Tuesday, 1 November 2011

On the Indian-Pacific

Adelaide is big enough to require the Indian-Pacific something like an hour to clear the suburbs. Part of this is that the train is very long meaning the engineer has to apply power slowly and carefully as he navigates the junctions and switches. Also, I suspect we are relatively low priority compared to the zippy commuter trains. The later seen to come in two flavours: the first is something that looks a bit like a modern Budd car, though a bit smaller; the second, probably a bit older have raised cabs at one end of each car which makes them look a bit odd when three are hooked together. The design strikes me as being of Japanese origin. (I have found out that they are 2000 class railcars are therefore nothing of the sort.) All are evidently diesel-electrics.
Unless I missed my guess, this Indian-Pacific service is a single which means it is only 427m long. A double train would be 711m long which is quite incredible to me. The single length is twice that of the Overland.

The cabin is very comfortable but of an older vintage than the Overland. It has crank operated Venetian blinds. The walls are painted in several shades of pale green that suggest the sixties institutional. On the other hand, there are showers and towels available.
I arrived in plenty of time after having bid farewell and thank you to Diane and Rob. Traffic was a bit heavier than previously as it was earlier in the day than my two previous trips to downtown Adelaide. Getting to the Interstate Rail Terminal involved having to make a somewhat hair-raising turn across a major junction. The queue to check in luggage was almost too short as it didn't give me time to remove the bags from Leonardo and stow my helmet in one the panniers I was planning on checking. The upshot of this was that I took longer with the clerk than was truly needed. Luckily, the people behind me didn't seem that upset.

In the station shop in Adelaide, I was about to buy some munchies to eat on the train when I noticed the shop also sold USB memory sticks in the shape of a Southern Rail locomotive in the colors of their various trains (the Indian-Pacific, The Ghan, etc.). I found the concept so original and fun that I had to get the Indian-Pacific one.

Unlike the railway stations in large Canadian cites of my experience, the platform was wide open to the public and I could wander up and down. This allowed me to make sure Leonardo was properly loaded into the baggage car. Non-passengers were allowed wish their friends and relatives off inside the train.

The security announcements included the statement that anyone caught smoking would be immediately removed from the train. This provoked a laugh from passengers and speculation about whether they would be thrown from the moving train or be set down in the middle of nowhere as train has no scheduled stops between Adelaide and Broken Hill! That probably makes this my longest non-stop rail journey!

The train's overall timetable includes a few several hour halts in minor spots in the wee hours of the morning. My theory is that these halts are there for three reasons. The first is to allow the train to arrive in major centers at godly hours. The second would be to allow the train to be replenished with fresh staff, fuel and other consumables. The final reasons would be to allow for the delays that could accumulate over a 65 hour journey.

After leaving Sydney, we rolled through grain growing area of the Adelaide plains. We pass massive grain storage and loading facilities. Unlike what I've seen in Canada, storage facilities include concrete surfaces with low walls. The grain is piled between the low walls and covered with great sheets of plastic weighted down with tractor tires.

Once train was well out of the suburbs, I gave the Parents a call. In "the what a time to be alive" department, I couldn't remember the exact procedure for dialing home to Canada, so I looked it up in my PDF version of Lonely Planet Australia.

It is Melbourne Cup day today. The train manager announced that a "sweep" would be run related to the cup. I then connected this with the fact that some some of the female conductors are wearing silly hats. Aussies for you.

My fellow passengers are mostly of what might be termed the grey-haired set. Unfortunately that now includes me on account of my beard. I could pass as non-grey haired if shaved. There are a few obvious backpacker types, but I'm probably no higher than the 5th percentile of age of passenger!
Me with my salt and pepper beard and grey-haired fellow passengers

Lunch was a chicken roll, a hot meat pie and a tinny of VB. "When in Rome..." There were four mates traveling together in the row in front of me. Three left for the Red Gum Lounge soon after we left Adelaide. The fourth one joined them once he had finished with the paper. They spent most of the journey there.

Leaving the grain plains, the train made its way through some hillier terrain to drier plains with mountains or at least ranges in the distance with smaller lumps nearer to hand. The ground became shades of yellow and red, covered by dry land shrubs and plants punctuated by the occasional tree or emu, though the frequency of trees dropped the nearer we got to Broken Hill.

Shortly after the train scares a trio of emu, the iPhone dings to say a text message has arrived. It is from Bell to "welcome" me to Australia. As the signal strength indicator is at minimal, my guess is that we had been out of any coverage and as we returned into coverage, it "learnt" it was in Australia again and reacted accordingly. I turned off the ringer on the phone in case it happened again. When I turn it back on in Broken Hill, there was another such message.

A little later we put a pair of wedge tail eagles to flight. The sodding huge birds were my first "wedgies" and were very hard mistake for anything else. A minute later and a pair of emu start running.
The train has been running along besides a highway. There is precious little traffic on it. To date, I have only seem one three trailer rig on the road and that was a propane truck near Dadswell Bridge. At least, I think it was a triple. However, I gather road trains tend to be further into Outback than I have been so far.

As we near Broken Hill, the sight of a siding makes me think that we haven't passed another train since a bit after Adelaide. While passenger trains are few out here (two a week in each direction, I would have expected a freight train or two. Maybe they work the sufficiently low schedule of trains to avoid relatively expensive starts and stops. Perhaps it is Eastwards on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and Westwards on Monday, Wednesday and Friday! ;-) Actually, that doesn't jibe with the little I know of the timetables. As we came into the station, I saw a freight train presumably full of ore poised to depart, heading West.

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