Monday, May 25, 2009

The So Cross Puzzle Solved

Good name for a railway station. Thanks Ann.

Of course I could have just asked the blog world, or even asked at the station, but that is just too easy. I wanted to find the platform at Southern Cross Station where the train to Sydney leaves and departs, only because I was annoyed that it was not obvious to me when I looked.

I surveyed the station from the Bourke Street walkway. I established it was not a platform on the western side of the station where the metropolitan platforms are located.

But none of the country platforms seemed to fit the bill. I read every indicator on each platform nothing.

I took a break to think and bought a sandwich. I watched a couple of country trains arrive and depart as I et. A lad walked past smoking. I don't think that is allowed but gosh I would laughed if someone challenged him. Naughty lad smoking amid the thick diesel fumes from the idling trains.

I was at ground level where the country trains arrive and depart. I checked the platforms. What? They start at Platform 2? Where is 1? Ah, an arrow pointing to Platform 1. I walked along Platform 2 in the direction of the arrow and there was a strange looking train sitting at Platform 1, which may well have been the Sydney train. I looked down at the tracks and the puzzle was solved. It was a double gauge track as you can see in the photo.

The mess that started in the 1800s when railways were first built in Australia continues to have a strong effect.

While New South Wales built standard gauge lines, 4'8 1/2" or 1435mm, Victoria went for Irish broad gauge lines, 5'3" or 1600mm. Our suburban and our country trains are broad gauge so for many years to travel by train to Sydney required a change of trains at Albury. I believe it was in the early 1960s that dual gauge tracks were laid from Melbourne to Albury and a change of trains in the middle of night at Albury was no longer necessary for travellers.

As in many areas, NSW prevailed and interstate train lines are all standard gauge.

Just as an aside, and to indicate what a mess it all is, NSW standard gauge, Victoria broad gauge, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, Narrow Cape gauge with South Australia opting for both Cape gauge and Broad gauge. (yes, I realise there is an issue with capital letters. I'll let you log in and fix it all if it really troubles you)

You might not be surprised to hear that Australia has the most operating different gauges in the world. I have heard a figure of 24, which would include trains such as Puffing Billy and cane trains and other very minor lines. One line was even triple gauge for a time.

Now to get back on track, pun fully intended, the Sydney train leaves from Platform 1 at So Cross Station and it seems so does the Bacchus Marsh train, trains with different width gaps between their wheels, accommodated by dual gauge.

I spied a chemist at So Cross Station and I needed something a product that chemists sell at usurious prices and as I headed towards the chemist, I saw a V Line ticket office. I went in and asked which platform the Sydney train leaves from and the lass told me that it normally left from Platform 1, so that confirmed my investigation. Then I became more puzzled because the way she said it, indicated that it could leave from another platform. Nah, I just ain't gonna bother.

Which reminds me of something I mentioned to R the other day (I am just so not going to stop writing am I). For my whole life the word pharmacist and pharmacy has been around in the written form, but I have never heard anyone say that they are going to the pharmacy or to see the pharmacist. We only ever say chemist. Correct me if you will.

From So Cross Station I went down Spencer Street and noted that there is so much cheap accommodation along the street. I can't recall the name of the hotel, the one within the old railway administration building that is now apartments and a hotel, but I stopped to direct some Asian tourists who were trying to get into an entrance to the hotel that was clearly for only for guests who had already checked in. The main entrance is on the southern side of the building.

It wasn't too hard to find the new Police Museum. The old one was very small and very cramped. It is now an excellent Museum and I highly recommend it. I found the audio recordings especially interesting, police radio recordings of the Russell Street bombing and the Canberra bush fires of a few years ago.

The dual gauge at Platform 1.

Just a general shot of Southern Cross Station.


  1. Great post Andrew, LOL at the not gunna stop talking bit..well, I have been the same in the past..even in comments, in fact, in your comments on your blog I can go on and on...and well, I may not stop even now!
    Good investigating there re the tracks I must say.
    I may be the onbly person in the World then...that says I am going to the pharmacy...or to speak to the pharmacist... and I do. I call the people who mix potions and lotions in a factory a chemist..and that is what my Dad did when I was little (I may have spoken of it before, so I shall not bore you).
    :)..skipping of now.

  2. Glad you found it. The train in the pic of platform 1 looks to be a regular V/Line train, not the XPT.

    As to what the girl at the ticket window was alluding to, have a close look at the tracks in your second photo.

    Now I dare you to find where cars are loaded onto the Adelaide train...

  3. I've found that the gauge doesn't matter in Blighty...not of the trains run for more than five minutes without breaking down anyway.

  4. I never mind people who write too much Cazzie. I usually find it interesting and I am good at skim reading. Given your job Cazzie, there could be an exclusive group within your type of workplace who use the word pharmacy. In fact I will correct myself. I have been directed to the pharmacy in a hospital.

    I don't think the train at platform 1 was a V Line train Ben. I think I know V Line trains in their various guises. Three isn't there? This one was very different, although there was a similar looking one parked elsewhere, and perhaps I saw one passing through the station. Maybe you are right. Probably the Bacchus Marsh train. Ok, Adelaide train is broad gauge too so it would use the same platform, the cars are loaded somewhere north of the station near the bus area and the train then pulls in to pick up passengers.

  5. With a little pride Brain, not in my experience. It was a very good trip from Kings Cross to Newcastle, marred only by a too chatty woman who's life story we did not want to overhear. Easy, comfortable, fast, punctual and cheap. I will judge UK regional trains on a single experience.

  6. Standard gauge trains can also leave from platform two.

    If you look in the photo you have labelled "Just a general shot of Southern Cross Station", on the left hand side there is a V/Line Loco haulded train on standard gauge tracks.

    The track to the right of this is also standard gauge, designed to allow the loco to run around the train.

    It is used for things like football specials from Adelaide that are too long to fit into platform one.

    I think that this is the platform that the Standard Gauge trains will leave for Seymour and Albury. This line is currently being gauge converted to standard gauge, along with 3 Vline loco's and 15 carriages.

  7. Ugh.

    My bad. The track on platform two (and the run around) is dual gauge.

    Andrew, trains from Adelaide, operated via Great Southern, are all standard gauge. They usually are pulled by the PN class, an all standard gauge engine.

    Finally, the indian pacific has also been known to, on the odd occasion (Once again, a football related thing, I think) to travel via Melbourne. It too uses platform two due to its length.

  8. Andrew,

    Every time without fail that I catch a train in Britain it breaks down...usually several times. It is possible, I suppose, that I have a hitherto unrecognised electro-magnetic superpower and it's only a matter of time before that bald Yorkshire bloke out of Star Trek gets in touch with me.

    On the other hand, I could just be extremely unlucky.

  9. The hotel is called The Grand (trivial note - it was originally built as an hotel before it became Vic Rail Admin Offices).
    Last time I went looking for the Police Museum I couldn't find it (think it was in the middle of moving plus poor signage) so I shall drag FB off to have a gander ;)

  10. Ok, thanks for that Msilsby. My train observational skills are clearly lacking. One thing for sure, the more I learn, the messier the whole train gauge business seems to be.

    They just see you coming Brian.

  11. Of course yes Jayne, The Grand. I didn't know it was a hotel before, or more likely I did and have forgotten. Museum is fairly well signposted now. Easiest is to just walk through the Convention Centre car park entrances from Spencer Street.

  12. Im not so knowledgable as u r on Trains Andrew...I only travel by them :):)


  13. Love Southern Cross architecturally/engineeringly, (and will be off to Ballarat from there weekend after next - again) but it's SO 'k'n' noisy.

    Impossible to make any sense of any of the announcements.

  14. I'm positive it's not the XPT. The problem is that V/Line is currently in the middle of refurbishing and repainting all of their carriages. So some of the carriages are in the old colours of red, white and blue, while some are grey and red. The carriages in your photo are grey. All up they have 2 different sorts of carriages and 2 different railcars (railmotors in old Victorian Railways speak).

    And msilsby is right, platform 2 is also dual gauge. This is why the girl in the ticket office said that the train to Sydney usually left from platform 1, as sometimes it may use platform 2 for whatever reason it can't use 1. From what I've seen the overland to Adelaide usually uses platform 2.

  15. Blue and yellow were the colours of the train at Platform 1 I think Ben. Not in the photo. Yep, I can see in my own photo that Platform 2 is dual gauge. I couldn't see it at the time. I am hopeless.

  16. Ballarat LS? Ah yeah, family. I don't mind So Cross Station, except for the fumes.