Wednesday, 21 March 2018


Fly shunting and loose shunting was the “NORM” until the mid-1980 on the QGR...

On the arrival of a train at a station the train engine would head for the shed and a shunt engine would break up the train. The shunters would bleed the air from all the wagons leaving the hand brake as the only working brake, that is, if it was working. Most yards had a section of track on a slight grade, some western locations it was the main line into the station.  Most trains arriving at depots stations were not marshalled. For example, a train arriving at Charleville could have Quilpie loading in 4 places, Cunnamulla loading in 3 places, Charleville in 5 places, plus there could be Wyandra, Cheepie and other loading through the train for smaller stations down the track.  

To break up the train the shunters would pull the train up to a suitable location and come back kicking wagons down various roads to bring the loading together for other trains and the yard. The shunter would cut the wagons off and they would roll down the set road until they hit the first wagon in the road. Sometimes a shunter may apply the hand brake if they need to pick up the wagon again. If you are thinking this a sure fast way to damage freight and wagons you are on the right track. Wagons coming in on a train rolled better than wagons sitting in the yard, one has hot bearings as to the other cold bearings. Roller Bearing wagons put a new spin on things, they would run away just sitting in the yard without a hand brake on. When loose shunting roller bearing wagons they would pick up speed quickly, often slamming into other wagons that had gone before them. They would rebound and come back towards you until they stopped and then roll back onto the other wagons, at times this would happen several time before the wagon stopped with the other wagons.    

Roma Street was a gravity yard, all wagons were kicked from Normanby end, some of them ran all the way to 24 Road beside the old platform 8. I recall taking a PE wagon down to the 24 Road one afternoon in peal hour, platform 8 was packed with passengers. The hand brake on PE wagons was on the headstock, so you would sit on the deck with your legs hanging over the headstock and turn the hand brake wheel. Once on the wagon you would take the slack out of the mechanism and test the brake, you would it in a position so a couple of turns and the brakes were on. This day I came down, turn the corner into the loading area heading for the overhead crane riding the wagon like being on a surf board. The passengers didn’t look to happy after a day’s work at the office, so I decided I would change that. I gave the hank brake wheel a couple of turns and left the wagon. At great knots the PE wagon slammed into the first wagon sounding like a bomb had gone off. Me, now hiding behind a wagon in 23 road with a view of 24 road I could tell the passengers on 8 platform were all awake with many going into the air. It was great walking back up the yard to pick up the next wagon/s, as I made so many people happy on their way home. There was sauce and beer running out of wagons just about every day. The door on 7 shed got knocked off there hinges about once a week. Every road had a name and a hand signal for day and light signal for night. The Shunter in Charge would cut the wagon/s off and give a signal, the shunting waiting 100 yards down the track would set the road and jump on as the wagon/s as they rolled by. He would test the hand brake to see if it works, if it didn’t he would jump off and wait for the next wagon that had a brake on his side. Timber wagons only had a hand brake on one side. Yes, all good fun. 

As in the HWO review, fly shunting was getting wagons on the front of the engine to behind the engine without running around. This photo by Ted Ward shows a shunter in action. I bet you like the safety gear.   

The white circle chalk mark above the axle box indicates the wheel flanges are getting sharp. No computers them days, but the word still got about.

Ken was over on Sunday and took a few movies with his phone.  

I think there is a few more on Facebook with loose shunting as well.

Controlled shunting is still allowed by approval of management, but cannot think of any location where it is done today. Controlled shunting is much the same as loose shunting without the engine kicking wagons off. Controlled shunting is allowing a wagon to roll freely using the hand brake to control the move. Pinkenba grain terminal used this method to unload grain wagons. The wagons were dropped down onto the tippler for unloading and then dropped out of the shed. Many of the grain loading facilities on the Downs could do this to load wagons.

Until next time, enjoy.


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