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Young, New South Wales

Young is a town in the South West Slopes region of New South Wales. It had an estimated population of 13,500 on 30th June, 2010, almost exactly double the population on census night in 2001. The male/female split in 2010 was exactly even; someone for everyone, as Pam commented.

You know how every little town has to have its own claim to fame? In Young it's cherries. Yes, folks, we're in the Cherry Capital of Australia. How did the Cherry Capital come by the name Young? In the same old way; it used to be called Lambing Flat but some social climber renamed it after Sir John Young who was the Governor of N.S.W. from 1861 to 1867. Now the town is stuck with a totally boring, uninspiring and unimaginative name.

As the old name, Lambing Flat, suggests, it was a nice, peaceful sheep farming area until gold was discovered nearby. Then, as always happened, the population exploded; twenty thousand miners flooded in and amongst them were two thousand Chinese. Anybody familiar with these pages will know what happened next. The Chinese were better organised and worked harder, thus recovered more gold than the 'European' miners. The Europeans resented this and, as the goldfield became worked out, tension rose between the nationalities and exploded into riots. Chinese miners were attacked, robbed and murdered. Eventually order was restored and the N.S.W. Government limited the number of Chinese entering the state. The Government also did what all governments do best; they imposed a tax on every Chinese immigrant to step off a boat.

From the moment we arrived in Young it rained. That was on a Sunday. By the Friday it had hardly stopped and the forecast was for worse to come with flood warnings abounding. Why not move? Everywhere else was the same. At least we're not parked on the banks of any river here - but is that good or bad? A river, on the one hand, is a drain which carries away excess water. On the other hand it can also carry down excess water from upstream catchments.

During the week we visited the nearby town of Cootamundra. As in Young, the Tourist Information Centre is housed in the railway station. Both stations' buildings, though old, are attractive. The major difference between them is that the single track running alongside the Young platform is rusty and weed-ridden, the bitumen of the platform broken and neglected since the line was permanently closed.

Cootamundra Station was quite the opposite. When we arrived there were several buses parked outside and the station interior was well lit and bustling with activity. The XPT passenger express from Melbourne to Sydney was running late and due to arrive at any moment. The station staff - mostly women - were friendly and informative. Soon we heard a distant whistle and the public address system announced the imminent arrival of the XPT. The announcement was actually made by one of the staff on the platform speaking into a gadget resembling a mobile phone. The barriers at a local level-crossing came down and the bright headlight of an approaching train appeared in the distance. The express slowed and engaged some points to clear the main line and move in alongside the platform. It was pulled by one large diesel loco at the front and pushed by another at the rear.

All the usual meeting and greeting took place, farewells were exchanged and the train attendants finally separated passengers from friends and relatives and firmly closed the carriage doors between them. Then, with a brief 'toot', the train began to move, slowly gathering speed. One by one the bright green signal lights up the line changed back to red as the XPT passed them.

A Disgraceful and Unacceptable Situation!

I stood for a while looking at the three tracks. The 'stopping line' next to the platform looked normal enough but the two fast tracks didn't look right. The sleepers, instead of resting on the usual stone ballast, were covered in mud. Somebody came up beside me and started talking about the state of the two main lines. He seemed knowledgeable.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation, he told me, had recently replaced all the old wooden sleepers with new concrete equivalents but completely botched the job. The ARTC had failed to pack new stone ballast under the new sleepers. When it rained, the water ran under the sleepers and soaked the ground below. Heavy trains running along the track pushed the sleepers up and down on the wet ground. As each wagon passed the sleeper sprang back until the next wagon rolled over it.

Did you ever pat wet sand on the beach and notice how the water comes to the surface? That is exactly what was happening under the sleepers and the sloppy mess underneath was being squeezed out by each passing wagon. The mud from below splattered out all over the sleepers, ballast and even adjacent rails. Some of the sleepers are actually off the ground altogether, supported by the steel railway line. As trains pass over these suspended sections they bounce up and down. Some trains have bounced so violently that couplings between carriages/wagons have separated and trains have broken apart. Others have had their braking systems damaged.

This is the busiest line in Australia. Surely what I'd just heard couldn't be true. Research led me to the link in heavy type below. I urge you to click on it and watch the eight minute video. You'll find that the situation is even worse than I describe it above. When the video finishes, click the left arrow in the top left corner of your screen to return here.

Can you believe what you've just watched? Do we live in Australia or some third world country? The Australian Rail Track Corporation responsible for this debacle is owned by the Federal Government. John Fullerton, the CEO of that organisation, seems criminally incompetent. Laying railway sleepers on stone ballast is not a new concept and advice has been forthcoming on the correct way to do it. Surely, as the head man of a track maintenance organisation, Fullerton should be a leading expert in his own right, yet he has made the problem infinitely worse. If he is still in the job, perhaps we should ask why? Is someone watching this guy's back? If it's true that rectifying the mess Fullerton has made could cost the taxpayers half a billion dollars, you have to ask what is going on? Why is there no outcry? What are the Transport Minister and Prime Minister doing? The last is a rhetorical question. We all know the answer.

We returned with the camera. The pictures below are both of the main Sydney/Melbourne express line where it runs through Cootamundra Station.

Good Track

This is what the track should look like, bedded firmly on stone ballast.

Bad Track

This is what the track, all too often, does look like, suspended in sloppy mud.

I watched two freight trains rumble through the station as the XPT (eXtremely Poor Track, perhaps?) from Sydney, that most prestigious of trains, was two and a half hours late due to flooded track, non-operational signals, speed limited sections and God knows what else. The flexing of the track in the video is no exaggeration!

Did we wait for the express? No way, after two and a half hours they might have announced another hour's delay. Or two.

That's my soapbox indulgence for February (even though today is March 1st). Boy, don't I get excited?

Oh, by the way, our Minister for Transport has just wasted twenty million dollars on a feasibility study - yes, another - into a high speed train (350 kilometres per hour!!!) from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney. If it came about (ha-ha), whatever would they do with the little man with the red flag that walks in front of the XPT?

More on Young

I have to admit to being a little disappointed with Young, the Cherry Capital of Australia. Doubtless this was in no small part due to the weather during our stay which was atrocious. Give Young its due, though. While so many N.S.W. towns were flooding with thousands being evacuated, Young remained unaffected. I wondered about this; the town was subjected to the same deluge but soaked up the water almost as fast as it fell. The little surface water in the caravan park soon soaked away.

So what is disappointing about Young? From a tourist viewpoint it lacks significant attractions. Doubtless the cherry blossom would be beautiful at the right time of the year but that aside, we only found the Chinese Tribute Gardens worthy of photographing.

The Chinese Tribute Gardens at Young

Chinese Lake

The gardens were developed in recognition of the contribution of the Chinese
community to the settlement of Young in particular and Australia as a nation.

The brochure on the Gardens urged us to visit the Bronze Galloping Horse Stepping on a Flying Swallow. We eventually found a pedestal with a plaque but the horse and swallow were gone. The Chinese Waterwheel feature in the middle of the lake was worth watching, the brochure said. So we stood and watched it, stationary and seemingly pointless. Why stand a waterwheel in still water? Was it supposed to rotate?


That waterwheel

The Chinese Gardens were very beautiful and peaceful. The lake is known as Chinaman's Dam. The creek was first dammed in the 1860s by two German brothers called Tiedemann to provided water to their diggings to sluice the gold.

Hey, I'm just telling the story, I have no idea why it wasn't called German's Dam. Perhaps because the German brothers sold the whole kit and caboodle to a Chinese group in the 1870s. In any case, all of them were pretty lackadaisical with their paperwork and the records show that the area has always been Crown Land.

Chinese Waterfall

Quite lovely. We could have stayed all day but you know what effect
running water has on us oldies. Potty training? I blame my mother.

A railway to Harden was opened in 1885 which ran past Chinaman's Dam. A 20,000 gallon water tank was constructed to replenish the steam locomotives' supplies. It was known as Young Tank. This was a pain in the backside for the train crews as there was no other reason to stop at the lake. In 1901 the Railway Commissioner had a similar tank built at Young Railway Station, fed from the same dam. After that the locos were topped up while all the usual station activities were being carried out.

Anyway, today that whole section of line is shut down.

Temora, New South Wales

We left Young on the next leg of our journey to Victoria, stopping for a week (well, that was the plan) in Temora. We've been to Temora twice before. There is a wonderful aircraft museum there. On both previous visits I took a multitude of photographs. At the end of our week in Temora there was another Showcase Day planned with lots of flying. Now this is where you struck lucky, dear Reader; when the flying started I discovered the battery in my Canon 60D was totally flat and I don't have a spare. The battery in Pam's Canon 350D is different so that was that.

There was further bad news; our next two destination towns, Narrandera and Hay, are both in great danger of flooding from the Murrumbidgee River. This water resulted from the heavy rainfall which drenched huge areas of Queensland and New South Wales some weeks ago when we first arrived in Young. The water is now on its way to join the Murray River and what the irrigators don't pump out will eventually drain into Lake Alexandrina in South Australia.

Narrandera and Hay are by no means the only towns in this situation, nor is N.S.W. the only state. Large areas of both Queensland and Victoria are still flooded.

Latest: The news at midday, Monday, 19th March 2012 is that the water height in Hay reached 8.99 metres (30 feet) at 7:00 A.M. So far the town levees are holding but the water is expected to remain at this level for two to three days. During that time the levee banks will become saturated and the danger of breaches will increase.

What to do, what to do?

Clearly these towns won't want tourists getting under their feet for a while. Our first task then, is to call the Hay Shire Mayor, Bill Sheaffe, and cancel the civic welcome and reception he will have planned for us. Well, I imagine he will have. It's a shame but there it is.

Next we have to modify our plans. We have already decided to stay on for another week in Temora. The influx for the Showcase Day has already dissipated and we are alone in the caravan park on the edge of the airfield. A lively wind is moaning discordantly around the caravan but the sky is blue with fluffy, white clouds and the sun is deceptively strong. Every so often a small aircraft takes off or lands but otherwise all was peaceful, until . . .

F86 Sabre

The F86 Sabre had been missing from the Temora Showcase Day being stranded at RAAF Williamstown with a dodgy elevator trim tab. Temora's Meteor F-8 took its place. I dedicate this photo to David Bell, who knows why.

The following Tuesday the Sabre had been repaired and flew home, giving us a grand display on arrival with several fast - and very low - passes right over us. Whoever was flying it threw in a hesitation roll for good measure. And who was there to see it? Just Pam and I. It's a shame the sun was behind it as it taxied in but there are some things you just can't fix.

Temora Air shows

Should there be anybody out there in the real world hoping to attend a repetition of the outstanding 2011 Warbirds Down Under Air Show, I've been told officially that the next one will be held in 2013. There will be no show in 2012.

The regular Showcase Days, normally held on the first and third Saturday in the month, will continue as usual - check the Temora Website for details.

Who likes a mystery?

On the afternoon that I had photographed the Sabre, my attention was caught by a woman standing just outside an open hangar door taking pictures of something inside. The light being poor in the hangar, and the intervening distance being a hundred metres, it was hard to see what she was photographing. However, with my much loved 60D to hand with a fully charged battery and 200mm lens, I tried a photo.

After a bit of persuasion with Paintshop Pro, the image came up thus:-

Cessna 182

The aircraft is a Cessna 182H used for sky diving purposes. A quick internet check revealed it was manufactured in 1965, owned by Adrenalin Ventures in Temora since January 2006, has a new engine, long range tanks and is for sale.

So much for the Cessna, but what about all those posters and pictures? They all seem to refer to a U.K. boy-band called One Direction. Back to the internet.

One Direction has just gone straight to number one in the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart with their album, Up All Night. This quote was posted by Alicia Rancilio, Associated Press, New York at 4:19pm on Mar 22, 2012: They sold more than 176,000 copies of the album in its first week of release to reach Number One. It makes them the first British act to debut at Number One with their first album.

Well, good for the lads. They first came together when they tried out individually for the U.K. edition of The X Factor in 2010. Judge and mentor, Simon Cowell, thought they would make an interesting combination instead. The group ended up in third place that season and Cowell signed them to his Syco music label, a division of Sony. (Simon Cowell is the force behind the success of Susan Boyle.)

So . . . back to a Cessna 182 in a hangar in a country town in Australia which is covered in One Direction posters which I photographed before the press release. What is the connection? One Direction would be an apt name for a parachute club, of course, but it has to be more than that. I could contact Adrenalin Ventures and ask the question but I'd probably be spoiling someone's surprise.

A Few Days Later: The mystery is solved. Greg, the owner of the Adrenalin Venture skydiving business, arrived on Saturday morning with a busy day ahead of him. He had the Cessna 182 out on the tarmac when I spoke to him. There wasn't a sign of a poster anywhere so I asked him what it was all about. At first he looked at me with puzzlement, probably wondering what this poor demented old man's problem was. Slowly things became clearer; Greg had known nothing about the decoration of the Cessna - it had all been done without his knowledge and removed before he saw it.

Greg has a teenage daughter called Emma. Emma is crazy about the band, One Direction. The band will be touring Australia and when concert tickets were put on sale, every last one was sold within minutes . . . but not one to Emma. There was a competition being run in the media or the on the internet for the best One Direction publicity stunt, first prize being a concert ticket. Emma aided, it is suspected, by her mother, Elaine, had dressed up the Cessna and opened the hangar door to photograph it before removing all its adornment. But they were not the only ones to photograph it, were they?


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