The Semi-Retired Foamer has been a railfan since he was around 5 years old, oh yes a very young age, an age when one really should avoid being involved with the gunzel community to any great extent. A few rather unsavoury people bringing that fact home.
After a few decades of train chasing, one decided to break with protocol and get married, thus leading to a severe cut in railfan activity.
Subsequent dealings with hate breeders, lunatics, mental defectives and self-appointed preservation overlords lead to an even greater decrease in my hobby participation.
However things have changed thanks to our small group of trusted mates, interest has returned, and now I have become a bit more involved yet again.
Over the years I have tried my best to further both the hobby, as well as the friendships that it brings. I have done this by setting up proactive groups both here in Australia, as well as the Philippines. It is with huge honour that I am often considered the founding father of the railfan hobby in the Philippines (my second home).
I don't take the hobby too seriously and I am a friend to anyone who is good and genuine. But never forgive those who have used their hate to destroy my hobby or hurt the friends within it.

Let's Make The Hobby Great Again!
I aim to share the era that I considered mine, the 80s and 90s. I also like to help promote, and even raise funds for, the various heritage societies that keep the era alive
We occasionally publish information on the locomotives, and rollingstock, from railways in Australia and the Philippines.
All are available for

Please email me should you wish to use anything from this site !

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


 Another of those railway lines that has held my interest for many decades is that to Wongawilli, branching off the Illawarra line at Brownsville (Kembla Grange-Dapto), and primarily used for coal haulage.

My initial intention with this post was to cover what I managed to see over many years of visiting the line. However, due to the generosity of Chris Stratton, I've been able to extend this to show operations, and variety of locomotives used, from the early 80s through to suspension of services. 

Newcastle Morning Herald - 11-1-1917

The line was opened in October 1916, by mine owners G & C Hoskins, with coal being railed direct to their steelworks in Lithgow from late the next year.

Illawarra Mercury - 17-10-1924

Over the years it would go through a number of different ownership changes, 'Australian Iron and Steel', then 'Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP)', railing coal to the their steelworks in Port Kembla.

BHP Billiton eventually sold the line to 'Gujarat NRE Resources', a company based in India.

Today the line is not in use, although I was recently told this may be changing in the future. I guess time will tell if the story is not yet finished.

We start this post with some photos of the line last year, followed by a look at locomotive changes over the years since 1980, along with a few special visitors.

The yard in Wongawilli Village is a depressing sight nowadays, rusty rails and weeds showing the disuse of recent times.
It is sad to see this once busy place, sometimes so busy that a loco would be kept there to load the coal hoppers, while others raced the loaded trains back and forth to the steelworks.

I really had to question the 'electric fence' claim here.

Line to the coal loader.

Junction of lines to the coal loader (left) and dump (right).

 Looking towards the dump.

Being a bit of an oldie, my experience with the Wonga line started back when the English Electric locomotive was king of the steelworks and associated coal lines.
Firstly 1000hp (D35-D45) units and unique D34, later joined by the K type (47, 49, 50 and 51)  shipped over from Western Australia. 
If you are interested in an all time listing of the Port Kembla steelworks diesel fleet, have a look at 
this list compiled for the 

D34 was a unique unit in the steelworks fleet, a 1950hp beast with a Co-Co wheel arrangement. It was delivered in 1969 and became a familiar sight in Wongawilli for many years.
Here can be seen in her original orange livery, with black valance and underframe, red pilot and white steps.

By 1987, she was in a variation of the red livery, with 'AUSTRALIAN STEEL' and the 'Australia Made' logo down the sides. The cab front had white stripes similar to the black ones in the original livery.

By 1988 she had further changed again, with a thick white bar around the unit, with the two tone BHP logo and 'BHP STEEL' on the sides.

The attractive BHP Blue livery was to be the last she would wear, carrying it through the rest of her service life and into preservation.

D34 and D49 have just passed under the coal loader and reached the very end of the line. They will now run around their train before proceeding to load.
Today, D34 is preserved at the State Mine Museum in Lithgow, while D49 is scrapped.

One of the few times I have managed to capture a 1000hp unit leading a K type.
D44 is in her unique 'Hawks Steelers Wolves'.
A collision would see the career of D50 cut short.
Both are now scrapped.

D51 crossing Jersey Farm Road at Wongawilli Village.
D51 is also now scrapped.

D49 shunts the Wongawilli dump.
This was during one of those periods when a loco remained here to shunt, releasing other locos to shuttle back and forth from the steelworks.
When returning to the works, it could make for some interesting combinations.

Another mixed combo, this time with the 1000hp D40 as second unit. This is a rake of empty hoppers paralleling West Dapto Road towards Wongawilli Village.
This location would become impossible in later years with a fence separating the road from the line.
Today, D40 remains the last of her type in existence, thanks to a massive scrapping campaign by Pacific National.

D50 and D51 on a loaded coal train have just reached the end of the straight along West Dapto Road, where it diverges away across some paddocks to Wongawilli Junction.
The hill I am standing on is now full of housing. 

Loaded coalie about to cross Shone Avenue in Wongawilli Village.

Two photos: K type waiting for mainline access at Wongawilli Junction (Brownsville) 

1995 saw the start of change for the Elouera (Wongawilli) line, with three ALCo locomotives leased from Austrac for use on coal runs.
They did not replace the English Electrics, but ran alongside them on Elouera and Kemira Valley coal runs.

The missing logo on the front is a result of repairs that saw the area repainted.

Former numbers.
101 was 44229, later rebuilt as GL109
102 was 44233, later rebuilt as GL107
103 was 4537 and is now preserved at Tailem Bend as 103

In their early days at BHP, the three ALCos carried single digits (1-3) in their illuminated number boxes. These would soon be replaced with the full numbers as applied to cab sides and pilots.

Late one night at Brownsville, 101 and 102 await a green light so they could proceed back to the works.

Local commuter services always got preference.
These V set double deckers disappeared from the South Coast some years ago and are now in decline elsewhere.
They can still be found on the western line to Lithgow, and on weekdays north to Newcastle. 

Taken from a tall embankment at the very end of he Wongawilli dump siding.

D51 had been on shunting duties a Elouera and was returning to the steelworks. It was put in behind 103 and 102 and the train is seen here near Kembla Grange.
Before i get some whinging, yes I know this isn't on the branch, but I am having trouble locating the pictures of it out there.

A phone call, the night before, from driver Max, saw me racing on down to the Illawarra for the first trial of the new ALCos.
This consisted of all three together, in numerical order, from the steelworks to Elouera and return. Quite a magnificent sight, although I have always thought the Jumbos would have looked better had their livery been treated the same as 103.

101 and 103 at the Wongawilli Dump.
Yes, we had permission to be up here.

Oh, I did locate a shot of this triple on the branch :-)
This spot on the branch is one that I shall never forget.
On one of many nights cab riding down there, we were on a rake of empties heading to the mine.
It was very late and the only real light was from the headlight of the Jumbo we were on. As we approached this curve, we suddenly seen something all over the track, a split second that is quite frightening when you have no idea what is ahead.
Despite hitting the anchors almost instantly, there was no way of stopping in time.
Turned out that a local farmers sheep had escaped through a damaged section of fence. On pushing back to see what we had hit, the sight that greeted us was one that has never left me.

103 and 101 leave the Illawarra line at Brownsville late one afternoon. It would be dark before they returned.

Then the newer ALCo 80 class (8015 and 8039) turned up on the line in 1997.
A few modifications can be see on 8015 below, notably the lights above the illuminated number board, just above the white stripe on the ends and along the underframe on both sides. They carried these long after leaving the BHP coal traffic.
I believe 8018 also went there at the time as a source of parts.
8015 and 8018 are now scrapped, while 8039 is believed to still exist with Pacific National.

The next two ALCos to invade the system were Silverton Rail units 442s1 and 442s2 during 2000 and 2001.
These two proved problematic for me, for a good week I travelled down there daily in order to get them.
But each day the planned use of them didn't happen, cancelled for reasons that escape me now.
Was the best part of a week before I finally got lucky with this yellow pair.

I don't recall ever seeing the two Silverton ones together.
It was always 442s1 with 102 and 442s2 with 101.
 However, it did happen in the early days of their use, Chris Stratton having photographic proof of this.

Former numbers:
442s1 was 44220 and is still operational with Southern Shorthaul.
442s2 was 44217 and is still operational with Southern Shorthaul.

The Silverton units term at BHP was quite short..

By 2001 operations were in the hands of the 81 class, with the ALCo era over.

Then it was the turn of the GE locomotive, with the rebuilt GL class (former 442 class) seeing use in at least 2005.

More GE locomotives, this time the EL class, were noted in use from 2010-2012.
 These locomotives were originally built for Australian National, and primarily used on passenger trains around South Australia.
By this time they were owned by Chicago Freightcar Leasing Australia, with whom they see use in many varied traffics.

Going off dates on photos provided by Chris Stratton, the 82 class were in use 2009 through to at least 2015, with Aurizon providing the haulage in 2016-17, then 82s noted again in 2017/18.

Aurizon brought even bigger GEs to the line, with their 6000 class, noted in use during 2016/17.

GL102 on a CHAY trial along the line.

The 82 class returned to the line again prior to services being suspended, this time introducing the Pacific National livery (which I personally think looks great on them).


Over the years there have been a number of special visitors to Wongawilli.

Railmotors CPH34 and CPH32 on a 'Australian Railway Historical Society' tour to Wongawilli.

Eight years later and the 'Australian Railway Historical Society' return to Wongawilli again, this time with EMD branchliner 4901.

On August 21st, 1993, it was the turn of the 'Rail Transport Museum' to run a tour.
ALCo 'World Series' 4448 and EMD 42220 were used on this occasion, as part of a tour around various parts of the Illawarra.

Video footage of D34 on the line.


Bradly Coulter, Zane Maber and 
Chris Stratton


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