The first installment of Teditor’s Tales was published in the September 2003 issue of Train Talk, over the last twelve months, I have covered quite a few ‘happenings’ whilst serving on the New South Wales Government Railways, from the instigation of my employ through many peculiar incidents and some rather different, but always interesting occurrences.

It was interesting to hear recently, a comment that I was repeating myself in some stories, looking back through the items thus far published, I was unable to come up with the same conclusion, but! The comment prompted me to check my credence and that in no uncertain manner was a good thing.

There have been some quite positive comments on the Teditor’s Tales series, and for these I am most grateful, unfortunately, my time on the railway was too short to be classified as a lifetime, and it may not be all that long before I run out of ‘Tales’ to tell. Of course, I will endeavour to prolong the agony of my story telling as long as feasible. Whatever! Please do not hesitate to let me know if you enjoy or otherwise what I put to paper - any comment is a worthwhile one!

Lets head off to a small depot this month, for six months I was ‘displaced’ to the Western Branch Terminus known as Richmond, this line was a busy one with constant commuter shuffles to and from Richmond to Blacktown, the Sydney connection to the Richmond line where the electrification ended for this scenic addition. The main west line continued on through Penrith and into the picturesque Blue Mountains where the electrification went right through to Lithgow.

The Richmond line had some unique operational problems, home to several ‘S’ class 4-6-4 Tank engines and CPH Railmotors, the lines main livelihood was the transport of passengers to and from Sydney connections at Blacktown. Peak traffic in the morning saw passengers heading into the big smoke for work, and in the afternoon, the reverse shuffle took place.

The 30 class tank locos generally handled the morning and afternoon peak hour rushes, while the tiny CPH Railmotors shuffled back and forth throughout the day handling the shopping traffic to and from Blacktown.

One train each morning went right through from Richmond to Sydney, usually headed up by a ‘P’, (32 class) 4-6-0 tender engine, with a mirrored return in the evening. This was of course “THE” express, and only a few selected stops were made along the way.

The 30 class tank locos were limited in their coal and water capacities, the water was no real problem, as the tanks would be topped up at each end of the line, an engine might do two round trips during a peak session, and the limited coal capacity created an unusual situation to get the best utilization out of the engines and make the ‘fuelies’ job a little more comfortable.

The Fuelie? He was the poor soul that had to hand shovel coal from S trucks into the tank engines bunkers, the scenario of the trips meant a call to the coal loading facility every trip - unless!

Innovation and co-operation on the part of the Fuelie and the loco crews came up with a unique cure to this restrictive nature of the tank locomotives so revered on the Richmond Line.

The 30 class versatility of being able to run equally as well in reverse as it could running forward was the main characteristic that kept these engines viable on such jobs, with no locomotive turning required, the trains turnaround time was quite quick, except for the recoaling delay at the Richmond end.

The solution, load extra supplies of coal on board to eliminate the intermediate coaling. The way this was achieved was little short of astounding. You have probably heard of “Hungry Boards”, these were usually additions to the top sides of the coal bunker on a tender to increase the coal carrying capacity. The 30 class had a similar thing in extra height of the coal bunker through the addition of metal strapping secured above the original hopper, this gave a little more coal to be used. The “Hungry Board” theory was extended at Richmond by the addition of two boards wedged between the handrails and the tank of the locomotive. These would allow the fuelman to fill the cab with coal to a height basically level with the firebox door.

Although somewhat inconvenient for the driver and fireman in some ways, the discomfort soon paid dividends in the extra rest time the crews, and the fuellie, were able to get between turnarounds on the Richmond end of the Journey.

The initial firing of the engine would mean basically scraping coal along into the firebox until the level was down enough to fire in the conventional manner off the floor. With their 4-6-4 wheel arrangement, the tanks engines versatility really shone on this line, timetable running was comparable in either direction as the locomotives performed equally well smokebox or bunker first.

The 32 class headed ‘express’ would stable at Richmond overnight and the engine would be serviced, and turned ready for its morning departure. This was an exciting journey for the crew, the run from Blacktown to Sydney affording the chance to ‘pace’ and/or ‘race’ the suburban electrics over a good part of the distance. It was an exhilarating feeling to be perched on the handrail of the bucking 8 wheel tender, arm firmly embracing the handbrake lever, looking like the ultimate hero as close to a mile a minute went by.

On a more mundane note, the Richmond line also had a major industry in the Riverstone Meat Works where usually a humble TF 50 series 2-8-0 goods engine would serve duty. The amount of shunting at the meatworks would keep these jobs well and truly busy with the early hours of the morning usually seeing the inbound loads delivered and the afternoon/evening handling the outbound finished products. The loads created by this industry could be quite large at times, taxing the 50’s to their limit on the undulating branch line.

Through the middle of the day, the CPH Railmotors, single, tandem or even tripled would ply their trade back and forth until it came time to make way for ‘the rush’ of the locomotive hauled trains.