Thursday, October 16, 2008

And never the twain shall meet

Sometimes I astonish myself with my cleverness. What a marvellous piece of word play in this diary subject heading. What? You are not astonished at my cleverness? Ah, you take me for granted then.

I read Huckleberry Finn when I was a kid. Great book, I suppose. I can't recall it that well. I do recall an illustration in it of two naked men covered in tar and feathers. That's a worry.

Reasonably recently I learnt that the author, Mark Twain, visited Australia and travelled extensively by train.

He had a fairly low opinion of Newcastle, that is Newcastle Upon Hunter and not the one Upon Tyne in the UK. He wrote, quite wittily I thought, in his description of Newcastle as it having, 'one long street, a graveyard at one end and, at the other, a gentleman’s club with no gentlemen in it.'

But it is easy to pick on country hicks. Better to take on the authorities with witty words, and he did.

We had an absurd situation of different railway gauges between the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales that lasted until the early nineteen sixties I think. If you wanted to travel from Melbourne to Sydney, you and your luggage had to change trains at the border town of Albury because of the different width of the railway tracks. Absurdities such as this still exist between states, although there are many less of them now.

I think it was the middle of a cold night when Mark Twain had to change trains at Albury and he was not impressed.


Now comes a singular thing, the oddest thing, the strangest thing, the unaccountable marvel that Australia can show, namely the break of gauge at Albury-Wodonga. Think of the paralysis of intellect that gave that idea birth.


  1. Mr Twain took a train,
    Which change of gauge, gave him rage ... and it was on this day
    17th October that he spoke at Horsham Victoria.

  2. He was quite fond of Oz, apparently.
    And admired Henry Lawson greatly, too.

  3. 'But a bit later, not an age,
    His temper did somewhat wain.' Ah,not right....have to go to work.

    Anyone who liked Henry, Jayne, I would happily have as a mate of mine.

  4. I quite like Twain's quote about the town of Maryborough in Victoria. It goes something along the lines of "it's a railway station with a town attached", referring to the sheer size and seeming importance of the railway station.

  5. There would be a few railway stations like that Ben. It shows how importantly railways stations were thought of and hopefully will be again.