Doing something special for your 50th birthday seems a good idea (can’t immediately recall what I may have done; too long ago?) & sometimes people go to a lot of trouble!
“Mr Fotoz” is a family member, pro photographer, video producer & seemingly a “life-long train nutter”? An invitation for the family to join him on a steam train trip to the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, wasn’t entirely a surprise & was sure to be memorable. What was unexpected however, was that it turned out to be “his train” & he was arranging the lot! ie booking the engine, heritage carriages, crew, approvals to run the steam train on the main lines, planning & marketing the event & selling tickets to fill the train! (apologies to any mates or enthusiasts if that’s over-simplified things but every time I hear or think any more about it, my head hurts)
So, early one recent Saturday morning we set out for Westmead station, one of the intermediate stops along the route from Picton to Lithgow. There we waited with our picnic baskets, wine, cameras, etc & “almost on time” the Fotoz Flyer came steaming into the station – with Mr Fotoz in the driver’s seat!?
Settling back for our adventure, along with 100+ enthusiastic passengers, the 5917 engine hauled us up into the mountains putting on a sight & sound display that was amazing to experience. All along the way spectators were out beside the route or even following in cars. Inside the train we wined & dined on our goodies & plenty of supplied nibblies. The experienced hands donned safety goggles for observing our journey via the open windows (the amount of coal grit on the tables was enough to dissuade me from sticking my head outside) & we all marveled at the sounds of a steam train working very hard (both up the hills & on the flat).
There was an extra section of the journey after Lithgow, off the main line, when we travelled on to Wallerawang so that the engine could be turned around for our journey home (where we sat & waited in our carriages while the engine chuffed off & later appeared via a cunning “triangular loop”, ready to take its place at the other end of the train – such are the difficulties of arranging steam travel on modernised infrastructure?)
Our journey back to Westmead to depart the train was pretty well on time, perhaps with not quite the same excitement as when traveling up into the mountains? Overall, we had about 12 hours of fun – & really appreciate the efforts of the organisers who would have spent 15+ hours for Saturday, as well as the involvement of getting the train to the Thirlmere start point on Friday, as well as returning to Eveleigh on Sunday (& everything it took to even get the approvals?!)
Finally, the downside of the adventure for the participants was the inability to get the full spectator experience. We’ll have to be content with the excellent video work from Bevan Wall on YouTube –
BTW, regular viewers may be detecting the likelihood of a backlog of posts? I now admit defeat to the notion of keeping my blog posts in chronological order (hey, a new interpretation for doing things “sooner than later”?