Bad Photo Monday: Flash

Vice Regal car interior-01

David and I used to have a saying that the best way to make people think we were good photographers was to never show anyone the bad ones. When we’d get a film back from being processed we would examine all our photos together and cull the worst ones immediately . We would  then  usually cull again for ones we considered mediocre. However, I would make an exception for holiday photos in places I thought that I might not visit again. This was taken at Steamrail Victoria’s Railway Heritage Centre at Seymour although I am not sure if it was called that in 2007 when we were there. This was meant to be a photo of the interior of the Vice Regal (Governor’s) Car but as you can see I did not allow for the reflection of the flash in the mirror. This was taken with my first digital camera, a little Kodak Easyshare I bought for $50 from eBay.

All Aboard for Puffing Billy

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.

Belgrave Station Puffing Billy
Outside Belgrave Station
Gillian with Dusty who is a Lions Hearing Dog.

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.

Dubbil Barril
Dubbil Barril, ex Tasmanian carriage.


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.

Volunteer driver


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.

Open carriages Puffing Billy Railway
Open carriages Puffing Billy Railway

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.

Climax locomotive at Belgrave.
Climax locomotive at Belgrave.
Climax Locomotive on Puffing Billy Railway
Climax Locomotive on Puffing Billy Railway

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.

Rail fans form a photo line by the track.
Climax photo run by Bruce Laughton
Climax photo run by Bruce Laughton
Climax photo run by Bruce Laughton
Climax photo run by Bruce Laughton
Behind the Climax. Photo by Bruce Laughton
Behind the Climax, What railfans do. Photo by Bruce Laughton.

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!

NA 6A at Menzies Creek


NA 6A on Puffing Billy Railway
The Climax and NA are coupled for a double header
The Climax and NA are coupled for 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.

Climax and NA 6A
Climax and NA 6A pose for a picture.
Waiting for the scheduled train hauled by another NA class
Waiting for the scheduled train hauled by another NA class NA 7A I think.

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.

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.

How to ride Puffing Billy.

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.


Further Information:

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.



Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – 2015 – Week #8

Which Way to Canberra

These photos were taken seven years ago when we drove to Canberra to visit our friends Gillian & Bruce who were living there then. The quality of the photos is not great. I had just bought a second-hand Kodak Easyshare digital camera and had not even worked out how to turn of the date stamping so the photos have been edited a bit.
We caught the ferry from Devonport to Melbourne and then drove on the Hume Highway to Canberra. You can do that in a day but we preferred not to and broke our journey in Albury. Of course we detoured off the highway because it would have been a pity to have gone all that way and not seen any of the towns.

The states of Victoria and New South Wales are separated by the Murray River which forms the border. On the Victorian side of the river is Wodonga while Albury is on the NSW side. The two cities are usually referred to as Albury Wodonga. I like Albury which has a lot of handsome buildings but didn’t really have time to see anything much of Wodonga. I did however make a point of taking a picture of the bridge over the Murray where we crossed from one state to the other.

The Murray at Albury Wodonga, NSW/Vic border.
The Murray at Albury Wodonga, NSW/Vic border.

Chiltern is a charming looking little town in north east Victoria. We detoured off the highway on our return trip to get petrol and found this old style garage with pumps on the footpath.

Chiltern Victoria
Chiltern Victoria
Telegraph Hotel, Chiltern Victoria
Telegraph Hotel, Chiltern Victoria


Back in Melbourne waiting to board the Spirit of Tasmania to cross Bass Strait. Tasmanians like to say that Bass Strait is our highway. I think the last photo was taken on another trip, probably to Adelaide.

image Station Pier
Station Pier, Port Melbourne
image Spirit of Tasmania
Boarding the Spirit of Tasmania

How The Ashes Began As a Joke

Sunbury "Birthplace of the Ashes"
Sunbury “Birthplace of the Ashes”

The cricket season is on us again with the first international match being played tonight so although this is not an Ashes summer I wanted to write about a recent visit I paid to Sunbury, Victoria, “The Birthplace of the Ashes”. I know that some of the people who read this blog are not from cricket playing nations, or maybe are just not interested in cricket. I won’t judge them. I didn’t care for it myself until about 12 years ago. Anyway for those who already know all about it please bear with me while I attempt to explain how the Ashes began. It will be a lot easier than trying to explain the LBW rule which still baffles me. I mean, as far as I can see, LBW is a rule that says that a man is out because of something that might have happened had he not been standing where he was. But let’s not go there.

Ashes Urn 1921.jpg
Ashes Urn 1921” by Unknown – .Illustrated London News, January 29, 1921; page 132. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

It all began back in 1882. Queen Victoria was on the throne of England and the British Empire had spread to far distant parts of the world. This meant that England now had opponents to play cricket against.

The British Empire.png
The British Empire” by The Red Hat of Pat FerrickFile:BlankMap-World-large.png and own work by uploader. Composed from maps found in:
Brown, Judith (1998) The Twentieth Century, The Oxford History of the British Empire Volume IV, Oxford University Press ISBN: 0199246793.
Dalziel, Nigel (2006) The Penguin Historical Atlas of the British Empire, Penguin ISBN: 0141018445.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The match between England and Australia at The Oval in London was said to be one of the most exciting ever. After a poor start the tourists beat the home side by just 7 runs after fast bowler Fred Spofforth took 14 English wickets for 90 runs. The Australians had beaten one of the best English sides of the time and the hosts were demoralised. A few days later” The Sporting Times” published the following obituary.

In Affectionate Remembrance
E N G L I S H C R I C K E T,
which died at the Oval
29th A U G U S T, 1882
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances
NB – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.

Fast forward to a few months later when the English team under the same Captain, the Honourable Ivo Bligh, later Lord Darnley, paid a visit to Australia. Three official Test Matches were played in Melbourne and Sydney. As England won two of them pride was restored. The English side then went on to tour southern Australia while the Australian team went to England to play. After a match in Adelaide, which England won,  Bligh made a speech in which he said “I have come to retrieve the ashes of English cricket.” This was probably the first time the expression was used but it meant little at this stage.

The next match was against Victoria and was played on the grounds of Rupertswood, a fine mansion in Sunbury owned by Sir William Clarke (see, we are getting there) which is about 40km north-west of Melbourne.  During the team’s visit a group of women, including Florence Morphy who was Lady Clarke’s music teacher, jokingly presented Ivo Bligh with a small urn which was said to contain the ashes of the bails used in the match.

Rupertswood Mansion, Sunbury, Victoria
Rupertswood Mansion, Sunbury, Victoria

Florence Morphy married Ivo Bligh a year or so later and the small urn remained in the possession of the family until Lady Darnley donated it to the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London after her husband’s death.

I have included some links at the end of this post that go into a bit more detail.

Rupertswood  was sold in 1925 and again in 1926 eventually being bought by the Salesian Society for use as a boarding school in 1927. In recent times the mansion has been used as a function centre and it was possible to do a tour of it but recently the owners decided to use it as for administration offices and much of the historic furniture and fittings were sold at auction. I was disappointed to hear that as I would liked to have seen inside.

I did manage to see the outside of the mansion on my recent visit to Melbourne and as it happened a game of cricket was being played on the oval while we were there. My friend Bruce visited Rupertswood before the auction and took a lot of photos of the interior of the mansion. He has been kind enough to allow me to use some of them in this post. Thanks Bruce.

In the main part of Sunbury you can see some bronze busts of famous Test cricketers, W.G. Grace, Ivo Bligh, Donald Bradman and Dennis Lillee are all represented. At Melbourne’s MCC Museum which I will write more about in another post I talked to one of the old members who told me that until recent times touring English teams would often return to Rupertswood for a picnic match. The demands of modern cricket mean that his no longer happens. But at least I did see the birthplace of The Ashes.
Here are a selection of photos of Rupertswood by Bruce Laughton. The bronze busts in Sunbury town centre were photographed by me.

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Rupertswood Oval
Rupertswood Oval

 References and Further Reading: