We’re back to rainy Queenstown on the west coast of Tasmania, and today we’re riding on a steam train.
The West Coast Wilderness Railway runs from Queenstown to the West Coast port of Strachan. It is a heritage railway that used to transport product from the Mount Lyell Copper Mine in Queenstown to the coast, where it can be shipped out to the big wide world.
The current railway consists of original locomotives and carriages from the same era.
It snakes through the wild west coast rainforest…
Up and down steep hills and across torrential rivers.
As you might guess, the railway would have taken awhile to construct through this trick terrain. Sydney-siders, you shouldn’t be complaining about this current bout of wet weather. Try living in Queenstown for a few months, or years. Although I have to concede that the rain in Queenstown generally falls more gently, like British rain.
After dinner that night, we stopped at the remote rail siding of Manguri, around 50km from Coober Pedy. The train’s well-lit windows made a cinematic backdrop to the scene.
Even in the desert, some people seemed only interested in their phones.
A bonfire was ready and waiting, and most passengers gravitated towards it. The 15C or so temperatures was a cool change to the tropics.
Meanwhile, I was more interested in capturing the stars on a clear, desert night.
My attempt was short-lived though. Moments after this, an over-zealous security guard type said I couldn’t step out of the light due to “OH and S considerations”. That just killed the fun out of the desert night experience for me.
One more morning, and by noon the following day we were back in civilisation – Adelaide.
And we were off on our north-south crossing of the continent! One thing I was looking forward to was to be able to watch the landscape change from my cabin window. Out of Darwin, it was a Savannah landscape common to a lot of Northern Australia, from Broome to Townsville.
It wasn’t long before we made our first trip to the restaurant, about 3 carriages away.
Lunch was in several sittings – we had an early sitting and the dining room was still quiet. It filled up pretty soon though.
The food in general was of a very high standard. A sample of some of the dishes we had…
Salmon mousse sushi for entree.
Chicken galantine as a main.
There was some emphasis on native Australian ingredients, so we had our share of crocodile, buffalo and kangaroo along with some native herbs, spices and fruits.
A sample of our breakfast menu shows that we never went hungry!
Darwin wasn’t the end of the trip but the mid-way point. Next, we were off on the Ghan – the famous train service that runs from Darwin through the centre of Australia to Adelaide – a route that is 2,979km long. The train is named after the Afghan cameleers that used to transport goods and services in Australia’s centre before the advent of the train or motor car.
We started off at the Darwin end at their railway station. Surprisingly, it’s a good 30 minutes from the city, but that’s because the Ghan required a mighty long platform – the train was almost a kilometre long with around 30 carriages. First task was to find our carriage. Luckily it was close by.
Inside our Gold Class carriage, it was pretty swish.
Our cabins were in day mode and were comfy and snug. Hint – any luggage larger than a backpack will get you in trouble. I saw people hauling large suitcases and wondered where they put them.
The bathroom was a bit of wonder for me. Shower, toilet and basin all in a 1.5m squared room. That’s tiny living!
When Sydneysiders think of bridges important bridges, they automatically think of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but this bridge is actually on-par with the Harbour Bridge as it links Sydney by rail to not just the Central Coast and Newcastle, but to the rest of Australia.
Before the bridge, passengers (and goods) had to get on a steamer at Brooklyn and travel 3 hours across Broken Bay and Brisbane Waters to Gosford, hence it was important that a bridge was built, and built to last.
Unfortunately the first bridge constructed didn’t turn out that way. It was first opened way back in 1889, and at the time it broke all sorts of construction records, including the deepest bridge foundations in the world (at 49m below the water) and 4th largest bridge in the world. But by 1938 the bridge needed to be replaced due to severe cracks in the pier, among other things. The current bridge was constructed during WWII as a replacement and opened in 1946. The old bridge was taken apart, and nothing remains except for its sandstone piers and tunnel (now used as storage).
The new bridge hasn’t had as many problems as the old bridge (I guess they learned from the old bridge). It’s also good to see they’re still taking care of it in the 21st Century, since it’s still a very important part of Sydney’s transport system.