Monday, 2 September 2013

Clickety Clack...can’t go back...

I am about to embark on an adventure.  I have the opportunity to do something that I have always wanted to do...something that is on my bucket list.  I will be boarding the Ghan train and travelling to Alice Springs and visiting Uluru.  I am so excited I can barely think about what I need to pack...and my mind goes into overdrive on the things I might see or do or experience.

I love trains.  Always have...always will.  Both my grandfathers worked in the railways and I have many fond memories of travelling from my home town, to the next which is where most of my extended family lived, by train.  I vividly remember the sounds, the feelings, and the excitement of travelling by train.  We occasionally also had the chance to travel to the nearest capital city by train and it was such an adventure.  I remember most the sound of the wheels on the tracks, the comforting swaying motion...and the drinking fountain...seemed such a novelty at the time.  Tiny, little waxed papered cups that you could fill with cold water from the fountain.  Not surprising that I spent most of my time on the train between the fountain...and the toilet, another novelty. 

Unfortunately, the passenger train service dwindled quickly to almost nothing soon after and a grand and wonderful way of travelling will never be known to today’s generation.  Well, of course, there is intercity travel by train, and you can travel across country by rail...but the intercity travel is not the same....nowhere near.  There is nothing like the feeling of standing on the platform, with the train pulling in, the conductor checking tickets, the groups of people....waiting to farewell....and also to greet.  And of course, the railway tea shop...another world in itself and long since gone.  I treasure those memories of my early train travel because it will never be the same again.

Because we were railway family we would get fares a little cheaper, and we also had the use of the Railway Flats in Adelaide...on the Glenelg beachfront no less.  I have several wonderful memories of catching the train from Whyalla to see the Johnnies Christmas Pageant.  We would catch the tram from the city to Glenelg and stay in the flats. Trains...trams....pageant...beach...the big city.  Absolute paradise!  A visit to Santa in the Johnnies Grotto, a ride on Nimble or Nipper, a trip to Darrel Lea and the perfect pick out one thing each from the toy department that we got to play with straight away.  One year I remember I picked a plastic, clear umbrella...luckily because it rained on the way home and I felt so pleased with myself that I had picked such a practical but fun gift.  I have strong memories of using it in the showers of the flat....because I loved my new umbrella so much and the shower seemed the perfect place to use it.  We ran out of hot water because I spent so long under the wonderful stream of water....using the umbrella alternatively upright...keeping me relatively dry, and then upside down filling it up with as much water as I could. I think that was also the year my brother picked sea monkeys....they were amazing to us back then.  Things that would probably bore children today.

I have mixed feelings about my trip next week.  It is always a little scary when reality catches up with dreams.  I really wish that the adventure matches with my memories and feelings about train travel that I had as a child.  I am not that naive that I would expect it to be exactly the same...but, I love I just hope that the clickety clack is loud enough to hear and the sway is enough to feel and I can be transported back a few years....maybe I should pack my umbrella......

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