Another OCR adventure with Google Image Search

A few years ago I discovered that Google Image Search applies OCR to indexed images, enabling it to return results for text that have never appeared online. Well, now I’ve found another example.

Some detective work

The story started two months ago, when Victorian residents were allowed to go further than 5 kilometres from home and dine at restaurants – I headed down to the Bellarine Peninsula to see The Q Train, where South African Railways class 24 steam engine 3620 was ready to haul the lunch session out of Queenscliff station.

South African Railways class 24 steam engine 3620 ready to lead The Q Train out of Queenscliff

While around the corner, I found this open air carriage parked in the sidings – the only identifier on the side being ‘OXK 34689’.

Observation carriage OXK 34689 for 'The Q Train' at Queenscliff

That wasn’t a wagon code I’ve heard of before, so I put it into a Google search – and got no web pages of note.

But the image search results turned up something interesting – a photo of the same carriage that I had photographed.

I clicked through the link, and ended up on the Facebook page for The Q Train.

And if you take a closer look at the photo – Google had indexed the ‘OXK 34689’ code on the side of the carriage.

But what about the carriage?

I ended up getting an answer the old fashioned way – asking a bunch of rolling stock nerds on Facebook whether they knew the back story of the carriage. The first lead:

It came from Cairns along with the South African steam locomotive.

That service ran for four months in 2004 between Cairns to Kuranda in Queensland.

Before lower than expected patronage numbers saw the service withdrawn. The rolling stock laying idle until 2020 when it found a new home at Queenscliff.

As for the identity of the wagon, I got a second lead.

Queensland Rail steel H class (HJS/HWA) open wagon is my guess.

That led me to a webpage on the ‘HSA / HWA Wagons’, created by someone modelling the Queensland Railways in H0n3½ scale.

Between 1965 and 1981, 550 general traffic open goods/freight wagons entered service on the QR Network. The wagons were much the same size as the previous HJS wagons that entered service in the early 1950’s.

And they broke down the wagon numbers.

Contract # 1. HSA Class # 33119 – 33268, built by Scott’s of Ipswich in 1965.

Contract # 2. HSAT Class # 34667 – 34799, built by Scott’s of Ipswich in 1971

Contract # 3. HWA Class # 35820 – 35969, built by Scott’s of Ipswich in 1972.

OXK 34689 happens to fall into the HSAT 34667 – 34799 number group, and the underframe looks much the same as the observation carriage at Queenscliff.

HSAT 34753 Rockhampton 5/1987
Norm Bray photo

So my mystery carriage OXK 34689 was once Queensland Rail open wagon HSAT 34689, built in 1972, acquired by Cairns Kuranda Steam in the early 2000s and converted into an observation carriage, placed into storage in 2004, and finally transported to Victoria in 2020.

And a plug for The Q Train

I went on The Q Train a few years ago, and it’s well worth the trip!

Dining car at one of end The Q Train

Even if you don’t hit the dance floor in the ‘Club Loco’ carriage.

'Club Loco' onboard The Q Train

Once lockdown is over, go treat yourself!

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