The Site
Page created: 6th March 2006

This site was created with a two purposes in mind. The first, to share the photos I have taken over the past thirty years with others who have a general interest in all things rail, and more particularly one almost overlooked aspect - the rolling stock. The second is time. After turning fifty(!) last year, the sobering realization came that if I lived for another twenty years (hopefully longer) that equated to only 1040 weeks! 1040 weeks!! Unbelievable!! - you can cross a week off a calendar like it doesn't even matter: all of a sudden those weeks did start to matter - big time. I have over 800 rolls of black and white film that were only ever developed, never printed, never seen by anyone, even I have never seen the bulk of the negatives as positives! The long awaited darkroom project was doomed from the start, and what do you do with 30,000+ pictures anyway? Thank goodness for the digital age. A negative scanner, a computer and the internet made the improbable possible. Now, lets see... scan a film a week and that'll only take 15 or so years - unacceptable! Lets try two films a week - nope, still 7 years to do 'em all and I do want to have some retirement time for other things. Geez - it will need to be at least three or four films per week to get anywhere with this project. And after they're scanned? Who gets to see them? Where will they end up? Who cares? Does it matter? Well, yes I think it does matter, and anyone will be able to see them eventually. Too many collections have been lost in the past through greed, neglect or indifference. Hopefully a modeller or perhaps a person writing an article, researching a location or whatever may find a use for some, even one. Perhaps someone may decide they want an instant photographic collection! Why not!? This site will contain images only. No data, no diagrams, no historical information unless I photographed it. If you are after data, details and lots more photos, I must recommend two sites:

the first is the Peter J. Vincent VR Rolling Stock page;
and the second is the Mark Bau VR website.

The inspiration to put the entire collection onto the net came from a man named Les Brown - someone I have never met, but whose site showed what is possible when one is prepared to get off one's butt and actually share!! Congratulations to you Les and I hope your efforts inspire even one other person to do the same!

The Images

The negatives are scanned using a Microtek Scanmaker 35t plus. The software is Ulead Iphoto Express. Images are first previewed then adjusted with the histogram tool, exposure, midpoint, contrast - basically whatever it takes to get a reasonable, recognizable picture. They are then scanned at 3900dpi, cropped to 5200 x 3500 pixels where practicable and saved as approximately 15-17meg tif files on DVD's. Why so big? Cos you can always resize/resample downwards. The images on this site are "tweaked" again if necessary, resized to 1024 pixels wide or thereabouts, then saved as 80% jpg files. Some of the negatives have had a hard life - all my fault I'm afraid. When I first started out, I was rolling my own film from 100 foot rolls of Ilford FP4. Some days I got it a little bit wrong and would end up with the emulsion layer back the front, upside down, inside out - you name it. Then there was the matter of taking the photographs - exposure always confused me or so it seems when trying to scan some of these images today. I couldn't (can't?) tell underexposed from overexposed, thick from thin, dense from whatever the opposite of dense is, and in reality, with the digital technology now available, it doesn't really matter what they are as long as you can get an acceptable image. I shudder to think of the number of films I junked (yes, actually threw out in the rubbish) because I thought they were too "thick" or too "thin" or too light fogged or whatever. And anyway, nothing happened quickly on the railways - I could always go out and get them again..... Ooops - Wrong!! And talk about wrong, if you could do something wrong, the bet was that I did it. I shot into the sun, along the shadow sides, took photos from the "wrong" angle, took magnificently blurred handheld pictures at way under 1/30th of a second in low light situations or when shunting was being done - the moving wagons never seemed to stay still long enough for me to get a sharp shot - must be a relativity thing! Then there were the light fogging incidents, chemical residues on the negatives and the scratches. There was nothing worse than taking a finished roll of film from the camera and the little lid on the film canister popping open, or popping open while being carried around in the camera bag, or the little lids (even though they stayed on) not being quite as light tight as expected. Or the inevitable "Where's that roll of film I put in this pocket"? - yes, the coat/jacket/shirt/pants pocket that had a hole in it. But the scratches..... what can one say about the scratches. It didn't matter if they occurred during the film rolling stage, while the film was passing through the camera, when rewinding the film, or later during or after the developing was done when I used to store them in the steel cannisters the 100 foot rolls of film came in - it didn't matter - the scratches were here and here to stay. "So what?" you say, "the software is available to clean up the images". Ah yes, but the time it takes to do that is not, especially when I'm looking at at least 4-5 years just to get them scanned, let alone tidied up. And then there's the colour negs and slides to be done! So - the collection is presented "as is". Scratches, strange pale blobs in the sky, blurs, shakes, out of focus, more scratches, yep - its all here folks!! And, on top of all that (believe it or not), there were camera problems too! My earliest pictures were on a Kodak Instamatic and the few negatives that have survived are basically useless now. The images are there but the quality is definitely not. My first "real" (SLR) camera was purchased in late 1974, but was stolen along with I don't know how many rolls of film (at least 20) whilst I was blissfully drinking a few pots at the old Savoy Tavern Hotel in 1975. It took me ages to get my second camera (can't honestly remember the make). Then, all too soon, it developed a nasty habit of jamming the mirror in the raised position. A quick tap of the camera body against anything steel seemed to cure the problem in the short term, but a longer term problem that I was unaware of was occurring. With each "tap" the alignment of the glass in the lens was moving ever so slightly. And ever so slightly my pictures were gradually getting fuzzier and fuzzier. Hmmm, must take more care with my focussing I thought. Tap, tap, blur, blur, fuzzier, fuzzier - Whats going on?? Tap, tap, blur, blur, endless cycle. About this time I had met my future wife and we were soon to be engaged. Imagine her surprise when I announced I was picking up a special something I had put on lay-by. Imagine her dismay when I produced not an engagement ring, but a brand new Pentax K1000!!! I was happy as Larry - she probably wished she was with Larry!! But, the focus problem was solved. Black and white remained the mainstay, but a second K1000 allowed unfettered freedom - colour slide was now in my armoury! As tke Kodachrome 64 was pre-packed, I had next to none of the scratches problem, but exposure still haunted me at times. In 1989, a switch to colour negative film was made using whatever was the cheapest brand "X" film I could find at Safeway or Big W. And so into the digital age. A Canon G1 was my first digital foray - 2 times optical zoom, 340 meg microdrive, and the infamous Canon fuse problem. That was the end of the G1 after barely 2 years. Next (and currently) is the Canon S1 IS. After this will come - no, got to get back to scanning the negs!!

Me

I guess I was born with a "railway gene", as my earliest childhood memories are not of kindergarten or state school, but rail related events that have stuck in my mind or become life long hobbies. I clearly remember such things as seeing a sparkling clean B-class at Richmond when I was about 4 or 5 years old, picking up discarded Edmondson tickets at Jordanville, Footscray, Elsternwick from about the same age, the Glen Waverley line duplication, writing down Tait "G" car numbers on the roof of an old car body stored in our backyard, the smell of the brown coal train passing through Flinders Street on its way to Fairfield, riding the swing-door "Doggies" to South Melbourne or Ashburton, watching the Darling goods, and always - the near-mystical purple lights in Flinders Street Yard after dark. In New South Wales whilst on family holidays it was T and Y classes passing through Parramatta on trial runs, Bradfield motors, watching the trains at Westmead, seeing my first steam engine at Wentworthville, the first of the double deck trailers, 79 classes at Sydney Terminal, the Fish, the Chips, U-boats. Alas, all these are only memories now. I left school at the end of 1970 (leaving certificate) and started work early in 1971. In those days it was "get a Government job - you'll be set for life" and so the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works became my "job for life". I met another rail minded person there, and he talked me into becoming a member of the Australian Railway Historical Society - and looking back now, I'm glad I did. Through numerous steam or diesel hauled ARHS trips I got to see a lot of the Victorian rail network, most of which no longer exists. We did many photographic trips to Somerton and points north or along the Western line, but no rolling stock as yet. At one of the ARHS meetings, I met Peter Vincent. Wow! This guy had photos of more wagons than I could point a camera at! Even classes I had not seen before! "Get out and take pictures" he said, so I did. This was the start of a lasting friendship. He was already on the Railways and kept asking "Why don't you join the Railways and become a Driver?" The more I thought about it, the less reasons I came up with not to do it. I didn't particularly like office work, I was interested in railways, I would be getting paid while taking photos, I could be "on the property" legally and it would be "a job for life", and I guess I had always envied the train drivers and dreamt of doing their job more than once. So, on the 14th of February 1977, I officially joined the Victorian Railways as a Trainee Engineman. I was IN!! Classroom study followed by labouring duties in the Dynon Diesel Depot followed by mopping out the diesel cabs at Fuel Point eventually led to my first fortnight "on the road" with an instructor. I was based at Dynon and did various jobs on the roster there. A six week stint of relieving at Korumburra produced enough money to buy my first real stereo system - Hitachi valve amp, Akai turntable and twin cassette deck, giant speakers. This was living! After about 8 months at Dynon, I successfully applied for the position of Fireman Class 2 at Wodonga. The next three years were fantastic. Standard and broad gauge running, a great depot with some great characters, good pay, what could be better!? It was about this time that I started photograhing NSW rolling stock, firstly in Albury Yard, but eventually doing many field trips to Port Kembla, Newcastle and the Central West areas. All too soon the dreaded day of my Drivers exam arrived, but finally, on the 31st day of March 1981, I was presented with Operations Branch Drivers Certificate Number 96 after qualifying as a Locomotive Driver. I'd made it!! A 10 week trip to America in July, August and September of 1981 with my mate from the Board of Works was an amazing photographic holiday, which, upon returning basically led straight to my transfer to the Electric Running Depot at Jolimont during November 1981. I shifted into a "Departmental Residence" (railway provided housing) in Albion and still reside here with my family. In 1994 I resigned from the Public Transport Corporation and joined the National Rail Corporation, but too much night shift, really early morning starts, missing some important family moments and "Do I really want to be doing this when I'm 65?" meant a little less than two years later, I was back at the "sparks" where I anticipate I will be staying until retirement. The boys at NRC gave me two names while I was there - being christened "Robbie O'Wagunz" which led to my nickname of "wagunz" on various newsgroups; and "ROBX" after the NRC bogie open wagons, which led to the naming of this site (robx1.net). The various privatisations of the old Victorian Railways have left me less than enthusiastic about the current rail scene, in fact - even though I'm still a Driver, I basically have no idea whose trains are whose any more, nor who is crewing them. But, seeing there's more to trains than just the locos, I'll just keep plodding along, a picture here, a picture there.

rxo

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