If noise, loud noise, steam and smoke, swaying rhythm and adventure capture your imagination chances are you’ve taken a few train trips. My love affair with trains started as a youngster when I travelled home with friends for school holidays. That was in the 1960s. When trains steamed along billowing smoke and clack-clacked at sedate pace as we chuffed towards a school vacation on the farm of my friend’s parents. We boarded the train late afternoon with our brown-bagged dinner and breakfast and duffle bags. Six convent girls piled into the second class sleeper, unsupervised.
Since then my preferred travel option is always a train journey but alas these are becoming more expensive than other modes of transport. Progressive technology and design may be more efficient but they lack the romance and exhilaration of pending adventure than the trains of my youth.
And then we found the Zig Zag Railway 10kms east of Lithgow.
The Zig Zag Railway, was built at Clarence, to freight produce from the prosperous farming areas beyond the Blue Mountains to Sydney. It was a major transport connection for people travelling from the main city to the countryside that was being opened up to mining ventures. The railway was regarded as one of the wonders of the Victorian age, taking three years to complete (1866 – 1869).
Trains offer a certain freedom – and a degree of acceptable oddballness – that other public transport doesn’t permit. We’re not fidgeting in our seats, or vying for elbow room on the armrests, or trying to press the backs of our heads into the seat behind so as not to have the derriere of our neighbour in our face as they clamber over our toes to get to the toilet.
Train travel is so much more sociable. You can move about freely, chat to others, get up and wander to the food carriage or take photos from the open carriage as you suck in the steamy coaled fumes of the rickety-racked steam train.
The capped-personality in the photo above regaled the platform audience with chicken and turkey impersonations until we could no longer stand straight. His motivation? Who knows but we enjoyed his inhibition and exhibitionism. Perhaps he understood the healing properties of a good belly laugh and who knows there would have been souls in need of healing from whatever ailed them.
Located 10 km east of Lithgow, at Clarence, the Zig Zag Railway, passes over three wonderful sandstone viaducts and through two hand-hewn tunnels plus a cutting. The views over the surrounding countryside are stunning.
Thanks to a group of train enthusiasts the tracks, damaged during the second world war were rebuilt. The Zig Zag Railway Cooperative owns and operates the railway and it has become an excellent tourist attraction. Not often are you able to learn the history of a piece of machinery and then have the experience of being transported as people of long ago were.
As we waiting for our train to depart we spent time chatting with the train driver who was simultaneously shovelling coal into the furnace and delivering a history lesson to interested bystanders.
The small village of Clarence is located near the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia and a visit to the Zig Zag Railway was an excellent choice as an afternoon’s sight seeing.
Posted as part of the 2015 A – Z Challenge