MARCH 15 2010: Day No 74 : Journey: the North Coast.






Morning All. The sun is shining and the day began in a mist which heralds a fine and sunny Tuesday. The other residents of this property are all gone to work and school and I am home alone in my personal Age of Contentment. I have put the whole Robert Gray poem on this post because its perfect for my purpose. Its about the old Red rattler train trip from Sydney back to the North Coast. The trip still exists but is now mutilated by the XPT without sleeping berths or dining cars. It also now terminates at Casino before hurtling us round the country in coaches. Nevertheless, the essence remains.  and Gray’s JOURNEY holds dozens of my memories. Remember that name : ROBERT GRAY.


Journey: the North Coast

Next thing, I wake up in a swaying bunk.
as though on board a clipper
lying in the sea,
and it’s the train, that booms and cracks,
it tears the wind apart.
Now the man’s gone
who had the bunk below me. I swing out,
cover his bed and rattle up the sash—
there’s sunlight rotating
off the drab carpet. And the water sways
solidly in its silver basin, so cold
it joins together through my hand.
I see from where I’m bent
One of those bright crockery days
that belong to so much I remember.
The train’s shadow, like a bird’s,
flees on the blue and silver paddocks,
over fences that look split from stone,
and banks of fern,
a red clay bank, full of roots,
over a dark creek, with logs and leaves suspended,
and blackened tree trunks.
Down these slopes move, as a nude descends a staircase,
slender white gum trees,
and now the country bursts open on the sea—
across a calico beach, unfurling;
strewn with flakes of light
that make the whole compartment whirl.
Shuttering shadows. I rise into the mirror
rested. I’ll leave my hair
ruffled a bit that way—fold the pyjamas,
stow the book and wash bag. Everything done,
press down the latches into the case,
that for twelve months I’ve watched standing out
of a morning, above the wardrobe
in a furnished room.

(Gray 1998 )



URUNGASTATIONI am a Public Transport Traveller. Some people prefer the privacy and freedom of their own vehicle and I don’t mind it at times but being in control of the automobile also means that I miss a good deal of the Travel Experience. I have a Black Wolf Suitcase now which fits my needs very well. I’m still updating the travelling shoes and the small hand luggage as well as the travelling outfit but I am doing OK. I once read a short story that said, in essence – “ I met my best friend for 5 minutes on a train”. That’s one of the things I like. Strange compressed friendships with people with unknown names. Never met before. Not to be met again. It requires travelling alone to do that really well. I like travelling alone.

Let me do some thinking about North Coast Train Trips.

Right – When the Red Rattler still had sleepers, that was my favourite form of travel. Tucked in and sleeping as it click clacked its way for 10 hours. Cup of tea or coffee in the morning coming into Sydney. Windows that could be opened and shut.  The R.R. had a Dining Car as well. Some elegance in the matter of eating and places to sit and talk and play cards.

The trip takes me on wheels along the song lines of my Ancestors. I didn’t know that in the past. Just instinctively followed. Now I can look out and see where my White Fellas moved up and down the Coast and settled and roamed.

On one trip, I sat beside a man from the Isle of Man who was following the English Cricket Team around the World. I don’t quite know why he was on the train rather than a plane but we had an interesting time talking about things.

I travel for $2.50 if I don’t go into the City Areas of Newcastle or Sydney. $10 if I am going all the way to Sydney, That’s the dignity accorded to the Pensioner. On occasion I travel first class. That is also available to the Pensioner 4 times per year.

I was married to a Railway Man. My great great grandfather was a steam tram driver in the 1800s in Sydney and my grandfather was a tram man and conductor and then had a signals box on the wall of the brewery down near Central Station In Sydney. Then I married a Timber Man who left the Logging World and went to work on the Railways. He upgraded from Fettler to Thermit Welder and welded the tracks together when NSW Railways were converting to the XPT.

My Home Station is URUNGA. Has been since the early 1970s. No matter where else I have been ‘living’.  Robert Gray’s poem brings us into the glimpse of the sea and the creeks just south of Urunga. Very often I have been so excited when I saw that, that I have got my luggage and taken myself to stand near the door way before it was time to do so. Standing. Waiting to come home again.



150 years of NSW rails.

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