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In 1977 as a teenager, I spent a fortnight exploring the New South Wales railway system. My initial trip on that adventure was to Broken Hill and back, travelling on two famous named trains, the Silver City Comet and the Indian Pacific.

In August 2009 I decided to once more make the return rail journey to Broken Hill using CountryLink's weekly Broken Hill Outback Explorer. A pictorial account of this trip follows.

Click on outlined pictures (only) to view larger versions.

Day 1 (Monday) - Out to Broken Hill

at Orange station We caught the train at Katoomba, 25 minutes late from Sydney. Took a small supply of food to avoid the CountryLink buffet, which from past experience was not to our liking. However we found later in the trip that most of the food available was OK, apart from the hot meals.

A coal train with 82+DL+DL+DL was seen at Clarence. Stops were made at Lithgow, Bathurst and then Blayney which boasted triple 81's on the Cadia ore train, a GL+MZ on containers, and an 81 class stabled in the yard.

First stop for a break is Orange, where the train stays at the platform for about five minutes before reversing back to East Fork and resuming the journey westwards. From Orange onwards passengers are allowed (and encouraged) to detrain and have a stretch on the stations en-route.

orchards and Mt Canobolas Orchards at Nashdale, with Mount Canobolas in the background (right).

Noted some fairly rough track in a few places between Orange and Parkes. Elsewhere throughout the journey the ride was quite acceptable.

a good window seat We were booked next to a window pillar but with some vacant seats available, moved to a position with a better view. Engine noise in the dead centre of Xplorer cars is annoying, and those seats are generally avoided. There is a fair bit of creaking/banging throughout the cars from the drawgear and vestibule area, but other than that ride is good and the seats very comfortable.

level crossing Manildra Level crossing (right) on the western outskirts of Manildra.

Bumberry Waterholes was very low. There has obviously been some recent rain at just the right time of year, but many dams are still near empty.

Parkes Sub-terminal had an XR with three 48's on a grain train.

At Parkes there was a stop of several minutes for passengers to wander the station. The Sydney based train crew was relieved by a Dubbo crew here. After departure I noted a number of Cootes 48/830s in the Loco depot, along with the former Silverton spare parts hulks. An eastbound steel train with triple NR's was sitting at Goobang Junction.

colour near Conoble West of Parkes everything is green, with recent rain and quite a bit of water on the ground. Things must be looking hopeful for this year's winter crops.

The train was still late, so stops at Condobolin and Euabalong West were kept brief. At the latter, a short up train with SCT007+SCT015 was crossed. West of here there was a lot of wildlife, with emus, roos and feral goats seen scrambling away from the train.

east of Ivanhoe Some fast running and the truncated stops saw the train get back onto schedule. We timed a few 10km stretches at an average speed of 126 to 127 km/h, but I feel we were going faster in places.

The greenery never ends, even in the scrub country.

Ivanhoe station At Ivanhoe - a classic pre-cast concrete station, and an old goods crane still adorns the yard.

We were soon on the move again. Somewhere near Darnick, at speed, the Xplorer bisected a flock of sheep and sliced a few up. Xplorer cars used on the Broken Hill run have added protection plates (visible in the photo) to guard against damage from inevitable animal strikes.

sunset approaching Menindee A colourful sunset greeted our approach to Menindee. With the onset of night, scenic delights west of here would have to wait until our morning return, to be revealed.

Below right - our train shortly after arrival at The Hill.

Below - wall art at Broken Hill railway station. The lighting is very cleverly done, with 'shadows' on the two paintings falling away from the overhead floodlight!

arrived at Broken Hill murals outside the station

Sulphide St museum
After dinner at a steakhouse, we walked around town and poked a camera through the fence at Sulphide Street museum. On the left can be seen an original Silver City Comet set that carried passengers over the route from Parkes to Broken Hill between 1937 and 1989.

Had a comfy nights sleep in 'The Grand Guest House', a previously run down old pub that has been refurbished and converted to a B&B.

Day 2 (Tuesday) - Broken Hill to home

Carl Scully's legacy Tuesday morning

clear road east Above - In 2002 the NSW Government re-launched their Broken Hill train with the name Silver City Xplorer, a tribute to the NSWGR's legendary Silver City Comet that once provided the service. However the current train is now more commonly marketed by CountryLink as the Broken Hill Outback Explorer.

Right - our train is prepared for departure, as fine weather and a clear road beckons our return eastward.

Mt Gipps area The sweeping curves past Mt Gipps. This area presents fantastic photo opportunities, but unfortunately not many trains. I did get a good shot of a 'Trailerail' train there a few years back.

At Kinalung we crossed solo NR56 on NY3 steel train.

dry Menindee Lakes Noted the barely visible former triangle at Horse Lake; there is little else remaining from the opening scenes of the film 'Wake in Fright'.

Right - the sorry sight of the still empty Menindee Lakes. I missed getting a photograph of the 'SAILING CLUB' without water...

Below right - Menindee is another classic station, with an Art Deco style awning.

Below - view from one of the bridges just east of Menindee.

Menindee station Darling River

waterhole Today I braved the buffet and it wasn't too bad. A good selection salads, sandwiches, pies, bickies etc; better than the very ordinary hot meals, I thought. Beer selection is Hahn Light only - why?

Right - Waterhole of life. Even spotted an echidna waddling away from the train near here.

smoko at IVANHOE Another leisurely 'smoko' stop at Ivanhoe. Not sure which way the camera is looking in this picture :-)

approaching Mt Hope Mt Hope surrounds

triangle Roto Above - parkland like scenery surrounds the slopes of Mount Hope.

Right - remains of the line to Hillston can be seen curving off to the south at Roto.

Below right - at Euabalong West the crew have a chat and turn a blind eye to us venturing off the platform for photos.

Euabalong West leg stretch

interior of EB 2512 Noticeable that the few young children on board were kept content, with plenty to see and enough time outside the train. No screaming, miserable toddlers to disturb other travellers.

Right - fish-eye view of the inside of EB2512 (car B). The train was moderately loaded, with enough spare seats to ensure that everyone got a decent window view.

having a chat Typical of the relaxed atmosphere at station stops, in this instance Condobolin.

curved platform, Condobolin The brick station with curved platform at Condobolin (right).

Parkes yard saw green loco's G539+G532 and 442s1+603 shunting, as well as a lone 48 class whose driver put on a 'clown act' as the 'Xploder' departed - stupid cheesy grin as he waved and honked the horn!

Once again the reversing manoeuvre and stop at Orange was completed without fuss. A halt at Blayney saw an empty yard. Darkness descended by Bathurst and no other trains were seen until Lithgow. The entire Tuesday journey from Broken Hill to Katoomba ran on (or ahead of) time.

Overall the trip was excellent. While CountryLink attracts a fair share of criticism, I think that with the Broken Hill Outback Explorer they have generally 'got it right' and the service is a credit to them. I'd recommend the ride to anyone.

If you missed my previous Feature page (to Walgett by goods train in 1974), and would like to take a look, click here.

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