The 48 class  Alco diesel locomotives on the NSWGR’s were (and still are) an important part of the motive power pool, known affectionately as half a locomotive due to their meagre horsepower rating of around nine hundred from their inline six cylinder diesel engine, these locomotives were virtually unstoppable, their 900hp going into six traction motors designed for much more powerful locomotives (ie; 44 class).

The South Coast line to Bomaderry was an early stronghold for these locomotives, their low axle loadings, and small physical size allowed them to venture anywhere on the lines and if more power was needed, just multiple unit two, three or more and tailor the locomotive to what you needed whilst still keeping the low axle loading.

I can still remember one of the tactic’s needed to run the South Coast all stoppers to the timetable, jobs originally held down by the P class 4-6-0’s, or 32’s as they were numbered.

After stopping at a station, the driver would anticipate the right-o-way, and open up the throttle of the loco to eight notch, slow to load up, the loco would start to belch black smoke, the right-o-way would be given, brakes released, and kicking and bucking like a wild bronco, the 48 would slowly find its feet and get underway, a bit of sand would help eliminate any likelihood of wheel-slip (not that there was a real big chance of that happening). These remarkable locomotives would take this treatment in their stride, day in and day out.

Because of the low horsepower available (by usual mainline standards), a driver would have to anticipate hills much more vigilantly than if the engine was a 44 class or such with around double the horses. This could lead to another interesting event, collecting a staff. The station name eludes me, but just out of Wollongong, after the Port Kembla line deviated, the line to Bomaderry became staff and ticket single line working. A staff was (rarely is these days) a metal tube with circular rings around it at various spacings, there were miniature staffs (secured in a bamboo/leather hoop) and the standard size staff.

In general, the miniature staff in the hoop was easier to exchange, the fireman/observer (usually) would take position behind the driver outside the cabin door and brace himself against the short railing. At this particular station, only the pick-up of a staff was required, straightforward enough, and no problem with a passenger train, because you were stopped. But with a full load on a goods train or milk train, most drivers would get a run-up for the grade that begun just beyond the platforms end.

I full remember one day as I stepped out onto my perilous perch, the 48’s exhaust crackling behind my head with a pawl of black smoke streaming skyward - terror - I can’t do this, I said to the driver, it’s too @#$%^&* fast.

With the throttle still in eighth notch and momentum building up, the driver ushered me out of the way and took position in readiness to collect the staff. With his arm outstretched, the hoop went over his arm in a beautifully executed catch, both the speed, and hence force, of the manoeuver, flung him around and the staff could be heard plain as day above the cacophony of the roaring diesel - kawump! As it struck the side of the locomotives long hood.

Stepping back into the cab, see - nuthin’ to it! He shakingly stated, I don’t know what the actual speed was, but it sure as hell felt like a hundred miles per hour, whatever it was, I never faced quite the same pace to pick up the staff at that station with that driver again!

One Easter Weekend, I worked the milk train from Sydney to Bomaderry, power on this occasion being one of the more powerful 44 class diesel locomotives with quite a bit more horsepower at hand. Being Easter, several additional passenger trains had been scheduled to the South Coast as all along the route was beautiful beaches and the end of the line at Bomaderry was a real tourist attraction.

Having started sometime after midnight on the Friday, our arrival in Bomaderry was relatively early in the morning, we had pulled into the station and were receiving instructions from the guard as to our shunting moves. The guard, on my side of the loco related the moves required, stating that when we pulled forward onto the old wooden trestle in readiness to set-back to the dairy, be careful - as due to the Easter extra’s, there were a couple of trainsets stored on the other side.

I turned to repeat the instructions to the driver, but he was right behind me - did you get all that, I quipped? Yep! No problem - and away we went. We were on the No 2 end of the Alco and visibility couldn't have been better, except we were both looking back for the guard as we stepped out onto the creaking old timber trestle.

I looked around to check our position and noticed the driver with his head out the window intently watching the guards signals, then they caught my eye - just off the bridge, the old wooden car set loomed up, I summonsed the drivers attention, but it was too late, with the brakes in emergency, the 100+ tonne locomotive pushed by several milk vans careered into the end of the carriage and commenced to manufacture matchsticks. It wasn’t the all-mightiest crash in the world, and as far as the 44 class was concerned, it was just a love tap - the old wooden coach on the other hand looked like Mohamed Ali had taken to it!

Did you forget about the carriages I asked of the driver, “I didn’t know anything about them, he replied!”, But! But! I stuttered back! The inquiry found me at fault because I hadn’t relayed the message to the driver word for word, his - OK! - meant nothing.