Friday, May 18, 2012


HARS airshow 2012 – On May 6 2012 the HARS aviation museum located south of Sydney  held its annual airshow. This year saw up to 25,000 people attended on a glorious sunny autumn day and they were able to see many aircraft flying and on display along side assorted aviation exhibits.  The aircraft included warbirds, Australian military and  GA aircraft from 1940s to current modern types.
I was one of the display exhibits and was at the HARS airshow for my 5th time since 2008. The HARS airshow is nowadays one of the few shows in NSW which i attend,  due to it been relatively close to Sydney.  (On a interesting side note….not too long ago Sydney used to have a few regular airshows but over the last 10-20yrs, sadly for the aviation community in Australia,  many of the local airshows and sadly airports as well have been closed down/growing lack of interest in sustaining aviation in Sydney and people nowadays travel to the country or coastal areas where the airshows are run with passion and welcoming open arms. With this change regional, Sydney loses out and regional NSW gains the economic benefits which Sydney once had. Regional jobs are supported as regional town caters for the airshow demands).
Below is an overview of my display area showing the general setup i use.

The interest in the flightgear display at the HARS airshow has grown over the last few years and quite a few people are quite keen to see my display each year which is growing in size and items i put on show.
A close up of the 1940-1990s era flight helmets i had on show. I brought along a small selection but a wide variety of flightgear to educate the public with. The display was set up to show USAAF ANH-15 WW2 era, RAAF E type Korean War era, USAF P-1A  Korean War era , USAF HGU-2A/P Vietnam war,  US Army helicopter APH-5 Vietnam War era and USAF HGU-55/P current/modern era.
I also have on display a few photos of the flightgear reenactments i have held over the years, by been part of the Australian Warbirds Association Limited (AWAL) where i work with warbird owners around Australia to showcase warbird heritage. These events allow me to have a warbird aircraft on show with myself dressed in the correct aircraft and era flightgear. Some examples of the eras i cover include RAAF Korean War, USAF Vietnam War etc. These photos enable visitors to see what pilots wore in 1940-70s and to gain an understanding just how complex flightgear can be.

The ex USAF F-4 Phantom Martin Baker H7 ejection seat from a USAF F-4D Phantom is my main display drawcard attraction at the moment. It is the only regular and publicly displayed F-4 Phantom ejection seat in Australia and as such gains a lot of interest from kids and adults asking about the seat, what it was used in and how it was used.
The seat cost over $7,000 ($ Aus) to restore over 2years from 2010-2011. It is nearly completed except for a few pyrotechnic functions, main parachute ( for the moment absent) and main beam parts. All these parts aren’t really necessary for a static display i feel as they add totally unnecessary weight to the transportation of the seat. The seat already weighs in around 180kg at present.
Educating kids to be safety aware on an ejection seat and not pull or touch the black and yellow ejection handles is a difficult task,  as they are so keen to touch and fiddle with the display. I have built some safeguards into the seat to limit any potential damage to my asset.

I am looking at complementing the F-4 seat  one day with a extremely a rare F-86 Sabre T-4E-1 ejection seat. I did win one of the Sabre seats on ebay a few years ago but the seat was not able to be sent to me sadly.
The whole point of my display was to encourage kids and adults to learn the basics of what a pilot wears in military flying and to also show what items an aviation life support career   in the Royal Australian Air Force would be like. The F-4 Phantom ejection seat was set up to allow kids to have a sit in the seat and wear a HGU-55/P flight helmet with MBU-12/P oxygen mask, so they could for a small fee pose for a photo for their parents.
The other side to my display to allow the kids to have a photo in an ejection seat and let them brag about it later to their friends no doubt… :) . Here  are some of the kids enjoying themselves hamming it up for their parents..

This sitting in an ejection seat may a few years down the track inspire some of the kids to one day consider a career in the RAAF or RAN i hope……..This interest in aviation may lead some of these kids into joining the local Royal Australian Air Force – Air Cadet unit which is co located at the HARS museum. Some of the Air Cadets also tried on a flight helmet and sit in the seat. Some have never had a chance to wear a flight helmet before so were interested in having a go. Other Air Cadets at the Temora airshow last year also took interest in my ejection seat.

Coming up in the future, we may see more flightgear on show at HARS this year in July 2012, as HARS museum is looking at holding its first ever “Open Cockpit Day” to encourage visitors to come see their collection up close and to sit in some of the cockpits. I have expressed my interest to HARS to allow me to come along to this event to showcase my flightgear display again and educate people. More details will be provided when can.
The growing interest in flightgear has also seen my display encourage the HARS museum to approach me for assistance in helping to create some new flightgear displays to use on some of their static warbird aircraft for future events. I have been asked by some people to assist with making their aircraft displays more authentic with sourcing of appropriate flightgear items. I have in the last few years already helped a few aviation museums and warbird owners in Australia and around the world with such assistance.
Final shot of me wearing some flightgear. The flight suit is a 1960 contract USAF K-2B flight suit in International Orange colour which was designed for high visibility. It was mainly worn by crews in air defence fighters, air rescue, tankers and transports. I wear a L-2B flight jacket with B-17 nose art on back of it and a US Navy drone QF-4 Phantom patch on my cap. I am holding a HGU-55/P flight helmet with MBU-12/P oxygen mask.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Yass Town Railway Museum

MAY 2012 -  The town of Yass in south western NSW used to have its own railway service for nearly 100years until late 1988 when it was suspended.  The Yass Town branch line, coming off the main southern line at Yass Junction, supplied the town its required passengers services, goods and mail deliveries.The terminus station was located at the 322km marker with the platform signs showing "YASS TOWN".

The Yass town railway came about due to locals pushing for a connection to the main southern line which was located 4.3km away at Yass Junction. The locals demanded a connecting service and eventually a limited steam tram service was introduced on the railway branch line which had a few stops and the Yass Town terminus. The branch line was unusual for NSW, as the railway track went down the middle of the local streets for parts of its journey. To pass over the Yass River, a combined timber and steel  railway bridge was built.

With services approved the line was opened in 20 April 1892. By 1917 due to the locals again rallying to the NSW Government, they succeeded in having the tram service converted to a proper steam locomotive/ passenger carriage operation on the railway line to handle the demand. Passengers services were suspended in 1957 restarted but were then again suspended on 18 May 1958. A private bus service continued to carry passengers between the two locations but it also ceased on 18 May 1967. The steam era in the 1964 which then saw diesel tractor motors X200 series taking over the motive power role for rest of the lines life.The Yass Town branch line was used for general freight and mail parcels until the branch line was officially closed on  14th November, 1988.

The yard layout saw a main line service the platform, a run around road and a good shed siding. The railway yard also had a short siding extending across from the station into the Caltex depot. An extra siding road was built for storing rollingstock in 1930s but was removed in 1990s. A loading bank was built opposite the station platform. Another track was built away from the station for the servicing of the locomotives and this had 2 roads in the shed, a coal supply and a ash pit.This was removed in the 1970s. The remaining infrastructure in the yard consists of the station building, goods shed, store shed and a goods crane. A very unique feature of the Yass Town railway is the very short and  raised platform section which was built to service the passengers trains when they pulled up into the station.

From early 1989 the ARHS ACT division lobbied the SRA and Yass Shire Council to allow it to manage the railway yard. After 2yrs an agreement was reached with the ARHS taking over and maintaining the station along with Yass Shire Council support. From 1991 to 1992 the volunteers worked hard to bring the station back its early 1900s setup and with new paint and tidying up the yard. In 1992 the new railway museum celebrated the station's 100th birthday, unlike many railway stations which didnt get to see their 100th....

Since the early 1990s, the museum has grown in size with a well maintained yard, heritage preserved buildings and with assorted rollingstock on display including steam locomotive Z13 class 1307,  diesel tractor X203 , S truck goods wagons, Open end American Suburban type passenger carriage 1259, BP petrol tanker, Arnotts biscuit van 13856 and HG 10834 guards vans. To compliment the rollingstock, the station has a large display of photos of the tram and railway branch line in use and yard maps.

A small team of volunteers from Yass and surrounding towns such as Binalong help run and maintain the museum. Their efforts are rewarded when visitors like myself drop in and visit the museum and rollingstock. The museum is always looking out for more volunteers for working on the many projects they have.

It hasn't always been smooth sailing for the railway museum with it been threatened with closure in 2002 due to ARHS ACT withdrawing from the lease. At this point the Yass Shire Council stepped in and took over the running of the lease and railway museum. Another side issue was in 2008 when Yass Shire Council wanted to remove sections of the branch line along Dutton Street but due to public demand it stopped its planned actions.

The Yass Shire Council in 2012 now sees that the Council supported railway museum does play a part in the town's history and during 2011 was starting a 2yr review on the potential suitability of restoring the branch line back to operational standard to bring in tourist trains. No decision has yet been made public on this plan. It is hoped that one day the town will see railway tourists alighting at Yass Town's short railway station  platform.