Wednesday, 15 May 2019

What's in a picture?

What’s in a picture

In my searches for photographs of trains in the Wagga area, I came across this gem, showing a truck being driven off a flatcar on the South Dock at Wagga.

The image that started my search.  Unsure who took the picture, but I am grateful that they did

What also spurred my interest, was the rake of CW 4 wheel cattle wagons in the background, on the mainline.  Was this part of a stock train, or a shuttle run to the Wagga stockyards, around 2km wast of  the station?   And what was the date of the picture?  I have in my accumulation of models, quite a number of 4 wheel cattle wagons, and if these were still being used around 1970, then this is good, as I probably already have enough for the layout.

My first thoughts to date the picture, was to find out when the number plate of the truck was issued.  A NSW plate, “FVB 822” is clear.   I know my father’s cars in the 1960s had number plates starting with ‘DOD’, and ‘EVL’, so an ‘FVB’ plate was probably issued in that decade too.  An internet search failed to find a date.  But I was barking up the wrong tree, as I was informed by a mate that truck number plates were issued separate from the car plates.

The truck is as far as I can determine, an International Harvestor, R190 series – and the grill looks similar to known internet images of the 1952 model. 

Sorbys is the company name on the truck.  An internet search on Sorbys came up with a long gone hardware store chain, that opened a branch in Wagga in 1954.  Sorbys sold later to BBC Hardware. 
So, from all of that, the date is at least sometime after 1954.

My attention now turns to the image of the cattle train.  I am specifically looking at the end closest  the Best Street bridge – either a brake van, or an engine.  It is not especially clear, but it looks like an X200 shunting tractor,  rather than a larger diesel, or steam loco.

Well, the first series X200 was introduced (or “kitbashed” from AD60 garratt bogies) in 1963.  I assume that one was allocated to Wagga shortly thereafter to replace a steam loco.  I found 2 images on the internet of the first series of X200 at Wagga.

ARHS image - dated 1965, shows X203 at Wagga's north dock

X203 in 1970. Note: a shunters truck was attached to the X203.

So that dates the photograph to sometime later than 1963. 

But is does answer one of my questions.  The X200 is shuttling the cattle wagons from the Wagga yard loop sidings, towards the Stockyards.  This fits in with my planned operation, where mainline trains, drop and pickup wagons from the Wagga yard, under control of the signalbox.  No mainline trains directly service the stockyards.  This will make the X200 shunter's task very busy, but I suspect, probably a most desirable operating position on any model layout.

My internet search had an unexpected bonus.  A series of pictures by Keith Waine of a Sorbys truck being loaded onto a pair of flat cars surfaced via google on Flickr.  The flat cars were being loaded at Coniston, near Wollongong.

The trailer was loaded onto the first flatcar at Coniston.  This area is now unrecognisable.

Chain tie downs for the rear of the trailer. The steel load on the trailer is also neatly stacked

Wooden chock detail

More chains

Chains and "A frame" support for the front of the trailer

Coniston Railway station used to have a "dock" on the down side of the platform, according to the way the shadows are falling.  
Finally the truck is secured on the second flatcar.

 These pictures have great detail, on the way the wheels of the trailer are chocked, chains, and the steel A frame support for the trailer hitch. 

Just before driving off the flatbed, the Sorbys truck on flatcar arrives at Wagga Wagga.  Note that the truck and trailer are now reversed from the orientation of their loading

The last of the pictures in the series shows the Sorbys truck at Wagga before being unloaded, so it links in perfectly with the original internet picture.  

The "at Wagga Wagga"  picture shows the station sign,  including the “Change Here for the Tumbarumba Line” graphic, an image that has,  to now,  proved elusive for me.  The Holden car in the background of that picture is I think a Holden HR, which dates the picture after 1966 - the year the HR was introduced.

But a mystery remains.  Were the roads so bad, that a truck needed to go by rail from the coast to Wagga?  The pair of flatcars has been split during their journey up from the coast.  And how did Sorbys unload the trailer off the flatcar?

So, from just one original picture, not only have I got a neat modelling project, but also an interesting “special load” for the operation.   Plus I have confimed that 4 wheel CWs were in use close to my nominal 1970 layout timeframe.  What I don’t have is a model of the 1st series X200 – but until one shows up, the IDR X200 (second series) is an excellent stand in.

To all those attending the "Modelling the Railways of NSW" seminar at Loftus this weekend, drive safely, and get inspired.  It is a bit far for me to attend.

Happy modelling.


  1. I recall that when NSW three letter & three number black on yellow number-plates were introduced in the early 1950's the A,B,C&D letter series were for cars and the F&G series were for trucks. Victorian plates started with H and other states followed. Sections of the Hume Highway were still unsealed back then as were more local roads so it may have been more economical to send the trucks and trailers by rail for what was then a long,slow haul. Trailer unloading would have required use of the trailers jockey wheels to lift the front off the trestle, remove the trestle and then back the truck in to hitch-up.

  2. Thanks for confirming the "F" series being for trucks. I suspect you are also correct on the unpaved roads, although the Hume WAS fully sealed on my trips by car from Wagga to Sydney in the 1960s, Macquarie Pass may not have been, and that section of road (now sealed), is tricky enough today. I had thought the rear flatcar might have had to be sent to the Wagga turntable to be turned, and then repositioned so as to allow the prime mover to back onto the flatcar to hitch the trailer - but that is only a guess.