Searching for locations: From X’ian to Zhengzhou dong by bullet train, China

Lunch and then off on another high-speed train

We walked another umpteen miles from the exhibition to a Chinese restaurant that is going to serve us Chinese food again with a beer and a rather potent pomegranate wine that has a real kick.  It was definitely value for money at 60 yuan per person.

But perhaps the biggest thrill, if it could be called that, was discovering downstairs, the man who discovered the original pieces of a terracotta soldier when digging a well.  He was signing books bought in the souvenir store, but not those that had been bought elsewhere.

Some of is even got photographed with him.  Fifteen minutes of fame moment?  Maybe.

After lunch, it was off to the station for another high-speed train ride, this time for about two and a half hours, from X’ian to Zhangzhou dong.

It’s the standard high-speed train ride and the usual seat switching because of weird allocation issues, so a little confusion reigns until the train departs at 5:59.

Once we were underway it didn’t take long before we hit the maximum speed

Twenty minutes before arrival, and knowing we only have three minutes to get off everyone is heading for the exit clogging up the passageway.  It wasn’t panic but with the three-minute limit, perhaps organized panic would be a better description.

As it turned out, with all the cases near the door, the moment to door opened one of our group got off, and the other just started putting cases on the platform, and in doing so we were all off in 42 seconds with time to spare.

And this was despite the fact there were about twenty passengers just about up against the door trying to get in.  I don’t think they expected to have cases flying off the train in their direction.

We find our way to the exit and our tour guide Dannie.  It was another long walk to the bus, somewhat shabbier from the previous day, no leg room, no pocket, no USB charging point like the day before.  Disappointing.

On the way from the station to the hotel, the tour guide usually gives us a short spiel on the next day’s activities, but instead, I think we got her life history and a song, delivered in high pitched and rapid Chinglish that was hard to understand.

Not at this hour of the night to an almost exhausted busload of people who’d had enough from the train.  Oh, did I forgot the singing, no, it was an interesting rendition of ‘you are my sunshine’.

The drive was interesting in that it mostly in the dark.  There was no street lighting and in comparison to X’ian which was very bright and cheerful, this was dark and gloomy.

Then close to the hotel our guide said that if we had any problems with the room, she would be in the lobby for half an hour.

That spoke volumes about the hotel they put us in.

Searching for locations: The Mary Valley Rattler, Gympie, Queensland, Australia

I have a passion for visiting transport museums, to see old trains, planes, buses, cars, even ships if it’s possible.

This has led to taking a number of voyages on the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Many, many, many years ago on Puffing Billy, a steam train in the Dandenongs, Victoria, Australia.

The steam train in Kingston, New Zealand, before it was closed down, but hopefully it will reopen sometime in the future.

The London Transport Museum in London England, which had a lot of buses.

The Workshops Railway Museum in Ipswich, Queensland, where once the many steam engines were built and maintained, and now had only a handful of engines remaining.

However, in the quest for finding and experiencing old transportation methods, we came across the Mary Valley Rattler, which runs out of Gympie, Queensland, Australia.

The ride begins in Gympie at the old Gympie Railway station, and as can be seen below, is one of the relics of the past, and, nothing like the new more modern stations.  Thankfully.

If you’re going to have a vintage train, then you have to have a vintage station.

The Class of engine, seen below, is the C17, a superheated upgrade to the C16 it was based on, and first run in 1903.  This particular engine was built in 1951, although the first of its type was seen in  1920 and the last of 227 made in 1953.  It was the most popular of the steam engines used by Queensland Railways.

The C designation meant it had four driving axels and 17 was the diameter of the cylinder, 17 inches.  It is also known as a 4-8-0 steam locomotive
 and nicknamed one of the “Brown Bombers” because of its livery, brown with green and red trimming.

Also, this engine was built in Maryborough, not far from Gympie by Walkers Limited, one of 138.

This photo was taken as the train returned from Amamoor, a trip that takes up to an hour.

The locomotive is detached from the carriages, then driven to the huge turntable to turn around for the return journey to Amamoor.

This is the locomotive heading down to the water station, and then taking on water.  After that, it will switch lines, and reverse back to reconnect the carriages for the trip to Amamoor.

The carriages are completely restored and are extremely comfortable.  It brings back, for me, many memories of riding in older trains in Melbourne when I was a child.

The trains, then, were called Red Rattlers.

This is the locomotive climbing one of the hilly parts of the line before crossing over the Mary River on a trestle bridge.

This is the engine at Amamoor near the picnic area where young children and excited parents and grandparents can get on the locomotive itself and look inside where the driver sits.

And, no, I didn’t volunteer to shovel coal.

This particular locomotive spent most of its working life between Townsville and Mount Isa and was based in Cloncurry, Charters Towers, and Townsville, before being sent, at the end of its useful days in the late 1960s, to the Ipswich Railway Workshops.

A photograph from the inspiration file – 10

It was a relic from the past, put back together by a dedicated group of volunteers who had not wanted the last vestiges of the past to disappear.

Train enthusiasts, the called themselves.

They’d put together a steam locomotive, five carriages, a restaurant car, and the conductor’s car. The original train might have been twice to three times as long, but these days, the tourist market rarely filled the train.

I was one of a group who made it their mission to visit and rate every vintage train, not only in this country, but all over the world. It was a sad state of affairs when I first began, with locomotives and carriages dropping out of the system due to lack of funds, but more disheartening, the lack of government assistance in keeping it’s heritage alive.

It seemed money was short, and there were better things to spend it on, like two brand new 737-800 jets just to ferry the prime minister and government officials around. Just think of what that quarter of a billion dollars could have bought in heritage.

But it is what it is.

What I had before me was one of the most recent restorations to check out, and on first glance, it was remarkable just how lifelike and true to age it was.

Of course, I was of an age that could remember the old railway carriages, what were called red rattlers because of the ill fitting windows that went up and down, allow fresh air, or in days gone by, smoke from the locomotive hauling the train. I had not travelled during the last glorious years of steam, but the carriages had lived on briefly before the advent of the sterile aluminum tin cans with uncomfortably hard seats.

These carriages were built for comfort, and my first experience had been a five hour trip from Melbourne to Wangaratta, in Victoria, on my way to Mt Buffalo Chalet, a guesthouse owned by the Railways.

That too had been a remarkable old chalet style guest house with a room and all the dining included. I always left after the week having put on weight. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, every day, and high tea on Sunday.

But this carriage, the polished wood that had shellac rather than varnish, highlighting the timber’s grain, the leather seats with generous padding, the curved ceilings with hanging lights, windows the could be opened and closed, allowing fresh air to circulate.

There was also a carriage with the passageway, and five or six separate compartments, each sitting six passengers. I remembered these well, having quite often ridden in one to work for some years when the country trains still ran.

It was always remarkable how a sight or a scent could trigger such memories.

For this carriage on this train, it used to ply the Gympie to Brooloo branch line from about 1915 onwards.

That was the history. It only went as far as Amamoor these days, it was still long enough to capture the sensation of riding the rails back in what is always referred to as the good old days, even if they were not.

Now for the ride….

© Charles Heath 2021

A photograph from the inspiration file – 10

It was a relic from the past, put back together by a dedicated group of volunteers who had not wanted the last vestiges of the past to disappear.

Train enthusiasts, the called themselves.

They’d put together a steam locomotive, five carriages, a restaurant car, and the conductor’s car. The original train might have been twice to three times as long, but these days, the tourist market rarely filled the train.

I was one of a group who made it their mission to visit and rate every vintage train, not only in this country, but all over the world. It was a sad state of affairs when I first began, with locomotives and carriages dropping out of the system due to lack of funds, but more disheartening, the lack of government assistance in keeping it’s heritage alive.

It seemed money was short, and there were better things to spend it on, like two brand new 737-800 jets just to ferry the prime minister and government officials around. Just think of what that quarter of a billion dollars could have bought in heritage.

But it is what it is.

What I had before me was one of the most recent restorations to check out, and on first glance, it was remarkable just how lifelike and true to age it was.

Of course, I was of an age that could remember the old railway carriages, what were called red rattlers because of the ill fitting windows that went up and down, allow fresh air, or in days gone by, smoke from the locomotive hauling the train. I had not travelled during the last glorious years of steam, but the carriages had lived on briefly before the advent of the sterile aluminum tin cans with uncomfortably hard seats.

These carriages were built for comfort, and my first experience had been a five hour trip from Melbourne to Wangaratta, in Victoria, on my way to Mt Buffalo Chalet, a guesthouse owned by the Railways.

That too had been a remarkable old chalet style guest house with a room and all the dining included. I always left after the week having put on weight. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, every day, and high tea on Sunday.

But this carriage, the polished wood that had shellac rather than varnish, highlighting the timber’s grain, the leather seats with generous padding, the curved ceilings with hanging lights, windows the could be opened and closed, allowing fresh air to circulate.

There was also a carriage with the passageway, and five or six separate compartments, each sitting six passengers. I remembered these well, having quite often ridden in one to work for some years when the country trains still ran.

It was always remarkable how a sight or a scent could trigger such memories.

For this carriage on this train, it used to ply the Gympie to Brooloo branch line from about 1915 onwards.

That was the history. It only went as far as Amamoor these days, it was still long enough to capture the sensation of riding the rails back in what is always referred to as the good old days, even if they were not.

Now for the ride….

© Charles Heath 2021

Searching for locations: From Beijing to X’ian by bullet train

Beijing West train station.

Beijing west railway station is about eight kilometers from the Forbidden City, located at East Lianhuachi Road, Fengtai District.  Most trains traveling between south central, southwest, northwest, and south China are boarded here.

This place is huge and there are so many people here, perhaps the other half of Beijing’s population that wasn’t in the forbidden city.

Getting into the station looked like it was going to be fraught with danger but the tour guide got us into the right queue and then arranged for a separate scanner for the group to help keep us all together

Then we decided to take the VIP service and got to waiting room no 13, the VIP service waiting room which was full to overflowing.  Everyone today was a VIP.  We got the red hat guy to lead us to a special area away from the crowd.

Actually, it was on the other side of the gate, away from the hoards sitting or standing patiently in the waiting room.  It gave us a chance to get something to eat before the long train ride.

The departure is at 4 pm, the train number was G655, and we were told the trains leave on time.  As it is a high-speed train, stops are far and few between, but we’re lucky, this time, in that we don’t have to count stations to know where to get off.

We’re going to the end of the line.

However, it was interesting to note the stops which, in each case, were brief, and you had to be ready to get off in a hurry.

These stops were Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou East, Luoyang Longmen, Huashan North, and Weinan North.  At night, you could see the lights of these cities from a distance and were like oases in the middle of a desert.  During the day, the most prominent features were high rise apartment blocks and power stations.

A train ride with a difference

G Trains at Wuhan Railway Station

China’s high-speed trains, also known as bullet or fast trains, can reach a top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph).

Over 2,800 pairs of bullet trains numbered by G, D or C run daily connecting over 550 cities in China and covering 33 of the country’s 34 provinces. Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train link the two megacities 1,318 km (819 mi) away in just 4.5 hours.

By 2019, China keeps the world’s largest high-speed rail (HSR) network with a length totaling over 35,000 km (21,750 mi).

To make the five and a half hours go quicker we keep an eye on the speed which hovers between 290 and 305 kph, and sitting there with our camera waiting for the speed to hit 305 which is a rare occurrence, and then, for 306 and then for 307, which happened when we all took a stroll up to the restaurant car to find there had nothing to eat.

I got a strange flavored drink for 20 yuan.

There was a lady manning a trolley that had some food, and fresh, maybe, fruit on it, and she had a sense of humor if not much English.

We didn’t but anything but the barrel of caramel popcorn looked good.

The good thing was, after hovering around 298, and 299 kph, it finally hit 300.

We get to the end of the line, and there is an announcement in Chinese that we don’t understand and attempts to find out if it is the last station fall on deaf ears, probably more to do with the language barrier than anything else.

Then, suddenly the train conductor, the lady with the red hat, comes and tells us it is, and we have fifteen minutes, so we’re now hurrying to get off.

As the group was are scattered up and down the platform, we all come together and we go down the escalator, and, at the bottom, we see the trip-a-deal flags.

X’ian,and the Xi’an North Railway Station

Xi’an North Railway Station is one of the most important transportation hubs of the Chinese high-speed rail network. It is about 8.7 miles (14 km) from Bell Tower (city center) and is located at the intersection of the Weiyang Road and Wenjing Road in Weiyang District.

This time we have a male guide, Sam, who meets us at the end of the platform after we have disembarked.  We have a few hiccups before we head to the bus.  Some of our travelers are not on his list, but with the other group.  Apparently a trip-a-deal mix-up or miscommunication perhaps.

Then it’s another long walk with bags to the bus.  Good thing its a nicely air-conditioned newish bus, and there’s water, and beer for 10 yuan.  How could you pass up a tsing tao for that price?

Xi’an is a very brightly lit up city at night with wide roads.  It is very welcoming, and a surprise for a city of 10 million out in the middle of China.

As with all hotels, it’s about a 50-minute drive from the railway station and we are all tired by the time we get there.

Tomorrow’s program will be up at 6, on the bus 8.40 and off to the soldiers, 2.00 late lunch, then train station to catch the 4.00 train, that will arrive 2 hours later at the next stop.  A not so late night this time.

The Grand Noble Hotel

Outdoor scene

Grand Noble Hotel Xi’an is located in the most prosperous business district within the ancient city wall in the center of Xi’an.

The Grand Noble Hotel, like the Friendship Hotel, had a very flash foyer with tons of polished marble.  It sent out warning signals, but when we got to our room, we found it to be absolutely stunning.  More room, a large bathroom, air conditioning the works.

Only one small problem, as in Beijing the lighting is inadequate.  Other than that it’s what I would call a five-star hotel.  This one is definitely better than the Friendship Hotel.

In the center of the city, very close to the bell tower, one of the few ancient buildings left in Xi’an.  It is also in the middle of a larger roundabout and had a guard with a machine gun.

Sadly there was no time for city center sightseeing.

Searching for locations: A trip to New Jersey

That meant we had to make the journey from New York to New Jersey, by train.  It involved the underground, or as New Yorkers call it, the subway, from Columbus Circle which by any other name was really, 80th street, to 34th street which apparently was the New Jersey jump-off point for us to get overground, well a lot of it was overground. So, were we going uptown or downtown?

Apparently, it was downtown, and to 34th Street on the A train.

You would not think this to be a difficult task, but for people not used to the subway, and where they were going other than some internet derived instructions, but without the help of a man at the station, just getting tickets may have stopped us dead in our tracks.  With his help, we determined the return fare for three of us and then get through the turnstile onto the platform.

We get on the A train, but soon discover it was not stopping at all stations.  There was for a few minutes, a little apprehension we might just simply bypass our station.  Luckily we did not.

Now, finding your way to the New Jersey transit part of Penn station might appear to be easy, on paper, but once there, on the ground, and mingling with the other passengers which all seemed to be purpose going somewhere, it took a few moments to realize we had to follow the New Jersey transit signs.

This led to a booking hall where luckily we realized we needed to buy more tickets, then find the appropriate platform, and then get on the right train, all of which, in the end, was not difficult at all.

Maybe on the return trip, it might be.

At Newark Penn station it was momentarily confusing because the exit was not readily in sight, so it was a case of following the majority of other passengers who’d got off the train.

This led us to exit onto the street under the train tracks.  Luckily, having been before to Prudential Stadium to buy the tickets, we knew what the stadium looked like and roughly where it was, so it was a simple task to walk towards it.

We were early, so it was a case of finding a restaurant to get dinner before the game. So was a great many others, and we passed about 6 different restaurants that looked full to overflowing before we stopped at one called Novelty Burger and Bar.

It looked inviting, and it was not crowded.

It was yet another excuse to have a hamburger and beer, both of which seemed to be a specialty in American.  I could not fault either.

And soon after we arrived, this restaurant too was full to overflowing.  Thankfully there were other Maple Leaf fans there because being in a room full of opposition teams supports can be quite harrowing.

That was yet to come when we finally got to the stadium.  I was not expecting a lot of Maple Leaf fans.
We went to this game with high hopes.  New Jersey Devils were not exactly at the top of the leader board, and coming off the loss in Toronto, this was make or break for whether we would ever go to another game.

It’s remarkable in that all the Ice Hockey stadiums are the same.  Everyone has an excellent view of the game, the sound systems are loud, and the fans passionate. Here it seems to be a thing to ride on the Zambonis.
At the front door they were handing out figurines of a Devil’s past player, and it seems a thing that you get a handout of some sort at each game.  At Toronto we got towels. And, finally, we were in luck.

The Maple Leafs won.

And it was an odd feeling to know that even though their team lost, there did not seem to be any rancor amount the fans and that any expectation of being assaulted by losing fans was totally unfounded, unlike some sporting events I’ve been to.

Perhaps soccer should take a leaf out of the ice hockey playbook.

That also went for taking public transport late at night.  I did not have any fears about doing so, which is more than I can say about traveling at night on our own transport system back home.

Oh, and by the way, there are train conductors who still come to every passenger to collect or stamp their tickets.  No trusting the passenger has paid for his trip here.  And, if you don’t have a ticket, I have it on good authority they throw you off the train and into the swamp.  Good thing then, we had tickets.

It was, all in all, a really great day.

Searching for locations: The Mary Valley Rattler, Gympie, Queensland, Australia

I have a passion for visiting transport museums, to see old trains, planes, buses, cars, even ships if it’s possible.

This has led to taking a number of voyages on the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Many, many, many years ago on Puffing Billy, a steam train in the Dandenongs, Victoria, Australia.

The steam train in Kingston, New Zealand, before it was closed down, but hopefully it will reopen sometime in the future.

The London Transport Museum in London England, which had a lot of buses.

The Workshops Railway Museum in Ipswich, Queensland, where once the many steam engines were built and maintained, and now had only a handful of engines remaining.

However, in the quest for finding and experiencing old transportation methods, we came across the Mary Valley Rattler, which runs out of Gympie, Queensland, Australia.

The ride begins in Gympie at the old Gympie Railway station, and as can be seen below, is one of the relics of the past, and, nothing like the new more modern stations.  Thankfully.

If you’re going to have a vintage train, then you have to have a vintage station.

The Class of engine, seen below, is the C17, a superheated upgrade to the C16 it was based on, and first run in 1903.  This particular engine was built in 1951, although the first of its type was seen in  1920 and the last of 227 made in 1953.  It was the most popular of the steam engines used by Queensland Railways.

The C designation meant it had four driving axels and 17 was the diameter of the cylinder, 17 inches.  It is also known as a 4-8-0 steam locomotive
 and nicknamed one of the “Brown Bombers” because of its livery, brown with green and red trimming.

Also, this engine was built in Maryborough, not far from Gympie by Walkers Limited, one of 138.

This photo was taken as the train returned from Amamoor, a trip that takes up to an hour.

The locomotive is detached from the carriages, then driven to the huge turntable to turn around for the return journey to Amamoor.

This is the locomotive heading down to the water station, and then taking on water.  After that, it will switch lines, and reverse back to reconnect the carriages for the trip to Amamoor.

The carriages are completely restored and are extremely comfortable.  It brings back, for me, many memories of riding in older trains in Melbourne when I was a child.

The trains, then, were called Red Rattlers.

This is the locomotive climbing one of the hilly parts of the line before crossing over the Mary River on a trestle bridge.

This is the engine at Amamoor near the picnic area where young children and excited parents and grandparents can get on the locomotive itself and look inside where the driver sits.

And, no, I didn’t volunteer to shovel coal.

This particular locomotive spent most of its working life between Townsville and Mount Isa and was based in Cloncurry, Charters Towers, and Townsville, before being sent, at the end of its useful days in the late 1960s, to the Ipswich Railway Workshops.

Searching for locations: From Zhengzhou to Suzhou by train, and the Snowy Sea Hotel, Suzhou, China

For the first time on this trip, we encounter problems with Chinese officialdom at the railway station, though we were warned that this might occur.

We had a major problem with the security staff when they pulled everyone over with aerosols and confiscated them. We lost styling mousse, others lost hair spray, and the men, their shaving cream.  But, to her credit, the tour guide did warn us they were stricter here, but her suggestion to be angry they were taking our stuff was probably not the right thing to do.

As with previous train bookings, the Chinese method of placing people in seats didn’t quite manage to keep couples traveling together, together on the train.  It was an odd peculiarity which few of the passengers understood, nor did they conform, swapping seat allocations.

This train ride did not seem the same as the last two and I don’t think we had the same type of high-speed train type that we had for the last two.  The carriages were different, there was only one toilet per carriage, and I don’t think we were going as fast.

But aside from that, we had 753 kilometers to travel with six stops before ours, two of which were very large cities, and then our stop, about four and a half hours later.  With two minutes this time, to get the baggage off the team managed it in 40 seconds, a new record.

After slight disorientation getting off the train, we locate our guide, easily ground by looking for the Trip-A-Deal flag.  From there it’s a matter of getting into our respective groups and finding the bus.

As usual, the trip to the hotel was a long one, but we were traveling through a much brighter, and well lit, city.

As for our guide, we have him from now until the end of the tour.  There are no more train rides, we will be taking the bus from city to city until we reach Shanghai.  Good thing then that the bus is brand new, with that new car smell.  Only issue, no USB charging point.

The Snowy Sea hotel.  

It is finally a joy to get a room that is nothing short of great.  It has a bathroom and thus privacy.

Everyone had to go find a supermarket to purchase replacements for the confiscated items.  Luckily there was a huge supermarket just up from the hotel that had everything but the kitchen sink.

But, unlike where we live, the carpark is more of a scooter park!

It is also a small microcosm of Chinese life for the new more capitalistic oriented Chinese.

The next morning we get some idea of the scope of high-density living, though here, the buildings are not 30 stories tall, but still just as impressive.

These look like the medium density houses, but to the right of these are much larger buildings

The remarkable thing about this is those buildings stretch as far as the eye can see.

Searching for locations: From X’ian to Zhengzhou dong by bullet train, China

Lunch and then off on another high-speed train

We walked another umpteen miles from the exhibition to a Chinese restaurant that is going to serve us Chinese food again with a beer and a rather potent pomegranate wine that has a real kick.  It was definitely value for money at 60 yuan per person.

But perhaps the biggest thrill, if it could be called that, was discovering downstairs, the man who discovered the original pieces of a terracotta soldier when digging a well.  He was signing books bought in the souvenir store, but not those that had been bought elsewhere.

Some of is even got photographed with him.  Fifteen minutes of fame moment?  Maybe.

After lunch, it was off to the station for another high-speed train ride, this time for about two and a half hours, from X’ian to Zhangzhou dong.

It’s the standard high-speed train ride and the usual seat switching because of weird allocation issues, so a little confusion reigns until the train departs at 5:59.

Once we were underway it didn’t take long before we hit the maximum speed

Twenty minutes before arrival, and knowing we only have three minutes to get off everyone is heading for the exit clogging up the passageway.  It wasn’t panic but with the three-minute limit, perhaps organized panic would be a better description.

As it turned out, with all the cases near the door, the moment to door opened one of our group got off, and the other just started putting cases on the platform, and in doing so we were all off in 42 seconds with time to spare.

And this was despite the fact there were about twenty passengers just about up against the door trying to get in.  I don’t think they expected to have cases flying off the train in their direction.

We find our way to the exit and our tour guide Dannie.  It was another long walk to the bus, somewhat shabbier from the previous day, no leg room, no pocket, no USB charging point like the day before.  Disappointing.

On the way from the station to the hotel, the tour guide usually gives us a short spiel on the next day’s activities, but instead, I think we got her life history and a song, delivered in high pitched and rapid Chinglish that was hard to understand.

Not at this hour of the night to an almost exhausted busload of people who’d had enough from the train.  Oh, did I forgot the singing, no, it was an interesting rendition of ‘you are my sunshine’.

The drive was interesting in that it mostly in the dark.  There was no street lighting and in comparison to X’ian which was very bright and cheerful, this was dark and gloomy.

Then close to the hotel our guide said that if we had any problems with the room, she would be in the lobby for half an hour.

That spoke volumes about the hotel they put us in.

Another photograph from the inspirational pile…

It was a relic from the past, put back together by a dedicated group of volunteers who had not wanted the last vestiges of the past to disappear.

Train enthusiasts, the called themselves.

They’d put together a steam locomotive, five carriages, a restaurant car, and the conductor’s car. The original train might have been twice to three times as long, but these days, the tourist market rarely filled the train.

I was one of a group who made it their mission to visit and rate every vintage train, not only in this country, but all over the world. It was a sad state of affairs when I first began, with locomotives and carriages dropping out of the system due to lack of funds, but more disheartening, the lack of government assistance in keeping it’s heritage alive.

It seemed money was short, and there were better things to spend it on, like two brand new 737-800 jets just to ferry the prime minister and government officials around. Just think of what that quarter of a billion dollars could have bought in heritage.

But it is what it is.

What I had before me was one of the most recent restorations to check out, and on first glance, it was remarkable just how lifelike and true to age it was.

Of course, I was of an age that could remember the old railway carriages, what were called red rattlers because of the ill fitting windows that went up and down, allow fresh air, or in days gone by, smoke from the locomotive hauling the train. I had not travelled during the last glorious years of steam, but the carriages had lived on briefly before the advent of the sterile aluminum tin cans with uncomfortably hard seats.

These carriages were built for comfort, and my first experience had been a five hour trip from Melbourne to Wangaratta, in Victoria, on my way to Mt Buffalo Chalet, a guesthouse owned by the Railways.

That too had been a remarkable old chalet style guest house with a room and all the dining included. I always left after the week having put on weight. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, every day, and high tea on Sunday.

But this carriage, the polished wood that had shellac rather than varnish, highlighting the timber’s grain, the leather seats with generous padding, the curved ceilings with hanging lights, windows the could be opened and closed, allowing fresh air to circulate.

There was also a carriage with the passageway, and five or six separate compartments, each sitting six passengers. I remembered these well, having quite often ridden in one to work for some years when the country trains still ran.

It was always remarkable how a sight or a scent could trigger such memories.

For this carriage on this train, it used to ply the Gympie to Brooloo branch line from about 1915 onwards.

That was the history. It only went as far as Amamoor these days, it was still long enough to capture the sensation of riding the rails back in what is always referred to as the good old days, even if they were not.

Now for the ride….

© Charles Heath 2021