Tag Archives: train travel

X- Railway Crossings, Tasmania.

Welcome to Day 24 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge…”X”.

While “X” has traditionally “marked the spot”, “X” became understandably tricky when it came to continuing our alphabetically travels around Tasmania. There were no places starting with X in Tasmania and we’ve already mentioned a beach shack called “Xanadu” during our travels at Doo Town in Eaglehawk Neck.

So, I needed to be a bit creative, even inventive and in the process, I could well have over-extended my creative license, ending up with a fine.

This left me with Railway Crossings and when you look at the sign, there is a very definite X. Although we do have a local railway crossing, most of the old railway crossings have been removed in New South Wales and replaced with bridges. However, they’re very common in Tasmania, unlike passenger trains. If you start looking for passenger trains in Tasmania, you’ll be waiting an eternity in quite the literal sense.

There are no conventional passenger trains in Tasmania and services stopped back in the 1970s and there’s seemingly no hope of them opening up again.

However, freight trains are still operational.

While we didn’t spot many freight trains while we were there, we observed loads of track, mostly running right along the coast and to be perfectly honest, scarring the landscape. Although I get that Tassie’s quite hilly and train’s down like climbing mountains, it seems a pity to have sun pretty coastal scenery dissect by track and I’m sure it’s something Wordsworth would have lamented.

Geoff’s mother grew up beside the railway track in Scottsdale in NE Tasmania. She had to walk the cows across the railway line to the other paddock. She used to have nightmares about the cows getting stuck on the line and being hit by the train. That was back in The Depression the 1930s and their cow was about the only thing making money when her Dad was in between building jobs and tin mining. Losing the cow, would’ve been a serious financial blow.

However, those trains through Scottsdale turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After growing up in Penguin on the North Coast, Geoff’s Dad was working as a lad porter with the railways and was sent to Scottsdale, bring his parents together.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I’m extending my creative license today and we’re actually heading off to the Don River Railway near Devonport. While railways and trains don’t exactly start with X and I can’t remember whether there were any actual railway crossings when we were there, this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Above: Don River Railway, 2005

So this means we’re driving from Wineglass Bay to Don River Railway, near Devonport, which is a 2 h 38 minute drive (231.1 km) via National Highway 1.

Map Wine Glass to Don Railway

We last visited the Don River Railway back in 2005, although we’d really wanted to get there in January and ran out of time. Indeed, it was down to the clock hoping we could squeeze it in after stocking up on Lavender Cheese at Ashgrove Farm and saying goodbye to family and having a rushed picnic with friends before boarding. As you’re starting to understand, our trip to Tassie in January was hypo-manic. Yet, still we missed so much!

The Don River Railway is located on Forth Road, Don, Tasmania.  To give a brief history:

“the Van Diemen Light Railway Society was formed in December 1971 as a voluntary organisation with the basic aim of preserving a representative selection of former Tasmanian Railway equipment for future generations to enjoy. After much searching for a suitable site the society decided to use the track bed of the former Melrose line and began trading under the name “The Don River Railway”. The railway was established on the Don site in 1973, and trains commenced running in November 1976, the achievement and result of countless thousands of hours of voluntary labour provided by members of the Van Diemen Railway Society Inc.” http://www.donriverrailway.com.au/history.html

Meanwhile, on the home front, my laptop has taken a nasty hit. The power cord was partially severed by the recliner mechanism in my chair. For what seems like the last month, I’ve been able to jiggle things but it died completely two nights ago. I’ve since been told it’s the third power pack I’ve destroyed this year and I have to “wait”. So, I’m back on my much faster desk top and a day behind on the A-Z.

I must admit that after a month of deeply immersing myself in Tasmania, I’m feeling that the blog has become rather disjointed and out of sync with “the real world” and  what’s going on in the here and now. That’s been especially true in the last week as I’ve been away again, exploring new old worlds. Our daughter attended a three day dance camp at Kurrajong in the Blue Mountains and I ended up exploring the area, along with historic Richmond and Windsor. However, they’ll have to wait until next week.

Meanwhile, I’m off to pick our dancing girl up again and hunt down dinner at the supermarket.

xx Rowena

 

Me, Myself & I….Writing A Complex Character Profile.

The train is quietly humming over the tracks heading for Sydney’s Central Railway. It’s a long, slow journey without any sense of speed or rush but I’ve come prepared with my journal, writing plans and a water bottle…all but a picnic lunch.

train

These trains are usually packed, even out of peak hour but today I’m in luck. Bodies are spread out throughout the carriage, mostly slumped forward like inert sacks of potatoes. So, after settling in next to the window, I spread my stuff out across two seats and finally relax. Phew! I’m so thrilled not to be all squished up with a bunch of strangers inside a cramped sardine tin. There’s nothing worse than having your nose shoved in a stranger’s armpit…even in Winter.

I relax and yet I’m about to start work.

Somehow, I’ve got to start working on the Book Project. After all, it’s Monday and summoning up the threads of long-lost perseverance, determination and what I mistook for an iron-will, I’ve got to get started.

Unfortunately, this trip is challenging my best intentions. Instead of sitting down at my desk promptly at 10.00 AM and getting into that work routine, I’m off to Sydney for a medical appointment, detouring ever so slightly via Surry Hills. That’s where I had the most divine Coconut Chai Latte a few months ago and I also need to get my dose of urban funk.

While writing on the move wasn’t part of the plan, I remind myself that writing is like breastfeeding. You can do it anywhere, anytime. No need to write at the same place every day, being rigid and inflexible. You just need to get on with the job and before you know it, you can write anywhere.

Well, of course, I have no trouble writing anywhere about anything. My trouble is sticking to the Book Project and getting that done and dusted. Something tells me this will require strict, hardcore discipline, not bucket loads of creativity and that’s why the whole project’s become stonkered.

That’s why I’m trying to enforce a pretty rigid routine. Laissez-faire clearly isn’t producing results. Well, at least not a book.

So my task for today, as I pull out yet another fancy notebook, is to write a character profile. This will be for the protagonist, who I also suspect is the antagonist…me. I am working on a motivational memoir about overcoming trauma and setbacks and instead of just writing about what happened, I really want to develop this book into a piece of literature. Have well-developed characterisation as well as a strong sense of place. After all, I am not just a survivor telling their story. I am a writer.

While writing about yourself might sound egotistical and self-absorbed, it is actually a lot more challenging than I’d thought. I can’t just make myself up like a fictional character. I need to be true to life and not necessarily how I perceive myself but how others perceive me, which could potentially be very different to how I see myself.

So, who am I through someone else’s eyes? Of course, this varies from person to person, forming a complex kaleidoscope, which makes me think I am about to become a work of fiction anyway.

That there is, indeed, no “me” etched in stone.

Yet, I’m still not sure.

I pull out the character questionnaire. The one I’m using today comes out of a writing book for kids but I thought I might actually get further with Simple Simon that the more complex ones I’ve tried before. Keep it Simple Stupid (the KISS formula).
This feels so strange. As much as I might observe others, I’d never really considered that others are watching me and perhaps scrutinizing me in the same way. That they may also be trying to work out what makes me tick. Rather, I’ve felt quite invisible watching them.

Looking around the carriage, I start to wonder whether I could somehow describe myself using contrast. Who and what I’m not? What makes me stand out from the crowd?

The first clue is that I’m traveling in the “Quiet Carriage”, which is one way of sorting the chaff from the oats. This is where the readers, sleepers and lone travelers gravitate. That said, every now and then you get people who can’t read signs or at peak hour, grandparents returning bickering children home and simply need a seat (and a stiff drink as well I’ve heard!)

The next thing I’d notice is that I’m writing in a notebook at a furious pace. The notebook is covered in brightly-coloured butterflies, so you could possibly class me as a dreamer. You might also wonder why anyone these days would still be using pen and paper. While it is quite usual for me to write by hand in a paper notebook when I travel, I’m sure that for many, pen and paper are as obsolete as a quill and ink.

My shirt might also catch your eye. Distinctly vintage and rather loud, it’s covered in very large, incredibly bright orange, purple and pink flowers which could possibly be wild poppies. While this might all sound cringingly loud and excessively flower power, the volume is somewhat muted by the conservative, navy-blue background. The shirt is almost sane. I don’t think anyone else sitting in our carriage is wearing any colour whatsover…just dull greys, browns and black. That said, there is a girl sporting a large silver bow on her head a few seats away.

Then, by my side, there’s a bulky backpack and if your eyesight is half-decent, you’d notice “Nikon” printed on the front…a serious camera bag. Evidently, I’m not someone who simply takes photos with their phone on a daytrip to the city. I’m clearly a photography nut.

Artistic.

If they’re really paying attention, they might notice a ring on my finger. Married.

Then there’s the walking stick sitting beside me, which keeps falling over. I strike you as being rather young to have a walking stick and you remember how your Gran used to have one, then two and then forgot who she was and disappeared somewhere very deep inside behind those ice-blue eyes.

In between frenetic bursts of writing, you might notice that I’m staring out the window or looking around the carriage as though I’ve lost something or am looking for someone. Then, you remember about writers going on field trips and how they eavesdrop and observe. Soak up random strangers for material. Suddenly, you feel vulnerable and possibly even violated, suspecting you’re about to be cast as the axe-wielding maniac in my upcoming novel. You could discretely change seats to peer over my shoulder just to make sure but then you remember that you need to send a text. Make arrangements for tonight. Oh and did you put out the cat? You text home. Thank God for that phone! You don’t have to remember anything anymore!

Meanwhile, my attention strays out the window and I’m mesmerised by the passing trees. I feel quite dwarfed by the towering gum trees beside the track. They are soaring giants and I am but an ant.The wattle trees are just starting to flower and the dull green vegetation is illuminated with a stunning golden glow as the train speeds past.

Wattle trees morph into graffiti
sprayed on urban walls.
Red-bricked, ageing units
shuffled with Victorian terraces,
like a deck of cards.
A kaleidoscope of roofs
spread out across the urban plain
rusty, corrugated iron sheeting
dispersed with terracotta.
I wonder if anyone’s home?
Doubt it.
This gang of stragglers
is now millionaire’s row
double-income,
daycare kids.
Only the dog gets to call
the place home.

Once it was me.
Or, was it?

Further into Sydney, the trees are superseded by concrete walls sprayed with graffiti…something which has never made any sense to me… just meaningless tags, ugly scars on the landscape. There aren’t even any words or pictures…anything which could convey a message to anyone beyond their tribe.

Yet, I wonder if your words means as much to them as mine do to me.

Whoops! There I go interjecting my voice into the story when I am supposed to be the observed, not the observer. I am no longer narrating my own story but who can ever truly escape their own shoes, no matter how hard we try to place ourselves inside someone else’s skin?

We are who we are.

On that note, I should confess that anybody who knows me would say that I never shut up but it takes a lot of silence to write and I write a lot. Moreover, here I am sitting in the Quiet Carriage. That immediately divides me from the talkers.

While I haven’t polished off this character profile, I’ve come to a deeper appreciation of the complexity of human characterization. That we’re all kaleidoscopes and not so easily boxed.

However, that doesn’t let me off the hook. I still need to get my character profile done but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The train is now rapidly approaching Central and we are on just one of many tracks. Yes, we’re well and truly in the Big Smoke now! I start packing up my stuff, getting ready to leave.

I can’t wait to get into Surry Hills and lose myself in the coconut frothiness of the magical Coconut Chair Latte and I love being surrounded by all those quirky Victorian terrace houses while also enjoying the modern.

The Clock Tower at Central Station, viewed from Surry Hills.

The Clock Tower at Central Station, viewed from Surry Hills.

Finally, the train stops. “We are now at Central. This train will terminate. Please change here. All out. All change.”

All out…all change….indeed!

I could have used that line on the kids this morning. They were absolutely refusing to budge. Yes, they definitely needed to get out of the house and have a dramatic change of attitude.

That said. Monday morning is what it is and I have no idea why new projects always start on a Monday. They’re seemingly doomed before you’ve even downed your second coffee.

I guess that’s why I don’t like Mondays!

xx Rowena

Crime in the Quiet Carriage.

Breathe! Keep breathing! Remain calm!

But I can’t. I’m wound up. Seriously agitated and my brain is rapidly heating up, about to reach boiling point. No amount of relaxation, mindfulness or psycho-babbling positive self-talk is working. A rapidly ticking bomb, I’m about to go off. No small explosion either. This is definitely way beyond a small or even a medium-sized bang and rapidly accelerating passed a big one too. We’re talking a nuclear explosion… right here right now at this very precise tick of the clock.

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

There must be worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but right now, nothing comes to mind.

Before you start thinking I’m the psychopath, just let me just tell you that I’m on my way down to Royal North Shore Hospital to have a long awaited MRI of my brain. My neurologist hasn’t ordered this test for fun or as some kind of high-tech photo shoot. No, you seriously don’t have an MRI of your brain for fun and there’s definitely not going to be any smiling for the camera either. As if being covered in a white sheet and shut inside a white plastic tunnel being bombarded with weird electronic noises isn’t bad enough, they’re jabbing me somewhere with a needle.

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you're free to go home...you hope!

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you’re free to go home…you hope!

They’ve jabbed me with THAT needle before. They jabbed me right in the head, injecting radioactive isotopes straight into my shunt. I tell you, I’m a veteran of jabs and I’ve survived brain surgery and chemo but that jab in the head has no equal. It involved absolute and utterly excruciating pain. I can assure you, there’s some now graduated medical student out there who still bears the scars of near crucifixion in their hands. I dug holes in his soft, polished flesh with my unkept but piercing fingernails.

So here I am getting on the train thinking about the pain, the possible outcomes and how I’m even going to make it to the hospital as I’ve spent the best part of the last month in bed and traveling for almost 2 hours is a huge undertaking in itself. I don’t know what’s going on with me. Either I’m dying, or I’ve finally succumbed to the dark side of the force. I addressed this in a previous post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/terminal-cyberchondria-yes-please/

Maybe after this monster test is over, the sun will come out again and this will all seem like a distance dream. A black cloud mysteriously scudding across an azure sky which suddenly disappears like magic…a miracle! I’ll go back to my life of champagne and…My goodness! Who am I kidding? We all know real life is no commercial break!

Being such a long train trip, I’m expecting to makes serious inroads on Booker Prize Winner  Richard Flannegan’s Death of A River Guide. Given the intensity and chaos of the MRI plus trying to juggle the kids and all their activities, this train trip is bordering on a sacred journey. I so desperately need peace and quiet and a lot of thought went into choosing the right book for the trip as well. I’ve been flicking through a couple of books over the last couple of days trying to work out where to head next. I’ve read two other Richard Flannegan’s lately and decided he was a pretty safe bet and I was seriously looking forward to both losing and finding myself in a good book. A want which had transcended into something of a desperate need. A cry of the soul.

However, instead of finding myself inside the much anticipated and heavily sign posted quiet carriage, this place is  more like a crowded pub during Happy Hour or even a flipping circus with clowns…wild clowns. There is raucous chatter everywhere..even laughter. How dare they?!! Harlots!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Alright, so I exaggerate a little. While there was some loud chatter down the other end of the carriage, there was one particular loud mouthed foreignor talking four times as loud as your average Joe talking with his friends…a group of seniors in case you’re about to blame the insensitive youth of today. Unfortunately, I was sitting right behind them. I soon started thinking about asking them to be quiet and pointing out the quite carriage signs which were clearly signposted throughout the carriage. I also thought about talking to the guard.

However, a few of my friends have mentioned the maniacs in the quiet carriages. The so-called “Noise-Nazis” who have a nervous breakdown over the sound of even the slightest pinhead of a pin being dropped. I like to be classified as the “nice woman” and not one of THEM…even by these totally rude, self-centred strangers I’m never, ever going to see again. Instead of being the bad guy, I chose the stoic high road…to suffer in silence. Of course, I could’ve alerted the guard if I’d been more nimble on my feet. They have a special announcement recorded for the socially inept. It goes something along the lines of: “This is a quiet carriage…If you want to talk, move to another carriage.”

I did consider moving to another seat or even try the standard carriage but it was all too hard. There wasn’t another seat and I’m not that steady on my feet. I couldn’t risk trying to change carriages while the train was in motion, even with my walking stick in hand. So instead, I sat as still and as silent as a marble statue…fuming. Fuming some more. I could feel the flames burning in my head. Smoke bellowing out my ears. I was mad. Irate. Furious. This was pure, unadulterated train rage.

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

In retrospect, I should’ve just taken a leaf out of my grandmother’s book. She would have bopped the lot of them on the head with her walking stick and told them in no uncertain terms that they were in the quiet carriage. “Are you blind? Can’t you read the signs?!!” My grandmother was pretty handy with her stick. What’s more, if she’d bopped them, she would have gotten away it.  After all, she was just a sweet, little old lady. There would have been no court appearances and not even the shout of “guard”! They would have taken their punishment and zipped it. Shown a bit of respect.

Me, on the other hand? One strike of my walking stick and I knew I’d be dragged off the train by armed guards and loaded into a paddywagon bound for greener pastures.

However, in the end someone else stepped in and played bad cop. Yet, this lot of seniors proved themselves a real bunch of reprobates.  They might have zipped it for about 2 seconds, which for this lot even felt like a very pregnant pause, and then continued bellowing through their inbuilt megaphones. You wouldn’t believe it. One of their phones even started to ring and of course another loud voice starts booming throughout the entire carriage. It wasn’t just a case of hello and goodbye either…more of a conversation and as far as I was concerned, quite the life story.

As I said, I know there have been worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but at this point in time nothing came to mind.

After reading and re-reading the same line of my book a hundred times over, I gave up on my book and surrendered to the noise.

Finally, we all alighted at Hornsby Station.

However, as the saying goes, it could always be worse. Aside from country trains passing through, there are no quiet carriages on Sydney trains. You just had to put up and shut up and if you don’t have the luxury of a seat, you also enjoy the thrill of having your nose jammed in a stranger’s armpit as well.

Anyway, after changing trains at Hornsby, I’m now heading down the North Shore Line on my home turf.

By now, I think we’d already established that lady luck wasn’t on my side. Of course, I had timed my train trip to perfection. Yes, it was home time for the hundreds and thousands of noisy, smelly, sweaty school kids who all piled onto my train as it stop started down the line. By this stage, all hope of reading my book was gone. Instead, I became the observer. I must say teenagers intrigue me. Potentially much more fun than the seniors yapping on about their super on the last trip.

I occasionally used to catch trains like this when I was at school…an all girls school. I must have been a bit older than this crowd because we were always conscious of the boys on the train and this lot seemed rather oblivious or perhaps it’s just that they didn’t have Hugh Jackman on their train. We did.

There were no looks, glances or giggles. Each group was its own island surrounded by their own impenetrable shark-infested sea. Ironically, the groups were arranged boys, girls, boys, girls throughout the carriage in their different uniforms. It all looked very strange to me and I felt like I’d landed in some weird, foreign universe. Why weren’t these teenagers all talking with each other? Did all these same kids catch the same train every afternoon sitting in the same “reserved” seats never giving each other more than a sideways glance?

The only thing standing in between them all was different uniforms and yet aren’t we all one human race? You wouldn’t think so. That said, we all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus…even my 8 year old daughter. She and her friends have been “at war” with the boys at school a fair bit lately.

If I could’ve had my way, I would’ve introduced all these kids to each other and tried to build some common ground. Not to play cupid or to nurture teenage romance helping some self-conscious souls find true love, but rather to begin a diologue and cross a divide that starts with different uniforms and extends to gender, skin tone, class, disability and results in war.

If only the problems of the world could all be solved on a simple train ride to Sydney, the world would be a much better place!!

PS As soon as we arrived at the hospital, we heard the dreadful, tragic news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away after a bouncer hit him in the neck, stopping blood flow to his brain. Being a brain surgery survivor myself and being in this really intense state prior to my brain MRI, the news hit me seriously hard. Hughes and his family and friends were no longer strangers but part of our neuro community and I loved them all with my entire heart..especially Sean Abbott who just happened to bowl the devastating ball. I send you love from the  very bottom of my heart!!