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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 2 (June 1, 1928)

A Holiday In Australia — Some Impressions and Observations

page 38

A Holiday In Australia
Some Impressions and Observations


In this delightful spot [in the Blue Mountains] is the Caves House, a fine and commodious hostelry.

There are quite a number of caves open for inspection, but time would only permit of visits to two of the principal ones, the Lucas and the Orient. The fact that it takes two hours, without unduly tarrying, to visit each of the caves mentioned, gives some idea of their extent. Each cave consists of a collection of chambers connected by a network of stairways and tunnels. Of the grandeur of these wonders of Nature suffice it to say that they surpassed the writer's highest expectations. The elaborate system of electric lighting, skilfully designed, is very effective. (Apart from the caves there are many other pleasant diversions and the invigorating effect of the Blue Mountain atmosphere is quickly felt and appreciated.) Visitors to Australia should not fail to include this trip in their itinerary.

Setting Out For An Excursion. The Hermitage, Mr. Cook.

Setting Out For An Excursion.
The Hermitage, Mr. Cook.

Arrived back in Sydney the week remaining to us proved only sufficient to explore the more noted of the city's numerous and diverse attractions. Sydney's chief claim to distinction lies, of course, in the possession of a magnificent harbour. It would be difficult to picture this city bereft of this great factor in her existence to-day. Not only is it a great commercial asset but it has become an essential part in her domestic arrangements. A large proportion of her population, resident in the marine suburbs, are daily transported across its waters, per medium of a splendid ferry service. To the visitor, Sydney harbour is an irresistible attraction. Manly, with its beautiful sandy beaches, and various attractions, counts its patrons by tens of thousands. Taronga Park Zoo, situated a short distance across the harbour, is an ideal spot and splendidly laid out. Lane Cove, Clifton Gardens, Watson's Bay, and Neilson Park are popular resorts; while Paramatta River, Lane Cover River, and many other bays and inlets make delightful trips. Only a prolonged stay would permit of visiting all of these. In the city itself, within easy reach, there is much of absorbing interest. The museum, just across Hyde Park, is a veritable store house of Australian antiquities, many of great historical value. In the Art Gallery, situated close to the Museum, the visitor may spend a pleasant hour.

A visit was paid to the Sydney cricket ground, where many of the principal international sporting fixtures are decided. This ground has very extensive stand accommodation, and is well laid out, all available space being utilised to accommodate a huge crowd. The “tin hare” fever had just caught Sydney at the time of our visit, and the sport was attracting record crowds to Epping Racecourse. It provides a very good evening's diversion. The dogs are genuine triers and the racing is spectacular, particularly the hurdle races.

One of Sydney's features of special interest, and a novelty to most visitors, is its “Paddy's Market” on a Friday night. Laid out in numerous thoroughfares, the available space is occupied by hundreds of stall-holders, amongst whom the foreign element is strongly represented. Almost all classes of goods are sold, some of them incredibly cheap. The incessant exhortations of the vendors, and the good-natured banter of the crowd make up a decidedly animated spectacle.

Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon provides an entertainment new to most visitors to Sydney. Leaders of all shades of political and religious belief expound their views to interested and critical audiences. Arguments are frequent, page 39 and judging by the numerous policemen in attendance, would seem to be at times rather forceful.

Whilst in Sydney I spent an interesting halfday in looking over the large marshalling yards at Enfield, where the main volume of goods traffic is handled. The gravity system is in operation here, the grade being one in a hundred. An average of over three thousand loaded wagons per day is dealt with. With such a large and continuous volume of traffic the advantages of the gravity system are obvious. Good organisation and team work seem the important factors in successful working, as a seemingly trifling mistake may occasion considerable inconvenience and delay. The screw hand brake operated from the side of the wagon plays an important part in the passage of the wagons to their respective roads, a slight turn sufficing to keep them under control. With efficient operation the engine power required is reduced to a minimum. I was not greatly impressed with the type of coupling in general use. The wagons have no central buffer, but one on each side acting as shock absorbers. The wagons are coupled by means of a small string link attached to a hook in the end of the wagon. The necessity of getting inside the buffers to couple and uncouple seems a drawback as compared with the style of coupling in use in New Zealand. The fine lighting system in this yard makes the use of hand lamps unnecessary for signalling purposes at night. Of Australia's main railway systems any observations made after a brief holiday visit must necessarily be of a general character only. The broad gauge obtaining in the principal States, and the comparatively level nature of the country make for faster and smoother running; nevertheless, nothing sensational in the way of speed is attained. The rolling stock for the most part is much larger and heavier than our own, and is of a fairly uniform standard throughout the different States. The locomotives, except in a few special cases, correspond largely with our own, one difference noted being the absence of cow catchers on most of them.

An Efficient Suburban Unit. Interior view of the Edison electric storage battery rail-car on the Christchurch-Little River line.

An Efficient Suburban Unit.
Interior view of the Edison electric storage battery rail-car on the Christchurch-Little River line.

The method of ticket checking on passenger trains differs somewhat from that in vogue in New Zealand. The barrier system is in general use and tickets are checked and collected at the stations.

On many of the long-distance trains the doors of the compartments are locked and only opened at the terminal and refreshment stations.

The Australian railways are faced, even to a greater degree than is the case in New Zealand, with the problem of motor competition. This comes under notice everywhere. Even on the long run between Sydney and Melbourne there is a large and increasing volume of motor passenger traffic. These services are specially designed to take in the best sight-seeing routes, and they appeal particularly to tourists. The loss of revenue to the railways through this and other causes is being severely felt, but despite this a good deal of reconstruction and extension work is proceeding throughout the various States.

It is perhaps in respect of suburban traffic that the greatest disparity exists between the Australian railways and our own. When it is realised that the great cities of Australia contain approximately ten times the population of our own, the futility of making comparisons will be recognised. A visit to Sydney Central Station or Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, at the peak hours, will best convey an adequate idea of the magnitude of the traffic at these stations. Melbourne has provided for her needs by one of the finest electric train systems in the world, while Sydney has under way a comprehensive underground railway system which, when completed, will encircle the city and link up with the harbour bridge now in course of construction. A small section of the underground, from St. James's to the Central Station, is already in operation.

Before closing these notes a word must be said of the courtesy and consideration shown by the staff to a visiting railway man. The friendly interest shown everywhere, and the advice and assistance so readily given by members of the various railway staffs, did much to enhance the pleasure of a memorable holiday.