The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 12 (April 1, 1928.)
A Holiday in Australia. — Some Impressions And Observations
We Railway men, by virtue of the travelling facilities provided when on holiday, have better opportunities for seeing and knowing our country than most of our fellows. The writer confesses to having taken advantage of this privilege fairly liberally in the past. Perhaps it was the habit of travel thus acquired, and a desire to break fresh ground, that induced him to visit Australia. At anyrate his intention was to have a thoroughly good holiday, and, at the same time, to see as much of our nearest neighbour as was possible in the space of five weeks. Thanks to the reciprocal arrangements for travel existing between the railway systems of both countries, and, favoured with beautiful weather throughout the trip, the holiday was a very enjoyable one.
The purpose of this article is to give a resume of the writer's impressions, which it is hoped may be of interest to readers of the New Zealand Railways Magazine. Our fairly extensive travels in Australia (I had the pleasure of company throughout my trip) were undertaken mostly on the railways, and it is from this angle that I shall write.
Well then, our four days' journey from Auckland across the Tasman (per S.S. “Maheno”) was pleasant though uneventful. On a fine day the outer marine suburbs of Sydney are visible well out to sea. After entering the Heads, interest is divided between the justly famous harbour and many notable and historical landmarks. Coming closer towards the city numerous fine ferry steamers are seen crossing the harbour in all directions.
The Sydney harbour bridge, as yet in its early stages of construction, can also be distinctly seen. The bridge has been designed to carry a huge volume of traffic of all descriptions. At the time of our visit the massive approaches of the bridge were nearing completion, and they convey a good idea of the colossal structure this bridge will be when finished.
As the boat berthed at Darling Harbour, we quickly realised wherein lay this city's claim to rank amongst the greatest in the world. The streets, for the most part narrow, serve to accentuate the height of the many buildings. Numbers of these buildings are very fine and imposing structures, notably those of the Government, the banks, the insurance companies, and the newspapers, and they tell their own story of big business.
A call was made at the Government Bureau, where full information and valuable personal advice is supplied to visitors.
One's only difficulty is in fitting the many local trips into the space of a few weeks. However, having planned to travel rather extensively in the various States, we had, perforce, to reserve the former pleasure until later.
At Railway Headquarters we obtained our passes to Brisbane. (Readers contemplating a trip to Australia should note that passes are available only during the currency of ordinary leave, and not for extended leave.)
We left Sydney for Brisbane by the 2 p.m. express. Passing out of the station one realised that here was the hub of a big railway system. Through an interminable network of tracks, trains sped past on either side of the express, and quite a number were overtaken before the suburban limits were reached. Such is the extent of Sydney that it takes an hour's travelling to reach the open country.
The express cars are of the compartment type, each compartment seating eight passengers.
The country passed through after leaving the city does not impress the visitor, either by its fertility or its beauty. It is, for the most part, page 15 of a rocky nature, its chief product, seemingly, being gum trees. However, when the Hawkesbury river is reached, the country becomes interesting.
The Hawkesbury is a fine river and is spanned by a splendid railway bridge, with double rail track. The Maitland district (beyond the Hawkesbury river) possesses much fertile land. Before reaching Newcastle, the well-known coal and shipping town, a number of tunnels are passed through. We left Newcastle at dusk and reached Wallangarra, the border station, at 9 a.m. next day.
The narrower gauge of the Queensland railways necessitates a change of trains at the latter station. In the northern State the compartment type of cars still obtain. They are well furnished, clean, and comfortable.
Features of the railways which were noted were the very fine and substantial station buildings of brick and stone, and the beautiful and well kept station gardens. The latter make a distinct impression on the mind of the visitor.
The system of catering for travellers is decidedly good, all the main stations having well appointed dining rooms, at which any class of refreshments (including alcoholic) can be secured.
After leaving Warrick, the famous Darling Downs are passed through. Despite the dry season which was being experienced, the extensive areas under cultivation gave ample evidence of the fertility of this rich district. The prosperity of the Downs is fully reflected in that very fine town Toowoomba. From Toowoomba to Brisbane the route lies through high and fairly rugged country, but the vegetation has a very pleasing freshness, and the jackaranda trees which were in full bloom, with their masses of mauve flowers, add a decided touch of beauty to the landscape.
Brisbane was reached at 5 p.m.—twenty-seven hours' journey from Sydney. The oppressive heat seemed to have given all Brisbane an unquenchable thirst, and a thriving business was being done by the numerous establishments in liquid refreshments. Brisbane has a population about the same as Auckland. The city streets are fine and are provided with wide footpaths. Many of the buildings are handsome structures, notably the Treasury Building. The Ascot building (of twelve stories) would tower over anything in our own Queen City. We paid a visit to the premier racecourse of Queensland—Ascot. Queenslander's are proud of their Ascot, but for beauty and lay-out, it could scarcely be classed with our own racecourse at Ellerslie, or Riccarton. The botanical gardens on the banks of the Brisbane river were disappointing, having rather a neglected appearance. In the residential areas one is struck by the prevailing custom of building the houses on piles high off the ground, the intervening space being in most cases trellised in. Wooden houses predominate. Brisbane possesses two railway stations, the Central (where the main passenger business is dealt with) is a particularly fine place and well equipped. That the main industries of Queensland—sheep and cattle raising—are an important factor in railway transport, was everywhere evidenced by the long lines of stock wagons seen. It was noticed that these wagons are mostly roofed in to protect the stock from the extreme heat of the sun.
It may be said for Queensland's railways that they cater well for the travelling public, but from various sources one gathers that the problem of making them pay, owing to competition with other transport systems, is as acute there as elsewhere. (To be continued.)