Journal Jottings

One of the many benefits to keeping a journal, regardless of frequency, is the option to revisit times past and impressions as at a certain point in time. Not everything is recorded, of course, but there is a delight in coming across scribblings which capture a particular moment.

A few months back I travelled to Central Station in Sydney before heading off on the Indian Pacific to Adelaide. I arrived at Central early to book in luggage, and as I waited I wrote the following.

Central Station; Cafe Du Nord. Cafe with French vibe, jazz music, copies of French Impressionists on the wall.

Wizened little old lady on the way to Kyogle via Brisbane. Train passes through on way, around 3 am, too early to stop or get someone to collect her. So she travels through to Brisbane then doubles back.

She has been on the Indian Pacific from Broken Hill to Sydney; was tacked into a carriage which was latched onto the end to carry the overflow of passengers. She is planning to take the Ghan later this year as the only capital cities she’s missed visiting are Adelaide and Darwin. She spoke of her trip to Broken Hill with her husband before he left (she didn’t know he was going); they took advantage of fortnight travel holiday packages where you could travel anywhere in the state on the railway. They went to Broken Hill, down to Albury, swept back up the north coast. Accommodation was included in the package so it was an economical and enjoyable way to travel.

Surprised at the absence of shops and cafes at the station, just a couple downstairs in Eddy Avenue. In my memory the place was bristling with shops selling food, umbrellas, flowers, tours. The only constant is change.

Passing through the inner suburbs towards Central, glimpses of backyards, flashes of kingfisher blue pools, the houses have the rattle of the railway embedded into their fabric. The disarray and dishevelment of the railway workshops, once a thriving, bustling locus of activity.

The awkwardness of some travellers, the jostling of luggage, flying missiles of drink bottles, thumping against other people as they make their way with a singular focus.

The heady joy of eavesdropping. Railway staff speaking of station inspections and audits. I’d given no thought to it but of course there would be protocols around this. The easy ebb and flow of conversation between two older ladies, travelling together, comfortable in silences as well as idle crumbs of chatter. No juicy gossip here, just vignettes of thoughts, perceptions, observations.

It is the time of year for the tang of mandarins. Such a distinct fizz on the air as the skin is broken, carved up by a thumbnail.

Do you jot down thoughts as you travel?

[Photo: part of the magnificent old railway station at Temora, NSW]

Advertisements

A Different Track

The journey from Sydney to the Blue Mountains by rail is a well-travelled one, particularly for the people who commute each work day to the city. Depending on where you start and finish, it can be quite a lengthy journey through the mountains and the ever-extending suburbs of Sydney.

On a Wednesday afternoon, I embarked from Central Station on the Indian Pacific. The Indian Pacific leaves every Wednesday, heading to Perth via Broken Hill and Adelaide. My journey took me to Adelaide in 24 hours.

I could quite easily rave about the train and the trip as it was extraordinary in many ways. Once I got over the excitement of getting onboard, patiently waiting whilst the two sections of the train were coupled together (it is too long for a single platform with 2 locomotives and 27 carriages on my trip), I settled back to watch the Sydney suburbs slip by before we began the slow climb up the mountains.

The gradual ascent was felt physically through the train – you could feel the engines at work, and I sat by the window entranced as it curved around the bends. There were sandstone segments as we approached Lapstone, moments of darkness through tunnels before bursting out amongst an ocean of trees. At Warrimoo there were houses tucked into gullies. Then a glimpse of a sandstone cottage built in 1867 near Springwood. Passing by the Corridor of Oaks at Faulconbridge, then scorched tree trunks came into view. There were vistas towards Sydney or acres of wilderness, depending on the turn of the track.

It was interesting to see what was familiar from a different angle, a higher viewpoint. I spotted some lovely character cottages near Hazelbrook, then we were running alongside the Great Western Highway and the shops and pub at Lawson sped into view. Little ferns poking out of stone walls, a kid practising discus near Wentworth Falls. As we approached Leura I saw the last lingering remnants of autumn colour and the beautiful sandstone cliffs in the distance. Then Katoomba, the soft glowing lights of guest houses, welcoming weary travellers. Tree branches slapping the side of the train, then the Hydro Majestic, lit up amongst the darkening shadows. Towards Blackheath, the depths and folds of the valleys in the last light, through Mount Victoria, last light over the Hartley valley.

Have you taken a different track on a well-travelled road?

[Photo taken near Emu Plains before the climb up the mountains]

Train of thought*

The railway station at Mount Victoria was formally opened in 1869. The sheer magnitude of the railway construction through the mountains must have been overwhelming, an engineering feat through dangerous and challenging terrain. The road through the mountains would have been over 50 years old but was still rough in parts and had been given a good thumping during the gold rush years.

Inevitably the coming of the railway opened up the mountains and created new opportunities for businesses and lifestyles away from the established towns in Sydney and surrounding areas. There is a good overview of the impact here.

The towns along the railway line would have thrived; those further off the track (excuse the pun) may not have fared so well. I wonder how expensive it was to travel initially as a passenger. Was it something that would have been within reach of an ordinary person?

By 1894, the trip from Sydney to Katoomba cost five shillings and sixpence; roughly about $40 in today’s money. These days a full fare is $5.80/$8.30 one way, depending on the time of travel.

From historical accounts, Mt Victoria began to thrive once the railway arrived, and it was an important gateway to the central west. It was a changeover point and a large staff were employed at the station and in the dining rooms to meet the demands of feeding the hungry hordes who disembarked at the station with about half an hour to refresh themselves as the trains were refueled, ready for the next stage of the trip.

The museum at Mt Victoria contains an amazing array of paraphernalia relating to this now lost time.

Do any transport options near you capture your imagination?

*Title of a song by Sharp.

[Photo of the platform at Mount Victoria station]