Saturday, April 22, 2006


I've always been fascinated by trains. My first job, back in 1970, required me to travel across Melbourne by train, all the way from St Albans to Kensington (a distance of maybe 10 KM's). But in 1970 I was 15, 3 years short of driving age and thus the train was the only solution.

Not a bad solution as it happened. Back then we still had the Tait[^] trains otherwise known as 'Red Rattlers'. They leaked cold air in winter, had no air conditioning for summer and made a lot of noise but they had the most comfortable seats I've ever seen on a train. Real leather seats. Try and find that these days!

Made mostly of wood, they also had photographs of Australiana set in the walls behind glass. Ferns and Kangaroos and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and so on. If you think a mention of the British Monarch in the context of Australiana is odd then you didn't live in Australia in 1970!

I enjoyed the entire experience, not just the train itself. It was then a pleasure, and still is when I'm in Melbourne, to travel from Footscray Station over the Maribyrnong River, high above the flood plain on the embankment, looking down on the old red brick buildings stained black from smog as we cross Kensington Road. From that point to Kensington South Station and then across Moonee Ponds Creek and through the railway yards to North Melbourne Station.

I enjoyed the experience so much that I spent most weekends in 1970 taking advantage of my weekly ticket, riding the train to the ends (so it seemed) of the earth, Belgrave which is about as far from St Albans as you could have gone and still been in the vicinity of what we Australians call Melbourne. I went to the end of every suburban line many times that year; Upfield, Epping, Dandenong, Sandringham, Frankston, even Williamstown.

I was also (and still am) very fond of Flinders Street Station[^]. There was once a time when Flinders Street was the busiest railway station in the world!

In 2001 when I finally got around to seeing a chiropractor I was delighted when it turned out that his office was directly opposite Toorak station. Toorak is THE snob suburb of Melbourne but that wasn't the source of my delight; nope, the source of the delight was that, even though I drove there, I had the opportunity to walk through a classic Melbourne Railway Station. Red brick a century or more old.

Whenever I'm in Melbourne I travel by train whenever I can. The train doesn't take me everywhere I want to go; for that I hire a car. But for sheer wallowing in nostalgia I can't beat a Melbourne train!

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