A web exclusive story from Trains magazine

Streamliners 2016:

Australia

by Kevin Burkholder

Southern Shorthaul Railroad's specially painted Streamliners B Class locomotive, B61, is seen on the turntable at Goulburn Railroad Heritage Centre on Oct. 2 with the remainder of the streamliners surrounding it. Photo by Kevin Burkholder

Bulldogs. Cab units. Covered wagons. It doesn’t matter what continent they are on, early streamlined diesel designs still draw a raised eyebrow from railfans worldwide.

More than 16 years of planning came to fruition in Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia, during the first weekend in October, when more than 20 vintage streamlined locomotives gathered for “Streamliners 2016.”

The idea of a streamliner event “down under” dates to 2000. Credit goes to Bernie Baker, event organizer and Southern Shorthaul Railroad engineer, or “locomotive driver” in the local parlance. While working out of Melbourne, he began using a white board to try to figure out which locomotives were available and if he would be able to assemble them all at Melbourne’s South Dynon Locomotive Depot.

He would go on to work for other railroads in both South Australia and New South Wales, but the idea of gathering streamliners did not fade.

Baker, a perpetual planner, found another white board in 2011 and continued plotting the event that was still in its infancy. It wasn’t until a few years later that the idea really picked up steam, when Bernie’s wife Patricia gave him a round-trip airline ticket to the U.S. for a trip that coincided with the 2014 Streamliners at Spencer event at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Bernie knew he had to attend, as it was further motivation to carry out his longtime plan at home.

“Needless to say my trip to the U.S. in May 2014 took me to their gig in North Carolina,” he says. “It was brilliant and I came home with a couple of ideas, plus a few additions.”

With the help of a respectable network of friends and those in the industry, he thought, “Streamliners 2016 is going to happen.”

The plan rapidly moved forward with more than 30 locomotives under consideration for attendance. At one time a mainstay of the Australian railroad industry, many of the streamlined locomotives had been retired and sent to museums, but a fair number were still earning their keep for railroads across the country, including several for Southern Shorthaul, one of the many private freight carriers made possible by the nation’s open access system. In that system, the infrastructure is owned by the government, with private rail companies or carriers filing for “paths” to operate on a schedule. Australian Rail Track Corp., established in 1997, is the government-owned company that leases, maintains, and controls the majority of standard gauge trackage and routes for open-access operators such as Southern Shorthaul.

During the last year of planning, new locomotives from Australia’s EMD and GE affiliates – EDI Rail and UGL Rail, respectively – entered service, displacing the elder streamliners. The newer locomotives and shifting business trends allowed for the streamlined classes to be stored, sold, or, worse yet, scrapped.

Baker knew there was urgency to gather the remaining representatives of the dying classes of locomotives. In June 2015, Genesee & Wyoming Australia stored its fleet of GM Class locomotives, similar to the EMD E and F units; railroad company V/Line stored its last operating A Class, a dual-cab E unit; rail operator QUBE stored its 44 Class Goodwin/Alco locomotives, resembling Alco FAs; and rail company Aurizon sold off its fleet of CLF, CLP, and most of its 421 class locomotives, closely resembling E units. Those units went to a broker, destined for export or dismantling.

While the list of potential attendee locomotives grew, participation from a variety of heritage groups and individuals waned, reducing the overall number of locomotives to be assembled. As the list of equipment was finalized, the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre was chosen to host the prestigious congregation. Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre is located just a 2-hour drive from Sydney, has a roundhouse and turntable capable of handling more than 20 locomotives, and is situated in a town able to accommodate visitors with a variety of motels and restaurants.

Streamliners 2016 would be held during the Labour Day holiday weekend of Oct. 1-3 and would include equipment displays, excursion shuttles, two night-photo sessions – one coinciding with a fireworks display – and a variety of other activities, including a charity auction. Profits from ticket sales and proceeds from the charity auction would be donated 100 percent to the Starlight Foundation, an organization to help sick and hospitalized children in Australia.

Southern Shorthaul Railroad engineer Bernie Baker poses in front of locomotive B61 that carries a special paint scheme for the event and is named in his honor. Photo by John Kirk

Southern Shorthaul Railroad enlisted the services of Stave Malpass Designs to create a special paint scheme for the railroad’s B Class (model ML-1) double-cab locomotive that had already been named Bernie Baker, but was wearing a faded Southern Shorthaul Railroad yellow-and-black scheme. The new scheme would feature Malpass Designs’ previously created Streamliners 2016 logo, but would capture a vintage feel for the 64-year-old locomotive.

In the weeks leading up to Streamliners 2016, locomotives began moving toward Goulburn, including one of the country’s first streamlined locomotives, Commonwealth Railways GM1. The first streamlined locomotives to displace steam were South Australian Railways’ 900 class – locomotives that resembled an Alco PA-1, but were powered by a 16-cylinder English Electric prime mover. The 900 Class entered service in September 1951, just two weeks before the Clyde (EMD) GM1. Only three examples of the 900 class remain today and none were able to make Streamliners 2016. GM1, however, was essentially the secondary star of the show – behind the Streamliners 2016-painted SSR B61 locomotive. In November 1951, the GM1 rolled out of Clyde Engineering’s factory in Granville, Sydney, for the Commonwealth Railways.

The GM class was based on the United States-produced F-unit, though at the time, the American design was too heavy, wide, and high for Australia. Clyde solved the issues by stretching the frame to allow six-axle trucks (bogies) to reduce the axle load, removing a bit out of the middle to narrow them and a bit more from the sides to decrease the height. Thus was born the GM class or model ML-1 designation. The trucks are A1A with a 1,500-hp, 16-567B prime mover. The GM1 was acquired by Rail Heritage Western Australia, but had not yet been moved west from Adelaide, making it ideal for participation.

Similar designs would be represented in the CLP and 42-class locomotives. In addition to the Clyde/EMD styling, representatives from the Goodwin/Alco 'World Series' DL500B model would also be in attendance.

Several sponsorships from rail companies helped get equipment to and from the event. SCT logistics sponsored the GM1 unit, including its transfer from Adelaide and its eventual move to Western Australia, on the other side of the country. Pacific National was also more than helpful in providing the S306. This particular unit was an A7 broad gauge unit that Pacific National converted to standard gauge trucks and moved to the event at no cost.

“Pacific National was great to work with and their participation was a great gesture,” Baker says.

Southern Shorthaul Railroad's specially painted Streamliners B Class locomotive, B61, is seen on the turntable at Goulburn Railroad Heritage Centre on Oct. 2 with the remainder of the streamliners surrounding it. Photo by Kevin Burkholder

The list of equipment on display for the weekend included:

  • GM1 Clyde/EMD ML-1 - ‘Robert Gordon Menzies’ (Rail Heritage WA – Commonwealth Railways livery)
  • 4204 Clyde/EMD A-7 (Lachlan Valley Railway – Indian Red livery)
  • 42101 Clyde/EMD A-7 (privately owned – Indian Red livery)
  • 4490 Goodwin/Alco DL500B (Transport Heritage – Indian Red livery)
  • 4477 Goodwin/Alco DL500B ‘Dave Jones’ (Qube – CFCLA livery)
  • B65 Clyde/EMD ML-2 (Southern Shorthaul Railroad – Auscision Models livery)
  • S302 Clyde/EMD A-7 ‘Edward Henty’ (Southern Shorthaul Railroad – SSR El Zoro livery)
  • S306 Clyde/EMD A-7 (Pacific National – Pacific National standard livery)
  • S317 Clyde/EMD A16C (Southern Shorthaul Railroad – SSR New livery)
  • S300 Clyde/EMD A-7 (Espee Railroad Services – CFCLA livery)
  • 4486 Goodwin/Alco DL500B (Lachlan Alco Locomotive Group ‘LALG’ – Indian Red livery)
  • B61 Clyde/EMD ML-2 ‘Bernie Baker’ (Southern Shorthaul Railroad – Streamliners 2016 livery)
  • GM10 Clyde/EMD ML-1 (Southern Shorthaul Railroad – SSR Old livery)
  • GM19 Clyde/EMD A16C (RailPower – Australian National green and yellow livery)
  • CLP11 Clyde/EMS AT26HC-2M (Aurizon – QR National yellow, black, and maroon livery)
  • 42105 Clyde/EMD A-7 (Aurizon – Interal blue, yellow, and white livery)
  • 4461 Goodwin/Alco DL500B (QUBE – ‘Red Terror’ livery)
  • GM27 Clyde/EMD A16C (Southern Shorthaul Railroad – SSR New livery)
  • S311 Clyde/EMD A16C (Espee Railroad Services – CFCLA livery)
  • 4464 Goodwin/Alco DL500B (Lachlan Alco Locomotive Group ‘LALG’ – Indian Red livery)

Much of the equipment was moved to the venue for the festivities, while some was already at the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre. The Lachlan Valley Railway, located about 100 miles north of Goulburn, sent its two Goodwin/Alco DL500B locomotives on Saturday morning; they were used for shuttle excursion trains all weekend, as well as a Saturday night dinner train.

“By far the biggest moves involved Southern Shorthaul Railroad, which included moving five units from Lithgow to Parkes, then eight units from Parkes to Goulburn,” Baker says of the more than 300 mile treks. “Of course, after the show was the return of nine units from Goulburn.”

“It was not a case of ‘yeah, we’ll haul those units for you,’” he says. Interface agreements were needed with the owners of the other locomotives, including Pacific National’s S306, Lachlan Valley Railway’s 4204, and Rail Heritage Western Australia’s GM1.

“I was very fortunate the Southern Shorthaul Railroad was behind the event from its inception,” Baker says. “That included the willingness for them to haul locomotives that they didn’t own.”

Southern Shorthaul Director Jason Ferguson and Safety and Compliance Manager Paul Quinn put in a lot of their own time to help make the event happen, Baker says. Ferguson was also instrumental in securing Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. insurance brokers to insure the event.

The Lachlan Valley Railway operated an Oct. 2 afternoon dinner train using one of its two Goodwin/Alco DL500B locomotives. The dinner train climbs out of Goulburn on its way to Bungendore, New South Wales. Photo by Kevin Burkholder

Baker wanted the Australian event to be hands-on and visitors were able to get up close and personal – in fact able to enter the cabs of two locomotives – and be photographed beside or in the streamliners throughout the weekend. The program included several units being moved from their position around the Heritage Centre turntable and turned for photos, as well as a daily locomotive sound off (horn blowing). Daily tour trains using Alco streamliners were operated round trip to Tarago, with a dinner train to Bungendore on Sunday afternoon. Other highlights were a barbeque dinner, charity auction, guest rail speakers, a night photo session that included fireworks, and cab tours of select locomotives. 

With unpredictable weather through Saturday, clear skies prevailed by the evening, and a night photo session complete with fireworks for a backdrop was the highlight of the day. On Sunday, clear skies brought a larger crowd, which was entertained by the afternoon locomotive sound off.

The Saturday night photo session was coordinated to include fireworks, with flash lighting illuminating the specially painted Southern Shorthaul B61 on the turntable and the remaining streamliner units in the background. The ‘Bernie Baker’ B61 wears the Streamliner paint scheme applied just weeks before the big weekend event. Photo by Kevin Burkholder

By the end of the weekend, more than 2,000 visitors – representing all states of Australia, as well as Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. – had paid homage to the streamlined locomotives and more than $6,000 had been raised for the Starlight Foundation. An additional $1,000 was donated by Bevan Wall video productions, which provided video coverage and recently released a Streamliners 2016 DV. Film and production crews from the Discovery Channel were on hand and will use the Streamliners 2016 event to launch Season 2 of the Railroads Australia television series, which will debut in March 2017.

“The festival was like a ‘family gathering’ as most people seemed to know each other,” says attendee Christoph Grimm from Berlin. “This is different from the large festivals in Europe. But this made the festival very nice as we were quickly introduced in the Australian rail scene.”

Grimm adds, “We noticed that the festival was organized mostly by individuals and no large organization. This provided a very personal and passionate atmosphere, which we enjoyed very much, but clearly limited the possibilities [compared to] what could be achieved when you have a large organization team and financial background. This is a difference to many countries in Europe, where you have simply more railfan power.

“Overall I think it was a real ‘Aussie rail event:’ very passionate, wonderful atmosphere, and very personal. The private initiative of Bernie Baker and his friends stands absolutely out and such an initiative is seldom found in Europe.”

More than 100 volunteers did everything from washing locomotives to ticket sales, acted as hosts and provided safety oversight to make sure guests stayed within allotted boundaries.

“Ever since I joined the job in 1982, I’ve been working Streamliners,” Baker says. “It was a case of getting the Streamliners all together while we can.

“Would I do it again? You bet.”