Sunday, September 20, 2009

A visit to the dentist......

Wow, has it really been 3 months? Time flies when your not writing blog entries evidently but hope is at hand, heres a new one about my trip to the dentist today.

This normally isn't a big issue for me- I go every year for a check and its always been quite painless financially, physically and mentally. Not today. For starters I had a call at 9am to remind me that I had an appointment at 2am. A reminder call is an excellent idea, especially given the next appointment is normanlly made straight after the examination and that its made a year advance. The problem was, my working hours had shifted slightly from last year meaning I no longer have Mondays free. Could I re-schedule? Sure, if I was willing to wait another 6 months.......

Anyhow, I duly turned up at the appointed time, at which point the receptionist told me I was meeting with the Hygenist (Glorified tooth brusher) as opposed to my regular Dentist. Hmmm.

One thing that does tend to bug me about visits to these places is the constant torrent of chit-chat and small talk that eminates from those doing the work and perhaps more problematically, the questions. This particular GTB (Glorified Tooth Brusher) had this done to a fine art and proceeded to launch a barrage of lifes questions at me the moment the mirror and scraper\poker was inserted into my gob-
"Where do you work?"
"Erugh urk or a wailay useum"
"Wow, that must be fascinating, my sisters brothers cousin blah blah blah etc carrot yap yap inserted etc you think?"
"Ugh huh"

After several minutes of scrapping and poking around (Any areas I said felt slightly sensative got a extra through going over just for the effect of seeing me flinch I suspect) the mirror and instrument were withdrawn-
"It all looks very good in there, you've been doing a excellent job flossing and brushing. I'm just going to do a little detail cleaning now. This device uses a combination of high pressure water and a brushing action to clean those hard to reach spots. As I work by myself (Can't imagine why this would be) I need you to hold the suction tube in your mouth for me"
I thought things were turning out pretty well at this stage- I'd effectively been told my visit wasn't really neccesary but the wax in my ears had been comprehensivly loosened, I'd invented an entirely new language and now I had the opportunity to add "Dental Hygene Assistant" to my resume.
Still, could be worse and with that attitude I closed my eyes and thought of something else. Something nice, maybe a Z12 surrunded by several nak......JESUS CHRIST WOMEN, YOU"VE GOT TO CLEAN THE TEETH NOT REMOVE THE GUMS!!!
"Sorry, I lost the light there for a minute at the back"
This ordeal lasted for several minutes before we were rudely interupted by the man himself- Ah, my screams of pain (Not really, just added for dramatic effect) had roused the attention of a professional dentist. Excellent.
Unfortunatly, he was evidently a busy man as his visit lasted precisely 1 minute during which time probed all the spots which had already had the once over and confirmed..."It all looks very good in there, you've been doing a excellent job flossing and brushing........"
He then left me to my fate and the 'detail cleaning' recommenced.
After some more attention in this fashion my GTB (Still chatting away about the meaning of life, whether I thought Hitler did a better job in Norway and Denmark then he did in Russia etc) withdrew and I was allowed to rinse- Oop, no sorry, better have a floss as well, not enough blood on the gums yet ("Its perfectly normal for this to happen"). Following a minute or so vigerous rope work, I was annouced "Hygenic", issued with toothpaste and marched to the front counter. With her standing over my shoulder I somewhat relunctantly paid the $240. I felt like argueing that the figure was ridiculous- I could have scraped, poked, cut my gums and sucked my mouth dry for nothing- especially given I had done some of the work myself but with the Hygenist snapping her gloves menacingly behind me, prudence dictated a hasty retreat.

So, the question is, will I go back there in 12 months time? Quite frankly, yes, although this isn't down to some absurd customer loyalty- I frankly can't be bothered trying to find another dentist to give my money away to.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Probably the best blog entry in May...

Just back from a weekend away. As with all my trips these days, it was a very train oreintated trip, enjoyed in good company. The main attraction upon leaving Canberra (aside from catching up with some very good friends) was a visit to the Zig Zag Railway. I had visited before a number of years ago (Before I became involved with preservation) however this time was going to be somewhat different.

All in all, I found it quite a pleasent, if not somewhat isolated and disregarded setup. You cannot but commend the work that has gone into the infrastructure over the years- The look and feel of the place is just right for a heritage outfit.
I've never been fan of Queensland locomotives, however, after a trip behind the DD I can now say I appreciate that they do have some merits, even if they are somewhat on the small side (I felt the BB was roughly the same dimension wise as 3016!).
One thing that came as quite a shock was the lack of volunteers about the place. Perhaps Im just used to the ARHS Saturdays which are generally the busiest in terms of people on site, but aside from the train crew (D, F, G) and those manning the signal box and stations (I counted 3 in total for Clarence and Bottom Points), the place was utterly deviod of people.

An added bonus of the weekend was an unexpected $600 acquisition. Id never been to the "Trains, Planes and Automobiles" Shop, so it was quite overwhelming to step into a building no bigger then my garage that was literally crammed full of trains. Wonderful.
Some might know about my slight obsession with a certain engine down here in Canberra. Indeed, I recently purchase a DJH kit of said engine type, but sitting on one of the shelves was one of those rare things that you decide you just have to have. And so I did. Brilliant way to stimulate the economy.
It still needs a bit of attention (A service, some improvements, paint and The identity), but I could not be happier. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

So all in all, it was a productive weekend. Probably the best I've had in awhile.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The engine that could....just

Whilst most of the esteamed NSW steam fraternity were up in Maitland today, down south 3016 took 196 tons and 262 happy campers to Bungendore. We had quite a brilliant day- Despite a load just 14 tons under the full goods limit for a 30T with a ruling gradient of 1 in 40, the locomotive was on top form.....well, for the most part.

The outward journey took place under clear sunny skys and, despite being 5 minutes late out of the depot, ran pretty well to time. The loco clearly didn't mind the extra load as we were into Bungendore around 10 ahead of the table with plenty of steam on the gauge and adequate water in the boiler throughout. After running round and allowing the Sydney bound Xploder service through and a quick lunch at the Gunna-doo pie shop (Super pies and service), we prepared for the homeward journey. On my part, this entailed having a good look around the engine, topping up some of the oil pots before re-building the fire. Nothing really of note here but 5 minutes before departure something happened.

It began to precipitate (Culprit No.1).

I'm not really talking heavy rain here, just a sort of light misty shower, the kind of which that lasts a couple of minutes at most and then disappears, much to the farmers dismay. Its also the kind that tends to give a locomotive trouble as it leaves a thin film of greasy water on the rails. I jokingly pointed this out to the driver to which he promptly offered me the regulator for the journey home as penance for my 'assistance'. I declined, naturally. By the time departure time rolled around, the clouds had passed, but it was direction the clouds had passed which caused some consternation....Directly over Brookes Bank, a 5 km 1 in 40 drag.
We were away from Bungendore on time and made steady progress (Tender first, 40km\h) towards the bank. Almost immediately we ran into trouble as no sooner were the engine and first 3 cars on it that 3016 lost her footing. Progress was reduced to a crawl, with the valve gear and regulator being carefully manipulated to regulate the power to such a point where we could get as much power out of her without loosing adhesion. From memory, we plodded along with the valve gear would around 1 and 3/4 turns off off full back but undergoing constant adjustment in terms of a notch here, notch there. But there was a problem-
Whilst we were still moving, we weren't accelerating and thus had no momentum to fall back on if we lost our feet again. It was that touch and go, and there was worse to come!

Thus far, whilst climbing, it had at least been straight track. 3\4s of the way up the bank theres a S bend which leads into the tunnel. We knew if we could get to the tunnel, we'd find dry rails and be home and hosed. Unfortunately though, we were half way through the first curve (12 chain) we she lost her footing again and here we ground to a halt, blowing off yet unable to convert the pressure to power.

Once the train was secured, we examined our sanding gear. Here lay culprit No. 2- The F\S rear sander was not flowing. We, of course, check these items out before we leave the depot and that morning the sands had appeared to be working fine. Not so now. A belt with a hammer and some wet lumps fell out, followed by a trickle.....better then nothing eh?

With some improvement made and some additional hand sanding to assist the other driving wheels, an attempt was made to restart.

Despite full pressure and improved adhesion she stubbornly refused to budge, probably due to the resistance in the curve. After speaking with the guard, we decided to propel back to the straight. More sander investigation followed by restart attempt No.2.
This time, we got her moving, but were still only crawling as we entered the curve.

More evoking the deity. It seemed to have some effect as the sun suddenly emerged from the clouds.

Despite being stationary\going backwards for 20 minutes now, the passengers standing on the end platform didn't seem to mind....smiles all round....lots of pointing, least someone was enjoying themselves.

I was just putting my hand in my pocket to make a call for a 48 class assistant when.....
Attempt No.3- We were moving! And it was a good, steady beat this time. In full backward gear, the driver was better able to control the power through the regulator and we were slowly forging ahead. Through the first curve....then into the second....then into the tunnel. Whew! We'd made it. From there, it was plain sailing, coasting down the gorge through Queanbeyan and back home, 'just' 38 minutes behind time.

So there you have it, the little engine that could...just. I could have gone on a bit more, told you that we really did it in the driving snow, with a load 50 tons over the limit, one driving wheel missing, firing the engine on the bits of coal and old sleepers beside the track, with a blind fold and one arm tied behind our backs, but quite frankly, Id be lying.......And it was challenging enough as it was!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

If it ain't black, It ain't right!

I see I've been 'sprung' on the 6029 blog. Bugger- The luxury of not being watched is that you only have to update once in a blue moon (As evidenced by the last post, date 15 of Feb).

Moving on, I spent much of yesterday assisting with the repainting of 3016. After 2 years, its "temporary" paint job of all over plain black was starting to look just that....Temporary. So, the engine has now been repainted into glossy.......Well, I'm not going to say, just to keep you guessing.

The vexed question of livery is one that always sparks heated debate where ever it crops up. The ARHS is no different and every man and his dog sticks an oar in. "It ought to be blue", "Why don't we make it green like 1210 with a brass dome?", "If it ain't black, it ain't right" (with apologies to I Riley) and so on. In 3016s case, I think the last one prevails - black is definitely her colour.

There is nothing exactly "Pretty" about 3016s final form. You can polish up all its copper\brass, paint it pink etc but I think that unless you cut off that drumhead smokebox, its always going to look like mutton dressed as lamb (Take Dubbos 3144 green and red livery as another example- No offence to the blokes who did it but it looked simply ghastly) . In black, however, she just looks right. Not sure why\how. It just suits her profile as a good, hard working engine.

Anyway, thanks to D Malcolm’s efforts above the frame and KBJ Mellor’s below it, she now looks a lot better with not a hint of blue, grey or red!


3016 will strut her stuff for the first time in 2009 on Saturday the 11th of April, running CBA-QBN shuttles. 1210 will also be in attendance, and in steam for inspection at Canberra Railway station.


A Duffy, author of "The Down Home", is a raving lunatic who views are not representative of any organisations that he might choose to associate with.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Hardest Job.....

.....Or so I was told. Its now been a little over a year since I took on the organising of local operations rosters for ARHS ACT and to be quite frank, it hasn't been the poison chalice it was initially made out to be. In fact, its been quite bearable for the most part, however thats not to say it hasn't presented some challenges. Ringing half a dozen people trying to find a crew a day before a run is not pleasant, nor is trying to rearrange a roster after Driver A has found himself suspended. Such instances are thankfully rare, so by far the most difficult part is trying to keep everyone happy. You see, being a volunteer organisation, people have got involved because they've an interest in trains or railways and see an opportunity. So they go through the training (Another story in itself) and get themselves qualified......and then come to me.

For a train to Bungendore, I need a crew of three- Driver, Fireman\Observer, Guard. So thats three to get from a pool of around 30. Admittedly, not all of those 30 are going to be available on the day and some are only qualified for one of the three roles on offer, so after taking all that in to account, you're generally left with 4 or 5 people lining up for roster. This is where the real fun begins (I stress that this is scenario I've made up):

Person A is only qualified as a driver and has driven the past 2 trains.

Person B is qualified for all three positions, is a mentor\assessor and has worked as a guard on his last 3 rosters, giving training and instruction to trainees on 2 of them.

Person C is only qualified as an observer, works for the railways and is rarely available.

Person D is qualified as a Guard but wants to be and has undergone ground instruction as an observer but hasn't done any other roster in 4 months

Person E is a qualified guard and is one of the hardest working, most reliable members of the operations team, however, he has made himself available only if there is no one else.

So, what to do? Whilst you always try for the most balanced solution, it must always be remembered that you can't keep everyone happy all the time. In this particular example, I'd probably end up with the following crew:

Driver: Person B

Observer: Person C

Guard: Person D

My reasoning: Person B has been giving a lot back to the organisation through his training efforts, hence he deserves a break and a drive (Carrot instead of more stick). Person C, although not available for operations most of the time, is a good, reliable worker in other areas of the organisation. Person D is qualified as a guard and hence, there is someone else available meaning Person E can have the day off.

Now out of all that chances are there’s is going to be at least one person unhappy with the roster (In this case, most likely to be Person D, as he is not being advanced when he sees that there’s an opportunity), hence my comment above.

So there you have it. The mysteries of the roster revealed.....not really, but it gives you idea of what really goes on with heritage train doesn't really do that either!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Yes, congratulations indeed to the person who sent me a message within 2 hours of the blog going up telling me, and I quote, “I know who you are- Don’t try hiding it”. Now, since this person isn’t considered a friend or colleague, I can quite safely say that the person in question is wasting his time trawling the internet- Scotland Yard has far too many unsolved homicides that need your urgent detective attention. What gave me away? The link on my Railpage signature? The link on my fotopic? Anyway, well done all the same, you’ve certainly distinguished yourself in the annals of history.
Moving on, a word about DVDs. I picked up a couple of titles from Go Low the other day at $4.99 a pop. Of course, at this knock down price, I wasn’t expecting a great deal and am pleased to report that in this respect, I wasn’t disappointed. The first I watched, entitled “Driving and firing in the north west”, was 55 minutes of a 70 something years bloke sitting in front of a brick wall reciting anecdotes from the ‘good ol’ days’. Now, I’m not impartial to a good story, providing there’s actually some substance behind it but unfortunately, this was not the case here as me old chum prattled on and on and on and on about how he lost the coal pick going out of Kings Cross one day etc. Not recommended viewing.
On a more positive note, I can thoroughly recommend “NSW In Steam 2008 Vol.3”. This production contains excellent footage combined with some interesting but short behind the scenes servicing and preparation aspects. I don’t know about anyone else, but I generally get tired of trains just passing the camera for 60 minutes and nothing else and if railway operations were as simple as that I daresay I wouldn’t be bothered with it. There’s such a wide scope to play with I think- Include some workshop scenes, show them changing a staff or two, show a bloke raking out and it just makes the viewing all the more interesting.

So, here we are...

I've been thinking of this for awhile. Some pointless yapping into cyberspace seems like an excellent way to kill those already-too-few hours I'm not spending on anything else...if that makes sense at all....

Anyway, you will soon gather a couple of things about "The Down Home".

1. There'll be a lot of talk about Heritage Rail in NSW. Why? Well I work for a mainline heritage operator both as an employee and a volunteer. So expect to hear ancedotes from that wonderful world....Oh and I might as well pop in the usual disclaimer- The views represented here do not represent those of any organisation I am involved with, or any normal person for that matter

2. There'll be random stuff. If I said anything more, it wouldn't be random would it?

So, with that in mind, Allon-sy!