Seven years ago, it was a loose aspiration – a ‘festival’ of streamliner locomotives to evoke that which had transpired at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina during May/June 2014. Well-known Australian locomotive driver Bernie Baker was there, and was immediately struck by the notion, “We could do this!”
And so was born that aspiration – Streamliners … Australia. That event finally happened in October 2016 and was covered in the November 2016 issue of this magazine. It was a great success but it was to also the beginning of a movement. Out of the event the Streamliners Australia organisation formed. Led by Bernie, that organisation launched a GoFundMe campaign to save locomotive CLP10 which, in its original form, entered Commonwealth Railways service in 1972 as the last-built Electro-Motive Division (EMD) streamliner anywhere in the world. The campaign was a success, and in June 2018 CLP10 – eventually to be restored back to its CL17 configuration – was formally acquired. My own involvement with the movement largely began around 2019 when I set up the organisation’s website and began working with the group to reach new audiences and promote our activities.
Since then, most of the organisation’s focus has been on the CL17 restoration at Cootamundra, although time was found to organise a rail-fan tour from Sydney to Bathurst and return in July 2019 with 1952-vintage Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR) streamliners B61 and GM10. From quite early on, however, running a second Streamliners event was another aspiration. But as 2019 gave way to 2020, the world changed.
Streamliners 2016 vs 2022
The challenges of putting together a display of historic locomotives are one thing, putting a collection together that includes several representatives actively engaged in daily commercial service is another level of tough altogether. As Streamliners 2021 evolved into Streamliners 2022 (thank you COVID!), it was becoming clear that this was a different world to the one in which Streamliners 2016 had manifested. Crucially, since 2020, the breaking of the drought in eastern Australia has meant bumper grain crops and thus a huge burden on operating locomotives and rolling stock right across the industry. Streamliners 2016 largely got by on the generosity of commercial operators who, at that time, had streamliners to spare. This was no longer the case.
One avenue Streamliners 2022 chose to pursue was to expand the scope of the event to also commemorate the centenary of the United States-based Electro-Motive Corporation, which after a few short years would evolve into the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors – builder of the original streamliner diesels on which Clyde Engineering would base their Australian products, and many more besides. To that end, StreamlinersAustralia ‘went shopping’ for a number of celebrity EMD locomotives to broaden the appeal of the event and help make up the numbers around the turntable. At one point, it seemed that Progress Rail and Pacific National committed to providing Progress Rail-liveried LDP005, but that unfortunately fell through. Other negotiations also fell through, for however noble were the intentions, the cost of laying up a vital operational asset for three or four days, could prove extremely costly. Ultimately the ‘EMD centenary’ component of the display would come from a selection of several G8/G18 type branch-liners – appropriate since, along with the early streamliners, these models were an early success for the Clyde/EMD partnership in Australia and many examples still operate today. In the end, it was mostly through the support of Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR), Lachlan Valley Railway (LVR), Seymour Rail Heritage Centre (SRHC), Transport Heritage NSW and a number of individual locomotives owners that Streamliners 2022 was able to go ahead.
Although promotions via the www.streamlinersaustralia.org.au website, Facebook and other avenues for the event began well in advance of the big weekend, publicity was really ramped up on Facebook about five to six weeks out, posting to community, regional and “what’s on” groups about the event and what visitors could expect to see. This gave Streamliners Australia a direct link to its potential market in terms of answering questions and providing follow-up information while also raising awareness among the general public.
A week out
Gathering the exhibits occurred over several days leading up to the event, although several of the exhibits – be they permanent residents (961, 4906, CLP11, CLP13 and GM19) or merely on site for stabling and maintenance (42101) – had already been onsite for a while. Movement kicked off on Tuesday 27 September when 4201 and 4306 departed the NSW Rail Museum at Thirlmere for transfer down to Goulburn. Early the following morning, the SRHC contingent got underway from Seymour with S303, P22, T387 and T357 setting off for Junee, where they arrived after midday. Here, LVR’s 4204 was added to the mix, coupled behind S303, before the train continued on to Cootamundra for the night. By this time two late scratchings had been made known: privately owned 42103 was ensconced in grain workings up north while S300, also privately owned, could not be transferred up from Canberra, where it has been undergoing return to operation for a couple of years. These were partly offset by the even later addition to the exhibit ‘guest list’ of SSR’s S311 from Cootamundra.
The next morning saw SSR’s CLP9 and the aforementioned S311, together with Streamliner Australia’s own CL17, added to their rear of the SRHC consist before the movement departed mid-morning for Goulburn, where it arrived that afternoon. Meanwhile, SSR’s GM10 took over the haulage of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) AK test train in Lithgow that morning and hauled the cars over the Blue Mountains to Sydney and then south to Moss Vale. Here the train was met by S303, which had departed Goulburn almost as soon as it deposited the other units in the roundhouse precinct. Late on the Thursday night, Lachlan ALCo Locomotive Group (LALG) locomotives 4473 and 4464 along with LVR’s Goninan/Hitachi branch-liner 4716 arrived in Goulburn with three FS-type wooden sitting cars. 4464 was despatched to the roundhouse while the rest of the train stabled in Goulburn yard ahead of two days of planned shuttle trips between Goulburn and Tarago.
At dawn on the Friday, S303 and GM10 worked the AK cars down to Dombarton from Moss Vale to assess the completed repairs to the flood damaged Moss Vale to Unanderra line. The train later returned to Moss Vale where the locomotives were coupled back to back before continuing on to Enfield. After stabling the AK set, S303 and GM10 then operated light engine back to Goulburn that evening, by which time a veritable crowd of rail fans had descended on the station to see the duo arrive in light rain.
Prior to the gates opening at 8:00am on Saturday 1 October, S303 and GM10 were shunted into the two vacant spots around the turntable while CLP9 was then moved onto the turntable itself to play ‘centrepiece’ for the day. With CLP9 in place on the turntable, the arrangement of locomotives around the turntable was (in order, clockwise from north to south) at ‘gates open’ was as follows:
LALG’s 4473 joined the collection for Day 3 following the completion of Sunday’s Tarago shuttles.
From the very beginning there came a steady stream of rail fans and members of the general public through the gates as soon as they opened at 8:00am. The coffee truck opened early too, while the Transport Heritage Australia live miniature steam rides soon had brisk business ongoing – they were still running well after dark that evening, and were a massive hit with kids large and small. Overnight, the collection of full-sized ‘1:1 scale’ beasts had been joined by four 184mm (or 7¼ inch) gauge replicas from Victoria: B67, B84, A66 and CL9, and these also drew many admirers.
I was part of the team staffing the merchandise stand inside the roundhouse and we were swamped as soon as the EFTPOS was connected up, such that about three-quarters of our stock had sold out by early afternoon – stock that had been intended to see us through three days of trading. Bernie led opening speeches at 10:00am while Streamliners Australia volunteer staff wandered the crowds providing guidance, answering questions, and at various times revving up, or sounding off the horn on several of our exhibits locomotives. The day’s only real hiccup occurred mid-afternoon when a broken rail in Goulburn Yard caused the minor derailment of 4473, and thus the cancellation of the day’s second LVR Tarago shuttle. However, 4473 was quickly re-railed and the shuttles were able to resume operation the following day.
The weather for the day was cool with alternating (almost on the hour!) periods of sun and cloud occasionally peppered by brief rain squalls (which would inevitably cause a rush at the merch stand). The weather had settled by sunset as the turntable was roped off for the planned fireworks. The crowd had largely disappeared by this time, but began to build up again after sunset as visitors – new and returning – arrived for the charity auction and the promise of streamliner-style pyrotechnics. Several canvas prints and a pair of HO scale CL Class models were auctioned off before the fireworks got underway at 8:00pm, bringing the curtain down on a massive Day 1.
Weather for Days 2 and 3 was somewhat calmer and certainly less testing, while locomotives were occasionally shifted around to ‘mix up’ the order of exhibits a little; for example, S303 replaced CLP9 on the turntable on the Sunday, while as mentioned earlier, 4473 joined the collection on Monday due to no scheduled LVR Tarago shuttles. As well as being featured on Goulburn radio during the event lead up, The Goulburn Postdropped by to cover proceedings over the weekend with Streamliners Australia Secretary, Andrew Goonpan, telling the paper, “Goulburn really is the ideal spot because it’s the only place in Australia that has a roundhouse large enough to accommodate 19 locos.”
Following the event, most of the locomotives hung around for a few days, with the first departures being 4201 and 4306 for the NSW Rail Museum at Thirlmere late on the morning of Thursday 6 October, while at the same time S303 was positioned at the head of P22, T357, T387, S311, CLP9 and CL17 in Goulburn Yard for departure the following Saturday. The final three units would be dropped off in Cootamundra before the remaining four continued on to Seymour. CLP11, CLP13, GM19, 4204, 42101 and 4906 were to remain in Goulburn for the time being while 4464, 4473 and branch liner 4716 (which had remained in Goulburn Yard during the weekend) would soon enough return to LVR’s busy schedule of operations.
Although there were logistical and organisational challenges, even in the days leading up to the event, and the weather tested the patience of staff and visitors on Day 1, the Streamliners 2022 event was a complete success. Stumbles were few and quickly rectified, safety was prioritised and preserved, vital funds were raised to cover the event, provide a sizable donation to Limbs 4 Kids and to support the restoration of CL17. And importantly, visitors had themselves a time – kids old and not so old were all smiles and many people I spoke to personally commented on not only how much they enjoyed the visit, but on the positive vibe the occasion left them with. All in all, Streamliners Australia sold 1,645 tickets for the weekend – prepaid and at the gate – for an estimate visitor count of 1,954, taking into account family tickets.
So, what is next? Well, in the short term, completing the restoration of CL17 is paramount. As many visitors to Streamliners 2022 can attest, she sounds great when powering, and it is plainly clear to any who look upon the locomotive how much work has gone into the body work. Next is to get her moving and complete the cosmetic restoration. Then, it will be hard to not stop, stare, smile and gape when the completed project begins roaring up and down our mainlines.
As for our longer-term plans? Well, without wishing to give too much away, I would advise you to keep the 2024 October Long Weekend free. That’s all I’ll say for now.
The Streamliners Australia team would like to offer deepest thanks to the following groups and individuals for the vital support given us, that just so happened to ensure that Streamliners 2022 could go ahead: