Using the self-inflating pillow help my posture on the train. We passed a few freight trains heading south, including a steel train at about 4am, which I think would have passed Culcairn about 9am or so.
The number of long slow coal trains between Newcastle and Muswelbrook was quite a surprise – I wasn’t expecting so many. At one point, we were passing a coal train, some of them with upwards of 80 wagons and 4 locomotives (2 in front and 2 behind), about every 5 minutes.
The train to Armidale was a 3 car Xplorer + a 2 car Xplorer set. It stayed this way until Werris Creek at which point the 2 car Xplorer set was disconnected and continued its journey to Moree. The 3 car Xplorer set continued to Armidale. There is a long curved bridge approaching Tamworth, and the scenery between Scone and Armidale passes through mountain ranges making that part of the journey particularly pleasant.
More photos of this train journey can be found at the Armidale train journey photo gallery page.
Armidale – Culcairn Xplorer and XPT journey, 23rd & 24th October.
- 2018-10-23, Train CLK224, depart Armidale 8:40am.
- 2018-10-23, Train CLK224, arrive Sydney Central 4:39pm.
- 2018-10-23, Train CLK621, depart Sydney Central 8:42pm.
- 2018-10-24, Train CLK621, arrive Culcairn 3:37am.
After an overnight stay at a B&B in Armidale, I walked down to the station early so I could explore the railway infrastructure. There was a 620 class (I think) railmotor set in what used to be the goods shed, as well as some passenger cars that looked much the worse for wear.
Then it was onto the train to Sydney. I got to see the section of railway that skirts the Hawkesbury River in more detail on the way to Sydney – quite pretty with the mountains and water.
At Werris Creek, the Armidale train I was on had to join up with the train from Moree, and they were to continue the rest of their journey to Sydney as one train. When I heard that this is what would be happening I was very interested to see how they would be connected logistically as the two trains arrive at different platforms at Werris Creek as the station stradles the junction of the two lines.
Once at Sydney, it was a 4 hour wait until the XPT through Culcairn was due to leave. I was thinking that I might travel on the Light Rail to Dulwich Hill but as my phone was down to 1% I decided against it – maybe another time.
The XPT journey to Culcairn was uneventful, arriving more or less on time at about 3:30am. I even managed to get some sleep on the train!
More photos of this train journey can be found at the Armidale train journey photo gallery page.
Dubbo XPT and Bus journey, 24th October.
- 2018-10-24, Train CLK624, depart Culcairn 12:21pm.
- 2018-10-24. Train CLK624, arrive Cootamundra 2:38pm.
- 2018-10-24, Coach CLK791, depart Cootamundra 2:50pm.
- 2018-10-24, Coach CLK791, arrive Dubbo 6:52pm.
All the departures from Culcairn before today were at night, so it was good to have a daytime departure today (12:30-ish). Journey to Cootamundra by XPT was uneventful, although a few minutes late. Then on the bus from Cootamundra to Dubbo. Comparing the train journeys with the Cootamundra – Dubbo bus journey, it has to said that a train is far superior to a bus for at least the following reasons:
- trains are less ‘bumpy’.
- train seats are bigger and have armrests.
- trains have a buffet.
- Depending on the service, trains are often faster for a bus journey of the same length.
The Bus journey passed through:
- Peak Hill
… before arriving at Dubbo
After arriving at Dubbo, I wolked to my accommodation for the night, about 2km from the railway station, purchased some dinner, and settled down for the night.
Dubbo to Sydney XPT journey, 25th October.
- 2018-10-25, Train CLK428, depart Dubbo 2:15pm.
- 2018-10-25, Train CLK428, arrive Sydney Central 8:42pm.
After exploring some of Dubbo in foot, I made my way to the railway station about noon. Apparently the train to Sydney on the 24th, and the train to Dubbo today, were replaced by coaches. Not sure why. But thankfully the train to Sydney today was running as that is the reason I travelled to Dubbo in the first place! The train left Dubbo right on time at 2:15pm, and arrived at Sydney around its timetabled time of 8:42pm. The train consisted of 2 locomotives and 4 passenger cars.
I was surprised at how curvy the track is between Orange and Lithgow, with many sharp corners and even some ‘horseshoe curves’, one notable one just after Blayney station. There was also quite a lot of old disused single track formations between Bathurst and Lithgow including some stone / brick arched bridges. The journey through the Blue Mountains, while it was still daylight, was scenically spectacular.
The Space Q pod I stayed in overnight in Sydney was an interesting experience. Once I figured out how it all worked I managed to get a reasonable night’s sleep.
More photos of this train journey can be found at the Dubbo & Sydney train journeys photo gallery page.
Sydney to Culcairn XPT journey, 26th October.
- 2018-10-26, Train CLK623, depart Sydney Central 7:40am.
- 2018-10-26, Train CLK623, arrive Culcairn 2:41pm.
The XPT for this journey was 6 cars plus 2 locomotives – normally it is only 5 cars plus 2 locomotives. This journey seemed to be at a higher speed than than the XPT to / from Goulburn mentioned earlier in this post.
Train times were as follows:
- Sydney Central departure : 7:41am.
- Goulburn departure : 10:13am.
- Yass Junction departure : 11:20am.
- Passed a northbound steel train just south of Yass Junction at 11:27am.
- Cootamundra departure : 12:48pm.
- Junee departure : 13:29pm.
At this point, my phone was down to about 5% charge so I turned it off and stopped recording the time the train departed stations.
We passed a northbound steel train just south of Yass Junction at 11:27am and a northbound container train at 11:45am. There was also a heritage train at Junee consisting of old silver Southern Aurora and older NSWGR passenger cars with 2 CFCLA locomotives as power pointing towards Goulburn at Junee, 13:25pm. Some of the cars had ARHS-ACT on them, and there were also at least one sleeper car in the consist.
I arrived at Culcairn around the timetabled time, and at that point I had a rather sudden end to my railway journey holiday.