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]


Blue Mountain Sunsets (Words by Henry Lawson)

Now in the west the colours change,

The blue with crimson blending;


Sunset viewed from Mount Victoria looking over the Hartley Valley

Behind the far Dividing Range,

The sun is fast descending.


Sunset viewed from Mitchell’s Lookout, Mount Victoria

And mellowed day comes o’er the place,

And softens ragged edges;


Sunset in the Hartley Valley

The rising moon’s great placid face

Looks gravely o’er the ledges.


Sunset in Main Street, Lithgow

Excerpt from The Blue Mountains by Henry Lawson

[Photo: backyard sunset]

Hartley Historic Village

One of the first things to know about the Hartley area is that there is a lot of it. From the Blue Mountains heading towards Lithgow you first pass through Little Hartley (with the old Harp of Erin on the left hand side, past the lolly shop) then the roadhouse cafe and farming produce store at Mid Hartley. A detour along Browns Gap Road will take you through Hartley Vale, providing an opportunity to enjoy a lovely drive through the valley.

The historic village of Hartley is under the care of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The NPWS took over the upkeep of the village in 1972, and there are various tours and accommodation options available. On the day I went for a wander there was a bus load of school kids visiting from the south coast, and they were split into groups to explore the historic courthouse and the Catholic Church.

The village of Hartley began to take shape in the mid 1830s with travel along the Great Western Road passing nearby following the opening of Victoria Pass. By 1837 the Hartley Courthouse was in operation, administering local justice until 1887 when court business was transferred to Lithgow. The building became a popular backdrop for tourists taking group photos on tours to the Jenolan Caves and was set up as a museum from the period after World War II until it came under the control of NPWS.

Hartley is one of the towns that came into existence due to the needs of travellers heading to the western districts, but then declined in significance when bypassed by the railway in the 1870s. The remaining buildings include old pubs and places of worship.


Old Post Office, Hartley

The old post office is now a family-owned and operated cafe. The pressed tin ceiling, painted white, has a lovely rose design and there is local artwork on display and for sale inside the cafe. The granite tor, which I’ve written about previously, is located behind the old post office. There is an energy about it, and it is worth the walk up the slope in order to see the vistas stretching out towards Oberon and Lithgow, with the Great Western Highway snaking its way up the incline to Lithgow, Bathurst and beyond.


The Farmer’s Inn, which now includes the Kew-Y-Ahn Aboriginal Gallery. St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church in the background.

The Farmers Inn, which has served various purposes including time as a pub during the gold rush, is now a tourist centre and a gallery for indigenous artists from the central west of NSW.


St Bernard’s Presbytery (right) and St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church

Evidence of the strong Irish Catholic community is evident in St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church and Presbytery, built in the 1830s and 1840s. The Anglican church, St John the Evangelist, is located closer to the highway and was built in the 1850s.


The Shamrock Inn, Hartley

During my occasional visits to Hartley I’ve been drawn to the Shamrock Inn, one of the last buildings along the road. It seems to be settling down into its foundations with each passing year, the stones at the front of the building a little more uneven and the doorways slightly shorter than my height.

Pride and preservation combined with an interesting heritage make Hartley Historic Village a place well worth the trip. 

[Photo: Hartley Courthouse]

Anzac Memorials

With Anzac Day approaching on April 25, I thought I’d share photos of some of the war memorials that I have spotted in my recent travels through Goulburn and the central west of NSW. Most towns, regardless of size, have a memorial to the lives lost and altered forever by war. The intention behind these monuments was captured at the unveiling of the South Australian National War Memorial on 25 April 1931 by His Excellency, the Governor Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven:

It is not only for ourselves that we have erected this visible remembrance of great deeds, but rather that those who come after us and have not experienced the horrors of war, or realised the wanton destruction and utter futility of it all, may be inspired to devise some better means to settle international disputes other than by international slaughter.

Goulburn War Memorial

Goulburn Boer War Memorial

Memorials are often located in parks and public places, including this memorial to the Boer War in Goulburn.

Lithgow War Memorial

Lithgow War Memorial

Many memorials have been updated over the years to reflect recent wars and conflicts, including this one in Lithgow.

Wellington War Memorial

Wellington War Memorial

This memorial is located in Cameron Park, alongside the river in Wellington. At the centre is ‘Winged Victory‘.

Dubbo War Memorial

Dubbo War Memorial

The Dubbo War Memorial is located in the centre of the town at Victoria Park, and there is a pathway lined with statues and stories of people who served.

Bathurst War Memorial

Bathurst War Memorial

There are 35 bells in The Carillon, built in 1933 to commemorate the men who served in World War I.

Memorial at Bathurst, dedicated by Lord Kitchener in 1910

Boer War Memorial, Bathurst

Located in the same park is this memorial to the soldiers of the Boer War in Africa, dedicated by Lord Kitchener.

There is an excellent resource of war memorials across Australia here.

Bowenfels Gun Emplacements, Lithgow

Over time I am learning more about Lithgow and its history, and I was vaguely aware that it played an important role in providing guns for Australian troops during both World Wars. Lithgow had been chosen as the preferred site for small arms manufacture in 1909 after much lobbying and extensive consideration of various sites in regional Australia. A combination of cheap coal and an established steel industry in the town helped with the site selection.

In June 1912 the factory was formally opened with its own powerhouse, tool room and forge shop, employing nearly 200 people. This swelled to about 1300 during World War I; following the war the numbers fell steadily during the Great Depression before picking up again during World War II. But along with increased employment demands, there was the growing threat of air attack after Japan entered the war. As the factory was making the rifles and machine guns for the Australian Army, it was considered a potential target. Lithgow was an important location due to its mining, manufacturing and transport industries.

On 10 December 1941, 20 officers and men from the 9th Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery arrived in the town to set up sites for guns in two locations. Scenic Hill, on the approach from Windsor, and South Bowenfels, were the selected locations based on the likelihood of any attack coming from either end of the valley. The gun emplacements were commenced on 22 December 1941 and were operational on Scenic Hill from 2 January 1942, and at Bowenfels shortly after. The sites were manned 24 hours a day. A Lewis Machine Gun detachment was assigned for the close defence of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory with the machine gun installed on the factory roof.


Emplacement with replica gun

The Bowenfels site had been a farm, and the existing infrastructure was used to provide camouflage. There was a farmhouse, manse, cattle yards, outhouses and pigpens: these were put to use by the soldiers who manned the site. Further modifications included the skeleton construction of a barn and gravel roads to give the impression of a normal farm layout from above. Sections were removed from the barn roof for observation and rangefinder areas, and one gun was located within an orchard. Trees were shaped out of scrap metal and nets used to disguise the guns. Concrete slit trenches surrounded the emplacements to protect against aircraft attack and enemy troops dropped near the guns. There were also dummy emplacements set up as decoys.

As the threat to Australia moved further north, the guns were removed during December 1943 and January 1944. It is thought that the guns and the artillery crews were sent to islands off the northern coast. The ‘hoax farm’ buildings were auctioned off after 1945.


Replica gun with Lithgow in the background

In recent years, the Bowenfels site has been restored and replica guns installed in three of the emplacements. The site is located near Tom Lesslie Place, off Kirkley Street. It is signposted with access carved out between housing and commercial developments. The emplacements, nestled into the hillside, are surrounded by scrub and a wide scattering of rabbits. It remains as a physical reminder of a time when Lithgow was identified along with Bathurst as a valuable location under threat outside of the Sydney Fortress Area. Fortification of the industrial areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Port Kembla were the priority, but the threat of a land based enemy invasion was real and precautions were taken to prepare the town. There is an article on a re-enactment that was planned for the site here.

Sources: Lithgow Heavy Anti Aircraft Gun Stations and Dummy Station, Office of Environment & Heritage; Lithgow Mercury; Lithgow Tourism; Proud Valley – Lithgow by Ian Kirkwood, 2003; Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum.


My I Spy: something beginning with ‘Z’

All good things must come to an end, including this alphabetical quest. What a delight it has been to pay more attention to what is happening around me as I cast about for things to use in the I Spy game. This is what I have spotted beginning with Z.


Zebra crossing at Katoomba

Zebra Crossing

Usually known as pedestrian crossings, zebra crossings help to get us safely from one side of the road to the other. Zebra crossings have been in use for over 60 years, and were nicknamed due to the original black and white design. This crossing was spotted in Katoomba.

Zig Zag Railway, Clarence

Zig Zag Railway, Clarence

Zig Zag Railway

This popular tourist attraction was opened in 1975, offering a range of popular train trips. Unfortunately it was devastated in the bushfires of 2013 when damage was incurred to major infrastructure and rolling stock. According to the website, it is hoped that passenger services will resume early this year. The Zig Zag runs along a line that was built in the 1860s to move people and produce from the western plains to Sydney. It is located at Clarence, which is about 10 kilometres east of Lithgow, and is run by volunteers. This photo was taken near the entrance of the station at Clarence, known as Zig Zag Station. There are lots of videos of the railway in better days, and there is a link to a short one here.

Zealous cockatoo snacking on figs

Zealous cockatoo snacking on figs


I couldn’t resist this photo of a cockatoo, snacking on the fig tree in my yard with zeal. They are such raucous eaters, nibbling fruit and stripping leaves and branches as they go.

Zodiac scarf

Zodiac scarf

Zodiac Scarf

The origins of this scarf escape me, but I know it has accompanied me through several moves and I always find a use for it, wherever I am.

Zig Zag Brewery

Zig Zag Brewery

Zig Zag Brewery

A final Z reference as I spotted this bottle at a local cafe. A link to the Zig Zag Brewery in Lithgow is here.

My sincere thanks to everyone who has read these posts. It has been a been a joy to find a wide range of objects to include in this quest, and I have had quite the adventure as I have zipped off to track down elusive thoughts and ideas. The comments, suggestions and shared reminiscing in some cases has been a highlight. It has certainly been rewarding to spy with my little eye.

My I Spy: something beginning with ‘V’

Verily it seems as though this alphabetical quest is slipping along at speed now as the tail end veers into view. There was a variety of objects vying for my attention, and this is what I have spied.




This is a sample of my vase collection. In recent years I have taken a fancy to coloured glass and have been accumulating bottles and vases such as these – lovely with flowers from the garden or with the sunlight shining through as they are clustered on my kitchen windowsill.

Victorian Bow Wagon, West Wyalong

Victorian Bow Wagon, West Wyalong

Victorian Bow Wagon

This was spied at the extensive museum at West Wyalong. Wagons such as these carried untold tonnes of wool and grain across the Australian landscape in the 1800s and early 1900s. The sheer size of the wagon can be appreciated up close, or in paintings such as Across the Black Soil Plains by G W Lambert. There is additional history about this painting here. One of my ancestors owned a wool wagon which is part of the collection at the Western Plains Cultural Centre – there is a link to the wagon and its history here.

Lithgow viaducts

Viaducts at Lithgow


These railway viaducts are near Farmers Creek at Lithgow. The original viaduct was a single track which was part of the Great Western Railway, forming a vital part of the extension of the railway from Lithgow to Bathurst and out to the central west of NSW.  It dates from 1870 and is one of the oldest stone arch railway viaducts in the state. The original plan was for iron girder bridges but economic constraints intervened and the stone arch was erected instead. As the demand on the railway line increased, a second track was required. The second viaduct was built in 1921.

Verandah at Elizabeth Farm

Verandah at Elizabeth Farm


A wide verandah is an essential part of Australian homesteads to take advantage of cool breezes and provide shade during long, hot summers. This verandah is part of Elizabeth Farm, one of the oldest houses in Australia.




This late entry has been sitting on my kitchen window sill for a couple of years now. There was a spurt of leafy growth over the past month or so and now there are a couple of purple blooms to make me smile whenever I spot them.

Have you spied anything vibrant beginning with V lately?

Check out what Autumn has spied here, as well as on Instagram.

My I Spy: something beginning with ‘S’

It seems like the alphabet is slipping along now as the tail end sneaks into view. With so many things beginning with S to choose from, the hardest part was deciding what to share. Here is what I spied.

Shadows, Elizabeth Farm

Shadows, Elizabeth Farm


The play of light and dark is of interest to me, and this photo was taken on a late winter afternoon at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta. The shadows are cast in part by the gnarled branches of a large frangipani tree, along with jacaranda branches waiting for the layers of leaves and blooms to bud.

Scorched, Hargraves Lookout

Scorched, Hargraves Lookout


This burnt landscape is on the way to Hargraves Lookout, near Blackheath. The threat of bushfire is a constant part of mountain life. Vegetation control and back burning is used to minimise risk, but the reality is that bushfire is unpredictable, voracious and frightening. In recent travels to the northern beaches of Sydney and the mid north coast of the state, there were acres of scorched vegetation stretching into the distance. A sombre reminder of the danger of fire.


Snail at Blue Mountains Organic Co, Lithgow


I would not normally seek out snails for photographic purposes, but this giant snail, perched on the edge of a shelf, was too good to resist. It resides at the Blue Mountains Organic Co, a cafe in  Lithgow. I do have a close-up photo but it is mildly repellent so I’ll leave it for now.




This blue sheep is one of many garden ornaments in my Mum’s garden. They peek out from garden beds, lurk in the midst of flower arrangements and are suspended, in some instances, from trees. Gnomes are a popular choice, and the old cement gnomes of my childhood have had various coats of paint over the years. The sheep stands out for me, not only because of the vibrant hue, but it calls to mind an image in a story by fellow blogger and Writer in the Mist, Therese. You can find Therese’s blog here.

Shark Tank, water reservoir, Katoomba

Sharks on Tank, Katoomba


Murals are increasingly popular and prevalent in the mountains. There is a side road in Katoomba which has recently been turned into a one-way street to make it safer for the foot traffic checking out the artistry on the walls. This underwater scene featuring toothy sharks is on a water reservoir on Narrow Neck Road.

Have you spotted anything spectacular starting with ‘S’ lately?

Keep an eye on Autumn’s insightful spying here, as well as on Instagram – I loved her Jenny Kee photo. Recent highlights from Autumn include quacks and quaquaversal as well as reflections on the letter R. Next, it’s time for T.

[Photo: snowman spotted at Medlow Bath last winter]

My I Spy: something beginning with ‘P’

Plenty of possibilities for things beginning with ‘P’ have presented themselves. Parrots, people, plumes of clouds, pets, just to name a few. Here are a few things I managed to photograph.


Paragon Cafe, West Wyalong

Paragon Cafes

The Paragon Cafe in Katoomba celebrated 100 years this year. But it is not the only Paragon Cafe around by a long shot. These cafes, typically started by Greek migrants, were dotted all across the cities and small towns of Australia. When travelling through the central west of the state, I managed to spot these two. The first, in West Wyalong, is still trading as a cafe. The second is a shopfront in the town of Harden in the south west of NSW. Lately there have been some interesting podcasts and books about this cafe culture.


Paragon Cafe, Harden


Phrenology Head, North Rocks Markets


The ‘study of external conformation of cranium as index to development and position of organs belonging to the various mental facilities’, as defined by the 1911 Concise Oxford Dictionary, no longer holds the sway that it once did. It is now a rather discounted theory of how one’s mental powers are influenced and indicated by the shape of the skull. My earliest recollection of this theory was when I stumbled across it in one of the Bony books. Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte was the literary invention of English born writer Arthur W Upfield. Upfield worked and travelled extensively across Australia, and he wrote a series of books based around Bony solving mysteries in various locations. Many of the books were set in the outback and Bony brought insights from his mixed heritage into solving crimes. Titles included ‘Death of a Swagman’ and ‘The Bone is Pointed’.


Possum the Locomotive at Eskbank House, Lithgow

Possum the Locomotive

Possum now resides in the grounds of Eskbank House at Lithgow. It was one of several engines that worked the train line between the Blast Furnace and the steelworks. Possum arrived in 1919 and worked the line until 1928; it was relocated to Port Kembla when the steelworks closed in Lithgow. It worked through until 1967 when it was retired and relocated back to Eskbank House, which was then a relatively new museum. The little engines that worked the line between the furnace and steelworks all had animal names including Wallaby, Wombat and Bunyip.


Sunset over the Kanimbla Valley


I love a good sunset. Sunrises are good too, but I like the fading of light at the end of the day. This sunset was spotted over the Kanimbla valley.

What possibilities have you spotted beginning with P? Pop over and see what Autumn is spotting here, along with photos on Instagram by Next week, I’m questing for things beginning with Q …


My I Spy: something beginning with ‘M’

Many things come to mind around the letter M. Mountains, museums, music, manuscripts – such a multitude of things to muse upon. Here are some things that I’ve spotted beginning with the letter M.


Magpie on the fence


True, this magpie is largely obscured by abundant cherry blossoms, and the photo was taken whilst the magpie was sharpening or cleaning his beak on the fence, but I still like it. There are lots of magpies in my area, and one of my enduring joys is to wake up to their morning chorus. I also came across this poem called Magpie by James McAuley. It captures the essence of what I admire about magpies, including ‘the liquid squabble of his note’, the confidence and swagger of the bird.

Martians and Miners

An unusual combination, granted. These locally crafted figures are situated on a bend of the back road from Hartley to Lithgow, and provide a ready reminder to take care on the winding roads.


Albert, the Magic Pudding, Norman Lindsay Gallery, Faulconbridge

Magic Pudding

Albert, the grumpy pudding, is one of the enduring characters of my childhood reading. He was indeed, magic, providing a wide selection of endless treats with ready ill-humour. His grumpiness is evident on his countenance. The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay remains vivid many years after reading. Lindsay’s property at Faulconbridge is a popular stop in the mountains.


Big Merino, Goulburn


The Big Merino at Goulburn is a well-known feature on the list of big attractions scattered around the Australian countryside. As a child it seemed enormous. This photo, taken across a four-lane road, doesn’t quite do it justice, but it is still an impressive sight.


Merino in Leichhardt

This rather fancy merino was spotted in a gallery window at Leichhardt over the weekend. It is rare to see sheep in the inner city.


Masks in The Merchant of Venice, Leichhardt


I spotted a window full of beautifully crafted masks whilst walking through the Italian Forum in Leichhardt. The shop was called The Merchant of Venice.

Have you spotted anything magnificent beginning with M this week? Keep an eye on what fellow spotter Autumn spies here, as well as on Instagram.