Capertee Train Trip

Old trains capture my imagination. A short steam train ride in Tasmania remains a favourite memory from years ago – as the train tootled along, there were sheep scattering off the tracks in all directions. When the opportunity came up to travel from Lithgow to Capertee on an old CPH railmotor, I took it.

The train line to Capertee is no longer a passenger line, like many old lines across the state. The Gwabegar line remains open for coal trains and the railway travels through Wallerawang, Portland and Ben Bullen before arriving at the small village of Capertee.

But the destination is only part of the journey. There were three carriages of fellow travellers on this trip, and there was a frisson of excitement as the train arrived at Lithgow station, precisely on time. Our guide for the day was Graeme, the president of the Capertee Progress Association. He was decked out in tails and a top hat, which seemed entirely appropriate. Armed with a megaphone he had the passengers organised in no time at all.

 

CPH Railmotor arriving at Lithgow station

 

On the journey out I shared the trip with one of the volunteer train guards, who told some interesting stories of some of the heritage train trips he’d been on around the state. We marvelled at the rolling green hills, still soaked after days of heavy rain, the mob of kangaroos on the golf course at Marrangaroo, and the smaller groupings of roos startled by the train, springing into action and bounding at speed alongside the carriage.

But the real star of the show was the scenery. The landscape became increasingly rocky and steep, and there were swathes of darkness as the train rumbled through tunnels. The rocking of the carriages, the smell of diesel, the excited chatter of a large group of people, all of this faded into the background as the wide canyons and valleys came into view. The area has the largest enclosed canyon in the world.

In recent travels, I’ve been through quite a few small country towns. I find them interesting, as no two are really alike. Some places feel heavy with a sense of their own demise as people move away for work and lifestyle reasons. Capertee, although small, has a sense of vibrancy. The town knew that the train was coming and there were markets and activities lined up for the visitors. A sign near the market proclaimed it to be ‘train day’ and there were various stalls set up inside and around the local hall. Part of the proceeds from the train trip was to be used to help maintain and upkeep the hall, which remains a living hub for the community.

Inside the hall, there were many photos of gatherings from previous years, along with local landmarks including the Glen Davis Shale Mine. Outside there was a BBQ for the hungry hordes and a special performance from the Lithgow Pipe Band. It was great – a professional and entertaining performance, and it will take me a long time to forget their rendition of Hokey Pokey. Santa had paid a visit earlier in the day, but I had been having a wander around the Glen Davis Shale Mine.

 

Lithgow Pipe Band performing at Capertee

 

When the train pulled back in at the station – it had followed the line out through to Kandos before returning – it was a happy crowd that piled on board with local purchases and memories of a day out in a friendly country town.

Have you had a day out of the ordinary lately?

[Photo: CPH ‘Tin Hare’ railmotors leaving Capertee for Kandos, part of the heritage fleet at Lachlan Valley Railway]

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Leather and Lace*

You don’t always get to choose where you live. It might be where you were born, or where you move for study or work, for love or convenience. Sometimes it is a deliberate choice, based on a series of decisions around the kind of lifestyle you want; at other times it is where your family happens to be. Some people live in the same area all their lives, others shift about at regular intervals, a restlessness permeating their life or perhaps just questing after new horizons.

For me, living in the mountains was a deliberate choice. I knew that I wanted to be nearer to Sydney but after a decade away from the big smoke, it was overwhelming just to visit and I didn’t seriously contemplate moving back there. But I needed to be closer. A rough idea of living within 100 kilometres came to mind and I began to think of the areas that would fit into my wishlist of affordability, creativity and lifestyle.

In hindsight the mountains were an obvious choice, and I didn’t seriously consider anywhere else. They were familiar, and depending on where I chose to live, commuting for work would be an option if I couldn’t snag something locally. The mix of villages, some so small they were blurs on the highway, others distinctive and offering their own style of life, was a big appeal.

When you come across new residents, they frequently comment on the slower pace of life, the casual and relaxed attitude of people, the great cafes and the creative buzz. And, of course, there is the staggering natural beauty available wherever you turn.

Where would you live if you could?

*Taken from the title of the song by Stevie Nicks & Don Henley, comparing city and mountain life and love

[Photo taken from the Hartley Valley Road]

 

Who listens to the radio?*

I stumbled across the local Blue Mountains radio station by chance when I first started to visit the area with a view to relocating here. My visits were usually on the weekend and I was taken in by the wide range of presenters, local news and musical selection.

One of my fondest memories of the transitional time was when I was moving my bits and pieces down, usually on a late Friday afternoon. There is a bend in the road just past Lithgow when Hassans Walls come into view, a stunning sight with the afternoon sun catching the golden tints in the sandstone. Wind your way down past Hartley, then make the giddy ascent through to Mt Victoria, fiddle with your radio and there it is, Radio Blue Mountains.

These Friday night trips often coincided with an evening show featuring two local identities riffing off each other verbally on a really wide range of topics, interspersed with music that ranged from contemporary to obscure artists and the occasional operatic aria. I was taken in and it made me feel connected on some level with this place that I was in the process of making my home.

There are some programs that I catch when I can – internet radio is a blessing if I’m out of range but need some of the familiar comfort of home – and I have been reminded of lots of music that I’ve loved but forgotten, as well as being introduced to many new artists and songs that have resonated with me.

The frequent community noticeboard messages and the traffic, train and weather reports keep me in the loop and informed during weather events, such as bushfires and snow. It is a great way of getting to know what’s happening and to feel part of mountain life.

How do you keep connected?

*Taken from the title of a song by The Sports.

I’m on a foggy highway*

There are many things to love about living in the Blue Mountains. The air, for starters. It is usually crisp, often scented with eucalyptus along with whatever is currently in bloom. The blue skies too, although to be fair there are often dramatic cloud formations. One of my favourite things is the mist which seems to appear out of nowhere, cloaking the landscape by stealth at any time of the year. It can be disorientating at times, but there is a moment of clarity when the fog clears.

People from all walks of life are drawn to live here. It is known as a popular place for creative souls, with a wide collection of artists, musicians, writers and innovators. Someone said to me recently that you can be who you want to be here, and that in itself makes it a special place to live.

For me, it was the creative community that appealed, along with the chance to have more time to contemplate what really matters.

It can be like travelling along a foggy highway, tricky and confusing at times, but if you persevere you arrive at your destination.

*The topic line is taken from ‘Foggy Highway’ by Paul Kelly. The use of a line from a song as a topic line is borrowed from Margot Kinberg’s truly excellent crime fiction blog, which you can find here.