This weekend, I finally found out what it’s like to be an Olympic swimmer. Not that I was swimming faster than a turbo-charged Marlin. Rather, I experienced what it would be like swimming up and down the pool hour after hour, fixating on that never-ending black line.
You see, we’ve been cast in an excruciatingly long horror movie driving up and down the Pacific Highway and we’ve been fixating on the broken white line for eternity. Indeed, I can barely remember what it was like to set foot on terra firma and roam free.
Indeed, I’ve been looking at this broken white line and the dull grey bitumen for so long, that they’ve now become permanently imprinted on my retinas. My goodness I’ll be seeing the world through road-coloured lenses for the rest of my life.
Well, you might ask why on earth any sane person would be driving two thousand kilometres over an extended weekend. It was my Sister-In-Law’s sixtieth birthday. I know it probably sounds crazy to drive that far for the weekend. However, we didn’t even think twice. It’s what we do. We love her and the smile on her face was more than worth it. Besides, we had a wonderful time gallivanting around between Byron Bay’s lush green hinterland, admiring the Gold Coast’s glitzy bright lights and savouring high tea Queensland style in Mudgereebah. With a name like that, you could only be in Australia.
What with all this driving, it’s only natural to ask why ecstasy is so fleeting, while tedium lasts forever.
I don’t know.
However, before you start accusing me of being a miserable glass-half-empty sod, I’m hoping we could possibly devise some kind of mechanical lever, which could permanently change the tide. Switch over to a perpetual paradise with only very fleeting, intermittent commercial breaks from all those undesirables…boredom, sadness, grief, pain.
It would be such a relief. If only I could access that lever right now and leave all of that far behind.
However, what we’re needing right now, is an oversized variation of Dr Who’s fabulous flying machine, the Tardis. That way, we’d only have to drive in, park and the next thing, we’d instantly arrive home. I had considered converting the car into a modernised Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However, after my application to add supersonic power was denied, I had to change tack. After all, Chitty barely flies faster than Donald Duck and I want to get home NOW!!
However, I can dream on. We still have 3 hours to go and the hours are getting longer and longer, the closer we get to home. My goodness! We’ve all developed an unhealthy interest in road signs, as the agonisingly slow countdown continues. Nowhere near home, we’re either driving through dull green pastures or eucalypt forest and not one of us is asking: “Are we there yet?” We know. The end is nowhere in sight!
Anyway, we can’t complain too much about the drive. The car is decked out like a mobile entertainment centre. The kids have their electronics, books, colouring-in devices and snacks. You could even call it “fun”. I’ve actually managed to read Roald Dahl’s James & The Giant Peach and Danny Champion of the World as we’ve been driving up and back. Obviously, I’d be getting through my book pile a hell of a lot faster, if we did more of these interminable drives…as long as I was a passenger.
Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.
However, then the sun set and the story changed considerably.
Although we’ve had glorious sunny weather, which would be considered Summer in so many other parts of the world, the day length has been cut brutally short and the sun is setting around 5.00PM. This has left us with two hours of travelling in the dark. Even though my daughter and I both tried capturing all available street and moonlight to read, we soon gave up. The kids’ electronics were flat and so we had to do the old fashioned thing and talk to each other. Develop the fine art of conversation.
I took it as an opportunity to get them talking about their holiday, a precursor to writing their grandparents an old-fashioned letter. “What would you tell your grandparents about what you’ve been up to?” I asked.
When they weren’t saying very much, I launched off with my account. Then, my daughter said that I’d said everything and she had nothing more to add. Hence, she was silent.
All these gurus advising you to spend time listening to your children need their heads read. All I can think of is that infamous quote about NOT working with children and animals!
I was tempted to launch a round of I Spy but we’re all a bit over it. All we wanted to spy was our drive way and our puppy dogs.
Aside from catching up with family and having some fabulous conversations with people we met, here’s a brief photographic snap shot from the trip:
Hope you enjoyed our trip without having to endure the drive!
Ever since I was a child, I’ve had to check out the “District Exhibits” competition at The Show. These displays are set up by four districts of NSW and South East Queensland. A theme is selected and created pictorially on a large scale, to strict rules and using only the produce of the particular district which typically includes wool, wheat, apples, pumpkins, sugar cane, citrus fruit, vegetables and brightly coloured bottles of preserves. Also displayed are other primary products such as fleeces, carcases of beef, wine, honey, cheese and sausages. These pictures are usually really clever or feature freakishly large veggies like pumpkins the size of a carriage. Of course for city slickers like myself, all of this is amazing and where city meets country.
I’ve really enjoyed revisiting the highlights of the Royal Sydney Easter Show. It’s such a huge, sprawling event that you have to keep moving and through the photos, I’ve been able to experience it all in much more detail.
Do you have a local agricultural show? Please share any posts. We can all go on an international agricultural show crawl.
If you haven’t been to the Workshops Rail Museum, then perhaps you’ll have trouble grasping the magic… especially if you’re not a “train person”.
Year after year, we faithfully go back. We can’t stay away…even though we actually live more than 1000 kilometres away! Perhaps, that gives you some idea of just how special this place actually is!
Whether you are a train person or not, steam trains have a magic appeal. For some strange reason, we still fall in love with that old chugga chugga toot toot and that puff of smoke rising from the boiler. Yet, I still don’t know why they call it the “romance” of steam. There’s actually nothing romantic about the stench of burning coal. Coal dust isn’t very pretty either. It’s actually filthy, stinky stuff which does terrible things to your lungs and the environment.
And always light, aerial, underneath
Goes the elate metre of her wheels.
Steaming through metal landscape on her lines…
Of phosphorus on the tossing hills is white.
Ah, like a comet through flame she moves entranced
Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor bough
Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.
An excerpt from The Express, by Stephen Spender
Yet, our love affair with steam trains lives on. When any little kid pretends to be a train, they still pretend to be a steam train, not a modern locomotive and the great popularity of the Thomas the Tank Engine series also testifies to the continued popularity of steam.
A rage of smoke, a laugh of fire,
A lighted anguish of desire,
Of gold and iron, of sound and flight,
Tumultuous roars across the night.
An excerpt from The Bridge, John Redwood Anderson.
But the Workshops Railway Museum isn’t only about steam trains and aside from special days, you can’t actually ride on one. The museum covers the history of Queensland railways from its beginnings to the present and includes a number of diesel and electric engines as well as historic memorabilia.
The Workshops Rail Museum http://www.theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au/ is located in North Street, North Ipswich and is just 40 minutes by car from the centre of Brisbane and 70 minutes from the Gold Coast. It is open from 9.30AM to 5.00PM daily and is closed Christmas Day, ANZAC Day and Good Friday.
The original railway workshops were built at Ipswich in 1864, close to the location of the first railway in Queensland. They soon became overcrowded and between 1884 and1888, new buildings were constructed about 1 km north of the original workshops. In 1900, construction of new railway workshops began on the current site. The original site ceased operation in 1907. In its heyday the workshop employed 3,000 people.
The Workshops were also an important part of the Australian war effort during WWII, when it employed over 3,000 people on site. Some of the windows are still blackened out to protect these top secret operations.
The museum itself opened in 2002.
On this visit, there was a special Thomas the Tank Engine theme for the school holidays. Engines were dressed up as characters from the series and there was story telling with Sir Topham Hat (AKA the Fat Controller) as well as colouring-in and other activities. Our kids had outgrown Thomas this visit but have enjoyed it in the past.
There is a children’s play area at the back of the museum called the Nippers’ Railway. A “Nipper” was the youngest member of a railway gang. The nipper did odd jobs around the camp to help the men who built and maintained the railway line. The Nipper’s Railway has a play train track set up and the kids can sit in a wagon and an adult can push them around the track. There is also a train station, a railway crossing and signals. The kids can ride trikes around the track and wear safety vests and very much look the part of a railway ganger. There seems to be something new every time we visit but I have very fond memories of the kids dressing up as police and fire people. They have always had a wonderful time and it’s also been a chance for Geoff and I to relax while the kids wear themselves out. The Nippers’ Railway is my sentimental favourite.
Mister’s favourite is the model trains. He says they are fun to use and likes that “it’s actually about Queensland.” The model train layout is big and impressive. Naturally, it is set in Queensland and includes palm trees and Queenslander houses. Being from NSW, that also makes it more of a novelty.
There are a number of opportunities where you can pretend that you are actually driving the train using computer simulation programs. They are great fun.
You can also go on guided tours of the operating workshops. There are two different tours available: Blacksmiths Shop Tour where you see a real modern blacksmith at work and the Steam Shop Tour where you’ll see real Queensland Rail workers maintaining and restoring trains from of the Queensland Rail heritage train fleet. You need to wear enclosed footwear on these tours.
My only reservation about going to the Workshops Railway Museum is allowing enough time to really experience all the exhibits. If you have read my previous post, you will understand why an hour just isn’t long enough to satisfy a 3 year old boy or any other train enthusiast. There is so much to see and experience, I would strongly recommend going for the day or if you live locally, becoming a member. It is a particularly good way to keep little people happily occupied. We have always loved it!!
Anyway, we had a wonderful time and, of course, we wished you were here LOL!
Have you ever found that this blogging business is much more difficult than you’d ever imagined?
That when you just want to write a seemingly simple post, for some unknown reason, the words, the thoughts, the structure simply won’t come together?
I’m not talking about writer’s block. It’s not about staring at a blank page or an empty screen. There are words. There are ideas. You’re just not “in the flow”. All those thoughts, words and ideas won’t link up. They’re like random Lego bricks refusing to snap together.
That’s where I’m at.
I just wanted to post a simple postcard from the Workshops Railway Museum in Ipswich and yet it’s not coming together. I’ve been working on this post for a couple of days now and what I thought should have been a pretty basic exercise, has become an epic struggle.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Our family has been going to the train museum since 2007 and I thought I knew it pretty well. Moreover, I’m not trying to write anything that fancy…only a simple postcard. It should be Simple Simon… “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here” and upload a couple of photos. Yes, I know a blog post has to be a bit better than that but it’s not rocket science.
My problems all began with trying to write about the big, black steam engine out the front. As much as I love it, I couldn’t tell you what type of train it was or anything about its history. I don’t know what it was, how many wheels it has or whether they are big wheels or little wheels and what gauge of track it requires. It is simply the big, black engine. I can just vouch for the colour but if you were to tell me that it is green instead of black, I wouldn’t argue the point. I just remember photographing the kids on it and Geoff discussing its technical specifications (not that I can actually remember any of the details). I love the romance of steam trains and all the history but I am not technical!! I am really not technical.
Slowly but surely, the cause of my writing difficulties was coming to light. I was trying to write in my husband’s voice, instead of my own. You see, he is the train enthusiast, along with our son…not me. I don’t actually know much, if anything, about trains. I was trying to give a technical tour of the museum when clearly I’m not a technical person. I was trying to crawl inside my husband’s shoes, or more pertinently his head and it’s no wonder I couldn’t string everything together. There were too many gaps to fill in. I like trains and I love the train museum but I’m there taking photos and that is my love. I’m not into all that nitty gritty train stuff just like I have no idea what’s under the hood of my car.
So I’m going to give you my very own unique tour of the train museum and that involves a bit of a history of our visits to the museum, which all started off with a bit of a bang when our then 3 year old son threw the tantrum to end all tantrums and almost busted his boiler and mine along with it when we had to leave.
This is not an uncommon event at the train museum. You could just imagine what that place is to a little kid. They’re in heaven and their mean and nasty Mum or Dad is dragging them away…you’d be complaining too. Fortunately, the museum’s staff are very obliging and will turn things off to help you get out the door.
We were in Ipswich to attend an official service to celebrate my grandfather’s 70th year of ordination. At 92 years of age, my grandfather was the second longest-serving minister in the Lutheran Church in Australia. My father and I had a bit of time to fill in and decided to take Mister to the train museum. We were just planning to check it out and come back the next day if it was any good.
Well, Mister was happy beyond his wildest dreams and thought he had died and gone to train heaven!!! You could just imagine his delight when he was surrounded by huge big steam trains. His eyes were almost bursting out of their sockets and I can just imagine how he felt when all those magnificent steam trains suddenly came to life. He was beyond excitement. Moreover, there wasn’t just steam trains. There was also a huge model train track which totally dwarfed his little wooden train set back home. He was fixated watching the model trains and pressing all the buttons. For a little 3 year old boy who adored trains, this place was just superlative. He was happy beyond his wildest, wildest dreams!!
Then, it was time to go.
Now, I’m sure you can see it coming… the tantrum. Not just any tantrum either. Mister blew a boiler!
My Dad ended up carrying him out of the museum and he was still kicking, screaming and fighting with all his might to go back in when we finally managed to get him into the car. Even then, he absolutely refused to get into his car seat and he certainly gave fresh meaning to the power of persistence…
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
You know how these events work. The entire day is planned out with clockwork precision and meltdowns by toddlers aren’t factored into the schedule.
We were in big trouble.
Well, we managed to get there on time in the end but it was a lot of stress.
I laugh when I look back on it all now. You know how it is. The worst moments often make the best stories down the track.
We have all loved the train museum so much that we’ve had annual membership passes even though we live inter-state over 1000 kilometres away. We just make sure we stay for the best part of a day to keep everybody happy. There is so much to see and do!!
This still isn’t the postcard I’d intended to send from the train museum. That’s still to come. Perhaps, we’ll call this one the ghost of steam engines past.
One interesting little PS to this post.
I finally finished this post last night and then went hunting for the photos. They turned out to be quite an insight. You can’t just trust everything to memory. Our daughter was also in the photos. Somehow, she had been omitted from the story. I had assumed that we had left her back at the house with my Mum but there she was in all the photos. Photos I had mentally attributed to a later visit. I also found photos of the technical details. Perhaps, they were for Geoff. He couldn’t get time off work for that visit and we had flown up with Mum. There is also a remote possibility that I was trying to educate myself on the technical aspects of trains, although that has to be pretty doubtful. Who knows? Memory is obviously an unreliable witness.