Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 58 - December 2015 / January 2016 > Steaming Along (by John Morris)
by John Morris
We must be getting older than what we see in the mirror each morning. One Friday recently we returned by air from Dubbo and caught the train back to Thornleigh from Sydney's airport. The first section of the run is from the airport stations back to Central Station. There we have to change trains for the run north leaving from platform 16. Platform 16 was not overly crowded though every seat on the platform was occupied. One kind lady (who I assessed as being in her early 60's) offered her seat to Marcia who politely refused the offer. Next to this kind hearted lady (who looked older than Marcia) was a gentleman of about middle 50's who then offered his seat and made it clear that Marcia was to take the vacated seat by getting up and walking away. There was no option, Marcia had to take the seat. It was an amusing moment in our train trip.
Last year at the speech night for Wahroonga Adventist School, I was presented with a gift certificate with Heritage Express - good for $175.00 of travel on my choice of Heritage Express train tour/s, a mixture of steam and diesel power with one special that took you by catamaran to Port Kembla and return by train. Most of the trips are day runs and I wanted to see if I could put together a tour that would use the gift amount in one hit. I finally found a trip that sort of worked out, but needed further massaging to make a workable package. The Heritage Express organisation formulated a "Great Western Tour" where it was possible to make a 3 day component that would use the dollars totally. The train would go to a base station and run shorter shuttle trips from that station with special pricing for schools and community groups. Out schedule was Westmead to Bathurst on Wednesday, Orange to Dubbo on Thursday with the first shuttle run from Dubbo to Narromine and return to Dubbo on Thursday PM. Further trips would follow from other country centres.
Final trip programme was:
Wednesday - Day 1
Westmead to Dubbo with stops at Penrith, Katoomba, Medlow Bath, Tarana then to Bathurst. Tarana once was the junction for travel to Oberon - some rail is left on the right of way and there is a substantial water tank at Tarana - some train lovers are trying to get a portion of the track operational at Oberon for tourist use.
Thursday - Day 2
Orange to Stuart Town, Wellington, Geurie and Dubbo. On the afternoon or arrival at Dubbo the first shuttle run would occur to Narromine and back to Dubbo.
Friday - Day 3 (possible)
A full day shuttle run from Dubbo to Nyngan and return. The train would get back quite late and we would prefer to be back at the motel before sunset. It turned out that commitments on Saturday could not be overlooked. We would have to get back to the big smoke on Friday.
Problem - How do we get from Bathurst to Orange - first try the Tour organisers to see if we could stay on the train between Bathurst and Orange. Could not be done - insurance and other matters. Can we get a bus - Yes -if we were lucky and the train made good time, a bus would pull out of Bathurst about 10 minutes after we arrived. If not so fortunate the next bus would pull out about ¾ hour after we arrived. We made a booking at the motel. It would appear to work. Next problem how to get home from Dubbo. Could we do it by train - yes- the XPT ran back in the afternoon and evening but would arrive at Strathfield about 11.00 pm. Did not like this - Finally decided to return by plane so we used up reward points and booked a return for early afternoon. We would find something to do in Dubbo for the morning. We would not go to the zoo - been there enough recently.
The bus was comfortable and the road light with vehicles. We rolled into Orange at the Canobolas Hotel knowing that we had passed the booked motel on the way into town. On asking the driver as to the best way to get to the motel he told us to remain on the bus and after he picked up a load of female students from the Kinross Anglican high school he would be running down the highway into town again and could drop us off at or near the motel. As luck would have it we were dropped right outside the motel. The bus driver (Bathurst to Orange) was very kind in allowing us to remain on the bus and deserved a thank you award (which was given by email).
We finished our Thursday rides at Dubbo. The station is on the northern side of the CBD. The motel we picked was located on the southern side of the CBD on Cobra Road. We decided that it would be beneficial for us both to walk. It was 4 blocks away - big blocks - and with sealed footpaths all the way and being only 4.00 pm we did not have a negative thought. Passing by the Dubbo Primary School we passed a lady teacher waiting on the footpath with 3 or 4 pupils - waiting for parent pick up. I checked with her to ensure that we were heading in the right direction - to give Marcia confidence in my direction finding - then we got an kindly offer to drive us to the motel. We must be looking as if we had a senior citizens card.
Having been to the Western Plains Zoo only few weeks earlier (more later) we just took it easy - sauntered down the road to a fine Indian Food establishment for tea Thursday. Friday morning we walked back to town and walked around the CBD, the Macquarie River banks, and spent a little while in the information centre before taking a taxi out to the airport.
School groups - primary school - boarded the train at Stuart Town, Wellington, Geurie and Dubbo, with each group dropping off at the next station. At Narromine where the station is much smaller than Dubbo the children were making a lot of happy noise while they were waiting for the train to begin its return to Dubbo. Marcia was looking at the students and recognised the girl's uniform - it was the same as at Wahroonga. I then asked one of the adults with the group what was the school name - Narromine Christian School - further questions told us they were from our church school at Narromine.
It was an interesting trip - I had not been so far west by train in living memory though I had a holiday with Uncle Joe and Aunty Alice when I was 5 or 6 in their Bathurst home. We counted off the tunnels in the Zig Zag by pass (10) - stopped at Tarana which was at one time the junction of the rail line off the main line to Oberon - between Tarana and Bathurst it snowed - Orange had frost, hail, sleet and snow all in that day - Wednesday was mighty cold. It was a good day for cuddling together in the train especially when the train buffs would open windows to film the train. There were plenty of sheep as we got past Wellington - hundreds in large paddocks that would run like mad as the train came by - cattle did not move as much unless they copped a blast off the whistle. It was not long out of Dubbo for the topography to level out - we were definitely looking over the western plains. Steam engine 3642 has been getting extensive use while 3801 is going through a major refurbishment programme. There was attention everywhere with people stopping at level crossings, looking from close houses, watching from city streets. There were a number of photographers following the train by car continually racing ahead of the train to get the right angle, the better framing of the engine and when the opportunity was available encouraging the driver of the train to open the throttle. Train, whistle and smoke make a desirable mixture.
The return flight was comfortable - and about 1.00 hour. When we got into the Sydney area the plane flew over the top of our home. I could easily identify the Westleigh shopping centre - brand new tar sealing and line marking in the car park - quite clear.
This was our second time to Dubbo in as many months. Cathy and Colin asked us to meet them at Dubbo - they would fly out in their small plane (4 seater) and we would drive out in the Mazda. A couple of days in a motel and exploring of the tourist features of Dubbo made for a pleasant time. Driving into Dubbo for the first time we found the area lacking in easy to read signs. We arrived around 3.00 pm. Cathy and Colin had already arrived and were waiting in the motel. It took us about ¾ of an hour to get to the right side of town (south) then drove round a couple of streets after we got to the south side of town. Finally a call at the information centre for good advice. We spent a fair portion of the next day at the Zoo. The morning was very cold. When we got to the Zoo we spent some time in the souvenir shop. I purchased a thick Beanie which proved a life saver. Dinner was at a local Pizza shop - got our money's worth there.
Preparation of the small plane for a cold night was interesting. We had to fill the wing fuel tanks so that condensation on the inside of the wings (and therefore ice) was kept to a minimum. We made about 6 trips from the airport to the nearest Premium fuel station (BP) with 40 litres of fuel each time. A cover was placed over the cabin and engine cowling of the plane. Next morning before Cathy and Colin's departure we spent some time washing the wings. Ice had occurred up to about 3 mm thickness. It took about 20 minutes to get rid of the ice. Colin took a few minutes more to walk around the plane checking that everything was connected that needed to be, a push here, a test movement there. Keep your eyes open and you will see the same practice undertaken at any airport.
Contrast the plane preparation with a steam engine start up from cold. Up at 4.00 am depending on the running programme for the day. A fire is started in the fire box with available combustible material, old chairs, off cuts from construction timbers, old broom handles, dry and clean pallets fed by kerosene soaked cotton waste until there is a decent fire going. Coal is fed into the fire box and appropriately placed until there is a burning coal bed. Once this point is reached it is time to get the oil can and begin the checking of the valve gear, the oil supply and other elements of the transmission. It is necessary to step back inside the cab to check the growth of the fire bed, that water levels have been maintained and pressures and temperatures are growing as they should has the heat of the fire increases. It might take 3 or 4 hours to get the engine ready.
There is a lot of preparation going on that is beyond our ken. Jesus said "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe also in me in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also" John 14:1-3
Peter likened the preparation process as a series of steps. "And beside this, giving all diligence add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity." 2 Peter !: 5 - 8
Paul likened the process to a battle against the rules of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. He recommended that you put on the whole armour of God, so that you might be able to stand in the evil day. Ephesians 6:10-17. Only a foolish person would go to battle un-prepared. Paul here gives a description of a coverall defensive garb. You can almost see Paul writing at his table with a Roman guard at the door. Paul was under house arrest when he was writing to the Ephesians.
Make sure you are prepared. "How shall we escape. if we neglect so great salvation" Hebrews 2;3
This article and the pictures it contains are Copyright © 2015 by John L Morris. Used by permission.
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