Wednesday Jan 22, 2014 – From Brisbane to Sydney by train

Hello to all,

Some notes I made during my trip from Brisbane to Sydney by train, on Wednesday January 22, 2014 via the North Coast route. The train is called XPT and starts at 4h55 from Roma station. We are expected to arrive at 20h15 in Sydney local time (10 hours difference with Europe).

I got up at 3h30 (hmm, difficult …) and walked from the hotel to the Roma Street staion. Just a five minute walk. Brisbane was still asleep, but already quite warm (over 25c).

I arrived a bit in advance, and saw just the train coming from Sydney arriving on quay 2 in Roma street station. About 50 passengers left the train; most of them bit sleepy as it was just about 4am. There were also some people welcoming the passengers arriving.

After the train was cleaned, about 70 new passengers came on the train and we left exactly on time at 4h55. It was still dark, although first sunlight was starting to appear. After having crossed the river, the train went via South Bank towards the first stop, Kyogle, where we arrived at 8h10 local New South Wales time. By then, we just had passed the border and left Queensland. My, via internet reserved, ticket was controlled, and accepted without any problem.

In my cabin, carrage B seat 17, there were only about 10 people. More travellers are expected at the stop in Casino. Before then, we saw some air balloons preparing to lift off, and I saw also 3 dingo’s. We drove through a very nice forest landscape with eucalyptus trees, hills, tunnels, cows and some spreaded farms. And very green: so there must be some rain falling here and there. With the sunrise and early sun, it gave a magnificent picture.

Next to me, a couple was traveling to Gosford; only 2 stops away from Sydney. The couple lives in Brisbane. The woman came originally from Melbourne and travelled in her younger years to overseas (London was mentioned) while her partner was originally coming from Germany, but lived also in Cairns in the past. Athough Belgium as a country did not really ring a bell, Brussels and Kim Clijsters as a tennis player did bring up memories.

The track was again singular, so we let pass a freight train from time to time. The XPT train can absolutely not be compared with modern high speed trains. As the tracks are having many curves, the XPT mechanisms help to smoothen our ride. But the system made a lot of noise, and, as the train service manager explained, the oil needed was washed away when the train was cleaned …

Although bar and meal services are provided in the train, I was armed with sandwiches, cheese, ham, and orange juice, all bought the day before. More than 14 hours on the train had to be prepared…

The stop in Kyogle tookjust less than a minute or two. Not even enough time to get a photo :-(. Hopefully this will improve later on. Half an hour later, at 8h40, we arrived in Casino. This is the stop where, coming from Sydney, you can direct buses to the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise, without having to pass via Brisbane.

Right after Casino, it started to become cloudy. The sun disappeared for a while, which was quite ‘refreshing’ after almost 2 weeks of heat and clear sunshine.

Before arriving in Grafton, we passed some small bush fires, located just next to he tracks. Nothing really serious I think, but strange anyway. Overall, the countryside is still quite ’empty’; several forets and almost no ouses or farms.

Grafton is the place, where the train team changes. A new train conductor, and also new bar and service managers came on the train. Just before we arrived in Grafton at 10am, we stopped to refuel the Diesel train, allowing us to ride further to Sydney before a new refuel was needed. Refueling took 8 minutes, so a bit more liters than in your normal car :-).

After Grafton, I walked to the bar getting my ordered ‘ Devonshire Tea’, a nice plate with Dilmah green tea, scones and strawberry jam. As they say here, ‘yammy, yammy’, meaning very good (or in Dutch: lekker :-)). And of course good for myhealth :-). My eyes started to close and I did a little nap.

By the way, I started to act like Australians do. In the city, I already saw people walking barefoot (no shoes or so), but in the train many people did the same. So did I, took off my shoes and socks, and got my tea walking barefoot. Not sure yet however if I am ready to do the same in Sydney …

The next stops are close to the coast, starting with Coffs Harbour, so I hope to catch a glimp from the ocean. I will not name them all here. I will just name the next important stop, called Wauchope. Just before arriving in Coffs Harbour at around 11h15, the XPT train drive through ‘banana country’, banana trees everywhere. Awesome.

By the way, a new tip for those who think of a trip through Australia. Almost all cities I visited had a place called ‘Harbour Town’. At first I though it was indeed the harbour, but it turned out to be a national chain of Outlet Shopping Centers … One can get easily mistaken!

And I got a picture of the ocean! Just after Urunga, there is a place called ‘the hole in the wall’. It is a 100 meter view between 2 forests where the train is passing by. The iPhone was fully ready, and I was able to shoot a few photos of the beach and the Pacific Ocean. With clouds this time.

Around noon, the announcement for lunch was made. I skipped this because of the scones :-). In the mean time, the weather changed: we got some rain showers. Refreshing, as it still quite warm outside – around 30c.

We arrived in Wauchope at 13h, that’s 1pm for Australians. I am halfwy downthis train trip. Rain has stopped, but still cloudy and hot. A quarter of an hour before, I finally saw my first Australian kangaroos! Somewhat hidden, but very real. However it happened too fast to take a picture :-(.

At 13h52 we crossed the day XPT train from Sydney to Casino. Not on photo, but well captured on film. You have to wait until the movie comes in the theatres :-).

The afternoon passed fast: with some further small naps, we arrived at 4pm the village of Gloucester, probably named after the city with the same name in the UK. Only 3 people stepped off the train, and the same number got on the train for the last 4 hours to Sydney. After some nce sunny parts, it was lightly raining again. The mountains around Gloucester were partly invisible due to the clouds.

After again 1 hour through the hills and watching many (mainly black) cows, we reached at 5pm the village of Dungog. Another more local train was waiting. From the platform I could see a historical picture theatre’.

After I solved a level 9 Sudoku, we arrived at 17h40 the city of Maitland. Compared to the previous stops, this was clearly a bigger station and city. The first influence of Sydney and its great metropolitan area started to appear.

At 6pm we reached the city of Broadmeadow. Although we are still 2 hours away from Sydney, bigger citylife is recognizable. Also further smaller stations appear where we do not stop, but which are served by local trains.

Some 4 further stops were made before we reached Sydney. According to the park and ride facilities, these looked clearly like Sydney suburbs. Surrounded by forests, they seem to have a good level of quality of life. Just the transport every day …

Final observations before arriving in Sydney were a huge hypodrome, some nice and very large lake near Gosford, and A train maintenance center. Due to little light, photos and film were not possible anymore.

So after almost 1000 km today by train, we finally reached Sydney Central. My hotel, the Mercure Sydney is just around the corner. And this blogpost is written from the hotel, with a super view on Sydney CBD and finally included Wifi. Yes! I am pretty sure that I will fall asleep fast after such long, though very interesting 14 hour train day!

Details on my Sydney visit and the Australian Day on January 26, will appear in my next post during the weekend.

Thanks for reading and take care,

Bas

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