image 520 class loco

The Best Times of Our Lives

image 520 class loco

SAR 520 class “Sir Malcolm Barclay Harvey” at Adelaide Railway Station circa 1977

I found this post that I wrote a couple of years ago so I decided to rewrite it a bit and run it again for those who came in late as they say in the Phantom comics. Feel free to skip it if you have read it before.

Naomi and I went to the Hobart Model Railway Show. It is usually held at the Tasmanian Transport Museum in Glenorchy.  It is always a busy day for them and they fired up their M class steam locomotive on the Sunday.

Seeing a live steam engine made us nostalgic. We spent a lot of our teenage years traveling on steam excursions around South Australia. Naomi said that she thought that those were probably the best times we had in our lives. I tend to agree. We were so lucky that we were in the right place at the right time to do that.

It all started when I was about thirteen. We were in Adelaide with mum one day when I saw a big sign advertising a school holiday trip on a steam train. I asked mum if she would take us as my birthday treat. She agreed and we had such a good time we wanted to go again. The next year mum let us go by ourselves and soon we were regularly doing trips on Saturday or Sunday afternoons around the suburbs.

I remember how in 1972 we got a brochure in the mail with the latest trips being run and  one of them was a weekend trip to Victor Harbour, a seaside town about 50 miles away from Adelaide. I was fifteen and we didn’t really expect that we would be allowed to go away overnight without an adult but we asked anyway. Much to our surprise mum said we could go if we could get someone older to go with us. We produced a seventeen year old cousin and that was acceptable. We took sleeping bags and slept in the carriages in the station yard. Can you imagine the horror of parents today if three teenage girls did that? Naomi was only thirteen. Rail fans, then and now, were predominantly men a lot older than we were. However, in all the time we went on trips together we never felt unsafe or had any trouble with men. Most were just surprised that two girls would be interested in trains.

After that trip we went as often as we could afford. Once I turned sixteen we were allowed to go without a chaperone although our cousin sometimes came along too. At that time there were still many country towns that could be reached by rail and as we were too young to drive it was an ideal way to see the countryside in safety. We went to country shows and festivals like the Cornish Festival in the “copper triangle” of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina and the Orange Festival in the Riverland district visiting towns like Loxton and Berri. We went on evening trips where there were “listening stops” where everyone could get out of the train usually somewhere in the countryside. You stumbled into a dark paddock and waited while the train reversed back down the track a mile or so and then came forward working hard and whistling. Most people said that for recording the conditions were better at night. We enjoyed standing in the night air listening although we never became avid steam sound recorders. Sometimes we’d stay on the train and watch the people instead especially if it was raining.

Sometimes we went on dinner trips where we’d  be served a meal in a 1920s Pullman dining car and other times it would be a run round less used suburban lines to factories or to the docks. When we were a little older we visited wineries although we were always more interested in the trains than the wine. We went on other weekend trips too and even joined the Australian Railway Historical Society. Naomi reminded me how at the meeting where we were accepted as members we got a round of applause when our names were read out. We are not sure if that was because we were girls or because we actually turned up at the meeting as most new members never seemed to be there when their names were called.

We enjoyed the meetings which were held once a month on a week night We’d catch a bus, train or tram down to Goodwood where the meetings used to be held in a hall there. There were a lot of reports read out but the one we always looked forward to was the Tour Manager’s Report. This was the one where you would find out what trips were being planned for the future. We always wanted to go on all of them of course. After the business part of the evening there would be an interval when we’d buy a drink and browse in the book sales area. We could buy books and videos or souvenirs like postards, teaspoons, badges and T-shirts. The sales were one way that the society raised money for their restoration projects. After the break we’d have entertainment, usually a slide show or films, sometimes professionally made but more often than not made by members. Many were excellent, occasionally they were terrible but everyone was polite and always applauded anyway. We still laugh over the memory of the awful slides a member brought of his trip to England. There were numerous slides of clouds taken from the plane and a lot of his railway photos were out of focus. We had a really hard time not laughing.

Traditionally the evening ended at the Pie Cart in front of the Adelaide Station where those of us catching public transport home usually ended up buying a hot drink or snack. Occasionally once we got to know people we’d be offered rides back to the city. I have one hazy memory of several of us squashed in to a Volkswagon Beetle with our bags, a picture someone had bought and Naomi somehow squashed onto someone’s knee in the back because she was the smallest.

621 Adelaide Station

SAR Pacific 621 at Adelaide station

I can still remember the sheer excitement I felt on the morning of a trip. We’d get to the city early and would run up to the end of the platform to watch the locomotive arriving. We were not the only ones, there was usually a crowd of other rail fans with cameras and families with children doing the same thing. “Look, there’s the smoke.” someone would say. “There’s the whistle, here she comes.” and soon we’d see the engine and tender reversing into the station and backing onto the train.

We’d stand on the end platforms of the old wooden carriages or stick our heads out of the windows risking getting soot in our eyes. Many rail fans wore goggles but we never did. Sometimes we took a packed lunch and a thermos of tea which we frequently seemed to break. Other times we bought box lunches usually consisting of a bit of chicken, a bit of ham, piece of cheese, bread roll and a pickle followed by a slab of fruit cake. We still call that particular light fruit cake “railway cake” when we see it. If we were still hungry we could buy sweets, potato chips and drinks from the baggage car later.

Those were such great days, we met lots of friendly people, saw places, laughed a lot and learned new things. You really could not ask for more than that.

M Class steam locomotive and train. Tasmanian Transport Museum.

M Class steam locomotive and train. Tasmanian Transport Museum.


Snapshot Sunday: Vintage Cameras

David’s parents’ Kodak box camera and our mum’s Agfa.

I was stumped for a good picture today and decided to share this one of two of the cameras that David had in his collection. Both of these belonged to family members. The Kodak Brownie I believe belonged to David’s parents the battered Agfa on the right belonged to our mum. She used it to take photos of Naomi and I as small children. This was actually the first camera I ever used myself. Mum showed me how to hold it and take the pictures. She would change the film for me. I remember that it was 120 film and you would get about 8 photos to the roll. I was probably six or seven years old when I was first allowed to use this camera.

Weekly Photo Challenge: 2017 Favourites


I could not possibly choose just one picture to represent 2017. I did take a lot that I liked even though I didn’t travel much this year. I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of flowers both in my garden and in parks.  I have been trying to learn to take better pictures of birds and of course my pets are frequently photographed.

I’ve also documented the changes that have been happening in my house during the past year. I have had a lot of work done outside and a lot of painting and decorating inside.

I turned sixty this year and continued to enjoy my doll collecting hobby and my love of steam engines and railways.  I was lucky enough to visit the Puffing Billy Railway near Melbourne in June. In the winter we had some snow in Geeveston and also a visit from the film crew of the ABC TV series “Rosehaven”.

Another thing I’ve greatly enjoyed is participating in Cee’s Photo Challenges, it has given me the chance to photograph things that I would not normally pay attention to and to have fun playing with editing software.


Tale of Two Blenders

It’s the time of year when I start thinking about Christmas cooking. I haven’t bothered to bake much this year but I love making our Christmas pudding, Christmas Cake and mince pies. Today seemed like a good day to make a start by preparing  the Christmas Pudding. I made sure when I ordered my groceries that I had all the necessary ingredients but there was one thing I forgot. This recipe calls for fresh  breadcrumbs and I always prefer to make them myself in my blender.

Not long after David and I were married mum got me a blender for Christmas. It was a good one with a glass jug and many settings for blending, mixing and chopping. I had it for years.

image bread crumbs made in blender

making breadcrumbs

Finally, about three years or so ago it went to Appliance Heaven. I decided that rather than buying another blender I’d like to get a food processor with a large bowl and dough hooks that would be useful for making pastry and other things that I find tiring to do by hand. My little electric mixer was even older so my plan was to buy something to replace them both and I started to research what I wanted to buy. I never buy any kind of gadget or appliance without reading up on all the available models to decide which is the best value for money and most suited to my needs.

However, David decided to be helpful and he went to our local hardware store and bought a blender. It was a cheap model and not what I wanted at all. I felt annoyed because I didn’t feel I could justify buying a food processor now we had this blender. I couldn’t take it back to the shop because David could not find the receipt and then he got sick so we had more important things to worry about. Anyway I decided that I was not going to use the blender and I didn’t. I can’t remember what I did for breadcrumbs for the next two years. I think I must have bought pre-made ones. I can be very stubborn when I want. I bought a soup maker around that time and that did perfectly well for blending liquids but it didn’t chop or crumb.

Tiffany Blender

This morning when I lined up all the ingredients for the pudding I realised that I did not have any breadcrumbs. It was raining and it is a half hour walk to the shops. If I wanted breadcrumbs I was going to have to use that blender. I got it out of the cupboard. Everything was still wrapped in plastic as I’d never even opened the box.

It would be lovely if I could say that the blender turned out to be great but I can’t. I’m sorry. I hated it as much as I knew I would when I first saw it. It had a plastic jug and felt too light in my hands. Instead of numerous labelled function buttons it had just three and did not say what they were best for. I made my breadcrumbs only adding a slice of bread at a time in case I overloaded it. When I was finished I carefully washed it out and repacked it in its box with the plastic wrap and the instruction sheet. If I can possibly avoid it I will never use it again.

I feel sorry that I was cross with David over this stupid purchase. It was just his way of buying things. If he needed camera or computer equipment he’d research it  but anything else he’d go and find the first thing that looked suitable and buy it without asking a lot of questions about it. Like a lot of men he didn’t like to shop much whereas I probably over think everything. I still don’t have a new food processor but luckily my little old mixer, now 47 years old is still going and hopefully will survive the Christmas cooking period.


YouTube is my Time Machine

Recently I have been watching some old rail films on YouTube. I often do. I find a lot of interesting documentaries online but these have been particularly special. I have been watching old films of steam trips in South Australia in the 1980s and 1990s. Naomi, David and I travelled on many of them ourselves and seeing that old footage makes me recall what good times we had.

VR R Class 761

VR R Class 761 photo by Bruce Laughton


I always look back on those days with a great deal of pleasure. We loved the steam engines and old carriages and we loved visiting different places around South Australia and western Victoria. What I had almost forgotten though is how good our South Australian broad gauge locomotives and their Victorian  cousins sounded.  They have wonderful deep-throated whistles very different to the high-pitched whistles that narrow gauge locomotives usually have. I love to hear a locomotive working hard climbing a hill and even the occasional wheel slip.

It all came back as I watched these old films taken by fellow rail fans probably with a big old video camera originally or maybe even Super 8 film. I remembered how good it was to smell the burning coal on a crisp winter morning and to sit back in your seat and listen to the clickety clack of wheels on rails. I remembered how we’d sometimes stand in a doorway or on an end platform to enjoy the sounds better. I remembered other things too; the box lunches we used to get, cold chicken and ham, some cheese, a pickle, a bread roll and a slice of sultana cake. The visits to the Bar Car where you could buy a Freddo Frog for five cents or a cup of tea for a dollar. Often we would congregate in the baggage van that served as bar car and braver souls would stand by the open door while others would sit amongst the boxes of potato chips, chocolate, beer and soft drinks and chat. It was a social event. There was a lot of trust in those early days too. You could leave your belongings on your seat and know they would be safe.

621 Adelaide Station

SAR Pacific 621 at Adelaide station

A few times in the films I spotted people who I used to know, volunteers or regular passengers, people I haven’t seen in 25 years or more but hadn’t forgotten. Naomi and I still have a laugh about the misadventures of some of them. The volunteer tour organiser who managed to miss his own train, the rail fans that strayed a bit too close to the locomotive while it was being watered and got an unexpected shower, the poor fellow who had his sleeping bag pinched on a very cold night when a bunch of us were sleeping on the train. Naomi has a very funny story about how she and David nearly missed the train themselves in some country town and had to run after it.

We participated in some special events too. We saw the “Flying Scotsman” on tour from England. We saw locomotives from New South Wales notably 3801. We saw and rode behind several locomotives from Victoria even travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne a couple of times.

NSW 3801 hauling the Bicentennial Train in 1988.

NSWGR 3801 hauling the Bicentennial Train in 1988.

The Flying Scotsman in Australia 1988

I wish that  I really did have a time machine so I could go back and do those trips again because in the real world it is no longer possible but being able to watch them on YouTube is the next best thing.

Here is a short video from steamsounds AU. It is about seven minutes long and while for last couple of minutes you can’t see anything much just listen.

Blogiversary #4

It was on the 30th of May 2013 that I wrote the first post for this blog. I had just started my doll blog and had been blogging for about a month or so when I  felt that I wanted to write off topic so My Other Blog was born.

Today I’m pleased to say that Naomi will be joining me on this blog as well as the doll blog. She has some great photos to share and stories to tell. Look out for a post from her very soon.

Daily Prompt: Passport

via Daily Prompt: Passport

Passport application form

Passport application form

I’ve always been rather fascinated by borders. If you live in Australia you need a passport  if you plan on going anywhere offshore, except to Tasmania contrary to what some people believe.

My most vivid memories involving passports are from the time that David and I travelled to the UK via China and Russia. I was travelling on a British passport while David had an Australian one.

As we travelled by train the passport control officers would usually come aboard at the border to check passengers passports. Most of them did not have a lot of English. In our compartment were two other tourists, one carrying a Canadian passport, the other a Japanese one. It was quite unnerving the way they would stare at our photos and back at us stony faced.  Sometimes we had to leave our compartment and stand in the corridor while it was searched. We heard that some Chinese passengers were put off the train. I have no idea whether their passports were not in order or they were stowaways .

Corridor in a carriage on the TransMongolian Express 1990

Corridor in a carriage on the Trans Mongolian Express 1990

Some weeks later we arrived in England on a ferry from Rotterdam. Passport control at the ferry terminal had two queues. One for British and EU passport holders and one for non EU. I joined one queue and David the other.

Surprisingly I was processed very quickly. The officer even said “Welcome home.” although I had not lived in England for more than twenty years. David meanwhile was still working his way to the head of the queue. I mentioned this to my officer and he quickly called David over to join us and stamped his passport on the spot. I guess it did help to be married to a British citizen on that occasion. I wonder if that queue is going to be way longer after Brexit?

Travelling with a new passport last year I noticed that passport officials still stare at your photo and at you with a stony expression. Perhaps they are just concentrating.