Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nearly the end of the line

In the mid-1990s I was studying at the University of New England at Armidale.  As this was distance education, I had the joys of attending this rather delightful town when it was at its best - that is, when all the 'real' students were on holidays.

These were pre-family days and Countrylink had just introduced its Xplorers, so it was almost mandatory that I force myself to endure very pleasant rail trips to and from the campus.  Sadly, during most of these trips I was almost totally pre-occupied with trying to catch-up the lessons I had neglected thus far. 

Still, when one arrived at Armidale the certain bucolic charm of the city reduced the stress levels to such a degree that I spent most of my time in lectures, very fast asleep.  Or so my fellow students would often allege. How would I know, as I was always asleep?

Anyway, at the end of a hard day at the books I always seemed to find a bit of time to wander over to the railway yard.  In the first week of July 1994 I even scored an afternoon off, which resulted in the following foray - which could well have been my last.  

Approaching the railway yard from the south you can tell from the following photograph that I was exercising appropriate safe practices. No, there was no hi-vis vest...

Once in the yard I would often just wander around, marvelling at the beauty of the station building.

I always slightly preferred the northern end of the building, as it had a lovely little art deco extension for the signal box.  Well, sort of art deco....

Even the non-railway side of the station had its charms, with a fairly extensive collection of per-way equipment, including trikes.

Even away from the station, there was fun to be had in the railway yard.  One could play on the stock races, in amongst the red-bellied black snakes....

Or choose to take the very dilapidated turntable for a spin - of course, being a respectable uni student I never did, but I heard stories of this happening...

Even the Shell fuel siding caught my attention.  For those who model the NSW railways, surely there is no simpler weekend modelling proposition than the Armidale fuel siding? Especially if you decide that your gravity-fed fuel tanks are 'off layout'?

Because i had an entire afternoon off to study for an exam the following day, I decided to go for a wander south.  Armidale itself is nearly 579 rail kilometres from Sydney.  Rail kilometres are of course the same as ordinary kilometres, its just you need more of them to get anywhere because every rail line in NSW was built to a swirly, squiggly design.

Anyway, I went for quite wander, as I made it three kilometres south of the station whereupon  I sat down to remove the ballast from my boots and to take this photograph.

Yes, as you can see I was still observing world's best practice in relation to occupational health and safety laws - walk down the centre of the track to avoid all snakes.

As I was returning to town I was berating the transport policy failings of successive NSW administrations which would permit a viable transport mode to by so under-utilised that it would only serve a single passenger service daily - uni students berate themselves about this stuff all the time. 

Anyway, some public servant in the then-still-public Railcorp decided to teach uni students a lesson about this transport mode, the wisdom of walking along railway tracks without paying attention and the NSW fertiliser industry by sending the very irregular fertiliser special from the real end of the line at Dumaresq (look it up, its just north of Armidale) in my general direction.  Don't believe me, here's proof....

Luckily I was paying enough attention to get out of the way as these little beasties were stopping until they got to Werris Creek, from the determination shown by the crew in trying to run me down on my own railway line.

Amazed, I reeled off another photograph as they sailed past at 18 miles per hour....

So there you have it.  8 July 1994... the day that a fertiliser train from the end of the line nearly made it the end of the line for this blogger. The ignominy of being collected by 48137, 48160 and nine tatty 'blacks' is too much to consider. I just had to graduate as fast as I could and leave town, which I did.

As I left, I did manage to snap one last shot... its the way I like to remember Armidale, with nothing happening...

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