Retrospectives transport

Smoke, steam, nostalgia: Steamrail Open Day 2014

The Steamrail Open Day a couple of weeks ago was good fun, though in some ways very similar to the previous one in 2012… But I’ll post some pics anyway.

This is a Tait train (“Red rattler”) — dating back to the 1910s, and very common when I was growing up, but phased-out in the 1980s.
Tait train (Steamrail Open Day 2014)

If you’ve ever wondered what the destination signs looked like from the inside, here it is. I was fascinated by these as a kid. Note the mirror allowing the operator to verify what was on the sign. These old painted canvas rolls are, of course, way more legible than most of the modern LED dot matrix varieties… and representations of them are now very common in home decorating. (You know, those big signs with white writing on a black background, and lots of words, not necessarily place names, all in a row.)
Tait destination roll (Steamrail Open Day 2014)

Sometimes it’s only by seeing things in the flesh that little details come back to you. In this case, I’d completely forgotten that the old red train manual doors had a catch, so it was easy to fix them in a position that let the air in, but wasn’t big enough for someone to fall out of.

Inside the old carriages you’ll find notices about the railway bylaws… in principle not so different from today’s.
Railway bylaws (Steamrail Open Day 2014)

Also of note, and in use until the 70s, are the Smoking and No Smoking sections. (This was from a diesel rail car.)
Smoking/No Smoking sections (Steamrail Open Day 2014)

Old and new (1)
Old and new (Steamrail Open Day 2014)

Old and new (2)
Old and new (Steamrail Open Day 2014)

I’m all for nostalgia, but it’s not hard to see that air pollution may have been one factor in phasing-out coal out of regular use on the railways (though I’m sure economics was the main driver). Well, kind of phased-out… it still powers our electric trains of course.
Smoke and steam (Steamrail Open Day 2014)

On the way home, the platform mirror at Footscray was in just the right position to catch this scene.
Platform mirror, Footscray station


Steamrail open day

I haven’t been to one of Steamrail’s open days before, but went along with my sister, her kids, and some friends.

I was most amused to find my nephew Leo happily shouting out engine numbers as they steamed past. I might have to get him an anorak and clipboard for his next birthday.

On a turntable, a few Steamrail volunteers were showing how to turn an engine by hand. Unlike in innumerable Thomas The Tank Engine stories, the turntable didn’t spin out of control making the engine moan with dizziness.
Train on turntable

Nearby were lined up a brand new shiny X’Trapolis train (not yet with Metro sticker on the front) and an older one marked “in testing”.
X'trapolis trains

Oh, hello Darling! A swing-door train, built in the 19th century, converted to electric power in the 1920s, and still running in service into the 1970s, now restored.
Swing-door train

One of those old cords that would apparently bring the train to a halt.
No smoking / Cord to stop the train

This Back To The Future Delorean was also on display… the same one seen recently at my friend Andrew’s 40th birthday party, and still very impressive. Apparently they earlier had set it up to recreate a scene from the 3rd movie.

A Hitachi carriage that appears to be being used for filming at present — presumably used for its interior.
Hitachi train used for filming

And of course there were various steam trains chuffing about the place.

Lots of fun. Recommended. (I hear they may not hold the same open days next year, but the next might be in 2014, due to a shortage of volunteers.)