Illawarra Live Steamers

ILS 12 hour run

Late in 2011, Col Jackson decided to organise a January fun event for our club.

Basically, it was a timed 12 hour run where a driver and fireman would drive around the 1.5 km, figure 8 track, for one hour. In the afternoon we ran in the reverse direction, which made it a completely different track to drive.

To make it a challenge, we had to do 4 morning laps at 15 minutes each (6 kph) and 5 afternoon laps at 12 minutes each (7.5 kph). No timing or speed devices were allowed. Points were deducted for early arrival and late departure at the station. All diesel and electric locos had a one point per lap penalty because they didn't have to stop for water or char and were easier to drive. This levelled the playing field.

The event was very well received with 29 members signing up. With such strong member support, our Board decided to improve the event with the provision of breakfast, lunch and tea on Saturday and some trophies. Family and friends were invited to make it a family weekend. There were about a dozen members sleeping at the track in tents, cars and caravans on Friday evening.

Friday afternoon saw a lot of locos on the track trying to judge the speed needed for the 15 minute lap. We soon discovered we had to drive about 20% slower than normal. It was very hard keeping our speed down on the undulating track.

Friday evening was for socialising. From the original 29, our group had increased to over 40 members. There were half a dozen groups of members at the tables chatting. When you ran out of conversation with one group, you moved to another group. This way we had very interesting conversations on a multitude of subjects. The camaraderie was fantastic. At 7:30pm, Col and Greg Coleman ran the all-important ballot to see in which order we ran. No one wanted the first 6:30am start but Max Rainey and John Wilson/Harvey Hodgson double-heading drew the short straw.

Saturday morning arrived with an early 5:20am wake up call by a kookaburra and his mate. Grey skies and a damp track greeted the first two locos. Thankfully, Doug Mazonowicz was in the kitchen at 5:30am providing us with cereal and egg and bacon rolls for breakfast. Hot coffee went down well too. Someone said Oops! I left my car window open over night. Two more members chimed in and said me too! Luckily, the rain wasn't too heavy.

The rest of Saturday morning ran smoothly with a lot of interest taken in the time/speed of each lap. Col, Greg and John Horsfall, our time keepers, only gave a general comment as to whether a driver was early or late so we had no idea who was winning. It appeared Denis McAllister would win because he ran exactly 15 minutes on his first lap, thus losing no points, and close to time on the subsequent laps. Ben and Brian Maguire double-heading and Luke Herbert also ran 15-minute laps. In the afternoon run, John Seckold ran a 12-minute lap but with the late evening cold and rain, John lost concentration and blew his chance of first place.

There were 55 members and guests for lunch, which was a well catered affair with cold meats and salad and coffee. The coffee was flowing fast.

The afternoon session was interesting, as we had to drive faster than the morning session and a bit faster than normal driving speed. One amusing event happened when two drivers started from the station and had a drag race for 20 metres to get the right of way at the crossover. Andrew Lucas, one of our younger, inexperienced drivers took the corner a bit too fast and the loco was on 2 wheels. Very amusing with no harm or damage done, but it will make him a better driver.

Around 4pm a light rain started, making the rails very slippery so Helmut Ecker got the track sander out and received a big thank you from the drivers. One of our members didn't want to get wet so he drove holding a blue umbrella. It was a very amusing sight, bringing many uncomplimentary comments from those on the station and photos for future bribe material.

One very strange thing happened in the afternoon. Four of the steam locos had trouble keeping steam up. I ran 4 laps with the blower on full and never getting over 40 psi. As you can imagine, I also had problems getting the injector to work and naturally, the axle pump decided to have a rest too. All of a sudden, at the start of the last lap, everything came good. There was minimal clinker in the grate. None of us could work out why it happened to us.

The last run was at 6pm and we were glad it was almost over. Driving a loco for an hour without getting off, or only one quick water stop, is very tiring and we realised our bum/bum-truck wasn't as well padded as we thought it was. Muscles and joints suffered, because even though our brain is only 30 years old, the 70-year-old body can't keep up.

Denis and Roslyn Hamilton broke into their holiday to help at the track. Denis and Doug Mazonowicz did the cooking while Lorna Robertson, Pat Chapman, Rosyln Hamilton, Jan Horsfall, Barbara Herbert and Carol Mazonowicz handled the preparation of the evening meal. (As with most clubs, the ladies do most of the work and receive the least glory. Thanks ladies). The mixed grill, salad and dessert went down very well. I didn't count the number of people there, but the dinner tables were set with 40 chairs and they were all occupied. Some members had to eat at their caravans.

The event was a resounding success. Col asked for comments to improve things, but apart from a couple of insignificant changes, we thought the event couldn't be improved upon. We had too many locos and some had to double head so maybe next year we will have 2 locos on each run instead of 1 with 15 minutes separating them.

Who won the event? The result was very close with only 6 points separating the top 5 positions. The place getters were Peter Read, Ross Edmondson and Denis McAllister. Our Club was the overall winner and we all had a great time.

On a personal note, apart from our Hot Pot Runs, this was probably one of the best weekends I have had at ILS in the 12 years I have been a member. I am looking forward to the same thing next January.

Click here for the pictures