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35 years since the end of SMR steam

Sydney / New South Wales Transport Discussion

35 years since the end of SMR steam

Postby Special_K » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:08 pm

10 June marks 35 years since the last steam hauled coal train operated on the South Maitland Railway.

For 90 years from 1893 to 1983, private steam locos exchanged loads with government locos at East Greta Exchange Sidings near Maitland. The full history of SMR coal, freight and passenger operations can be read in several publications. Most information for this post has been obtained from “South Maitland Railways” by Peter Attenborough, Eveleigh Press, 2001, and personal experience.
To quote/paraphrase from this book commencing at page 114.
“On 3 June 1983, in a somewhat unexpected move, termination notices were issued to the 58 SMR staff directly involved with locomotive operations. This edict followed secret talks between Coal and Allied Limited (controlling share of SMR) and the State Rail Authority (SRA), and were timed to take effect from Friday, 10 June 1983. ……. strike action was futile……. Train operations during the next week proved to be spasmodic, as further unrelated strike action closed the Pelton loader for several days.

On the morning of 10 June 1983, three locos were steamed. No. 18 was lit up as a standby loco, while Nos. 31 and 22 were rostered on the 6.00am and 7.00am Neath Services respectively. Both locos conveyed empty hoppers on the outward journey. No. 31 hauled a loaded train on the return, while No.22 followed some hours later as an engine and brakevan movement.
A large crowd of company employees, media and rail enthusiasts was on hand at East Greta Junction to witness the final moments of steam operations om the SMR. Later that day, all serviceable locomotives were placed in the engine shed, which was immediately secured by fixed metal grills.”

As at the final day, the 10-class fleet were distributed as follows:
• Nos. 17, 26, 27 and 28 at Hexham for shunting and working the former RVR railway to Stockrington No. 2 Colliery.
• Nos 19, 23 and 25 in the East Greta Junction workshops.
• Nos. 10, 18, 20, 22, 24, 30 and 31 in the East Greta Junction engine shed.
Almost immediately the Heritage Council of NSW was granted a Section 130 Preservation Order that covered most of the SMR complex at East Great Junction, including the still fully functional workshops.
Although SMR loco operations staff were dismissed, some thirty signalers, track maintenance employees, administration and workshop staff continued the payroll. Following an approach to the Miners Federation, many train crew took up an offer to work at the Hunter Valley No. 1 colliery between Singleton and Muswellbrook.
Workshop personnel continued to undertake full-time maintenance on the steam locomotive fleet at East Greta Junction workshops until 12 December 1983, when some staff were transferred to Hexham for routine maintenance on the 10 class locos working from that location. Some SMR staff remained at the East Greta Junction workshops, but their involvement was restricted to major overhauls and work requiring the sophisticated machinery at that site.
The site has since developed into the Hunter Valley Training Company ".
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Re: 35 years since the end of SMR steam

Postby Special_K » Mon Jun 11, 2018 7:02 pm

The SMR post the steam era
At the time of the takeover of operations by the SRA, only Pelton Colliery and the Neath Coal Plant were loading coal trains. While Pelton trains were typically 30 bogie coal wagons, Neath was usually 15 wagons.
The first SRA coal train to operate over SMR metals ran direct from Port Waratah to the loader at Pelton during the afternoon of Tuesday 14 June 1983. It was operated as No.1041 coal worked by branchline locos 4822+4893, a brakevan, twenty BCH hoppers and another brakevan at the rear.
Although the SRA assumed operations using its own locos, wagons, and crews, SMR employees continued to staff the remaining signal boxes at East Greta Junction and Neath in addition to workshop and administration staff. It is interesting to note that 35 years later, in 2018, SMR staff are still based at East Greta Junction signal box to issue the ordinary train staff to Pelton and cross trains as required.
Vale SMR steam, long may your legacy live!

P.S. South Maitland Railways is planning to celebrate its centenary later this year.

There is further information to post about SMR safeworking in the diesel era. However, given the lack of replies, this topic may be more appropriate in a rail forum!
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Re: 35 years since the end of SMR steam

Postby tonyp » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:59 am

Being involved in those events at the time, one amusing memory stands out. I was at the loco shed at Hexham talking to, iirc, the workshop foreman about preserving some rolling stock. I said to him as we gazed out on a sea of wooden coal hoppers parked in the sidings, it would be good to identify the oldest hopper to consider whether it might be worth keeping and I wondered which one it was among the mass in front of us. He replied that, yes indeed he had identified the oldest hopper because he had the dated builder's plate on his mantelpiece at home but he didn't know which wagon it was out there. Doh :roll:
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Re: 35 years since the end of SMR steam

Postby Tonymercury » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:13 am

You'd probably be lucky if even some of the metal, other than the builder's plate, was original!
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