Tag Archives: trains

Thursday Doors – Carriageworks, Sydney.

Welcome Back to Another Thursday Doors after quite a lengthy breather, while I grapple with the heavy research load which has seriously exceeded expectations on the book project.

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So, may I offer my humble apologies. Our visit to Carriageworks, Sydney is a bit overdue. I was there a few weeks ago for the Sydney Writers’ Festival and I took advantage of the trip to photograph a few doors and that’s what I was doing when a strange robotic voice started  chiming: “Evacuate” in a tone which sounded all too much like the Dalek’s “Exterminate”. That must’ve been a false alarm, but they evacuated the entire building, disrupting our sacred sessions and emptying about a thousand dazed and confused people onto the footpath. Apparently, there was one woman who refused to leave her session: “I’ve paid for this.” A lot of good that’s going to be when you’re dead…not that I’m catastrophising. When I’m told to get out, I get out. You can ask questions later.

Old Carriageworks

A Historic look at the Everleigh Carriage Workshops

Carriageworks started out as the Everleigh Carriage Workshops which were built  between 1880 and 1889. This was where train carriages for Sydney’s rail network were built and maintained, including the Royal Carriages constructed specifically for the Governor General of Australia and visiting Royalty, the first electric carriage, and the first air-conditioned train in Australia. From 1973 productivity at the site declined due to its inefficient older buildings, restrictive union practices and increased privatization of carriage construction and the site was closed in 1988.  In June 2002, the NSW Ministry for the Arts completed the purchase of the Carriage and Blacksmith Workshops at the Eveleigh Rail Yards site. Soon after, a construction project on the site commenced under the name of Carriageworks. Adaptive reuse of the workshop site began in 2003 with the housing of numerous contemporary arts practitioners, and Carriageworks was officially opened in 2007.

Everywhere you look you experience the building’s railway past. The buildings are massive and clearly big enough to park a few trains and there’s still track in situ just in case you had any doubts about the building’s past life. My husband’s a train nerd and our son was also smitten when he was young. So, we’ve been to quite a few railway sites over the years and caught a few steam trains as well. However, probably what struck me most was the sense of all those people who worked there over the years and an entire way of life which has moved on. I lived in the area in 1988 while I was at Sydney University and I do have a vague memory of hundreds, maybe a thousand workers spilling onto the streets. Or, perhaps I’m just making it up. Sometimes, when you wind back the clock, your recollections wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. That’s where you’re better off becoming a creative writer or yarn spinner than a historian or eye witness.

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This door had my immediate attention. What don’t they want us to see??

 

 

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This is what we writers aspire to…entry into the writers’ lounge. I actually made it inside once when my aunt presented a paper. 

My apologies because although the site itself was quite interesting, the doors weren’t weren’t the sort to set your heart racing and fill your head with rapturous poetry. However, the doors do form part of the overall structure which is intriguing and particularly appealing to anyone interested in industrial architecture.

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You have to be pretty short to peer through this keyhole. 

This is another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. While you might not have thought much about doors before, you’d be amazed at how they can launch a story and I really enjoy connecting with people from around the world and sharing where we live and where we’ve been.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Central Station, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Well, my apologies to those of you who are well aware that it’s now longer Thursday and that calling this post “Thursday” Doors is a bit of a lie. Indeed, if I don’t hurry up, it’s going to turn into a double-lie because we’re about to hit Saturday here in Sydney, Australia.

However, I had a trip planned for the Art Gallery of NSW today. So, I thought I’d wait and see what I stumbled across. I’d also planned a doorscursion to historic Sydney Hospital, which I pulled off along with numerous diversions which will be appearing over the coming weeks. This time, I’ve decided not to share all my doors at once, and to keep something for later. I know that sounds remarkably restrained for an enthusiast like myself. However, I was a bit concerned this week that I’d run out. I don’t know if any of you have ever resorted for a “quickie” and just photographed any old door nearby just to have something to post. However, I don’t want to get to that point. In a world jam-packed full of doors, my well should never be allowed to run dry!!

While you might think that by going to a train station we’d be photographing trains,  since this post is for Thursday Doors, we’ll photographing doors instead. Unfortunately, they’re not the most exciting doors. Indeed, they barely rate compared to most of the doors I photographed later on. However, unlike some of the other door sequences I took today, my photos of Central Railway tell a quick story. Or, in Aussie parlance, they’re “a quickie”.

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However, before we get to the doors, I spotted a colourful rainbow arch in the foyer . I love rainbows and truly revel in rainbow colours. Well, at least I would if our society wasn’t so conservative and so ashamed of colour. Of course, the fact that I might wear all my colours at once if left to my own devices, has nothing to do with it. Anyway, the rainbow arch is in honour of the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and the parade will be held tomorrow night. I have to admit I love rainbows just for themselves, without any other meanings added on or being appropriated by any particular group. Rainbows are like butterflies, birds and the colour pink and shouldn’t belong to anyone.

Anyway, I still haven’t actually found any doors. So, I’d better get a wriggle on, especially as I was actually on my way to the Art Gallery of NSW.

So here goes:

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Here’s a close up of the handles, which I’m thinking were originally brass-plated and the brass has worn off over the years.

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In addition to this historic door, I also found a filled-in door. I must’ve been getting desperate by the point. I was only passing through Central and only popped through the turnstile to powder my nose.

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The next one isn’t strictly a door and is more of a doorway, but that’s close enough as far as I’m concerned.

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And there’s one last door…

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I’m sure there must be many more photogenic doors at Central Station. I just haven’t found them yet.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to our place. This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes

Rowena

An Explosion at Harper’s Crossing…Friday Fictioneers.

Jack Cameron was standing on the bridge sweating blood, trying to decide whether to blow himself up, or the train. Alternatively, he could just head home for breakfast and go to work as usual.

This was his third attempt to get the job done, and he couldn’t be a terrorist without any terror. He had to take a stand. Make America great again. Get rid of Donald Trump. Harper’s Crossing was good enough for John Brown’s raid. He didn’t need to go to New York.

Yet, as he lit the fuse, he started to wonder whether anyone would join the dots…

…..

100 words exactly.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Dawn M. Miller.

The features image this week was taken at Harper’s Crossing in Virginia where John Brown to initiated an armed slave revolt in 1859 by taking over a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown’s party of 22[1] was defeated by a company of U.S. Marines, led by First Lieutenant Israel Greene.[3] Colonel Robert E. Lee was in overall command of the operation to retake the arsenal. Wikipaedia.

Best wishes,

Rowena

News Flash:Dead Artists Disappear Onboard Train…A-Z Challenge.

 

NEWS FLASH. The World’s Most Wanted… Great Ghost Train Robbery. Masked Artists Hijack Historic Diesel Locomotive.

Central Station, Sydney: Saturday 28th April 6.00am (EST) a gang of masked bandits wielding paintbrushes have hijacked the recently restored 4301 Diesel locomotive, and gone off the grid. Vanished. Forensic experts are clueless, and have found no trace of the robbers at the scene or in the local vicinity. The distraught driver said they were wearing fancy dress with painted bags over their heads, and were all armed with paintbrushes.  The train and four carriages are irreplaceable and valued at over $1million. Anyone with any information, please call Crime Stoppers immediately.

……..

In all my years of writing, and even after attending the Sydney Writers’ Festival for many years, nobody has ever warned me to keep a sharp eye on my characters. Make sure they don’t escape my imagination, and take on a life of their own. Indeed, it’s never crossed my mind. Living so close to the beach, I’ve only ever been told: “Never turn your back on the sea”. It now turns out, that writers can’t turn their backs on their characters either.

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Rosie’s also been doing some painting!

So, I was rather shocked to find out, that my dead artists had escaped and hijacked the historic 4301 Diesel locomotive from Sydney’s Central Station. Worse still, they turned up on our doorstep and lured us along. So, now even my family and I have been swept up in THEIR plot. Indeed, my husband’s driving the train, and they’ve also decided to teach my kids how to paint. Just to add to the mad chaos, someone brought along our dogs (I suspect Andrew Wyeth. They all call him “Dog Man”). Rosie has just chewed up Picasso’s paintbrush. Meanwhile, Lady’s parked herself right next to Norman Lindsay, convinced he’s stashed the Magic Pudding in his suitcase. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me that Lady would join the pudding thieves. She devoured our Christmas cake one year. However, while we’d save on dog food,  having a pudding that never runs out, would be quite detrimental to her waistline…and my own! Meanwhile, Jackson Pollock has dripped paint all over Alexandros of Antioch’s replacement of the Venus de Milo with the arms back in play. So, now he’s running round the carriage threatening to strangle him, and Zac the dog has joined in for the thrill of the chase.

Above: From Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series.

As if that wasn’t chaos enough, Sidney Nolan is screaming for his therapist. He swears he saw Ned Kelly riding past followed by Constable Scanlon. Meanwhile out the opposite window, Degas was equally convinced he saw the Paris Opera with all of his tutu dancers throwing him roses. Vincent Van Gogh told him “he’s dreaming” and kept painting his sunflowers. All he wants to do is sell a painting. “You don’t know what it’s like to devote your entire life to painting and never sell a work. Humiliating. Still need to pay back Theo.” He was so busy painting, that he didn’t hear how much his paintings are now worth. That selling only one painting, could probably buy a third world nation. Humph. Better keep him painting, and we’ll all be moving into the fast lane.  I don’t know what’s suddenly got into them all, but I’m starting to suspect Degas smuggled some absinthe onboard, and they’ll all soon be painting green angels, each in their own style, of course!

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Van Gogh The Painter of Sunflowers, painted by Paul Gauguin, who somehow found his way onboard.

By the way, I don’t know where all their supplies have come from, but each artist is very well kitted out and Andrew Wyeth even has a couple of dozen eggs to mix his egg tempera.

What is going on?

What would I know? I’m just the writer, the observer and in any case, I didn’t create these dead artists. I simply wrote them a letter. That’s all. Now, they’ve all escaped the plot and gone rogue. They’re beyond my control. I just hope Constable Scanlon sees it that way if he ever catches up with us, especially with my husband driving the train. What about the kids? The whole family will be heading directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. This is serious. Real life isn’t a game of Monopoly!

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Been sitting out here with Christina Olsen and Andrew Wyeth. Am I going mad?

Yet, to be perfectly honest, I’ve had a few weird experiences myself, which might warrant some time on the couch as well. Only yesterday, I thought I was sitting on the front step with Andrew Wyeth and Christina Olsen drinking Root Beer, or what I know as Sarsaparilla. Fortunately, they didn’t say anything, which I think is a good sign. It must be worse when they start talking to you, surely! What do you think? Am I going crazy? Have I spent so much time talking to dead artists and sticking my nose in their paintings, that I think they’ve come to life? Or, could it possibly be true? That the doors between heaven and earth, indeed the very doors of perception, have suddenly opened up and let them all out?

I don’t think so. The thing is that everything around here still looks just the same as usual. Indeed, I just made pancakes for lunch, and the dishes didn’t magically fly into the sink and wash themselves. There’s been no mad dance of the pink washing up gloves either. Moreover, the dirty roasting dish from last night is still sitting on the stove. If I was really going off with the pixies, those dishes would be done, the washing brought in and dinner on the table. At least, the leg of lamb is in the fridge, but if I’m to believe the surrealists, it could very well jump out all by itself, and hop over into the oven. Then, we could have dinner with Tom Cruise. Or, better still with Hugh Jackman.

Well, as if all that’s going to happen.

Those dead artists might’ve hijacked a train, but I’m still at home…AND more of a realist.

Anyway, just in case this isn’t a figment of my over-active imagination, if you happen to stray across a runaway train painted goodness knows how with this gang of dead artists onboard, you’d better give me a call. Please don’t call the Police. The way things are going, you might have us both locked up, and Ned Kelly could very well run off with key.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Eileen Agar’s frantic. Has anyone seen her Ceremonial hat for eating Bouillabaisse? She got into a bit of an altercation with my kids who said she couldn’t wear it while eating meat pies. Someone might’ve accidentally, intentionally launched it and it was rather aerodynamic, which couldn’t be the kid’s fault, could it?

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Eileen Agar wearing her Ceremonial hat for eating Bouillabaisse. Have you seen it?

 

 

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

 

Deloraine, Tasmania.

If you only have a couple of days in Tasmania, places like Penguin and Deloraine, might not come up on your radar. However, getting off that well-worn tourist trail, takes you into real the Tasmania. It’s places like this where you’re meeting and chatting with locals, that you get a much better sense of the place.You might even cut through all the nefarious layers, and even sense it’s pulse.

Well, make that locals from Northern Tasmania. There is a distinction!

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Church of the Holy Redeemer, Deloraine.

While it might appear like we’re heading off the beaten track going to Deloraine, it was “going into town” for Geoff’s grandmother, Molly Griffin. Molly went to school, got married and was buried  in Deloraine. So, for us Deloraine is a thread in the family fabric. Indeed, we still have family living in the region.

Our first port of call was the Deloraine Folk Museum in search of relics from the former convict Probation Station in Deloraine. I recently found out that during an outbreak of convicts from the Probation Station, a gang of absconded convicts turned up at the Griffin’s farm, Mt Patrick, wielding hammers demanding provisions. These are the same desperate brutes who hacked the leg off a lame oxen still attached to its wagon. What a tale and naturally I am trying to find out more!

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However, the Deloraine Folk Museum contained so much more than these convict relics. They have converted a former hotel into a living, almost breathing, pioneer museum. Inside, there’s a nursery, servant’s room, school room and master bedroom. They have dressed old mannequins in period clothing and I swear one of them felt hauntingly real. She definitely spooked me a few times.

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Outside, there’s all sorts of farming equipment. Personally, this was from my grandfather’s era. However, my dear husband recognised much of these tools and equipment from home. There was more than one moan of: “I’m so depressed. I feel old. I’m too young for my life to be in a museum.”

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The Folk Museum also includes an incredibly impressive community embroidery project called: “Yarns of Deloraine”. I’m going to be writing more about this down the track (when I’m not madly running around day and night trying to squeeze too much of Tasmania into our meagre 3 week holiday). The quilt has four panels for each of the seasons and while watching a film about the quilt, they played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the background. It’s an incredible display and when you get up close and check out the technical skill and creativity which has gone into recreating these recognizable local landmarks and features, it will blow you away…OMG!

After finishing up at the Folk Museum, we drove into town. The kids desperately wanted to go to the Alpaca Shop. We just made it in there before they shut and found that virtually all the shops in Deloraine shut bang on 5.00PM. Well, I guess that was good for the budget but I was quite disappointed as Deloraine is quite an artistic community and I would’ve like to see what was there. I am still hoping to get back. Deloraine is only 30 minutes from where we’re staying.

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A Black Swan on the Meander River, Deloraine.

We did find a take away food place, which was open and we took our dinner down to the local “train park” by the river with its historic steam train in situ.

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I am notorious for talking to strangers, especially dogwalkers and while chatting to a local and her dog, found out that platypus live in the local river (the Meander River). Wow! That was exciting as I’ve never seen a platypus in the wild. I switched my eyes on and started scouring the tea-coloured waters. Nothing. I wasn’t surprised. The platypus is notoriously shy and difficult to spot. It was a bit like trying to spot “Nessy”.

However, finally our son spotted one. At first, we were rather sceptical but then he pointed out it’s dark brown “beak” sticking out of the water. Eureka! We’d seen a platypus in the wild. Oh happy days!!!

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We walked around a bit more and by the time we arrived back to the car, the sun was setting. I’m a sucker for a sunset but being heavily into photography, these days it has to be a particularly good sunset for me to bother with the camera. However, with the sun setting behind the hills and all those layers of colour, we had to pull over.

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The Flock.

By the way, we also spotted a Church with its own flock of sheep. So much could be said about that, but I’ll leave that up to your imaginations.

Have you ever been to Tasmania and what do you like best? Or, perhaps there’s something you’d love to see here?

Well, now it’s time to try uploading the photos. It’s taking about 15 minutes per photo so it’s very painful and I definitely miss my NBN connection back home.

xx Rowena

An Unsung Wartime Hero.

Last weekend, while on our history tour of the Hawkesbury River, we had a crash course on Australia’s WWII military defenses along the Hawkesbury River, which  were set up to protect Australia from an imminent Japanese invasion. Aside, from protecting Sydney, these defences also aimed to protect the strategic Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, which provided an essential transport link between North and South.

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Strangely, I had no idea that this bridge, which is now nothing but a row of sandstone pylons protruding out of the Hawkesbury River, played such an important role in our war time defense. Nor did I know that a series of defenses had been set up to defend the bridge and to per-empt an attack on Sydney from the North.  All of this was seemingly dumped in the bottom drawer, that infamous file of no return. However, fortunately, those files are being salvaged before living memory was lost and efforts are now being made to capture and pass on this piece of Australia’s history.

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Characteristic scenery along the Hawkesbury. It hardly looks strategic.

Through hindsight, it’s hard to appreciate the role this sleepy river winding through the bush, played in our National defense. After all, there was no Japanese invasion of Australia.  A couple of midget subs might have entered Sydney Harbour, but they were blown up. Darwin was bombed, but this has been minimalised over time.  Indeed, most Australians would have no idea of the full extent of Japanese attacks on Australian soil.

Yet, when you read newspapers of the day, there wasn’t so much a perceived risk of Japanese invasion, but an expectation…especially after the Fall of Singapore.

My grandparents were courting during 1942. My grandmother was living in Brisbane and my grandfather was living in Dalby, in Western Queensland. Their fears felt very real and it seemed like the Japanese would invade any day. Queenslanders  were definitely living on the edge and bomb shelters had been built throughout Queensland schools.So, we’re not just talking about irrational fears.

Returning to the Hawkesbury River and this sleepy expanse of National Park, this region was actually critical to the war effort. If the Japanese had bombed the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, there would have been no direct North-South rail link. The alternate route would have entailed travelling an additional 400 miles— via: Lithgow—Dubbo—Werris Creek.This would have seriously affected troop movements and the transport of war supplies. This threat wasn’t too far fetched either. When the Japanese submarines were sunk in Sydney Harbour, the captain of one actually had a map of the Hawkesbury River.

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Defenses were constructed along the Hawkesbury River, including a gun battery at West Head. From the West Head Lookout, you can see where a fleet of five Japanese submarines surfaced in the darkness of night at the mouth of Broken Bay in 1942. Three of the vessels were carrying a trio of midget submarines, which were later launched to attack Sydney.

In addition to the threat of a Japanese attack on the Hawkesbury River Bridge, it’s precarious state of crumbling decay was also a critical strategic concern.As I mentioned  in my previous post, one of the pylons had cracked and the bridge was highly unstable. Speed restrictions of 15 miles an hour were placed on trains going over the old bridge, posing a great handicap to the movement of large wartime traffic on the northern line. In 1945, a further speed reduction to 4 miles an hour and the prohibition of the application of brakes resulted in a 7 minute crossing time for all trains. The replacement bridge wasn’t opened until 1946, after the war was over so all this time, trains were creeping over the bridge one at a time limping along.

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Trains pressure testing the new bridge in 1946.

So, it really is quite amazing that the bridge survived the war but, of course, bridges don’t win any medals…especially when they’re so far from the front line. But when you realise this was the rusty safety pin holding so much of the Australian war effort together, it deserves a bit of respect…as does whoever it was who kept it going behind the scenes. No medals for them either.

By the way, those cracked and crumbling piers from the original Hawkesbury River Bridge are still standing, although the steel trusses are long gone.

Meanwhile, there have been reports that the piers on the new bridge are unsafe. When divers inspected the bridge in 2013, they found major problems with one of the piers. “The downstream pile has a LARGE amount of concrete missing with LOTS of exposed rio bar [reinforcing bar] … concrete continues to flake off and crumble,” said the report, obtained by the state opposition using freedom of information laws (source: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sydney-to-central-coast-rail-bridge-at-hawkesbury-river-crumbling-at-base-20150913-gjlftk.html)

Let’s hope the government can get its act together faster this time. I can’t see hundreds and thousands of commuters into Sydney being thrilled when they can walk faster across the bridge than the train.

Do you have any similar stories you would like to share? I am seriously amazed by how little I really know about my own neck of the woods and how much I have to explore here without needing to travel overseas. Given the budget, that’s naturally quite a relief!

xx Rowena

 

 

Unraveling the Great Bridge Mystery

While the Sydney Harbour Bridge requires no introduction, Sydney’s Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge barely rates a mention. Yet, this bridge also has its mysteries.

I’ve caught the train over the bridge many times. While I usually have my nose in a book or am furiously scribbling in my notebook, I’ve often wondered about the row of abandoned sandstone pillars poking out of the water like ghostly headstones…a testimony to engineering defeat.

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What went wrong? What is their story? Why are they there?

Yet, that’s where my queries stopped.

That was until we went on a historic Hawkesbury River cruise last weekend and we cruised past the abandoned pylons, underneath the new Hawkesbury River Bridge and found out what happened.

Fortunately, the old bridge was safely replaced  before the crumbling bridge gave way and two crowded steam trains crashed into the Hawkesbury River with a catastrophic loss of life.

The original Hawkesbury River Bridge was an engineering catastrophe doomed from the start. Indeed, it could well have been built by Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers Engineering!

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Steam Train Crossing the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge.

Yet, it was quite a different story when the bridge opened in 1889 to much fanfare and acclaim:

“The 1889 Hawkesbury River Bridge, Long Island Tunnel, Woy Woy Tunnel and the heavy earthworks and tunnels of the Cowan bank were the key engineering works on the Sydney to Newcastle rail link (The Short North). Together they demonstrate a high degree of engineering achievement in building a railway line in difficult and dangerous terrain. The 1889 Hawkesbury River Bridge in particular was a major technical achievement at the time: it was the fourth largest bridge constructed in the world, one of its caissons reached 49m, had the deepest bridge footing in the world and it was the longest bridge in Australia, pushing bridge design and construction techniques to the limit. The bridge was also the first of the American designed truss bridges that were introduced to Australia in the late 1880s and 1890s and thus the first to utilise the American principles of lightweight bracing, pin joints and eye bar tension members. It was the only steel trussed bridge of its type in Australia when it was built and the first major use of steel for bridges with previous examples being built in wrought iron. Its remains are tangible evidence of the change in engineering technology from British to American at this time and the decline of John Whitton’s British based design influence on the NSW railway system. There is enough extant fabric in the remaining abutments, piers and the Long Island tunnel to demonstrate the engineering achievements of the original Hawkesbury River crossing. www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=4800130

However, cracks soon started to appear in this so-called engineering achievement and the original bridge lasted only 60 years.

So what went wrong?

This newspaper report from 1946 tells the story well.

“A chance discovery a necessitated new bridge—a discovery which probably averted what would have been the worst railway disaster on record.
A railway engineer, reading an American text book, found a statement that the interior of the piers of the Hawkesbury bridge comprised rubble.
The Chief Railway Constructional Engineer (Major-General Fewtrell) pointed out that this did not check with original specifications, which provided for metal casing on the outside and concrete on the inside, so that when the metal rusted the concrete would remain.
But the bridge had already developed an ugly pier crack, and in view of the text book statement no time was lost in scouring Australia for men who had worked on the concrete mixing board. One was found, and the information he supplied worried the engineers. They promptly set a diamond drill to work on the cracked pier. The drill made slow
progress through the stone, but once below the water level it dropped into a soft substance.
SCIENTIFIC tests showed that the steel casing would have crumbled completely away in 1939, and the interior would have quickly washed out.
Below water level the pier was several feet out of alignment on one side.
Once daily, two express trains passed each other on the bridge, often at this pier.
To counter the defect, single-track working was introduced, and speed reduced to walking pace. The new bridge was commenced as soon as possible.”
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Steam trains weight testing the new Hawkesbury River Bridge in 1946.

Thank goodness for that. Moreover, with a flush of national pride, this same newspaper report proudly points out that while the American built bridge only survived for 60 years, the Australian bridge would last 200 years!
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Remaining pylon from the original Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge. Photo: Rowena Curtin.

Work commenced on the new bridge in July 1940 and despite best efforts it was not completed until after the war finished, opening for traffic on 1 July 1946.
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Cruising Under the Current Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge.

Following the opening of the new bridge,the steel spans  were floated off the original bridge, dismantled and transported to other parts of the State and re-assembled to form bridges across various waterways.
Two spans were reserved for the crossing of the Darling River at Bourke and Billabong Creek on the proposed Bourke to Barringun railway, part of the Commonwealth’s project for a north-south inland railway through the back of
Queensland, linking up with a cross-country line to Darwin.
Good to hear the steel spans were put to good use.
Meanwhile, the original sandstone piers are still standing, man-made geological features surveying the Hawkesbury
River flow by.
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Bride Doll Leads Me Astray.

There are time you REALLY don’t want to run into someone you know and being seen photographing a doll in a cemetery could very well top the list.

You see, rewinding back to Monday, I am still on my way home from my train trip to Surry Hills and the medical appointment, which really was the reason for the whole trip, not the deviation I’ve portrayed it.

You can read about the train trip down here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/me-myself-i-writing-a-complex-character-profile/

And the trip from Surry Hills to Gore Hill here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/surry-hills-to-gore-hill-sydney-a-hill-climbing-odyssey/

So, I go to my doctor’s appointment and am told I have mild Barrett’s Disease, caused by reflux. They change my medication but are concerned about the stomach acids damaging my lungs and so they want to see me in a month and there’s talk of a small operation. On the upside, the tell me that I won’t need another endoscopy for two years. However, it was looking like I wasn’t going to need another one at all.

One thing is certain. No more chocolate or other snacks just before bed! I don’t drink. I don’t smoke and yet again my one vice comes under attack. What did I ever do to deserve this? Humph! Sometimes, I swear the Wowsers* are out to get me!

I haven’t really given the latest too much thought but there are a few warnings there. The most obvious being “see you in a month”. That’s not a good sign. That’s doctors’ speak for: “Danger, Will Robinson!”

It’s no wonder I’ve been posting quirky photos on my blog…distraction.

The bride doll on the train.

The bride doll on the train.

Anyway, as you might recall, I bought a vintage bride doll for my daughter from the Salvo Store in Surry Hills and I’m lugging her around in a huge Ikea bag along with a chenille bedspread and a cookbook, despite the long trip home. I’m someone who takes their bargains seriously but even I thought it was a bit mad trying to lug this lot up hill and down dale and on multiple trains…especially as I’m not exactly well.

One of my attempts to create a ghost.

One of my attempts to create a ghost.

But these are the sort of feats which build resilience and it could just be that one day that resilience could save my life…if it hasn’t already.

Gore Hill Cemetery in Bloom.

Gore Hill Cemetery in Bloom.

Anyway, not unsurprisingly, there’s an old cemetery just across the road from the hospital: Gore Hill Memorial Cemetery. Established on 19 May 1868, the first body was interred in 1877 and it closed in 1974. I have a few relatives buried there, although I’ve never found their graves.

These days the cemetery is almost used as a park and there are park benches and in Spring, the place comes alive with a diversity of flowers.

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Anyway, since I was walking past, I thought I’d photograph the bride doll, which I have since named Lucinda, in the cemetery. I wondered if she would come out looking like a ghost with the long white dress and I thought there might be some good backdrops as well, given the age of the place.

Looking very glamorous!

Looking very glamorous!

However, even though we are at the tail-end of Winter, very few flowers were out but photographic conditions were perfect so I decided to mostly just take advantage of the light.

This one looks quite eerie, especially with a bit of help from Photoshop.

This one looks quite eerie, especially with a bit of help from Photoshop.

While I find the idea of taking photographs in the cemetery intriguing, I am, of course, mindful that these are not just names etched in stone but the remains of loved ones, which need to be respected.

So, after a few photos, Lucinda and I caught the train home and I was able to find out a bit more about her on Google. She is a Mighty Star Doll and was made in Canada during the 60s or 70s. I am thinking that she might have been used to model wedding gowns. I’m not sure. The clothes have actually been sewn onto her. If anybody knows more about her, I’d love to know.

It’s also a bit intriguing how she came to Australia. No doubt brought over by a little girl or perhaps brought back here as a gift.

Hard to believe how much I managed to cram into one day and how many new ideas are peculating around inside my head.

There is such a thing as creative overdrive!

xx Rowena

*Wowser: In Australia, it is a derogatory word denoting a person who saps all the fun out of any given situation. Derived from the temperance movement in Australia and New Zealand at the turn of the C20th, when it was hurled as an accusation towards conservative teetotallers who were too prim and proper to relax and socialise, it has become a more generic term that can be assigned to any straight bore lacking a sense of humour, especially petty bureaucrats and Aussies politicians. http://www.urbandictionary.com

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!!