Orbost to Nowa Nowa by Rail - 1989/1990

Did you ever see the Australian film Malcolm, hmmm ...?

Some stills from the RT3 video
Click on any of these thumbnails for a larger version
This is a true story about a guy I used to work with at a local Elevator manufacturing company. His name is Rex (which is how he got the nickname of "The Dinosaur").
Now, Rex is a pretty unusual sort of a guy. He lives on a 2 acre block in Melbourne's (very) outer south-eastern suburbs.
Rex's main 1989/1990 project came about when he tried to buy a train ticket to Orbost (about 300 Km from Melbourne). The person at the ticket counter (on the other end of the telephone) said that there were no longer any trains running to Orbost, and so they could only offer a bus ticket.
When Rex tried to insist on a rail ticket (because buses make him feel sick), the Vic Rail person insisted in exasperation that no passenger train had run to Orbost for over 10 years, and no goods train for over 4 years. The person added that "waiting until next year or the year after is unlikely to change anything."
Now this really got on Rex's goat, as you can see. Telling Rex that something isn't possible is a bit like the proverbial red rag and the bull. So Rex and his Dad decided to make their own train. (Oh, incidentally - that's Millie at the left ... she lives down the back, near Rex's drive-in movie theatre.)

This is Rex building his train. The wheels were originally part of one of the overhead cranes at our Clayton elevator factory. (When it had been announced that the particular crane was being pulled out, Rex's eyes had positively gleamed.)
And this is Rex's train shed as it was at this time (around 1990), with the ambulance backed up ready to pack the train in. The train actually has to be dismantled to get it into the ambulance, and then reassembled at the launching point.
This is Rex working in one of his 5 or 6 sheds. Oh, by the way - I forgot to mention that before he started building his train, he tried to buy an old one. The price for a 2nd-hand 42 ton T-Class diesel loco wasn't too bad at $2500, and he was all set to get one until he got the delivery quote - $5800. (That was when he decided to build a small one instead.)
Rex threw together a petrol-electric traction drive for his train. It has two old motor-mower engines - the smaller one driving a car alternator, and the bigger one driving the main generator. The alternator provides field control for the large one. The output of the smaller one is controlled via BU209 high-voltage power transistors, and that allows overall torque and speed to be controlled via a 10K carbon pot with efficiency and precision.
Anyway, for the 1989 Melbourne Cup long weekend, we'd decided to try the Orbost line, so we took a couple of extra days off and loaded the various pieces into Rex's ambulance. Vic Rail had again assured us that none of their trains were running on it, so we figured it was about time to give Rex's train an outing.
Two or three hours later, we finally arrived at the Snowy River Lodge motel. As it turned out, the Bairnsdale-Orbost line just happened to run right past the Lodge's back property line, so this was convenient too.
That afternoon, the ambulance was backed up to the line, all the train pieces were rolled out and re-assembled, and everything was ready to go.

Clickety-Click here for part 2 ...

An assortment of MPEG clips are also on line (no pun intended) ...

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Last update: May 18th, 2002