1970 was a big year for me, My first job meant I had money to get around with. It was the last year of the mighty 38 class. After saving most of my salary, I eventually purchased my first car, In October, I finally obtained my driver’s license.

My first car on the Hue Hue road between Wyong and Wyee. I managed to navigate through flood waters. No signs and no closed roads in those days.

While my memory these days is far from perfect, I do remember chasing a South Maitland Railway’s 10 class through the main street of Kurri Kurri at 50 mph on L plates. My mates had an interesting mix of vehicles.

SMR 18 on a nice winter’s morning. We sped thorugh towns to get the shots.

Dave had a Fiat 600. His car featured front opening doors and a hand throttle. It really struggled on the trip over the Blue Mountains, barely making it to Bathurst where a pair of 59’s were involved in banking duties. My mate Rags had his Mum’s mini, which would bottom out on the silent cop at the end of my street.

Arnie had use of his Dad’s VIP Valiant, the most luxurious of all our cars. After that, he purchased a Renault 10. Bruce had a Moris Minor. As for me, my first car was a FC Holden, purchased from the local dealer for $360.

The Mini and Renault at Georges Plains where we spent the night in preparation for photographing the bankers on Tumulla, west of Bathrust.

As we were getting desparate by 1971, the only mainline steam West of Sydney was two 59 class stationed at Bathurst to help the diesels get over the hills at Tumulla and Raglan. If you go to Raglan today, there is no sign of the paddocks that once marked the bank, and there no longer is much of a view of the railway from the highway. No chance to cause damage jumping over the barb wire fences either!

5907 pushes yet another diesel up Raglan Bank.

One of the first uses of the car was to chase 3820 on its last trip North in regular service. I started at Enfield and managed to get several shots as it headed towards Tuggerah, where I stopped the chase. . I photographed the train leaving Enfield, and then headed north. I had a special time table so I knew approximately the schedule and caught up with it at Mount Kuringai. From there is was down Cowan bank and onto Brooklyn and the bridge. We crossed most of the way over before 3820 came rumbling into view, where I got this photo that is now published in the new book, “Smoke”.

3820 heads north across the Hawkesbury River one last time in regular service. October, 1970

After an ill fated trip to Perth, where a Kangaroo remodelled the front end, the car finally met its match, when I hit a water board ute near my home in the winter fog.


The Hawkmount Express on its way back from WA suitably remodeled by a Roo!

At the time I used to be a regular visitor to a camera store in Chatswood. I mentioned my car problem and was sold another FC, same colour, for $100 with a year’s rego. I took it home and with my mates fuelled by slabs of beer, made one good car out of the two. We made a block and tackle over the faters to pull the engine out and it lay in state for several years in the backyard. My mother was not amused and  reminds me of the day I wrecked the garage to this day.

Panelbeating – making one FC Holden out of two. No heater, air con, or radio in this old car!

That car travelled all over the state. We took it to Eugowra in the Central West, and North to Singleton. Eventually the rego ran out, so I moved it to Hawkmount and removed the identification plates. We hid the battery and camouflaged it in the bush.

On one occasion we were down the bottom of Hawkmount. We were chased through the bush by a couple of guys with Tomahawks.  There were rumours of a Nudist Colony in the area, and maybe we got too close for comfort!

For several weeks, we bashed around the dirt tracks with gay abandon, gaining access to places normal cars didn’t dare go, until one day driving along the main Hawkmount Highway, a wheel fell off, so we had to leave it overnight.

Next morning we returned to find that locals had vandalised the car, so we left it. That vehicle was responsible for many of my best NSW steam shots.

Many of those who used the FC in its last weeks look on as it lies disabled on the Hawkmount Highway.

Fortunately, we got some great shots with that car before its ultimate decline. Now there is a huge cooling tower behind the shot at Hawkmount, and fences all over the place to keep everyone away from the tracks – not to mention the overhead wires. With no steam engines to set of fires in the underbrush, bushes are in the way of many of our chosen photographic spots. Those were the days.

3820 plus Garratt near the bottom of Hawkmount. We heard it coming and realised it would be dark at the top, so we bashed the FC down the track beside the line, and managed this rather nice shot. Similar photos in “Smoke”.

They were great days. We were on a mission – to get the shots, and had no fear of harm or getting caught. We climbed trees, and telegraph masts, cut down foliage that interfered with the shots, and dealth with mosquito lagues, floods, and some truly shocking roads. “Smoke”, available May/June this year, has many more stories, images going back to the 1930s and a great selection of colour. Something to remember the good old days, or understand what they were back when we had so much more freedom. You can pre-order it by clicking on “shop” on the menu.

Leave a comment if you remember any of this or have your own annecdotes to add.