The weekend started for the most of the crews on Friday when the Garratt and train for Thirlmere was prepared in Canberra and then transferred to Goulburn to overnight before hauling its first public excursion early on Saturday morning to Thirlmere. The preparation for the morning trip started very early in the morning as steam was raised and the loco cleaned. By the time the departure was due, people were everywhere along the mainline hoping to get a glimpse of the train as it sped past. Pretty much any vantage point had someone waiting, it seemed that there were 100+ people at Wingello alone to see a brief 30 seconds of the Garratt as it thundered past, and the motorcade of people chasing the train was something else. Some said that it was the fastest Garratt they had ever seen, but in this day of tight timetables and the requirements to fit in without slowing regular freight and passenger trains, we had little choice but to keep things moving along at a decent clip...
The same network pressures meant that there was no chance of us having the Garratt lead the train into Thirlmere, instead, after leading all the way from Goulburn, it was at the rear of the train, being towed up the hill from Picton by the two diesels that we had brought along, both to assist us with maintaining the tight timetables and also to return our train to Canberra later in the day. As expected, video is everywhere of the trip, here is one from Bevan Wall
That being said, there was no lack of people along the branch line to watch the arrival, and shortly after, the Garratt went on display for most of the day with people lining up to have a look around the loco and visit the cab. There were people of all ages with many who had never seen one in steam. All around were questions of what were they like and the older admirers smiled and began to reminisce of times past and experiences up north and out west where the Garratts were common workhorses in the 1960's. If you have have ever stood next to a 60 class you would understand the appreciation of the size and scale of the loco, in many cases, people expressed disbelief that we had managed to restore this beast of a loco in the way we had. Those that have followed the blog for some time will remember that the first six years or so were spent out in the open year round in Canberra, with not a lot more than hand tools and an oxy torch.
The comments and praise were everywhere, and a few of the more common are noted here by some of the crew who were talking to the visitors all day
“The restoration took ONLY eight years!”
“Cleanest Garratt I have ever seen”
“Enfield never washed them”
“Are you now leaving 6029 in Sydney" Editors Note: NO...
“Never thought I would see one run again”
“Thankyou for doing this, your team is fantastic”
“You restored 6029 in a railway yard?"
“What are you restoring next, another Garratt" Editors Note: Watch this space.
Hundreds (well it felt like that number) of people were all very inquisitive and struck with awe! They asked endless questions as Percy Forester, Roger and other 6029 team members worked the crowd on one side and Howard and Greg covered the other.
Later on as the crowds died down, all the locos were lined up for a photo shoot in the yard and for the first time in perhaps 45 years, two Garratts were seen in the same picture. In many ways it was an awesome sight and I don't think there have been as many steam locos, in steam and in the same place as we saw here at Thirlmere this weekend.
After the Garratt and all the other engines were moved to the roundhouse and put to bed for the night, a special night photoshoot was held with the Garratt centre stage and left in the only place she could fit, on the turntable that was rescued from the old Enfield workshops.
Come Sunday, it was a 5 am start for the light up crews as they prepared 6029 and the other engines for the days work. Some of the early morning photos show the action. Sunday saw the Garratt run four times to Picton and back, assisting 3642 on the first run with the train from Sydney, and then doing a few shuttles from Thirlmere to Picton and back, giving people a chance to experience the Garratt on a 1 in 40 climb. From what I saw, every seat was filled with happy faces, before going back on display for the Sunday crowds to get a close up look at the loco.
A question we heard a lot and one that bears a reasonable attempt at explaining, is that of how much effort is involved and how much does it cost to run the Garratt... Well, without too much detail, here goes...Using our prep for Thirlmere as an example there is a list as long as the connecting rods.
Prep for us took 3 or 4 days work a week for 8 weeks for one qualified, paid person plus help on weekends and some week days in many cases from volunteers. Let’s say that, on average, 10 volunteers had turned up for a days work each week since Christmas. Try and pay those wages plus costs of super, workers comp and so on.
So far then we have just prepared the engine to be 100% fit for traffic, now onto the lightup..
Light up is, as many know, a tough job on any steam loco, but more so on on this animal of a loco... let’s put some detail to it:
Wood required – sleepers cut in thirds, two or three pallets stacked four feet high. All lifted manually into the cab. Let’s say the equivalent of 1 weeks work for one person to gather, cut and load onto pallets ready to used.
Oil – not vast amounts needed but checking and ensuring all oil cups are full, and that there are no obvious leaks or faults. 1 hour for one person.
Are you getting the picture?
Coal – eighteen tonnes, simple, do the maths - one person to load and one person to observe and protect. Cost per tonne is $61.40 USD but that’s not retail, we pay almost $400.00 AUD per ton by the time it is loaded in the tender so the cost is around $7,200 per fill and we need a refill to get home so let’s say $12,000 AUD for the round trip if we don't use it all
Expensive so far and we haven’t finished yet...
Cleaning – 107 feet, 14 feet high, hot surfaces, cold surfaces. One wash with soap and scrubbers, rinse with wipe down and then wipe dry. Four men 2 hours total.
One match and an oil soaked cloth – free, well pretty much anyway!
Fire - initially lit at least 24 hours before departure, over night watching and very, very gentle warm up to steam. Two men spread over two shifts of ten hours, both qualified with a minimum of an Advanced Boiler certificate. So just to get it in steam, 4 people on a ten hour shift each, with at least two of them qualified. Add cost of coal and ancillary costs of oil etc. and the cost is already around $13,000 for coal and other consumables like oil before we consider wages, track fees and insurance. Now add in for the duration of the trip a qualified driver and 2 firemen and you can see the ballooning costs just to get it to its destination and back.
Oh, almost forgot, we need to also clean, inspect and shut down and repair any faults afterwards, but you get the picture, the costs are not just the coal, but the back up, maintenance and servicing that happens for each and every trip and we need to put a little money away every trip to cover ongoing maintenance so that we can keep the engine going long after the current boiler certificate expires.
And then someone decided we needed passengers so add in catering staff and associated people for bookings, paperwork and the public face of our heritage operations.
Please keep this in mind next time you look at ticket prices for any steam hauled trip, not just those hauled by the Garratt. Without charging fair prices for the trips, we have no hope of being able to operate trains for the enjoyment of young and old alike into the future.
This is the largest steam engine currently licensed and running on any main line in the world and we do a hell of a lot of it with good will and lots of hard unpaid work. There is no bottomless pit of corporate or government sponsorship so we need to charge enough to at least pay our staff and cover the costs.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating, that this was simply an amazing weekend and a credit to the organizers at Trainworks and all the people involved in the planning of the event, the loco crews and volunteer staff both on the trains and in the museum did a great job of making everyone welcome and creating a great atmosphere for everyone. Simply a great weekend.