Train from Sydney to Broken Hill, Video. Part Two: Lithgow to Bathurst

Lithgow to Bathurst

Here is the second video instalment of the exciting (sarc) train journey we took to Broken Hill. This (part two) is the line from Lithgow to Bathurst. As I said in the earlier post it is mostly rolling green pastures. Very similar to the countryside in the UK in fact. This area is indeed dominated by farming.

I decided to keep these videos short as they take up a lot of memory and time to save etc… (Etc = lots of crap tech stuff. Basically videos in the blog are a pain in the a**e)

Excuses, excuses…

I am not sure what the view was from the right hand side of the train but Bathurst town centre was on the other side of the train so apologies if this is a little boring…

Anyway, enjoy…

If you haven’t already read the detailed posts about the journey…
Hopefully these videos will compliment the two part blog post of the journey. You can read part one here and part two here.

Christmas? Already?

OK. Not exactly Christmas already. Christmas is still and always will be on 25th day of December. What I mean is that Christmas decorations are already hanging in the shopping centres here in Sydney. Yes really!

Not even waiting till after Halloween?

Normally you would expect Halloween to be out of the way. Right? In the USA that certainly used to be the case. Is it still? In the UK too. Then another five days – minimum – as Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes night) is on 5th November. So the UK would (or should) expect another five days after Halloween before the onslaught of Christmas.

But here in the shopping centre we visited today the Christmas decorations were hanging all over the place. And some shops too were making space for all the Christmas trees, decorations and all sorts of things Christmassy (is that a word?).

Decorations hanging through all the floors of the shopping centre. For this occasion my almost useless mobile phone came in handy. The wide angle lens is the one that still works.

Shops are taking up a lot of space already for Christmas stuff…
Multiple floors of the shopping centre adorned with Christmas decorations. Already!

Too Early.

Come on folks. Tell me is I am wrong here but this is surely way too early. Isn’t it? We are only in mid October for crying out loud! This is not a ‘Bah! Humbug’ moment is it?

Is this normal in Oz? Or are they trying to make up for the (supposed) misery of the covid-con this year?

 

Train from Sydney to Broken Hill, Video: Part One – Sydney to Lithgow

OK. I managed to put together a full video of the trip from Sydney to Broken Hill but it was simply too big to load to the blog site. The only thing I can do is to break it down into several parts.

Here is part one. It covers the journey from Sydney to the west side of Lithgow. The other parts will hopefully follow over the next few days.

But First the Excuses…

I guess that this sort of thing is only for the die-hard reader or those with a huge interest in travel.  (Although that said, this and the related videos may just put you off LOL.) Apologies for the poor quality of some of the footage but the lens on my mobile phone was damaged and it took me a while to realise as much. Even then I still managed to take footage with the wrong lens again… Ah well, hopefully this (and the videos to follow) gives you a flavour of the long train ride that is the Outback Xplorer to Broken Hill

 

If you haven’t already read the detailed posts about the journey…
Hopefully these videos will compliment the two part blog post of the journey. You can read part one here and part two here.

 

The Long Train Ride to Broken Hill. Part Two

 Looking back on our train journey to Broken Hill just over two weeks ago….

Part Two: Parkes to Broken Hill

After a short stop in Parkes station and a little walk around the platform the train set off on the second half of our journey.

It had taken almost seven hours (including the 20-minute unscheduled stop in the Blue Mountains) to reach Parkes. There was another six hours and fifty minutes still to go.

Dani with the Outback Xplorer ready to leave Parkes
Slightly blurred photo at Parkes station

Parkes to Eubalong West

The scenery noticeably changed after Parkes. The green, rolling countryside look was well gone and the landscape was very definitely bushland. Plenty of trees still but smaller and less of them. Certainly not the expansive forests you find nearer the coast and in and around the Blue Mountains.

There are only four more regular stops between Parkes and Broken Hill. Plus one called Darnick where the train only stops if there is a passenger waiting there to get on or one who needs to disembark there. On our train there were neither. I never even noticed us passing Darnick station it must have been very small.

Wild Animals

When viewed from the train the area looks wild and untouched but the land is still made up of many large farms (or stations) in this part of the world. You can occasionally spot sheep and cattle but there are also local wild animals like kangaroos and emus. There are also wild (feral) goats that have thrived after being released into the wild. The area is perfect for them. Later in the week in Broken Hill I was told by a local that there are so many of these feral goats that it has spawned a large industry, capturing and selling them for their meat.

No kidding!

For several years now NSW outback farmers have rounded up the feral goats and sold them to halal meat processors for sale in Sydney restaurants and also for export to the middle east. The feral goats have now become big business. There are millions of wild goats in Australia and the country is the biggest exporter of goat meat. Some farmers capture over 100,000 of the creatures and can make millions of dollars from them. I am not kidding (pun fully intended). Look it up for yourself…

Next Two Stops

The first stop, about an hour and ten minutes after Parkes, is Condobolin. A small town of just over 3000 people. There was a gold mine in the area years ago but now the town survives on the surrounding agriculture.

Another forty-five minutes of the journey brings you to the unusually named Euabalong West. As far as I know there is no Euabalong East. In any case this is a very small town of less than 70 people and probably only survives due to service the train line. Although there are still signs of farming in this remote area.

Somewhere between Eubalong West and Ivanhoe

Perhaps a little surprisingly, one or two passengers left the train at both these remote locations.

Ivanhoe?!

Dani was asleep at this stage of the journey but there was no way I was going to let him sleep for the next stop. The fantastically named Ivanhoe. I thought it was a great name for a small town and it really is named after the book by Walter Scott about an Anglo-Saxon medieval knight of the same name. The book spawned several movies and TV series so the name Ivanhoe should be well known.

There was no way he was sleeping through this place….

Close to the station are a few houses and a (so called) ‘farm prison’ where the inmates are used to tend the local land and basically do some honest hard work. I had a quick chat with the driver at the station and he told me that the place had just closed, only a coupe of weeks ago. That will definitely affect the local economy. The main part of town is on the other side of the tracks and out of sight but there are supposedly just under 200 inhabitants. I would not mind returning and spending the night there.

I really hope the small town of Ivanhoe can survive.

Red Earth

The classic red earth of central Australia is already visible before reaching Ivanhoe. But this is still bushland with the wild animals regularly visible from the train. By the time we reached the final stop before Broken Hill – Menindee – the sun had set.

The light had faded into dark and my mobile phone memory was full while the battery level was almost gone. Before that however it was possible to witness the transformation of the land into a scene of mostly rusty-red soil. We would notice this much better on the way back to Sydney, but that was several days away and we had plenty to see and do in Broken Hill before then.

Nightmare Arrival in Broken Hill

It was not the best of starts to our visit. We were among the first off the train and out of the station but when we got outside there were no taxis. Zero! None! We needed one. I knew the motel was a reasonable walk, we were tired, it was dark and we did not know exactly where to go. On my own that would not be a problem, but with a six year old and luggage?? Different story.

All the other passengers eventually made their way to their nearby hotels or were picked up. Only two others needed a taxi. I spoke to them and they were as surprised as I was that this once a week event of a train load of potential customers was not greeted by eager taxi drivers. Clearly taxiing is a lucrative job in Broken Hill. They obviously don’t need to hang around for a train. We were stranded after nearly 14 hours on a train!

I phoned the motel and asked them if they could send a taxi. The girl at the motel said she would do that but was not sure how long it would be. Then the battery went flat on my mobile phone. Great!

In the end we were the only train passengers left standing at the station entrance, waiting for a taxi that never actually showed up. In the end the taxi that had taken one of our fellow stranded passengers returned and we finally made it to the motel. Tired and hungry we managed to get something to eat before going to sleep. Tomorrow would be the first of several busy days in the Broken Hill area.

The Long Train Ride to Broken Hill – Part One

The first week of Dani’s school holidays we set off on a long train journey into the outback. A thirteen-hour and twenty-minute ride from Sydney. The journey of 1123km (or 698 miles), as far west as you can go in New South Wales, is to the mining town of Broken Hill.

The cost for myself one way was $124 (just over 60 pounds in real money) so cheap enough. But the best bit was Dani’s ticket. It cost the awesome sum of only $1. Incredibly children can travel all that way and back again for only two dollars (one pound)!!!

The ‘BH’ in ‘BHP’

Broken Hill is the birthplace of BHP, one of the biggest mining companies in the world. BHP stands for Broken Hill Proprietary (Company) – or used to. The company is now better known as BHP Billiton. The town has successfully ridden the boom and bust mining waves ever since the early discovery of silver deposits in the area way back in the early 1840s. Mining is still the main industry in the area but there is a lot more to it than that…

Logging The Train Journey

I started off with the best intentions of trying to capture a video with my mobile phone of the whole journey. Not every second of course, but snapshots; entering each stop/station and the landscapes in between them. Initially with my son introducing us to the stations. He soon grew tired of that one (after only two stops actually). I also hit a few other snags…

Somehow, I had damaged the main lens on my phone camera, so it only worked with the wide-angle lens. Not quite the end of the world but the first few videos snips were blurred as I hadn’t realised. Secondly, I quickly ran out of memory then soon after the battery was almost gone. Bloody phones today! Lastly by the time we were truly in the outback the sun had gone down so filming the last and possibly most exciting part of the journey – arrival into Broken Hill – was not possible.

Poor planning, I know…But I will try to put together some kind of video that shows parts of the journey. All those excuses and bad phone camera operating aside… Here is how the journey went; in words.

Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Beyond

We left Sydney central station exactly on time at 06.18 on Monday morning. The train pulled into three stops inside the city limits – Strathfield, Parramatta and Penrith – before entering the Blue Mountain range. Then we passed through each of the mountain stops before arriving at Katoomba. There was an unscheduled stop before that somewhere between Glenbrook and Katoomba and we lost over twenty minutes. Time we never really made up over the rest of the journey.

As you pass through the mountains you get to see some spectacular scenery. Some angles that you don’t see from the road journey. But they are fleeting and difficult to capture with a camera. It is still a great part of the country however you travel through it.

After Katoomba the next stop is Lithgow. We visited the Lithgow area several months ago (see here) so I recognised the scenery and some of the places. But after Lithgow it was further west than we had been before and so basically all new to us.

Lithgow to Orange – via Bathurst

The landscape from Lithgow to Bathurst can definitely be described as rolling farmland. For miles and miles it looks just like the UK countryside. In fact it soon became boring. Perhaps due to its familiar feel. This region is referred to as the Central Tablelands of New South Wales.

There are plenty of farms and heaps of sheep in this part of the world as well as arable farming. The train plodded along quite slowly on this stretch. There has been no attempt whatsoever to make this route direct or fast. The train journey between Lithgow and Bathurst takes about an hour and ten minutes whereas the road journey can be done in less than fifty minutes – and even that road is by no means straight. The track simply meanders around long curves as the track more or less following the natural contours of the land; the rivers and hills.

By the time we entered Bathurst I realised we were sitting on the wrong side of the train. The town (although not very big) was only visible from the other side. Another bollock dropped in terms of trying to film the journey. Ah well… so much for planning. Or lack of it.

Bathurst was a big gold rush town back in the mid 1800s but these days its economy is based on manufacturing and farming.

Orange

The next town along was Orange. A big enough town in its own right and an important fruit growing area. Although there is a country’s second largest open cast gold mine just 20km out of town. This area is clearly one to explore on a separate trip. For now we just got off the train and stretched our legs for a few minutes. From this part of the journey on-wards, the train staff allow and often encourage passengers to hop off for a short break.

After dropping off and picking up passengers the train reverses for some distance to a siding. From there it is routed back onto the “main” line and on-wards to Broken Hill. I have no idea why they couldn’t have just put in a track curve after the town’s station. Very odd but that’s how it is.

Parkes and Half Way…

Almost two hours after leaving Orange the train arrives in Parkes. This is a region known as the Central West of NSW. The half-way point on the journey – in time at least. The distance between Parkes and Broken Hill is around 800km. Sydney to Parkes is about 360km via road.

The second half of the journey would cover a lot more ground in the same time. There were only four more very remote stops; then Broken Hill. More on this to come in part two…

The Train

The train itself – known as the Outback Xplorer – is comprised of only three carriages. Two second class (or economy as they prefer to call it these days) and a first class car. One of the second class cars also contains the cafeteria/restaurant/snack bar. We took some snacks with us so were never too hungry. I was expecting the food to be as good (or should that be ‘as bad’?) as travelling any distance on the old British Rail – if you are unlucky enough to remember that. But thankfully it was OK.

There were plenty of snacks on offer as well as the usual airplane style tea and coffee. Also similar to the flying experience, the pre-prepared meals that they serve up at lunch and dinner times does give you a choice. A bit like a long-haul flight in economy class. I think there were four options – not included in the ticket price however. I let Dani choose, so we had the spaghetti bolognese. It was actually very tasty. I knew he would only eat part of it so I had the rest, washed down with a plastic bottle of red wine. They also serve white wine, beer and various soft drinks.

The catering staff come through the train taking meal orders and handing out the meal tickets. When the food is ready they call you up to collect your meal. All simple and efficient enough.

The reclining seating are comfortable and spacious enough. The toilets were clean and functional. I don’t think anyone could complain – least of all the one-dollar ticket Dani…

Telegram Sam – Still The Main Man, it seems

Telegram Sam

The other day while listening to a playlist I have on my iPod, that old T.Rex song ‘Telegram Sam’ came on. Dani’s ears pricked up. He asked what it was – which generally means he liked the sound of it. When I told him he went through the usual; “What? Telegram Sam? Who sings it?”

When I told him the name of the group he thought that was great too. Why not? Given the chance, all kids would surely be interested in a group called T.Rex, right?

New T.Rex fan

Now the music of T.Rex has a new fan. I have known that particular track ever since it came out of course but needed to look it up to find exactly when it was released. It turns out that the song was written in 1971 and released in January 1972. I was seven year old at the time. Dani’s seventh birthday is almost exactly one month from now.

So he has discovered T.Rex, and in particular Telegram Sam, at the same age as I did. It just goes to show that great music is age-less. Or is it timeless? Well I am sure you know what I mean.

He asked me to add it to his playlist. I might just throw in 20th Century Boy and Children of the Revolution (and maybe a few others) for good measure.

Meanwhile…

I have so much to write about from his school holidays (which end tomorrow) but I am struggling for some inexplicable some reason. I need to sort that out and quick…

A Day in Berrima

About one hour and 30 minutes drive south of Sydney, and inland, is an area known as the Southern Highlands. A rural location where farming and vineyards are the order of the day and have been since around 1830. That’s when the small town of Berrima was founded.

Today it is an historic heritage listed site where the town is basically one big museum for that period in time.

Gaol and Court House

The place is more of a village these days with the two main buildings that dominate the area being the old Gaol and Greco-Romanesque Court House. Both almost look out of place today.

The Berrima Detention Centre. Right next to the old courthouse
The Old Courthouse
Inside the courthouse museum with one of the creepy wax dummies
A creepy looking jury

Quaint old buildings…

When the railways were built Berrima was by-passed while the nearby town of Bowral got a station. While Berrima declined rapidly, Bowral expanded.

In Berrima there are plenty of the original buildings still intact. Most are now used for things other than their intended purpose. Most are now either shops or tourist accommodation but there are still dwellings for the locals.

Pubs, Inns and Wine

There were many inns in the town and while most of them still stand although only one or two still offer a refreshing beer these days. One that still operates as a pub claims to be the oldest continually licensed inn in the country. Good enough for me. Of course I had a pint there.

Several old inns still stand but their use is now different – shops or dwellings.

The area is well known for wine production. While not as  intense  as the Hunter Valley to the north of Sydney there are plenty of reasons to come back to this area and partake in a spot of wine tasting.

Winery and Restaurant
Holy Trinity Anglican church
A tasty local brew

Another reason to return is the local river. The oddly sounding Wingecarribee River runs by the village and is supposed to be a great location for spotting the duck billed platypus. Although the platypus is known to come out mainly at dusk and dawn so we need to time that one better. This afternoon was too hot and too light for them.

The Wingecarribee River – apparently a good place to spot the Platypus

Bowral

When the railways were built the nearby town of Bowral got a station and now it is a fair size town. It is still a stop on the  Sydney to Canberra line.

The town is famous for a couple of things. Firstly the writer of Mary Poppins once lived there. Yes, that’s right. She just lived here, wasn’t born there, and didn’t even write the book there – as far as I can tell. But hey… It’s a kind of claim to fame eh? And here is the statue to commemorate the fact.

Mary Poppins Statue
No. Me neither….

Incredibly, that tenuous link with the creator of Mary Poppins stands right beside this place…

Donald Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame

This is the Donald Bradman museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame. Bradman, arguably the greatest cricketer ever (and almost certainly the best batsman). Bradman definitely has a huge link with the town. He moved to Bowral when he was 2 years old. He grew up there and learned tho play the game of cricket there. At least this place belongs in the town of Bowral but it was closed when we passed by. Although I am not an avid cricket fan I do appreciate how good Bradman was. This place definitely warrants another visit.

Classic Sydney Pics

Back from our boys holiday in the outback – more on that to come – and it was a fairly lazy day in Sydney today…

Botanical gardens

Morning in the botanical gardens in the city centre. A beautiful park well groomed and full of plant-life from all over the world. An easy place to spend half a day, or even a full one.

There are some incredible trees here…
CBD from the park

Plus this is the best place to get that classic money shot with your camera. Only in my case my mobile phone has all but packed up.

The money shot… OK, it’s official, I need a new phone!
Dani with the classic back-drop

Close to the park the city centre is an odd mix of old and new.

Old buildings holding up a modern skyscraper?

Then at sunset…

That same city centre with the bridge and opera house is the skyline that makes for a great sunset. So, at sundown we went to Vaucluse and this is how it looks…

The Bridge at sunset
City Centre Silhouette
North Sydney still getting some sunlight
Sydney skyline at sunset
Sundown…