The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1 (May 1, 1928)
A Holiday in Australia — Some Impressions and Observations
Our return journey from Brisbane to Sydney was commenced at 8.5 a.m. on a Saturday morning. A beautifully fine day's travel was followed by a surprisingly cold night and a white frost in the morning. Sydney was reached at 2 p.m. the following day—Sunday. After a couple of days spent in sight-seeing in Sydney we started out on the 7.25 p.m. express for Melbourne. A few moments before leaving Sydney station we witnessed the departure of the Melbourne “Limited” — an allsleeper train. The “Limited” (drawn by a powerful locomotive weighing 150 tons) was composed of about the same number of vehicles as was the express, on which we were about to travel.
The vehicles of the “Limited” were of a heavier type than those used on the 7.25 p.m. express. We found our train to be a fairly full one, and the travelling was smooth and comfortable. The Wagga Wagga district (with its extensive areas under cultivation with wheat and oats) through which we passed in the early morning, reminded one in many ways of the Canterbury Plains. A notable feature of this district is the number of huge concrete grain silos (built close to the railway) where is stored the produce of the district, safe from injury by fire, vermin, and other destructive agencies.
Albury, the border town, is reached at 8 a.m., and here it is necessary to change trains owing to break in the gauge between the two States. There is some very fine country to be seen round about Albury. The effects of the drought being experienced at the time of our visit were, in these parts, not so apparent—prosperous and well cultivated farms, and fine homesteads being the rule.
Onwards, until the outskirts of Melbourne are reached, wheat-growing appears to be the main industry.
The inter-state terminal station of Melbourne at Spencer Street was reached at 2 p.m. After an interval of 2 1/2 hours in the capital city we continued our journey to Adelaide, passing en route through some of the finest country in Australia. The border town, Serviceton, is reached at 2.10 a.m. As the connecting lines of Victoria and South Australia have the same gauge change of trains was not necessary at the latter town. However, train crews and engines are there changed.
From Serviceton to Adelaide the line runs through much hilly country, there being many tunnels.
The engine (a powerful - looking monster weighing 214 tons in working order) used on this route is the largest in Australia. The rolling stock and the accommodation are of about the same standard as in other States. A dining car (on which the catering is excellent) is attached to the express running between Melbourne and Adelaide. (I might mention, in passing, that the catering on the railways in the various States of Australia is first-class.)
The country just before reaching Adelaide is poor looking, although nearing the city (which is reached at 9 a.m.) many fine vineries, for which the district is famed, are seen. We experienced a typical Australian summer's day in Adelaide — the temperature registering one hundred in the shade. It was the hottest day of the season up to that date.
The Adelaide railway station was, at the time of our visit, being rebuilt on the site of the old one, and the difficulty of carrying on during the transition stage was apparent on all sides. The new station will be a very fine structure on completion.
From what one could learn of railway conditions in this State very careful management will be required to carry out contemplated improvements, and to keep the railways on a paying page 29 basis. At the time of our visit the Commissioners were already proceeding to effect a considerable reduction in the staff, which fact, coupled with the serious unemployment then existing, created a decided feeling of uneasiness amongst railway men. Motor competition there, as elsewhere in Australia, was a serious problem for the railways.
Adelaide city itself has many beautiful buildings, Parliament House (close to the railway station) being amongst the finest. The streets are fine and wide. King William Street, the main thoroughfare, is particularly fine. To me, the most beautiful place in the city was the Botanical Gardens, through which runs the River Torrens, reminding one very much of the Botanical Gardens at Christchurch. Close by the gardens is the Adelaide Oval, a splendidly appointed ground, where more than one historic cricket match has been contested.
A visit was paid to Port Adelaide, and also to Henley — Adelaide's chief seaside resort. The Port Adelaide road is one of the finest I have seen, and it is a very busy thoroughfare. Many good sight-seeing trips can be taken in Adelaide and the surrounding districts, one of the best being that to Mount Lofty ranges, from which a splendid view of the city can be obtained. Our short stay in Adelaide terminated in our departure by the 4.30 p.m. express for Melbourne. The distance between Adelaide and Melbourne is 483 miles, and the journey occupied seventeen hours—with which the 426 mile run (in 14 1/2 hours) between Auckland and Wellington on our own system, compares not unfavourably.
The weather was still beautifully fine, and we proceeded to make the most of the three days at our disposal in Melbourne. We first visited the Melbourne Tourist Bureau, where much helpful information was obtained. Space will not permit of a full description of Melbourn's many attractions, suffice it to say that the city, which is comparatively flat, is finely laid out. The chief buildings are handsome, and one notices an absence of the towering sky scrapers characteristic of Sydney. The main streets are wide and well kept thoroughfares, particularly Collins and Swanson streets. The regulation of the traffic (which is under the control of the police) is superior to that of any other city in Australia. Melbourne's trams do not run on Sunday mornings. However, a few trains are run, but the city generally has a deserted appearance. This morning restfulness is in striking contrast to the remainder of the day, when everyone seems to be out for enjoyment. Travel is cheap and easy in Melbourne. St. Kilda, the main seaside resort, has a fine beach and well laid-out gardens, an amusement park, cabarets, and public baths.
Thousands of people visit St. Kilda in the summer season. (Many of the best private residences are situated in this suburb.) Further out, on the same route, is Brighton, with, its miles of clean sandy beach—a favourite resort of summer campers. The Botanical Gardens (almost in the heart of the city), on the Yarra River, are one of the main attractions of Melbourne, and a deservedly popular resort. A tram trip covering twenty-five miles of the main routes, and traversing some of the best residential areas, provides an interesting outing for visitors to Melbourne. The tramcar used for the purpose has been specially built for sight-seeing. A conductor details the various features en route, and the whole trip costs only one shilling.
Melbourne's premier racecourse, Flemington, is worthy of a visit. A very extensively and excellently appointed grandstand has recently been built. In this connection, as with other page 30 Australian racecourses, utility comes before beauty.
To a visiting railway man, Flinders Street station is an outstanding attraction of the city. A through station it is, situated centrally on the city side of the Yarra. The whole of the city's splendid electric train service radiates from this point. Flinders Street station is said to be the second largest in the world so far as concerns the volume of traffic with which it deals. The trains come and go with remarkable precision, and at the rush hours the thirteen long platforms are thronged with Melbourne's suburban multitudes. At either end of the station is a perfect maze of signals. Time would not permit of a further exploration of Melbourne, and with this one regret we left the city on our return journey to Sydney.
Passing put of Melbourne and on through the country the attraction, lay-out, and up-keep of the station gardens was again a noticeable feature. A fair speed is attained on some parts of this journey, forty-five miles per hour being registered in some places over the level stretches of track.
Arrived back in Sydney we took a trip to the Blue Mountains—in many respects the most enjoyable of our experiences. Katoomba, the centre of the Blue Mountain tourist traffic, lies at an altitude of 3300 feet above sea level, and is two and a half hours run from Sydney. The trip is a very pleasant one from a scenic point of view. Many of the stations passed through are picturesquely situated and prettily laid out.
Katoomba exists almost entirely on tourist traffic, and all modern facilities are available. The civic authorities control most of the motor services, which are particularly good and cheap. Trips can be arranged to the many places of interest. Wentworth Falls, Leura Falls and Echo Point are well worthy of a visit. The outstanding attraction, however, is the Jenolan Caves, situated fifty-five miles from Katoomba in the heart of the mountains. A splendid motor service is available for reaching the caves for the very moderate charge of one pound return. A good road running through beautiful valleys and over mountain spurs affords the traveller full opportunity of viewing the beauties of this region. Ascending to a height of 4200 feet, the three hours’ drive is an exhilarating experience. Situated in a beautiful little dell, entirely surrounded by hills, are the Jenolan Caves, entrance to which is made through a huge natural archway. A more perfect setting it would be difficult to imagine.page 31