Saturday, 14 September 2019

Oil Depots

Black Gold – Texaco Tea

Oil depot sidings were once quite numerous on NSW railways, and Wagga had its fair share.

The Caltex, (Former Texaco) siding at Wagga
Tank car on the Caltex siding before crossing Railway Street
From my research, I have found 6 sidings in the Wagga yard area, although I will only have space to model 4 of them – Esso and Shell were on the “Wagga Shunt”, which is off the branch line just over Lake Albert Road, Caltex (the old Texaco) on a siding across Railway Street, and BP, on the Wagga station side of the Docker Street level crossing.

Esso Siding in the early 1980s

Esso Siding from a 1971 aerial picture
Shell Siding was out of use by the time I took this photo in the 1980s. Note the locomotive "STOP" board

Inside the Shell depot (picture taken from the Lake Albert Road entrance)

An aerial picture of the Wagga Base Hospital, shows the fuel depots in the upper background. Finding specific photos of railway parts has been a challenge.  
An enlargement of the previous image.   This is the only picture I have found of the depots.  There were 2 sidings, but I will only have space for the BP siding. 
The Golden Fleece Depot was close to the Caltex depot, but I cannot find any evidence that it had its own fuel loading points. It is however, located in an area that is in my layout's proposed modeled area

No other depots existed on the Tumbarumba Branch line – which may mean 44 gallon drums in S truck delivery.
There was one more siding that I need to mention, and this was the bulk oil siding at Bomen, which was built to consolidate all the other depots in the Wagga area.  But I won’t be modelling this one, as it was established far too late for my 1970 nominal layout timescale.

Bomen bulk fuel depot was created too late for my layout timeframe, but it still is interesting

Six maps view of the Bomen Fuel Depot

Enlargement of the overview image gives a bit more detail of the pipework

The late Andy Browne took  this photo in 2003 on a rainy day at Bomen. It shows an 81 class shuffling tank cars onto the stockyard sidings, and exchanging them with tank cars in the oil depot.  

A great article on Country Oil Depots by Howard Armstrong was published in issue 10, of Australian Journal of Railway Modelling over 20 years ago.  Whilst I won’t repeat the contents, Howard also included pictures of three of the Wagga oil depots, which fills in gaps in my photographic archive

Bomen is also a bit large in scale from the smaller depots that I plan to model.  Looking a bit wider, Paul Ferguson sent me some photos of some neat depots at Yass, and Orange

Shell Depot details on the former Yass Tramway before the Tramway "closed" in 1988. The road in the background is the Hume Highway, and the Golden Fleece Restaurant billboard is a "sign of the times"

Another view of the Shell Depot.  The Yass Tramway level crossing is in the distance.
I photographed a tank car train, approaching Yass Junction in the early 1980s. Operation on the branch could not have been profitable with just a single car?  
Paul's picture of the "Total" depot at Orange - co-incidently, the same depot that Howard Armstrong used in his AJRM article

Sixmaps aerial view of the Orange depot gives the layout of tanks and sheds. The rail siding at the time of the Sixmaps image was disconnected from the mainline

Being a former resident in Queanbeyan, I took interest in the two per week oil trains servicing Canberra.   Whilst it isn’t Wagga, I suspect there were many similarities with the design of the depots, and unlike Wagga, where most of the infrastructure disappeared before Google views, the Canberra Fyshwick sidings are mostly still intact

Canberra Oil train in the 1990s

rear view of the same train shows the oil sidings on the Northern side of the line

Detail of the oil wagons on the RHS of the earlier photo

A view showing the gates.
Another siding, another view of  a different set of gates. Signs are interesting  

A view without the tank cars shows some of the pipework

And the large tanks
SixMaps aerial views

A Google 3D view almost mimicks the viewing angle on a model railway. As a planning tool, this is brilliant.  A series of flat container wagons are stored on the northern shunting line.  The mainline, and the southern shunting line are also visible
The Shell Depot was the last operational depot after all the ones off the Northern Shunt closed.  It was used for a few years until the Railways stopped shipping bulk fuel by rail in the 2000's.  Like Bomen, it was left with a fleet of stationary cars, long enough for Google to take pictures 

The Shell Oil depot at Fyshwick in a google 3D view.

Modelling the depots should be fairly straight forward.  In most cases, there was just a simple siding; a single set of discharge pipes per siding;  a shed; lots of 44 gallon barrels; plus a tank farm nearby.  Chain link fence, gate, and signs.  Pipework is definitely needed too – this is where the recent colour views of the Canberra Depots can help.  A kit that will be very useful to represent the piping, is the Walther’s HO scale Piping Kit

Peter Street in AJRM issue 11 has a great article on modelling an Esso depot, and I will refering to this article when I actually start construction

Both Eureka and SDS have produced excellent bogie oil tanker models, and Austrains have produced a 4 wheel tanker.  These have been reviewed elsewhere.  Older kits do exist, e.g. the former Lloyds range; and there are a number of articles in AJRM and AMRM on converting, and scratch building tank cars

Ampol tank car at Canberra

Another tank car at Canberra station.  

Many years ago, I remember a Bob Gallagher editorial in AMRM magazine asking people to take pictures of the things they see around them, and don’t assume that they will be there forever.  I can do no more than re-emphasise Bob’s comment.  Take pictures of things NOW, and gather information whilst the structures, and people are around.  Record it for prosperity.  When I took my pictures of Wagga oil depots in the early 1980s, I had no idea how important they are to me now.    And they disappeared very quickly.  In retrospect, I should have taken more images, although the cost then, was over 50c a slide, or print, unlike today, where 1000s of shots can be stored digitally inexpensively. 

Whilst I was doing my searches, I came across these images of a train preparing to shunt the Bomen Industrial area.  The tank cars from the oil depot , and on the stockyard sidings are also visible.  Totally unexpected, but neat, and I thought I would share. Who knows what other images can be found on Google, and indeed, how long these will stay on-line - as the road, level crossing, and sidings have all now disappeared
This is all that remains of what was once had great railway interest. The siding now just serves the concrete sleeper plant

And even online resources, such as Google, are constantly uploading new images, replacing older versions.  The new images may be poorer in resolution than the older ones, OR no longer show structures that have been replaced.

Until next time.


  1. The Esso siding at Wagga is of a style I'm quite interested in and similar to a few around the state. Any idea of the diameter of the horizontal and vertical tanks?

    1. According to Peter Street's article on modelling an esso depot in issue 11 AJRM, the vertical height was 31', and 11' diameter. He used 24mm PVC pipe on his model. The Horizontal tanks Peter made with 19mm PVC pipe, cut into 58mm lengths. I would not be confident in stating these were the sizes for Wagga, but hopefully a guide. Thanks for your interest.

  2. Good Morning Rob

    Interesting as always.

    Road transport from country terminals to smaller service stations and on farm customers would have been well established by the 1970's. Probably, there would be much 44 gallon drum traffic to Tumbarumba. 44s were also carried on the same truck as the bulk fuel.

    I would imagine service station tanks in a small place like Tumbarumba would only be around 5,000 gallons capacity or even a bit smaller.

    When I was living in Yass it was not unusual to see just one tanker on the Tramway. If I recall correctly, the Mobil siding only held one tanker.

    On the other hand some of the other fuel suppliers were quite happy about the twice a week service as they were able to use the tankers as storage without having to pay demurrage.

    It is a pity that the railways have ceased tanker traffic. They were much more efficient than road in moving bulk fuel.

    I am told the servo at the service centre outside of Yass has 2 B Doubles per day servicing it and 3 during holidays.

    Kind regards


    1. Fascinating Geoff. I am always on the lookout for pictures showing S trucks being accessed on branch lines. The timetable for the Tumbarumba line in 1962, mentions that wagons get dropped at intermediate sidings. I only wish I took more photos in the 1980s, when I was regularly travelling between Queanbeyan and Wagga via Yass

  3. Wow! As always Rob, another fascinating read of the prototype research involved that goes on behind the modelling. Fuel is an interesting commodity from the not-so-distant past when it comes to rail, and I've been using the same Google approach to get my head around the fuel siding arrangements used in the Stanthorpe area up here in Queensland before they too disappeared around 1994-96. Ironically, I'll be using the former NSWGR NTAF tankers bought by QR and re-coded OLO or OVO. A bit of cross-border history to follow.

  4. Thank you Phil. Your comments are most welcome.

  5. Hi Rob, I am modelling the Yass branch in the 1960s and have been accumulating photos of the various sidings. These Shell siding pictures are brilliant. Do you (or Paul) having any other photos? I'd be happy to share my research as well, if you're interested. Let me know. Ben

    1. Sorry, I just realised my email probably won't appear. It is

    2. Good for you Ben. The Yass branch has always held a fascination for me too. I may have some other views of the depots, buried in the 100s of slides I have yet to organise. But no operating trains.

  6. Some more information has come to hand. The Golden Fleece depot did have a fuel unloading point on the caltex siding before Railway Street - at the location of the tank car pictured at the beginning of this blog post.