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Published: September 3rd 2016
Steam Trains & Winter Magic.
It's probably a boy's thing...the whiff of coal fed smoke...the sharp toot toot...the rattle of rails.
Electric trains are so so...but steam trains...the mesmerising choo choo...hard to resist.
Nearly lost my legs the first time so I'm now pretty careful.
I was about 12...the last race for the steam trains from Sydney to Newcastle...so the whole school class went.
Ours was the famous 301 I recall...can't really remember the trip up.
We caught a branch line into the Hunter Valley to turn around...got back on standing on a metal ladder below the doors...air and smoke blowing through my hair...not a care in the World.
Then we approached a station...the platform climbing my legs...the gap between the train and the platform rapidly thinning...my brain seeing my legs about to be sheared off.
Never moved so fast in my life...lucky I was a little chap...lucky I pulled my legs up as the concrete grazed my skinny legs.
Ever since I've noticed the gap between railway station platforms and trains...sometimes only inches...stories of those that do not look and fall onto the tracks by not looking...even babies falling
onto the tracks from prams...those in peakhour scrambles coming to grief...suspected suicides...missing the step and legs caught...warnings at stations to look before you embark...imagining my skinny legs what could have been.
Still remember that incident when I was only 12 as if yesterday.
Once bitten twice shy I say.
In recent years steam trains have been making a come back...Tourism NSW realising there was a buck to be made in reviving nostalgia and earning the money to maintain the steam engines in the process.
So Denise booked us on a steam train race in Sydney last year...two trains racing side by side...taking turns to lead...the whiff of smoke and whistles bringing it all back...smiles on the faces of kids like you'd only see in the days when kids went outside to play instead of stuck in front of a TV, gameboy, iphone or computer screens.
So we did it again this year.
But this year a day trip to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains for the winter solstice...for the Festival of Winter Magic.
The train trip was OK. The best parts were talking to the train nuts who waxed
lyrical on the trips they'd done...model this...horsepower and grunt and that.
There were only about 3 stops...people lining the tracks here and there for that magic train shot.
Then after a couple of hours we were in Katoomba...like entering a fairy land with folk in costumes and outlandish gear...40,000 people they said...converging on that mountain village to dance to the winter solstice spirits in all sorts of glasses and hats.
Denise and I are children of the age of Aquarius...the hippy period when youth rose and said it's time to be noticed.
So it was like stepping back in time...every second person as if they'd stepped out of a commune...flashes of our wayward youth.
Then there was the Parade with every political issue on the agenda.
Renewable Energy, Save the ABC (public broadcasting), Ecopella, March for Timor, Birds not Boeings, No Western Sydney Airport, Girl Guides, Transvestites, Falan Gong, spinners, medieval knights and wenches, foxes in suits, witches & wizards, Save Medicare, Animal Justice ...even Hare Krishna dancing and chanting along.
A massive dance spectacular all in pink rows...spinning and weaving to the beat of many drums...stamping their feet.
A spectacular African
Grey Parrot catching my eye...wandering up as Denise chatting to the owner...sort of guy you'd expect in the Lord of the Rings.
He looks at me and smiles.
"Are you David Hooper?" he says.
Far out. It's a guy I went to school with 40 or so years ago.
Andrew...remember him well.
Amazing who you meet where you least expect it.
It's a small world they say.
Amazing the people you meet that can make your day!
Relax & Enjoy,
Music clip courtesy of Claude Hay...our favourite muso from Katoomba town
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