I was recently reading Chris Banger’s wonderful book on the Southern Aurora. Among the many stories was the first time the Aurora was diverted from it normal route and travelled via Cowra. This was on Saturday 6 March 1965. The previous day a major bushfire broke out between Goulburn and Taralga and over the next 24 hours travelled east to the towns of Marulan, Towrang and Wingello ultimately causing damage to the Main South in the area. Damage to the line caused its closure and the railways decided to divert all services via the Demondrille – Blayney line (today they would do nothing and the freights would just have to wait).
I researched this and found an article in the March 1965 Railway Digest and started having a look at how this was done. Ultimately the following passenger trains traversed the line on the Saturday night:
- No. 16 Up Riverina Express
- No. 66 Up Intercapital Express
- No. 10 Up South Mail
- No.2 Up Southern Aurora
- No. 4 Up Spirit of Progress
- No. 1 Down Southern Aurora
- No. 2 Down Spirit of Progress
Demondrille at the southern end of the cross – country line was still totally intact, the coal stage having seen use on 20 June 1964 only nine months earlier and with the triangle connection from Demondrille South to the cross-country line the rerouting of trains was simple - there being no need to run into Harden and reverse.
At the time the cross country line had no less than 11 staff and crossing stations between Demondrille and Blayney. They were (from Demondrille):
- Demondrille (467.347km) – Demondrille West Junction
- Kingsvale (456.974km)
- Young (440.063km)
- Monteagle (420.724km)
- Koorawatha (393.596km)
- Wattamondara (381.389km)
- Cowra (365.540km)
- Woodstock (346.371km)
- Swan Ponds (334.120km)
- Lyndhurst (321.097km)
- Carcoar (309.842km)
- Stanfield (301/905km)
- Blayney (290.369km)
If the below narrative gets complicated please have a look at the train graph at the end.
No. 16 Riverina Express was the first train to be diverted but it had already got as far as Goulburn on time at 15:49. It waited for the Canberra-Monaro Express to arrive from Cooma and Canberra and finally departed Goulburn almost four hours later at 19:34 with 4411 hauling RUB set 145. Harden was reached at 22:02 where it departed five minutes later for the adventure on the cross country line. It was actually the second Up passenger as No. 66 Intercapital Express had proceeded it.
The Up Intercapital Express, 10 cars hauled by 4460 and 4205, had been held at Junee waiting for a pilot driver and arrived at Demondrille at 18:43. After sitting at Demondrille for 58 minutes (for reasons unknown) it departed at 19:41. As far as can be ascertained, no crosses were made on the whole trip to Blayney. The train stopped at Cowra for 45 minutes (21:45 to 22:30), passed Blayney 00:04/00:07 (Sunday), Bathurst 01:09/01:16, Lithgow 02:41/03:02, finally arriving in Sydney at 05:52 some eight and a half hours late.
Despite at least eight extra trains running on the cross country line that night the normal services still had to find paths. No. 22 diesel train was the next train to run north from Demondrille. With the Intercapital Daylight almost two hours in front of it there was no delay at Demondrille and it ran virtually to time through to Cowra. The 27 minute stop at Cowra was shortened to about 15 minutes to facilitate crosses between Cowra and Blayney. The train departed Cowra at 23:30 and running 15 minutes early crossed No. 25a Rail Motor at Lyndhurst (00:55 – 01:00) and the Down Southern Aurora (more of below) at Stanfield) 01:30/01:47) and arrived at Blayney on time at 02:02.
‘The Riv’ reached Demondrille at 10:15 and traversing the junction at Demondrille North signal box headed for Blayney. It had a free run all the way to Cowra (Young 22:50 – 23:15) arriving at 00:46. 22 minutes were consumed refuelling the PHS power car and it departed Cowra at 01:08. By this time there were diverted trains coming the other way. At Woodstock it crossed No. 25a the Cowra- bound railmotor. At Lyndhurst it was put in the loop to cross the Down Aurora (02:03 – 02:19). Once it left Lyndhurst it got a free run through to Blayney where it arrived at 03:06. After a three minute stop to change staffs it continued through to Sydney (Bathurst 04:11-04:16, Lithgow 05:54 -06:12 to replenish the buffet and he train finally arrived in Sydney at 09:12 on the Sunday morning some 13 hours late. Despite this the buffet car facilities were available for the whole trip. Apparently there were some Enfield crews on this train that had travelled from Goulburn.
The next train from the south was No. 416 Fruit Express. This train reached Demodrille basically on- time at 22:45. It followed ‘The Riv’ one section behind and had to wait line clear at some locations (Kinsvale for around 25 minutes and Cowra for the railmotor from Blayney. The freight was looped at Woodstock for the Aurora, and spent 45 minutes at Carcoar waiting for the Down Spirit of Progress. It cleared Blayney at 05:10.
No. 10 South Mail was next and it arrived at Demondrille at 12:40 and departed at 01:08. It was put into the loop at Wattamondara (03:14-03:49) to cross the Aurora, Swan Ponds (04:49-05:05) to cross the Spirit of Progress and reached Blayney at 06:05 – after five minutes it departed for Sydney with stops at Bathurst (07:10-07:23) Lithgow 09:05 – 09:25 and arrived in Sydney at 12:08 – just over six hours late.
Now it was the turn of the ‘stars to head north on the cross-country line. No. 4 Up Spirit of Progress, hauled by 4447/4415 which had departed Albury at 23:05, changed crews at Junee and reached Demondrille at 03:06. It was stabled to wait for the Up Aurora which by this time was only 20 minutes behind, to run through it – Presumably it was drawn forward and stopped on the Up Main between Demondrille South and North signal boxes. After waiting for the Aurora to clear Kingsvale it departed Demondrille at 04:08. Crossing the Down Aurora at Young (04:45 -05:37) and its Down counterpart at Koorawatha (06:38 – 07:09). The cars were watered at Cowra (07:40-08:15), it passed Blayney at 09:47, Bathurst at 10:44-10:50, Lithgow at 12:17-12:30 and arrived in Sydney at 15:10.the Junee crew had run as far as Cowra, while the Cowra crew had run to Lithgow.
As seen the Up Aurora, hauled by 4449/4443 had run past the Up Spirit at Demondrille (03:28-03:40) and Young was 04:14-04:16. It arrived at Monteagle at 04:33 to find its Down counterpart in the loop – it had arrived only a few minutes earlier. A quick change of the staff saw it on its way quickly. Cowra was reached at 06:00 where it crossed the Down Spirit. After a 30 minute stop it departed, passing Blayney at 08:00, Bathurst (08:55-0915)where the cars were watered, Lithgow (10:35-10:43 and it arrived in Sydney at 13:13. The locos were crewed Albury – Cowra, Cowra – Lithgow and Lithgow – Sydney.