We left 'Punkah six days before Christmas and eight days before the rampaging hordes from Melbourne descended on the Porepunkah Pines Holiday Park to shatter the peace and tranquility with kids, bikes, dogs, smoky camp fires and noise. Not, I assure you, that we have anything against kids. Just as long as we don't have to hear them or see them. I suppose you could argue that kids are necessary but why aren't they quiet and considerate like we used to be?
I ought to mention that the whole park was booked from Christmas on so we had no choice but to leave. Anyway, we drove 310 kilometres northish to peaceful, tranquil (and totally boring) Temora where it was hot. During the first few days the temperature reached 40°. We had our air conditioner struggling all day but it just doesn't handle 40°. The wind can - and does - change from dead calm to a howling gale in a couple of hours. This is particularly annoying at two in the morning when you're in a deep sleep and are rudely awakened by the awning flapping violently and rocking the caravan. You really have no choice but to dress and go out and roll it up, trying to time the vulnerable parts of this operation between the stronger gusts. We saw what can happen if you don't secure it quickly while in Port Campbell and it wasn't pretty; there's enormous power in the wind when it gets under a large area of vinyl. As I crawled back to bed a sleepy voice asked, Did you need a hand? You should have called me.
Christmas Day and Boxing Day were cooler. We didn't do much except the requisite over-eating and excessive drinking. The following days saw us getting bored with hanging around the caravan. The adjacent airfield was quiet except for a dozen or so gliders but while gliding is a lot of fun, it is definitely not a spectator sport.
The Tour Director - Pam - decided we should go to the local Tourist Information Centre and see what there was to see that we hadn't already seen. The poor lady attendant had quite a struggle. She walked along racks of brochures and as she pointed to a brochure describing a town Pam would say, Been there, to almost every one. And we had! Eventually she loaded us up with brochures describing little towns that we hadn't seen.
The following day Pam sorted out a rectangular route that would take in seven of them so off we went. Sixty kilometres to the south we found Marrar. Marrar was deserted though the sight of parked cars betrayed the presence of life somewhere. It was similar to small wheat towns all round Australia; wheat paddocks stretching to the horizon in every direction and a single line railway passing through. A giant wheat silo stood beside the tracks just beyond the town's boundary. The town itself looked run down with a plethora of empty buildings and, of course, a pub. There were however, one or two things that I found different and interesting. For example in Marrar . . .
Instead of chopping down this beautiful tree in Marrar because it would interfere with the power lines, it had been cleverly shaped like cupped hands around the cables as if to protect them.
Also in Marrar we came across Saint Patrick's Catholic Church. This rather attractive little country church had a new roof and evidence of other recent renovation work. The ground around the church will give an idea of how parched everything was.
From Marrar we drove west, following the railway line through four more small towns, all of them surrounded by wheat fields and with large silos adjacent to the railway. The next town on our list was Coolamon where we were looking forward to visiting . . .
The Cash Railway System, the world's only known ball-style Cash railway system that is still in working condition, in its original location.
I have to admit to being intrigued by this description and looked forward to learning more and bringing you photographs. To see this unique device we had to locate The Up-to-date Store . . .
Right at the top of the building is the date 1909. I'd guess that was the last time the description Up-To-Date truthfully described this store. The interior didn't appear to have changed since.
Now, as for the world's only known ball-style Cash railway system, I can tell you little more, for this tourist hot-spot in the middle of the annual holiday period was closed and deserted despite the brochure's promise that it was open Tuesday to Sunday. All we gleaned is what we saw in the windows and could see through the windows . . . which did not include this world-unique 'thing'.
From what I could gather, and don't quote me on this, the Cash Railway System is simply a device to carry money from the shop counter to the cashier and bring back the change. It was suspended from an overhead rail and powered by a heavy descending ball in the manner that a grandfather clock was powered by a descending weight. I though maybe Cash (as the word is always capitalised) referred to the inventor but I suspect it just means 'money'.
The glossy brochure is spellbinding and its description of Coolamon makes one wonder why people bother going to ordinary places like Paris or Rome. But I suppose that's the nature of advertising. Despite all the above, Coolamon was the pick of all the towns we visited which might give a clue as to the interest we found in the others.
How's Your Maths?
From Temora we visited Yass, north of Canberra. On the way we came across the grave of bushranger John Gilbert. This bloke was involved in 630 hold-ups and he murdered a police sergeant, yet we visit his grave. Someone even left flowers, albeit plastic roses.
John Gilbert's grave. Note the dates. Gilbert died aged either 22 or 23 depending on his full birth date, right?
By the look of the heavy rocks stacked on the grave they expected he might rise again. It has been known.
The author of this sign, Edgar Penzig, was an actor, author and leading bushranger historian. What he wasn't was a mathematician. If Gilbert was born in 1842 he didn't live to 25. Edgar Penzig himself died in 2010 at the age of 80. From the text on the sign Johnny Gilbert sounds a likeable young fellow, doesn't he? Shame about his little character flaw of robbing and murdering people.
My first attempt at video on this site.
No, it isn't exactly a work of art and it won't stay here; I just wanted to see if I could do it. 'Video' is a new tag added to HTML5 and is already supported by most current browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox). If you are using one of these browsers and cannot see the video below, chances are your browser version has been superceded; perhaps consider downloading a free update. If you are using Opera, it doesn't support the 'video' tag yet so you'll just see a blank space below.
The Wondershare™ watermark denotes that I am using a free trial version of the MP4 converter software. The only sound is that of the wind.
The video shows an aircraft mechanic working on the starboard engine of a Beechcraft D95A Travel Air built in 1966. This design first flew in 1956 so it's fairly ancient but if given a more streamlined tail fin it would still look quite modern. The design incorporated a lot of components from other Beechcraft aeroplanes of the time and the undercarriage came from a Beechcraft Mentor which had been built to withstand carrier landings. A tough little bird.
Goodbye Temora, Hello Yass.
We had alternated between next visiting Hay to our west or Yass to our east. We were somewhat deterred from visiting Yass by unfavourable reports on the condition of their caravan parks, however on our recent short visit to Yass we looked at one of the parks and decided we'd stayed in worse. It would be adequate as a base from which we could explore the region. Then Pam, in her role of Tour Director (in which she excels), discovered another park just seventeen kilometres from Yass on the banks of Lake Burrinjuck which showed promise. After a phone call to the manager it was all arranged - we would go to Yass.
The Good Hope Resort near Yass was ... well, more Hope than Good. The scenery would have been spectacular had its rolling hills been green and Lake Burrinjuck full but due to low rainfall the countryside was brown and tinder dry, the water in the lake very low.
Low water in Lake Burrinjuck. The high water mark on the rocks opposite indicate how low it is. Normally the sand in the foreground (and much of me) would be underwater.
We were usually the only touring caravan in this very large, rambling park. There were many chalets and 'permanent' caravans; old 'vans that would travel no more. Each had an annex constructed of whatever material the owner considered suitable. The end result gave the appearance of a shanty town. Each morning gleaming speed boats passed our caravan on their trailers, en route to the lake where they roared across the water, some towing water skiers.
A small section of the park was reserved for tourist caravans; it hade been terraced out of a hillside. The terracing gave four levels where one could park a 'van ... in theory. The first level above the road had a few water taps and power outlets scattered about. We had been allocated 'Site 1' but since none of the sites on the first level were numbered that didn't mean a lot. I spent some time wandering around trying to work out where to park. We had a free choice as there were no other caravans there but that choice was limited because only the first level had power outlets provided. The sun was blazing hot and the only shade tree without low branches was on the second level. That site had a handy water tap and a power outlet on the terrace below within reach of our cable.
Now, with our site selected, was it going to be possible to access it? Picture yourself standing at the end of the second terrace. Before you the terrace stretches away with a one metre rise along its right side and a drop on its left.
Our caravan on the second of four terraces at Good Hope Resort.
There was only one way to reverse onto the site due to low tree branches and even that would entail some very sharp manouevring due to the narrowness of the terrace. On the third attempt we got it right but the front of the car was half way up the slope to the next terrace and the car and caravan were sharply jacknifed. Then Pam asked if we could extend the awning. I showed her that the side of the 'van was already shaded by the tree whose trunk would obstruct the deployment of the awning. But no, she wanted the awning out. Decision time ... move the caravan again, chop down the large tree or strangle the Tour Director? One of those options I was able to eliminate out of hand; the tree was too big.
Yes, you guessed, we moved the caravan a foot or two forward (though we never extended the awning. Ho-hum). Now our 'A frame' at the front of the 'van was halfway across the terrace. Not only that but detaching the car was an unholy nightmare. Only those who have removed weight distribution bars with the vehicles cranked at 90° will understand and I'm not up to trying to explain the problem to others. But we managed, shifted the car out of the way, connected the power and water, placed the stabiliser stands and all the other little jobs that have to be done on arrival. The sun was merciless and by the time I staggered inside to join Pam in the airconditioning I was done for. What will I be like in another ten years? After cooling down it was time to raise the TV antenna and see what we could receive. I would have bet we wouldn't have been able to receive a signal out in the sticks with hills all around, but lo, we received more channels and a stronger signal than in Temora! And the Internet connection was also much better than in Temora. Poor Temora, it deserves better. If a Government Minister moved to Temora things would change quick smart!
Anyway, we weren't too happy with the Good Hope Resort. The 'amenities' left much to be desired. Each shower stall had one single hook, no bench or chair, no soap dish and if the water had been any harder it would have cracked the tiles. Up in the corner of the ceiling a hornet had built a large mud nest. The next time the toilet was painted the hornet's nest was left there and painted over. I found the gap under the W.C. doors rather large. I don't mind the odd dingo wandering in but I draw the line at goats! Not that there were any dingoes or goats, you understand, though the place swarmed with rabbits; I can't imagine what they ate, the place was a dust bowl. And Superb Fairywrens, the males in their mating plumage, were abundant and quite tame.
To be balanced, the wash basin area of the toilet block was clean with everything supplied. In fact, the whole place was nicely tiled and it would take very little to bring it up to scratch.
A Superb Fairywren (or Bluewren), one of many small birds outside our caravan.
On the second day we ventured forth to have a look at the town of Goulburn (the first syllable pronounced Goal not Ghoul), stopping at a little place called Gunning on the way. The Tour Director wanted to visit the Gunning Cemetery where John Hume, the brother of famous explorer Hamilton Hume, is interred.
A view of the dry countryside around Gunning and an interesting plaque commemorating one Susannah Watson.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet I was able to find out a little about Susannah Watson who was convicted at the Nottingham Town Quarter Sessions and sentenced to 14 years. She was transported to Sydney on the Princess Royal, one of a cargo of 100 women.
Author Babette Smith is a descendant of Susannah's and, after researching her story, wrote the book, A Cargo of Women - Susannah Watson and the Convicts of the Princess Royal. The book is available from the ABC Shop for $35.
Quoting Kay Daniels, Australian Historical Studies: Piece by piece Babette Smith reveals the story of her ancestor, the indomitable Susannah Watson, who trapped in the crowded filthy slums of Nottingham, stole because she could not bear to see her children starving. Separated forever from her husband and four children, she was transported to Australia for 14 years. She endured the convict system at its worst, yet emerged triumphant to die in her bed aged 83 singing Rock of Ages.
We found John Hume's grave. John's history is interesting too. I think Pam will touch on it in her journal.
The Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre
Leaving Gunning we continued on to Goulburn along the Hume Highway, a magnificent
stretch of dual carriageway where our Pajero was able to blow away some cobwebs
at the maximum permissible speed of 110 kph. Arriving at our destination we
split up, Pam touring the heritage Garroorigang House while I toured the nearby
Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre. There I found that, not only were there raised
platforms alongside the exhibits so you could access the locomotive footplates,
but well-lit pits below the engines which the guide took us through, explaining
how everything worked and answering questions.
'Us', in this case, consisted of young couple with two small children and a baby . . . and me. The baby was
left in its stroller to scream when we went under the locos and one of the
children, a boy, insisted on climbing into and onto everything in sight. As
we descended into the first pit he asked the guide if there were any dead
bodies down there. Fortunately the guide's reply drowned my muttered, It
can be arranged comment.
The Rail Centre included some 'live' areas where trains were moving. Recently a grain train had become derailed while being shunted across the Centre's turntable. The derailed wagons remained upright until they moved onto the turntable where one tippled over into the pit below, resulting in some serious damage.
Forty two tracks radiate out from this turntable, in addition to the through line.
You may have noticed the number forty two written on a brown door in the picture. Behind that door is a huge diesel electric loco which had been brought in for a brake reline. Before it could leave it was trapped by the demise of the turntable, as indeed were several items of rolling stock, some shown in the picture. The loco in question, though privately owned, was employed in hauling freight trains and its owner was losing a large amount of money. He was suing the Rail Centre who were suing the insurance company responsible for repairing the damage. Work had clearly not commenced during my visit.
This picture was taken from the cab of a shunting engine which was being repainted. As you see, until the turntable is repaired it isn't going anywhere, nor are any of the locos and rolling stock in the sheds beyond.
This is a Mail Sorting Car. Post Office staff sorted the mail as the train was travelling, dropping bags off at towns through which the train passed.
the Goulburn Waterworks Historical Museum
Leaving the excellent Rail Heritage Centre I returned - an hour late - to pick Pam up from Garroorigang House. She was sitting outside in the shade of a tree. The expected admonishment, although richly deserved, never came. Am I lucky or what?
We went on to visit the Goulburn Waterworks Historical Museum on the banks of the picturesque Wollondilly River. There I struck gold; Cliff Giles is the curator of this beautiful museum and Cliff was the caretaker of Tamworth Power Station Museum when I worked there as a volunteer guide. We knew each other! Whether that influenced Cliff to give us an extra special tour I can't say, but we were certainly well cared for.
The Goulburn Waterworks beam engine (shown right) produces 120 horse power. It has Woolf compound cylinders and a jet condenser. The fly wheel is 5 metres in diameter and at 18 r.p.m. the pumps delivered 130,000 litres of water per hour. The beam is painted black with a red trim line.
Copyright Highlife Magazine, Photo by Tony Sheffield
Pam has no interest in what she describes as oily, smelly things but she was happy for me to talk 'engines' with Cliff and climb up and down ladders to see all that was to be seen. Similar to the Tamworth steam engines, these engines are fired up about six times a year and I'm hoping we'll still be around the next time they are run. Why would we be? Read on.
Goulburn Memorial Lookout
Nothing fancy but strategically positioned high on a hill overlooking Australia's first inland city and visible over a wide area, the Memorial Lookout.
We were unsure whether the tower would be open but, as the photo shows, the door was ajar and I was free to climb to the balcony level. Unfortunately the four glass access doors to the balconies were locked so I took some pictures through the glass.
One view from the lookout showed a railway crossing a viaduct over the Mulwaree River and its flood plain.
It's only a guess but I'd say trains going left would be Canberra-bound and trains going right would be for Sydney.
Time flies when you're having fun and before we knew it, it was time to head back to Yass with the day's itinerary still not completed. Before we left, however, we visited Goulburn's two caravan parks. Our earlier research had put us off both but then we heard that one was under new management. It was, and we were so impressed that we booked in from the following Sunday. The new proprietors were such lovely people and had worked so hard to turn the business around that we were delighted to bring them more business ... and to leave the dust bowl we're presently in.
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