24 December 2016

Same spot, different times

I have been pondering the essence of locomotive depots recently - what is absolutely essential, what is probably needed and what is otherwise nice to have. This pondering led me to think a little about Dubbo's depot - which was pretty small (geographically speaking) relative to most other NSW loco depots. And this pondering even led me to assemble a montage of photographs, taken from nearly the same spot over the last 50+ years. 

I won't bore you with all the photographs - lets just have a look at one every 10 years or so.  What has struck me is the weird stuff - things moving around and other things just hanging around long past use-by dates.

Lets start with a baseline in January 1967 - this shot is a bit closer than the others I will post. Apart from showing 3649 and a P class shunting a S wagon with a very clean tarp, the position is clear from the palm tree and the edge of the signal gantry.  At this time there is the old shed in the process of falling apart, alongside the newer shed.  A line of buildings forms the northern edge.

Fast forward to May 1979 and... it is eerily similar.  OK, the old shed 'fell down' but we have steam era gantries and buildings.  The trees remain and a steam boiler balances on its end further down the yard as a sanding tower.

Jump forward to October 1987 and there has been some change - the diesel fuel pad has been installed and the steam boiler has wandered westward to a position adjacent to the pad. The shed is still there, and so are the trees.  Hey, there is even a S wagon in the shade of the shed.

Next stop, 1997. The shed, fuel pad, sanding tower and even the S wagon are still all there. What's new? The locos are larger - 8213 almost seems to be cramped inside the fuel pad. And those trees - is that new growth?

Onto 2005. Shed, tick. Fuel pad, tick. Wandering sanding tower, tick.  The trees look healthy- even the one which has grown in front of the shed in the right of way - so the shed is there but not being used? At least the western end of the shed is not accessible. And our S wagon (I am presuming it is the same one) has traveled back down its track to the eastern end of the shed.

OK, last one - 2012. The sanding tower has gone, so has the S wagon. The buildings that remain are boarded up. The western end of the shed is no longer obscured by foliage and the palm trees look like they have had a haircut. Has there been a renaissance for the shed? Sadly, no. zoom in and you may be able to pick out the fine lines of mesh across its entrance.  A close check of the roof gives an indication of its purpose - it is a very large pigeon loft.

So, I could go on and on and on but it is Christmas and we all have better things to do. In a reductionist world, what is the essence of a NSWGR loco depot? I think it could be palm trees and S wagons.  All the rest is relatively impermanent! 

Merry Christmas folks!


  1. Love the sand tower.
    Obviously a left over from a Saturn V .

    1. Haha! I had a similar thought. Just think of the logistics of balancing one of those boilers, and estimating its stability when full or half full of sand.

  2. Hi Don. Merry Christmas to you

    It's Always interesting to compare era's and a ten year leap does justice to how a real operating railway becomes all but a ghost train setting.

    A trip to many small depots used to find neat and tidy situations, even in the dirt of steam days the gardens and areas were generally kept clean, although what seemed at times to be rubbish lying around was often items that were used frequently and therefore placed in strategic positions safely away for walking paths.

    Railway men took pride in their job and the location usually showed it especially when considered the cab or depot was their home away from home, there were many with prize winning gardens and Dubbo had some nice neat ones, but as staff faced uncertain times and many positions lost, there was basically no one left to do anything other than the bare necessities, even to the point where a lock up box contained the sign on book and crews working sheet.

    The S truck. An essential item for a loco depot and why was it moved? During steam days, more than one was around as they were used for ash from the pits and also for general rubbish but also one was always on hand to be filled with old brake shoes and other items that would be sent to foundaries for recycling.

    1. Hi Col,

      Happy New Year!

      Many thanks for your comments, especially about the S truck. If/when I ever get around to re-establishing my model layout (which is based on a cut-down version of Dubbo and the Coonamble line) I will have a better idea of what junk to shove into my resident S truck.

      Looking forward to many more posts from all readers in 2017!


  3. Hi Don Can i use these Dubbo photos on NSWHRSI please?