Only made it to Patchewollock once, but a very memorable trip for youngster (I was 18). Even during the wheat season there was only one train a week.


During the 64/65 harvest, there were 5 locos at Warrack (for most of my stay they were all oil burner J/N, but had 1 coalie K towards the end). The relief crews (like me) lived in a group of huts beside the goods yard (north of the water tower). I was the only Dynon based crew, the rest were from Ararat. I recall there were six crews. Each of the firemen would spend one week on light-up duties. Great fun getting 5 locos fired up and ready to roll.



On my trip to Patch, we started at Warrack and ran to Hopetoun where we turned the loco (N). From Hopetoun ran to Patch tender first. I remember the drivers instructions, don't hang out the side if you want to see where we are going. Thought it strange at the time, but soon became apparent why, galvanised iron sand fences tended to scrape along side the loco (quick way to lose your head).


Another feature of the trip, local farmers at level crossings with an esky of cold beer for the crew.


Like your trip, we arrived late on Saturday night. The loco was stable on the main line. To top up the tender, we used the garden hose from the station masters house. The crew accommodation was two small huts beside the track.


On Sunday afternoon, I had to light up the loco. Unfortunately, our loco had developed a leak just below the firebox door. This necessitated a rescue train from Warrack being organised. The driver of my train had to go back to Hopetoun with the staff via a taxi. I got to stay and prepare the loco for towing back to Warrack.


The rescue eventually arrived (another N), made up our train, and we departed for home in the early hours of Monday. Maybe the only time there was a double header from Patch.


Warracknabeal Bulk Wheat:

The train I ran with the bulk E wagons may have been a one off. Don't think it happen again while I was there. The train was loaded at the Warrack silo(behind the station) and was assembled awaiting our crew to take it to Murtoa. As I said; no tarps. Don't recall any wheat proof marking either.


The requirement was to run to Murtoa and unload before dark. There were specific instructions that the train was not to be left overnight for

unloading, due to dew spoiling the grain. At Murtoa bulk grain shed (Marmalake), the E wagons were unloaded the same way as the standard GY. The unloading team had a tractor with a buffer pad fixed to the front (same as used to shunt wagons). The tractor would hold the door closed while an operator would open the latches with a sledge hammer. The tractor would then back away allowing the wheat to fall out into the grate below. Very slow process with a rake of E wagons (perhaps this is why it may not have been used again).


During the unloading, we would service the loco. My most lasting memory is of the hand turntable at Murtoa. Always found it very difficult to turn a loco there (really hard work compared to Warrack and Hopetoun). Water was taken from the stand near the railmotor bay. Only ran one coalie to Murtoa, at least there they had a raised coaling platform with a tipper to fill the tender. At Warrack, we had to fill the tender by hand (shovel), now that is hard work.


I left the VR in August 65, joined the RAAF (one way to avoid conscription). Stayed there for 21 years. Up until last year was working as a logistics consultant in Asia (Indonesia, China, Philippines etc) have now come home to enjoy time with my four grandsons, and retire to chasing trains and model railways.


  ………Howard Franks.