As a railfan, many of my memories revolve around endings. Naomi and I started to travel on steam train excursions when we were in our teens in the 1970s. Regular steam train services had finished and it was a time when many country railway lines were being closed and torn up. We went on many “Last Train To…” trips.
We used the Refreshment Rooms at places like Riverton and Bowman’s just one more time, We visited the towns of Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo during the Kernewek Lowender, the Cornish Festival. We went to Loxton and Renmark and various little places that were little more than a platform and a sign. We had wonderful times. All those lines are closed now.
We also saw the end of various suburban branch lines, the line to Penfield with its loop, the line to the Holden factory, even the factory is gone now. It hit us hard when the passenger service to Bridgewater in the Adelaide hills ended. We used that one a lot and when the line from Glanville to Semaphore closed in 1978 that seemed even worse.
David worked in the old Adelaide rail yard for several years and eventually, we saw the building he worked in demolished to make way for an updated depot where Naomi and I worked a few years later. Now that too has gone, replaced by Adelaide’s new hospital.
The old Adelaide Yard by David Jensen
Adelaide Yard circa mid 70s photo by David Jensen.
Looking back towards Adelaide from the yard. circa 1987-90
My memories of rail in South Australia are both happy and sad.
*Note:Some of the photos I’ve used here are not mine but I needed them to tell the story. The others were taken by David when he worked in the old Adelaide Yard and on some trips. I can’t always remember who took what from those days as we were both photographing the same things although usually from different points of view. Generally speaking, if it has people in the foreground it will probably be mine and if it is in black and white more than likely his. These pictures were all scanned from photos so the quality is not great.
Of course I have lots of pictures of trains, hundreds in fact, but most of them were taken when we used film cameras, some are even on slide film. I’ll try to find some on the computer that I haven’t shared before or at least not too often. I have again used Adobe Photo Elements 2018 to edit these and played with some different effects.
This is a rerun. I have used it at least once before but I like it. It was taken in the Adelaide Railcar Depot where we used to work. It is a 300 Class diesel railcar probably built in the late 1950s. They had no air conditioning and in summer got very hot, especially when they had been sitting in the yard for hours. They were like ovens and we had to clean them.
Another picture I’ve probably used before but with a different effect. Museum Station in Sydney. Museum is one of our favourites because of its old-time decor so it perfectly suits the vintage look and I even added some scratches.
Tracks can also be for trams. Here is one at the Tram Museum at Loftus outside Sydney.
A V Line locomotive at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne 2014. I shot this through a glass window and was unable to get rid of the reflections but if you look closely you can see a tram reflected in the middle of the picture.
Then of course there are model railways. This one was at a show in Sunbury, Victoria 2014.
This last one is very old, taken on a trip to Alice Springs in the 1980s, one of the few I have of this class of locomotive. At the time this was taken you had to go to Port Pirie or Port Augusta, South Australia to see one as they were on standard gauge and the main line to Adelaide was still broad gauge so seeing the standard gauge diesels was exciting.
How could I resist joining in this challenge? The only local public transport we have around here is the bus but as a non driver I’ve used plenty of public transport while living in Adelaide and of course public transport is usually the easiest way to get around when you are visiting a large city.Here are some ways of getting around in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.
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.
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.
Create an image that represents being “a face in the crowd.” Explore silhouettes, shadows, orientation, and other ways to mask your subject. As you hide the defining characteristics of your model, notice which traits continue to stand out. Without facial expression, can you tell how someone is feeling? Without color, does your impression of that person change? If portraits aren’t your thing, get even more creative with your use of shadows, reflections, animals, and patterns to represent a sense of anonymity.
Explore the use of anonymity to express both that which is common to all of us and the uniqueness that stands out even when the most obvious parts of us are hidden. Just as all of us can oscillate between conformity and individualism, allow your photo to do the same.
I took the photos below at the Puffing Billy Railway near Melbourne, Victoria and decided that for this challenge I would convert them to black and white. I feel that they are timeless in a way. They are modern day pictures but the work of the train crew and the attraction of watching never changes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As you know I was in Melbourne last week visiting my friend Gillian and her husband Bruce. It was Gillian’s 60th birthday and as we live in different states and don’t see each other often we try to get together for the milestone birthdays and do something special. Five years ago they came to Tasmania and we all went to the West Coast to visit the West Coast Wilderness Railway and the do the Gordon River Cruise. This time it was my turn to travel and we decided on a visit to the Puffing Billy Railway in Belgrave in the Dandenong Ranges about 40 kms east of Melbourne.
Puffing Billy is one of Australia’s oldest and most well known preserved railways. I’ve visited there at least three times in the past with David, with Naomi and once with Mum when I took her to Melbourne for a weekend. Gillian thought that she might have been there when she was younger but Bruce who is a born and bred Victorian said that he could not remember ever having been there at all. We certainly had to fix that!
As it was a special occasion Gillian booked us on to “The Commissioners Train”. This train is run once or twice a year and allows passengers access to the railway’s museum and workshops which the normal excursion passengers don’t get to see. It also included morning tea and lunch.
The three of us, plus Gillian’s assistance dog Dusty, arrived at Belgrave at around 8 am on Saturday morning and the station was already humming with activity as the consists for the days trains were marshalled onto the platform and several locomotives were being prepared for the day. As well as our train there were three other scheduled departures.
Bruce went up to look at the workshop, I wandered around on the platform taking photos of the buildings and carriages. I came across a set of old carriages with familiar names and went to ask the volunteer platform staff
“Are these Tasmanian carriages?”
They were, they came from what is now the West Coast Wilderness Railway, acquired by Puffing Billy years ago after the railway had closed for normal traffic and decades before it became a tourist attraction itself.
“And no, you can’t have them back.” they told me.
I will include a link at the end of this post to the Puffing Billy website but for those of you not familiar with this little narrow gauge railways here is a bit of background.
The Puffing Billy railway was one of four low-cost 2’6″ (762mm) gauge lines constructed in Victoria in the early 1900’s to open up remote areas.
The present line between Belgrave and Gembrook, through the forests, fern gullies and farmlands of the magnificent Dandenong Ranges, is the major part of the line which opened on 18 December 1900 and operated over 18.2 miles (29km) between Upper Ferntree Gully and Gembrook until 1953. In 1953, a landslide blocked the track and, because of operating losses, the line was closed the following year.
Public interest resulted in the formation of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, whose volunteers, with the blessings of the Victorian State Government and the assistance of the Citizens’ Military Forces, by-passed the landslide and reopened the line to Menzies Creek in 1962, Emerald in 1965, Lakeside in 1975 and finally to Gembrook in October 1998.
The last time I traveled on the railway was prior the reopening of the Lakeside to Gembrook section so I was very excited to finally get to go to the end of the line. The whole trip is very scenic and I’d never get tired of it.
Many, if not all of the people who work on the railway are volunteers. They are drivers, firemen, guards, station masters and platform staff and many others who work to keep the trains running behind the scenes. Puffing Billy maintains a timetable of four trains a day, seven days a week plus various special trains like ours. They have themed trains that run in the evening where you can dine and be entertained with jazz or R&B at one of the stations and even a Murder Mystery evening.
It was a chilly morning so rather than ride in the open carriages we opted for a vintage carriage where we were able to have a compartment to ourselves. It was Dusty’s first time on a steam train although he’s travelled with Gillian on Melbourne’s electric trains several times since she got him a couple of months ago. He was not too sure what was going on at first but soon decided that it was fine and settled down on his mat on the floor. Bruce decided to be brave and ride in one of the open carriages for a while so he could take some photographs and he also elected to jump off for the photo run later on. As I did not get off for the run past myself he has kindly agreed that I can use some of his photos of that portion of the journey.
Another treat for the Commissioner’s Train passengers was our first engine of the day, the wood burning, Climax locomotive. The Climax is a “foreigner” to the line having been built for the Victorian Forests Commission and used on the now defunct Tyers Valley Tramway. I had never seen this locomotive before as apparently it is only used for special trains as it runs on what I heard the volunteers jokingly call “Climax Time”. It looks like something out of the American west although it was built in 1928.
The day reminded me a lot of the old times when we used to go on steam train trips in Adelaide. The special train had attracted a lot of the die-hard rail fans who like to record steam sounds and will follow the train for the entire journey by car to get photos or film. The ones travelling on the train rode in the open carriages and especially enjoyed the photo run.
We enjoyed morning tea prepared by the volunteers at Menzies Creek and later another treat when one of PBR’s fleet of NA class locomotives coupled on to our train. The NA class were used on the railway when it was in service and PBR still have several of them. We were to have a double-header!
We travelled on to Emerald where we had another break to look at the carriage workshop while the Climax was uncoupled from our train. The two locomotives posed for a photo-op and we waited for the scheduled train to Lakeside to pass us before going on to Lakeside ourselves. This was a great opportunity to photograph three locomotives together.
After a brief stop at Lakeside we went on to Gembrook for lunch in the old station building. There were trips to another workshop for those that wanted to go but I preferred to stay around the station area and take more photos. Another locomotive arrived. NA 8A was to join our train so we had double-headed locomotives for the whole return journey.
NA 6A at Gembrook
The old station at Gembrook
NA 8A at the water tank at Gembrook
NA 8A at Gembrook.
NA 6A and NA 8A double heading for the return journey.
One last picture I’d like to share is to show you the traditional way of riding in the open carriages.I first saw this many years ago and I had thought that OH&S might have put a stop to the practice. Passengers in the open cars may sit on the window sill with their legs dangling down outside the carriage. As it was getting on for four thirty by the time we reached Belgrave it must have been a chilly ride.
I hope you have enjoyed this much longer than usual post about a great little railway. I know I will be back there again someday.
This is a great old film made in 1967 and shows what a long way they have come since then. When it was shown at the Australian Railway Historical Society meetings we used to attend everyone laughed at the man with the screwed up tape in his machine no doubt because many of them had experienced that same feeling with a tape recorder or movie camera.