Steam Trains & Winter Magic

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September 3rd 2016
Published: September 3rd 2016
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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 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 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 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 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,

Dancing Dave

Music clip courtesy of Claude Hay...our favourite muso from Katoomba town

Additional photos below
Photos: 120, Displayed: 24


3rd September 2016

Nostalgia creeps in!
Right on, Dave. The old chu chu...especially I love when the engine makes a rhythmic sound when running at full a melody in my ear. My romance with the trains is my favourite pass time - I wrote that in my first blog 'A paradise name Sapa - Vietnam". I remember, once I hitch-hiked a goods train in India long time ago, spent the whole night in an open wagon, watching the dense forest go by in a moonlit night....they all scroll like a slide show in front of my eyes. Your story makes me walk down the memory lane, Dave. You are very fortunate to save you leg, though!
4th September 2016

Nostalgia creeps in!
There is something about the choo choo indeed Tab. I can relate to the mesmerising melody too. I can only imagine the thrill of the open goods train in India for you ...sounds like one of life's unforgettable journeys.
3rd September 2016

Steam Trains
Well clearly yo haven't changed much Dave! I remember hearing once, "It's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it"! Always interesting when you run into old school chums. It's funny I just finished watching a movie called the Station Agent all about one guy's love of trains then being willed an old train depot which he moved to. Then recently on a two day trip we saw more trains than we have ever seen before which got the whole family talking about how cool trains are. They are such a part of our history/civilization. Enjoyed the blog immensely!
4th September 2016

Steam Trains
Sounds like you know what I'm talking about Sal. Thanks for commenting. There are lots of different trains for different purposes and I found them rather photogenic. It wasn't until I photographed those two times that I realised there are bound to be heaps more. The train nuts are so into them their stories gotta make you smile! Our most memorable was probably one in icy Inner Mongolia.
11th September 2016

Panoramic dancing
The first photo is so important and this one grabbed our attention. Were you talking about yourself when you spoke of train nuts waxing lyrical? ha ha Freaking that you ran into a school friend and he remembered you. Excellent. That must have been fun. Eager to see what the dancing ones do next.
11th September 2016

Panoramic dancing
So many interesting people in Katoomba many photo ops...had to share. I went to school by train then the first 9 years of my working life...then not another train until the Sydney Olympics. When we discovered recently that it is sometimes faster to get into the city by train due to parking restraints got me to thinking...some of these slick new trains are pretty cool. Not being a train nut I still prefer to drive though!
12th September 2016

On train rides
I like trains but I am not a railfan. That is, I don't plan my trips around trains but if there are trains, railway bridges, railway stations etc worth seeing I happily take my time seeing it. I have to mention two train rides, out of the many I have taken, that really stick out. I once took a train from Kalka to Shimla in India. It is a narrow gauge railway in a spectacular mountain setting. I once took a train from Peshawar into the Khyber Pass up to the Afghani border. The montains there were so steep that the train in several places had to first go forward, then stop and reverse for a while, then stop and again go forward. I.e. the train equivalent to hairpin turns. Ake
13th September 2016

On train rides
Those train trips sound insane Ake. A train trip in India sounds like a must and you must have wondered if your train would make it up the Khyber Pass at that rate!

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