(* names have been changed)

Some really pleasant surprises have come out of writing this series of articles on my life on the New South Wales Railways in the 1960’s-early 70’s. For one, I have realised just how fortunate I have been to have experienced the things that I have, second, ‘old’ contacts have been made. In a lot of cases, the people mentioned in my series have passed on - but not all.

At the Brisbane Miniature Train Show - Did you know a bloke by the name of Clarrie Hough (not sure on the spelling) when you were at Eveleigh? I was recently asked! Yeah! Fired for a Clarrie Hough while I was there - I recalled! Well, that’s him standing over there, I’ll introduce (re-introduce) you to him. Clarrie - this here’s Ted Freeman, worked at Eveleigh in the 60’s, when you were there? Don’t recall the face (and I thought I hadn’t changed in thirty years!) That’s OK Clarrie, you don’t look all that familiar either - but!

I related the story in the most recent issue of Train Talk! Old F.A. and Alec - yeah, I remember them, what about ------, yeah! How about ---- yes of course - and the memories started to filter back, discussion went on and memories started to ‘flood’ back with recollections of different characters we both worked with, swapping of stories and relating to similar incidents we had both encountered (endured).

It was really something to catch up to an old work mate and reflect back on the times past, I'm sure Clarrie would be able to tell some right proper yarns relating to his experiences as he did one to me whilst we talked - it jarred my memory - and then I recalled - that’s the story I was geared up for in the next edition of Train Talk. Clarrie spoke of a 60 class Garratt on 274 Up goods from Newcastle to Sydney, I had a similar trip on 274 Up - but the steed I had was a ‘Nanny’, or 35 class 4-6-0.

Eveleigh crews worked the Down Newcastle Flyer from Sydney and returned after an eight hour break on 274 Up Goods. The Nanny’s were not a familiar engine to us as Eveleigh did not have any and at this stage in their life they were mostly relegated to the Northern Division from Gosford on. I was with my regular driver PW, a man I had fired for for quite some time and a true gentleman and master of the art of locomotive driving (PW would have been in his early to mid 30’s). Although he had plenty of experience on steam for his age, he had never worked on a Nanny, and neither had I. No big deal - you say - not all steam engines are the same, believe me!

Local Broadmeadows crews offered some sympathetic advice (inside they were snickering - I’m sure!), The fireman! - keep the fire banked, don’t let the front build up or you will be in trouble - the driver! - don’t let-er slip!

Climbing aboard 3510, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, it was just a bigger 32 class, close to the size of a “Pig” or 36er. We whistled out of Broadmeadow loco and headed towards Honeysuckle Yard  (just south of Newcastle) where we would latch onto our train and head off to Gosford where we would pick up one of the three thousand plus horsepower 46 class electrics for the jaunt to Enfield Yard in Sydney.

On arrival at Honeysuckle, we coupled up, performed the mandatory brake test and spoke to the guard as to tonnage and any special orders, it was just starting to come onto dark when we were due to depart so on went the dynamo with its high pitched shriek piercing the eeriness of nightfall on the waterfront. With lights ablaze and the fire nicely banked with a good head of steam and the appropriate water level in the sight glass we were ready to go, no reason not to feel confident for a safe and swift trip.

With the guards right-o-way given and clearance from the shunter, we blew the whistle - the whistle cord shorted on the dynamo and a resultant kaboom and extinguished lights ended the confidence so rapidly gained. Digging around in what was now relative blackness, save for the light of the fire, we filled some kerosene gauge lamps, flare lamps and marker light and decided to give it a go. Shortly after getting under way, the kerosene lights extinguished and refused to re-light, oh! No! There’s water in the kero.

It was about this time that we were starting our climb towards Tickhole Tunnel, too late to do anything about it, we worked together to keep an eye on the water level by the light of the fire as the old nanny dug in for all its worth. Of course, with sand being laid on the rails under the struggling drivers and a full head of steam in her belly we were making noisy but positive headway. But! With water in the kero, why should the sand be any different, as the sandpipes clogged we were just entering the confines of the tunnel and the inevitable happened - whooooooosh, massive, uncontrolled wheelspin and then to cap it off, the old girl picked up the water and primed crazily. PW quickly responded and shut the throttle, simultaneously opening the cylinder cocks in an effort to arrest the wheelspin, but the damage was done - the fire had turned over, the bank, so diligently fought for to be kept at the rear of the firebox - was all up the front.

It didn’t take long for the steam to start dropping as I struggled to get the fire back in order and PW assisted as much as he could while still keeping the train under control. It became a battle of men and machine as we battled on into the night with no lights, no whistle and what was beginning to look like no hope! It was impossible to get the fire right and the steam pressure was wavering dangerously low to applying the brakes, keeping a safe level of water in the sight glass was a top priority and we struggled on into the night, eventually limping into Gosford a sad and sorry lot with PW and myself looking like black and white minstrels and Nanny 3510 struggling on her last breaths of steam with water hovering just above the low mark in the sight glass. This was a trip I was sure I'd never forget - and I never have!

Handing over the sad and sorry loco, PW and I knew there would be an inquiry, we found out a short time later that trials were run with 3510 and she was in a very sad state indeed. Apparently the blast pipe had dislodged, and damage to the locomotive was severe enough that in this late era of steam, she was condemned like so many of her sisters before (and shortly after), never to give the likes of us Eveleigh greenies any trouble ever again!