The Footplate Padre has received some correspondence on his previous articles on the Very Fast Train (VFT). In essence, his argument raised the question of the infrastructure cost of any separate VFT line making the NBN proposals look like kindergarden toys and that the population equation did not match either Europe, Japan or China.
Moreover the Footplate Padre made the point that the timetables of the 1980's XPT trains have not gained that much time allocations as opposed to the grand express diesel electric hauled trains such as the Southern Aurora, the Spirit of Progress or the Inter-Capital Daylight Express.
As a reader of the Australian Railway History magazine, I recall a letter in the August 2013 edition, Volume 64 – No. 910, “letter to the editor”, written by Stephen Miller mirrored the essence of the Footplate Padre's comments on the issue of timetabling and speed of the fast trains whether hauled by steam, electric or diesel electric.
He points out that when the XPT was introduced in 1982 the Sydney to Broadmeadow XPT service 1 hour 57 minutes, now it is 2 hours 20 minutes as opposed to the original 1950's steam service (two hours thirteen minutes).
Stephen Miller made the point that in addition to the steam service, there were many more slow goods trains enroute which needed to be put away in sidings, it wasn't simply an issue of a vacant rail track.
Another interesting tid-bit that was in 1914 the 35 Class steam locomotive which specialised in hauling express passenger trains had a maximum speed of 70 mph (miles per hour) which was no different to the flashy new 1960's big electric locomotives in NSW such as the 46 Class (the 46 Class was reduced to 65 mph – Stephen Miller spells out technical reasons)..
He also pointed out that the Newcastle Flyer over 100 years whether hauled by steam, electric or diesel electric had a maximum speed of 70 mph.
Stephen Miller also notes that with a little modification the 46 Class could have raced along at 80 mph and moreover European electric locomotives which he specifies in 1955 at 331 km/h.
So what's this all about? The Footplate Padre has said, people in the know such as Stephen Miller have said it, and many others have said it, that there are issues of the Very Fast Train that are not being explored, rather the image of a VFT is and always has been a vote chaser.
Even the experts have raised a list of concerns taking into account existing Very Fast Trains in Europe (Italy).
These seems to be the realistic options utilising the current track system -
First, the technical associations of electric locomotion can see existing engines doing higher speeds safely.
Second, there is a constant realignment of existing rail tracks dealing with the nastier curves which Queensland has been way ahead of the ball game for years.
Third, the massive spend required to put in a VFT can be done. Or, making use of the existing infrastructure and better technical adaptation of the electric and diesel electric locomotives can see them doing significantly higher speeds.
The Footplate Padre says that in the late 1960's when working from Goulburn he was scheduled as fireman on a number of such expresses on the big diesel electrics and in conversation (not paying attention) found that the speed crept up to 80 mph. The ride was beautiful. It's been possible for years.
He cannot help but reflect on the drama associated with David and Goliath, how no one wanted to tackle this very real threat to the Israelites and then came a lad without fanfare or trumpet but a trusty sling shot and did the job.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html