The Slow Train to Sydney

The slow Train to SydneyPosted on February 17, 2011 by gerard oosterman

We took the train from Bowral to Sydney yesterday, as a kind of test run for the future. Living just 100 kms from Sydney we thought we might reduce driving and use public transport.

We had enquired the day before and were told by the Station Master time of departure and cost which for us seniors was a mere $2.50 return. Wacko, who could refuse an adventure of this nature? Next day we got up early, all excited about the coming day. Arrived a bit early at the station and bought our tickets. When the train arrived we were surpised how new it was and spacious.  Many people hopped on-board incuding an elderly couple. The husband had a brand new dark blue checkered shirt with razor sharp pleats still visible on the sleeves. One almost expected the white collar bit of stiff carton to still be peeking from the back of his shirt.

The train took off on a rather somber and overcast day. We weren’t going very fast but time wasn’t important and we settled nicely. It took us past many stations including the one of killer Milat notoriety. The houses there were somewhat dilapidated looking with yards full of junk and cars propped on bricks with large dogs barking at the train. Bargo, Tahmoor, Dapto, Yerrinbool and many others we passed by. This was the train with only 4 stops between Bowral and Central, Sydney.

  At one stage I noticed a very optimistic notice board on a terracotta roof. Painted on a large sign in bright blue was written; FUNERAL DIRECTOR and telephone number. The sign faced the train so it was clearly designed for the traveler but I wonder how many would get their address book out and scribble down the phone number. Who on earth would have that kind of foresight?

We arrived after almost 2 hrs (This is the fast Country Link) and sauntered down the platform but no ticket inspection. We walked up towards the Town-Hall soaking in all the changes since the last time we were there. As usual, there were huge cranes and dog-men directing great concrete panels hovering above building sites.  In all sorts of nooks and crannies were available coffees and cakes. Backpackers were spilling over the footpaths busily sending texts and pictures of exotic Australia back to Japan or Sweden. Many were  with those towering backpacks and some, which is’ par for course’ in going overseas, squatting down on the pavement cross legged.

Also, a disturbing increase in homeless, some with cardboard notices explaining their plight, others just oblivious to it all and seemed sound asleep. At the entrance to Myers was a small colony of homeless with mattresses and blankets, shopping trolleys, empty big M bags and a profusion of polystyrene containers. One desperate homeless and bearded man held up very bravely: FAMILY COURT VICTIM!

We were getting hungry and noticed a pub advertising food. It might have been called the King George but Helvi just now assures me it was The Edinburgh Castle. All patrons were seated. This is one of the most baffling cultural changes in Australia, where not that long ago, everyone in pubs would always be standing, except for some blue hair coloured patrons in the “Ladies Lounge”.

Not only were all seated they were also enjoying their beverage with food. We ordered two Heinekens with one Rump steak and one Chicken snitzel, both with chips and salad. This was about 1pm and the hotel was chockers, so were all other eating and drinking venues. What a buzz.

We decided to head home after this excellent lunch and slowly sauntered back to Central station where a sign told us to go to platform 23 for Bowral. Train after train did arrive but not a sign of anything going towards Bowral. We walked back to the entrance and a Rail Information Lady took it upon herself to guide us towards a train. Platform 23 is where you go to Cambelltown and then change over, she said. Oh, we did not know that nor was this indicated on the electronic sign or loudspeaker. She then went out of her way to say why you don’t get on the Country Link at 3.48PM. This leaves at platform 3.

There is a huge distance between both platforms, so we decided we needed another schooner to remain hydrated. This was lovely, seated away from the humidity of the Sydney Station in a air conditioned and licensed premise next to a McDonalds. I had the courage and gall to brazenly also ask for two fifty cent smooth-ice cream cones. Helvi declined, how can you drink beer and lick ice-cream?  I gave hers to a homeless looking man who also did not lick it. We finally walked to the platform and this smooth ice cream in its cone was still un-licked and might still be sitting on the table as far as I know.

After seeing a young man with both legs cut off below the knee and heavily bandaged attended to by an ambulance officer on a mobile phone, we decided to hop on the train. That same couple, with the husband’s sharply creased shirt were also in our wagon. Perhaps they were doing the same as us. Perhaps they might even have taken down the number of the Funeral Director? Who knows?

The return was just as good but we were feeling pretty shagged by the time we arrived back, which was at 6pm. I noticed that in the morning the train came from Canberra and the afternoon train was also destined for Canberra. There wasn’t a buffet or possibility for any water or a coffee on board, which is a bit rich if you are going Sydney-Canberra. It could be that after Bowral a buffet car would be linked to the train.

 Who knows?

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