When I first saw the Huon Valley I knew it was the place I wanted to live.People say “You can’t eat scenery.” when explaining why they need to move from the country to the city and suburbs. I know it’s true but I need to live in a place that is either beautiful or at least interesting in its ugliness. That’s why we chose to make our home here. I took this photograph at Franklin, the home of the Living Boat Trust and the Wooden Boat Centre.
Today’s photo is of course in honour of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Yes, I was there in 1963 hiding behind the couch as the Daleks first invaded London. I am probably a bigger fan of the show now than I was then so imagine how pleased I was to come across a real TARDIS on my travels.
The Place: Scarborough, England. The year: 1990.
Hubby and I don’t fly very often. I have mixed feelings about it, he doesn’t. He just loathes it.
The first time we did a long flight together was when we flew from Melbourne to Hong Kong to begin our overseas trip. I have mentioned in a previous post that we chose to travel across China, Russia and Europe by train because we love train travel. What I didn’t mention was that it was also because Hubby hated the thought of the long flight to England. As we took off I noticed that his hands were tightly clutching his book. It was “Final Flight” by Stephen Coonts. Not a particularly appropriate choice I felt.
I have a fear of falling myself. I can’t climb more than two steps up a ladder or I get the shakes but flying doesn’t worry me too much as long as I concentrate on looking at the view and not thinking about being in a metal cylinder thousands of metres above the earth. The trouble is that a lot of the time there is not a lot to see except clouds. I really wish that Hubby didn’t like watching “Air Crash Investigation” so much. I never worried about that before he started watching that show.
Of course flying is not the most comfortable way to travel. Well not in my experience anyway. I am sure that if you can afford to fly first or business class and have more leg room and maybe even a bed it is much better but if you are one of the majority who just look for the cheapest convenient flight it is even more cramped and uncomfortable than the bus you catch to work. I am short so getting my luggage into the overhead storage bin is difficult for me too. People seem to have so much carry on luggage, especially now that checked baggage is an extra. I consider myself lucky if the storage space directly above me is free.
Then there are the seats. Hubby only has one request when we fly, that we fly Virgin domestically. He thinks the seats on the planes they use are more roomy and comfortable for him. As I’ve mentioned he is a big man and he needs to use a seat belt extender. As it is he takes up one and a bit seats. Friends who travel more often than we do say that they usually book an aisle and a window seat and leave one between them. If the flight is not full they often end up with extra space that way. I suggested doing this but Hubby didn’t want to. I always like a window seat, Hubby prefers an aisle seat. I like to pick the seats online, he prefers to wait till check in and ask a real person. Last time we flew together we did it his way and I ended up being wedged between Hubby and another passenger. I could hardly move my arms for the hour-long flight. I swore that was the last time that I would let him have his way about seat allocation. In fact if we really can’t avoid flying together I think I will book us into two separate rows.
I have never solved the mystery of how to use your tray if the person in front of you decides to go to sleep. Really with all the technology available there ought to be a way to fit a warning light so you know when the seat is about to be pushed back. How hard could it be?
To me anything related to making a journey is interesting and even though I would much rather be starting my trip from a railway station or a seaport I can find things of interest at the airport. Hobart airport is not a large one although it has been refurbished and expanded since we first moved to Tasmania. The first few times we used the airport we were amused to find that we had to pick up our luggage from trolleys in the baggage area. It now boasts a carousel. There is not a lot to see at Hobart airport in terms of different airlines or types of planes though so flying in and out of Melbourne, Sydney or even Adelaide provides the novelty of seeing jumbo jets from international airlines as well a the domestic carriers. As we usually have to change planes in Melbourne or Sydney to go to Adelaide I like to fill in the waiting time taking pictures of any planes with interesting colour schemes.
My photography is often of the record keeping variety so if we go on a trip I want a photo of the plane/train/ferry we used, the hotel we stayed at etc. Now that I have a digital camera and don’t have to worry about running out of film I can take pictures of what ever catches my eye.
This Travelator caught my eye in Sydney airport. I understand what it is there for but really, it’s so tiny. What is the point of it?
Then there are the X Ray machines. Even in the pre 911 world these things were pretty accurate I thought. At Gatwick airport in England Hubby was detained because the machine detected something metallic on his person. Eventually a manual search revealed a scrunched up packet that had held peanuts which had been in his pocket .
I wonder about airport shops. The Sydney domestic terminal has the most shops of any that I have been in. When I first saw it I thought it was like a shopping mall with an airport attached but after spending some hours there I realised that there are not such a lot of shops after all but what is there is expensive. I decided to take my laptop and enjoy the free wi-fi instead. That’s one thing about airports that has definitely improved.
Holidays On Rails
As rail fans David and I liked to travel by train when we went on holidays. Australian National employees like David were entitled to a holiday pass which meant that we could travel interstate cheaply, or even free if we didn’t mind sitting up on overnight trains. We travelled on the Overland between Adelaide and Melbourne several times and always enjoyed the journey, travelling either the First Class sitting car and eating breakfast in the First Class Club Car or paying a little extra for a sleeping car berth. David was well known to most of the catering staff and sleeping car conductors and they were always very nice to us. Travelling Economy Class was not as comfortable but I still preferred it to coach travel.
We managed a trip on both the “Spirit of Progress” and the “Daylight Express” between Melbourne and Sydney though sadly never the luxurious “Southern Aurora“. We travelled on the Ghan to Alice Springs as well and even though we had opted for the cheap seats we still enjoyed the journey. The line to Darwin had not been built yet so that trip is still on the bucket list as is the one I would really like to do, the ” Indian Pacific”.
One train I would love to have travelled on in those days but didn’t get to was “The Tea and Sugar”, this was the train that supplied all the railway settlements along the Nullarbor Plain between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie and it always fascinated me. Today those settlements have mostly disappeared and the few that remain are much smaller now as the modern concrete sleepers don’t require as much maintenance.
The Trip Of A Lifetime
Once I started to work for the railways myself we began to save in earnest for a trip overseas. Naturally we planned on getting a lot of rail action and so the idea was born that we would travel to the UK via China and Russia on the Trans Mongolian and Trans Siberian express trains. It would be a once in a lifetime trip.
We left Australia in February 1990 to fly to Hong Kong where, after a few days sightseeing we caught our first train to Guangzhou to begin the long journey to Beijing. I have just been reading that it is now possible to travel between these two cities by High Speed Train and that it takes about 8 hours. I am glad that we took longer. It was a good opportunity to accustom ourselves to China. We had a sleeping berth and ate our meals in the Dining Car where nobody spoke any English. On our first morning for breakfast we were served fried eggs. They were runny which was fine but it was extremely difficult to eat them with chopsticks. I became very cross with my inability to manage them much to the amusement of the man sitting at our table who was politely trying not to laugh.
We found that younger people tended to speak some English and were keen to practice it with us. One of the first people we spoke with was a young man who had seen “Crocodile Dundee” and wanted to know if it was realistic. We told him that it was about as realistic as any other movie.
What we really hoped to see in China apart from The Great Wall and The Forbidden City were steam engines and we were not disappointed. Even though they were being phased out by this time there were still plenty of them about hauling freight trains and sitting in rail yards.
Leaving Beijing we travelled on through northern China into Mongolia and Irkutsk. We were now on the Trans Mongolian Express. On this train we shared a 4 berth sleeping compartment with two young women, one Canadian and one Japanese. Our excitement at seeing so many steam engines must have been infectious as before long Christine, our Canadian seatmate was looking for them too.
It was night when we reached the Mongolian border. We had a lengthy stop while our locomotive was being changed. Mongolian trains run on the Russian gauge of 1520mm while China uses Standard Gauge (1435mm) so all international trains must stop at the border posts for the bogies to be changed from one gauge to the other. There were steam locomotives there as well as diesels and we were fortunate to see one gently steaming in the chilly night air. It was a sight I won’t forget although I didn’t get a photo of it. Before our trip I had read of travellers having their films confiscated and cameras damaged for taking photos in Mongolia so not being the bravest travellers we decided not to risk it. As it happened nobody seemed all that worried and we would probably have been fine. I might add that the border crossings were quite scary. Coming from Australia we not used to seeing armed guards and although as western tourists they treated us very politely it felt intimidating. I remember the Mongolian official whose sole English seemed to be “Passport” and the Russian who looked so smart in a winter uniform. They all carried guns. At each border crossing we had to leave our compartment so that it could be searched. I am not sure what they expected to find, maybe stowaways. I did hear that some Chinese people were evicted from the train. The officials all stared hard at our passport photos. We must have seemed an odd group in our compartment with one Japanese, one Canadian, one British and one Australian passport.
We left the train in Irkutsk to spend a night and make a visit to Lake Baikal. David had never seen any snow before but he saw plenty in Siberia! We continued on the Trans Siberian to Moscow. As it was winter there were not many tourists on the train. Customer service was not a huge deal to them in 1990 although from some recent accounts I’ve read things may not have changed that much. I noticed that every compartment’s windows that were so dirty that you couldn’t see outside but I guess the Russians on the train had seen plenty of trees and snow and didn’t care. We astounded the car conductor by wanting to clean the window of our compartment. She agreed to give Christine and I some cloths so we could do that and although somewhat bemused she helped us at one of our stops. She was also kind enough to point out to us which of the two toilets in our carriage was the cleaner one. One thing I liked immensely was that each carriage had a samovar at one end which was kept boiling and you could go along and get hot water for tea or soup. Most people brought a few supplies of their own to supplement what was, or wasn’t, available in the Dining Car. Hot tea with honey in it was a very good drink after a chilly walk on the platform during a stop. We did get off the train at longer stops but never strayed far away from our carriage. I remembered Paul Theroux’s story in “The Great Railway Bazaar” of a passenger who was left behind on his journey on the Orient Express and I personally did not wish to be “duffilled”.
We met a few people who tried to talk to us but their English was limited. There was a man who kept wanting David to drink vodka with him and a lady who put on a fresh dress to visit our compartment, on top of all her other clothes. David and I had brought along a Polaroid camera thinking that it would be handy for quick snaps on the train and that people would be more willing to have their photos taken if we could give them a copy. Watching the picture develop was something new to them and everyone would turn it over to the other side to see where the image was. Well, Polaroids were kind of like magic to me too. I never really understood how they worked. I don’t remember after all this time what the food was like except that there was no Borscht. I was disappointed about that. I do remember that we tried the beer in each country we passed through. We liked the Chinese Five Star beer but we found the Mongolian beer rather flat and the Russian beer tasted the way I imagine dirty dish water would taste!
In Moscow we made use of the Moscow Metro which we loved. I had been on the London Underground but neither of us had seen anything like the stations in Moscow. They were so deep underground and so ornately decorated, kind of cross between an art gallery and a bomb shelter which was probably the intention. Naturally all the signage was in the Cyrillic alphabet but we had acquired a map with the place names marked in letters we could recognise even if we couldn’t pronounce the them. By using these two maps together we were able to find our way around fairly well. Once we realised that the routes were all colour coded it was much simpler and the fares were so cheap we really didn’t mind if we got lost and had to buy another ticket anyway. Once, when we were studying our maps and trying to work out what platform we wanted a passerby helped us, pointing out the correct one but mostly we managed. We were very proud of finding our way from our hotel to the Museum of Economic Achievement which involved changing trains about three times. We couldn’t understand much about the exhibits when we got there but we did enjoy seeing the one about space exploration.
We also travelled by train from St Petersburg to Moscow which was a lot less scary than flying with Aeroflot. We then continued our journey west across Europe finally arriving at Hoek van Holland to take a ferry to Harwich, England. It was on this final journey that I had what to me was a very alarming experience even though I was probably never at risk. I thought I was really going to be duffilled this time. It was at the last stop before we left Russia and the border officials came aboard as usual. This time we had one that spoke some English and he wanted to know if any of us had any Russian roubles left. Unfortunately I did and he wanted to know why. I explained as best I could that I had no opportunity to change them at the station in Moscow. He then took me into the station to change them while David stayed on the train. After I had done that I had to join a queue to get back on the train. It was a long queue and I seemed to be the only English speaking person. I was really afraid that I would miss the train and be stranded in a strange city without my luggage. I can’t say how long I was there, it seemed like ages but it probably wasn’t. In the end of course it was alright. I was given preferential treatment once they saw my foreign passport and was soon back on the train again.
David was entitled to discount fares in the United Kingdom through a reciprocal agreement that Australian National had with British Rail. I’ve forgotten exactly what the discount was but we found that in many of the places we went the ticket sellers seeing his pass had no idea what to charge us. We stayed in Stirling, in Scotland for a few days and visited Edinburgh three times being charged a different fare each time we travelled. On a train in north Wales the ticket collector looked at the pass and said “I have no idea what to do with this so I’ll charge you the same as a British Rail employee.”
In London we managed to visit most of the big stations, Waterloo and Victoria, Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras which is by far the most attractive but I have soft spot for Liverpool Street where the trains to Romford and Clacton On Sea depart. Naturally I wanted to recreate those journeys so David could see where I came from. Needless to say we spent a lot of time in our short London visit using the Underground. I think David would have been quite happy to have explored all the Tube lines and not worried about any tourist attractions.
We travelled from London to York, where naturally we visited the National Rail Museum. We also took a trip on the Settle to Carlisle line and visited the Worth Valley Railway at Haworth. We carried on to Newcastle where we spent a few days before continuing on to Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow, Fort William and, after a bus trip from there to Kyle of Localsh, to Inverness. Our longest train journey in the UK was from Inverness all the way back to London and then on to Bexhill On Sea in one day.
Wales was another destination. I would have loved to have had the time and money to visit all the little narrow gauge railways in Wales but we saw the two that I really wanted to see. Ffestiniog at Porthmadog and the Tallylyn Railway at Tywyn. The Welsh Highland Railway is also at Porthmadog and we visited that too. Nowadays I believe it is a part of Ffestiniog but it wasn’t at that time and was quite a tiny concern compared to its neighbour. The Tallylyn was a railway that I wanted to visit from the time I read “Railway Adventure” by LTC Rolt in the 1970s. I loved his story of how the railway, the first preserved railway in the world, came into existence. I knew that if I only saw one steam railway in Wales it must be that one. We didn’t have a rental car so to get there we had to take a bus and a train from Bangor where we were staying. It was a weekend and we only expected to have time for a short trip, maybe not even that if our transport was running late. When we arrived at the station we found that a train was about to leave and to our surprise the ticket office staff said that we were welcome to travel on it even though it was a private charter. That just made my day.
Back at home in Tasmania my favourite railway related holiday trip is to the West Coast Wilderness Railway which runs between Strahan and Queenstown. I have more to say about this little railway and the west coast of Tasmania generally so will save that for another post.
All the photographs in this post were taken by me or by my husband David except for the following:
- Refreshment Car on the Overland. This was a publicity shot taken for the railways which David acquired when they threw out a lot of old photographs in the 1980s.
- The Spirit of Progress70th Anniversary train at Benalla, Victoria – Wikepedia
- Indian Pacific Train at Cook, SA – Wikepedia
- Irkutsk Station- Wikepedia
The quality of some of our own photographs is not great because most of them were taken through glass or in low light conditions. Most of them were orginally slides. We used Kodachrome 64 and Agfachrome in those days from memory. Our cameras were a Pentax MG and two Zenit EMs , well I think it was an EM. The Russian camera drew a few looks in Moscow. We also had a Polaroid 600 and a vintage Paxette that David liked to carry for back up.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vAh-p0-cPA- A short film about “The Tea and Sugar”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE_DQql97jQ -Bogey exchange at Erlian, China
http://www.festrail.co.uk/- Festiniog and the Welsh Highland Railway
http://www.talyllyn.co.uk/ – The Tallylyn Railway
- Great Railway Journeys: The Trans-Siberian Railway (wottraveltwickenham.wordpress.com)
- Six of the world’s best epic journeys (theguardian.com)
- Trains, Planes and Automobiles in China (tumblingweeds.ca)
- The Great Railway Bazaar-Paul Theroux
- Riding The Iron Rooster – Paul Theroux
- The Big Red Train Ride – Eric Newby
After David and I got married we felt that rather than just travelling on steam tours we’d like to give something back so we became volunteer carriage cleaners. David didn’t last long. He worked for the railways and after a while he said that spending his weekends at the rail yards after being there all week was a bit much. However, I stayed for several years and although it was often hard and dirty work I enjoyed it and ultimately it did lead to me getting paid work.
At first the carriages were stored on unused track in the Adelaide rail yards. Sometimes the cleaners who were on duty would come over to see what we were doing. They were bemused by group of young people who would clean railway carriages for fun but as they all knew David they were always helpful if we needed hot water or cleaning rags.
Later we moved out to a new site at Dry Creek where the engines and carriages were stored together. The carriage cleaners job was simply to prepare each consist for a trip and to clean it when it came back again. We had toilets and ashtrays to clean which wasn’t pleasant and the soot on the cream coloured paintwork of our Centenary Cars was very hard to shift. It had to be scrubbed off with detergent and then we would polish the paintwork with car polish. We cleaned the windows and polished the brass handrails, we mopped floors and vaccuumed carpets. We even climbed onto the roof to fill the water tanks. Quite a feat for me as I was and still am scared of falling and find it hard to climb ladders. Our friend Robert decided to cure me, he would climb up to put the hose in the tank and then when it was full yell at me to go up and turn it off. If I didn’t there would be water everywhere. I did it. I wish I could do it now. I can’t get more than two steps up a ladder these days without getting frightened.
While I was a volunteer I helped to prepare a train consist to be used in the film “Gallipolli” directed by Peter Weir and starring Mark Lee and a very young Mel Gibson. We were allowed to go and watch the day’s filming at the Adelaide Station which was fascinating. The scene, our heroes disembarking from the train in Perth WA, probably took less than a minute on screen but it took half a day to film and I was impressed to hear Peter Weir directing the cast of extras who played the passengers as if theirs was the most important scene in the movie. Incidentally, another scene from the movie was also filmed at the railway station. Marble Hall, where David and I had our wedding photos taken, was transformed into the ballroom at the Nile Hotel in Cairo. Marble Hall is now the foyer of the Adelaide Casino.
I didn’t only clean though, sometimes I would help out in the refreshment car, especially on school holiday trips. For one trip we took the Dining Car Adelaide to the Kernewek Lowender and while the passengers enjoyed Devonshire Tea in the morning and a seafood lunch we volunteers worked in the kitchen area plating and serving the food and doing the washing up. For most trips refreshments and souvenirs were sold in a converted baggage car and a brisk trade was done in chocolates, cold drinks and tea and coffee. Even if we were not rostered on as volunteers on a long trip the regulars would always lend a hand if the Bar Car got busy. I also occasionally helped with fund raising, walking through the train selling raffle or Bingo tickets. They were wonderful times for me. I gained a lot of confidence from my years with SteamRanger Tours.
My Railway Career
In August 1987 I joined the railways myself and spent the next twelve years working as a railcar cleaner just a few hundred metres from where I had started off as a volunteer. I enjoyed most of that time and took pride in doing as good a job as I could to keep the city’s fleet of rail cars clean. I arrived as the first 3000 class rail cars were going into service and the first of the old Redhen rail cars were being phased out. I was very happy that smoking was outlawed on trains soon after I arrived. No more dirty ashtrays!
The Redhens were horrible to clean in the yard. In summer they would be like ovens as they had no air-conditioning. The drivers and shunters would sometimes forget to close the doors before taking them through the train wash and they would get flooded or there would be a dust storm and all the seats would be covered in red dust and would have to be washed. We all hated that job so much. The air-conditioned 2000 and 3000 class cars were better, they had sealed windows so the dust didn’t get in as much but if they had been stabled in the yard all day with the motors off they were just as hot and stuffy in summer. On the night shift you had to go out and clean cars in the yard no matter how cold or wet the weather was. I can recall getting soaked on more than one occasion as I struggled to open a battery box or shut down a motor that didn’t want to shut down.
Big events like New Year’s Eve, the Royal Show or Skyshow meant extra work for us. There were more trains and more mess. We had a railcar cleaner working at the station at night and that person could expect to spend most of his or her shift with a mop, a shovel and a bucket of sawdust! Graffiti was a big problem too. Hardly a night went by when we didn’t clean some off the insides or outsides of the rail cars. Sometimes they would come back from traffic covered in huge murals. The hours of scrubbing and the nasty chemicals we had to inhale means that I will never see this sort of thing as art!
Despite how physically hard the work could be I found the Railcar Depot and the station good places to work until the last couple of years.My sister worked there with me for a few years and we found ways to entertain ourselves with guessing games and quizzes if we were doing something monotonous like scrubbing dirty seats. The majority of the people who worked at the Adelaide Depot were men, fitters, electricians, drivers and shunters as well as cleaners and many of the older ones had come from Europe in the 1950s and 60s. On night shift we would often encourage them to talk about their younger days and how they came to Australia. It was fascinating to hear their stories. Of course we talked about many other things too in the quiet times late at night between trains. At least one of our workmates would get a bee in his bonnet over certain subjects and my sister and I took care not to mention Americans, Unions or the State Bank unless one of us was in a mischievous mood!
Eventually I decided to leave because I could see it was a matter of time before the whole cleaning department was outsourced. The depot which had once had about 200 staff had about 50 people left. At night the place was almost deserted. I was a Leading Hand by this time and found the job more stressful than fun. I decided not to wait for the end.
The last time I was in Adelaide we stayed at a hotel not far from where the Railcar Depot was on the corner of North and West Terraces. It isn’t there now. It was demolished to make way for a new hospital and the rail cars were all moved to Dry Creek, not far from the old SteamRanger Depot I believe. SteamRanger have moved too, they are based at Victor Harbour now and only run trains on the branch line from Mount Barker to Victor Harbour. The closure of most of the country lines and the standardisation of others has made it impossible to run trips like the ones we enjoyed so much and Public Liability insurance has become so expensive that Steamranger probably wouldn’t do it even if they could. That makes me sad but I think I was very lucky to do what I did when it was still possible.
In Part Three I’ll talk about holidays on rails.
I was meant to be meeting a friend to go and see the Tall Ships in Hobart. However she contacted me before I left home to say she was unable to come. I was sorry not to catch up with my friend but it did mean that I would have a day out by myself.
I look forward to those times when I can go on an outing on my own. Perhaps it’s the freedom it brings. I can plan the day exactly the way I want. I don’t have to feel guilty for taking too long browsing in the shops. I can look at dolls and clothes and craft supplies. I can eat at my favourite café. I don’t have to worry that my companion is getting bored or tired and sometimes it means I have rewarding conversations with strangers. Yes it may sound selfish to some people but I make no apology for that. The same applies to holidays. I love any kind of travel and I’m happy to have a companion sometimes. I enjoy trips with my husband and my sister and I have had many enjoyable trips together over the years but travelling with another person, even one with very similar interests and habits still involves compromise.
I’ve had holidays on my own twice in my life. The first time I was only nineteen and visiting the United Kingdom. Of course I went on visits to relatives but I spent some of the time travelling around by myself. This was in the days before mobile phones and emails and I felt completely cut off from everyone I knew. I was a very shy teenager and being alone meant that I had to push myself to speak to strangers and do things like booking rooms in hotels if I wanted a roof over my head at night so I think it was a very good experience for me.
Many years later I had a short holiday in Melbourne alone. I stayed with a friend for a couple of days and spent the rest of the time staying at a Youth Hostel in the city. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was not in the least lonely. Since that time I’ve longed to do it again.
I love reading travel books especially those by solo travellers. I once read a book by a writer who decided to travel the USA on Greyhound buses and I wished that I could do something similar. I like to imagine myself catching the bus to Hobart which passes my house every day and then catching another to Launceston for a week on my own or, if it is a big budget daydream, on to Devonport to catch the ferry to Melbourne. I daydream about visiting other parts of Australia too. One thing that I would really like to do is to travel across Australia on the Indian Pacific. Sometimes I imagine myself winning the lottery and flying off to London and travelling around the United Kingdom and Europe, preferably by train of course.
I know that I’ll never see half the places that I’d like to visit but I’m determined that I will make a solo holiday a reality one day even if it is just a weekend in Launceston.
Here are some of my favourite travel books:
Paul Theroux-The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, The Kingdom By The Sea, Riding The Iron Rooster-I would hate to travel with Paul Theroux who must surely be one of the grumpiest travellers ever but I do love his descriptions of the places he visits.
Diana and George Spear-Square Pegs-A hilarious story of an English family complete with dog who decided to emigrate to Australia and set out to drive across the Nullarbor Plains towing a caravan.
Gladys Taylor-Alone In The Australian Outback-A Canadian woman drives around Australia alone
Emily Kimbrough-A Right Good Crew, Pleasure By The Busload-These books make me laugh out loud.
In my previous post about the QVMAG at Inveresk I mentioned that we visited a couple of other museums in the area. One was the Launceston Tramway Museum
The museum is located in the Inveresk Precinct just a few steps away from the QVMAG so it is easy to do both in the same visit if you wish. The Museum is run by a non profit organisation and staffed by volunteers. The three that we met during our visit were all friendly and enthusiastic about their work there. It is a small museum but packs a lot of information inside it and is well worth the admission fee.
The Launceston tram system only operated for a bit over forty years. It opened in 1911 and closed in December of 1952 when the trams were briefly replaced with trolley buses. Twenty nine trams were built in Launceston over a period of twenty years and of those, eight are in the museum. One, number 29, is restored and in runs on a short section of track from the old railway station to the site of the old railway roundhouse and turntable next to Aurora Stadium.
When the trams were retired they were available for sale by tender. The members of the museum have researched what happened to each one and there is a display showing the second career of each tram with its new owners. This was probably my favourite part and must have taken some excellent detective work.
As well as trams both restored and unrestored there is good use made of audio visuals to describe life on the trams. It certainly was not easy being a tram conductor. If you were so unfortunate as to be short when the tickets were counted you would have to make up the money from your own pay. Women did not work on the Launceston trams during war time as they did in Hobart as the management of the day said that they could not afford to build the facilities ladies would require.
The tram ride is well worth doing. We boarded outside the museum entrance next to The Blue Bar Cafe and rode up to where the old railway roundhouse once stood behind QVMAG and Aurora Stadium. Then we rode back as far as the old Launceston Station and then back to the museum entrance. The usual practice is to do the trip twice, the second time with a soundtrack of voices and other sounds from the past. However on the afternoon we travelled they didn’t do this. I didn’t mind as we chatted to the volunteers and enjoyed the clickety clack of the tram. Our volunteer conductor told us that an extension of the tram line is planned to nearby Lindsay St and Kings Wharf where there is a cafe. When that is complete they will be able to offer a much longer ride. I am certainly looking forward to that!
The Launceston Tramway Museum is open:
MAY TO OCTOBER – 10.00am to 4.00pm, four days a week. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
NOVEMBER TO APRIL – 10.00am to 4.00pm, five days a week. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $8 for concession holders and $5 for children. There is also a $25 family ticket
This does not include the price of the tram ride which seems to be variable during winter. We were charged $5 each but in summer I think it is $10 and when the extension is completed will probably be a little more. Check their website for up to date information on this. http://www.ltms.org.au/LTMS/Home.html
National Automobile Museum of Tasmania
The other museum we visited was the National Automobile Museum which is located on the fringe of Launceston’s City Park. This is another nicely arranged museum with a static display of cars and motorcycles and changing exhibitions to feature different marques. On our visit there was a display of Rover’s.
We enjoyed the display of muscle cars from the 70s although as both Naomi and I commented it’s becoming a regular occurrence for us to see things that are familiar to us from our youth in museums!
The Dick Johnson race car brought back some memories too.
I also liked the cute little Messerschmitt car and who could resist a mini MG?
If you would like to visit the museum it is open every day except Christmas Day between 9am-5pm (10am-4pm in winter) at the corner of Willis and Cimitiere Streets, Launceston.
- Adults $11.75
- Seniors $9.00
- Children Under 16 $6.50
- Family $30.00
- Annual Admission Pass $29.50
Their website is worth checking out too as it has plenty of photos from previous exhibitions. http://www.namt.com.au/