Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Journey on a Train

I had been thinking about doing this for a few weeks. Why you may ask? I had the time, I love train journeys and I thought it might be interesting. A train trip is a bit of a novelty for me nowdays.

I caught the 2.07 train from Flinders Street Station to Hurstbridge. I guessed that it would take about an hour to get there and I was not far wrong. I had heard something about the last bit of the line being single track. We at one time lived at the point where the Alamein line became a single track between Burwood and Ashburton. I learnt a bit about train signals there. Red does not necessarily mean stop. Red and green means go, red and orange means go at a slow speed and be prepared to stop. Only two reds mean stop. There was also some sort of automatic trip that would stop the train if it tried to pass the two reds. Anyway, this single track thing interested me a bit as well as knowing nothing about the area.

I was surprised to see that the terminus was within Zone 2 and not Zone 3. If you use travelling time as a guide, the whole system is quite unfair.

Naturally the train was late, but a station announcement did alert us. . Only five minutes but as you will hear later, this can have significant ramifications. I ought to have thought more about which carriage to travel in. Sadly I chose a busy one with some very loud posh private school girls. Bit disappointed that it was only a Comeng train, which I do like, but I thought I might of copped one of the newer German trains or even the French one that I have never ridden on. First station after the City Loop was Jolimont and from there express to Clifton Hill. We went marvellously fast over this section. Whoosh past all the people on the platforms in Richmond and Collingwood. At Clifton Hill, the Epping train, which stops at all the stations between the city and Clifton Hill, diverts. The Hurstbridge train was on it’s own now.

The houses and house blocks started to become larger. Conversely, the prices of said housing drops too. Ah, but wait, Ivanhoe and Eaglemont, large grand houses there. I can never understand why anyone with money would want to live there. The more modest suburbs, such as Montmorency passed by and things were starting to look quite rural. After Eltham I felt it was country and bush land. Near Eltham, the track curved and I could see the train was about to travel over a timber trestle bridge, I think. I better follow that one up. The further out we went, the slower the train seemed to be over what felt like rougher track. Bush, waterways, lots of trees along the winding railway track. Nice.

It does seem that there is any fat in the train running times as it arrived at Hurstbridge as late as it departed Flinders Street Station. There was a strange mix of tracks at the station, but only one platform.

The train was due to leave at 3.21, which gave me ten minutes to stretch my legs. I spied some nice shops, so I thought I could entertain myself until the following 4.01 was ready to depart.

Hurstbridge is a lovely little place. Sort of a mini Healsville. Lot’s of nice cafs and I chose to have coffee on a verandah (spell checker is telling this is a wrong spelling, but I don’t think it is) at the Post Office, come souvenir, come cafĂ©. Luscious looking cakes, but I resisted and just had coffee. The sun low in the sky warmed me but the verandah overhang shielded my eyes. After coffee, I took a walk along the main street and discovered there were even more shops along a bit. There was a very old gum tree where a plaque explained that a fire bell used to hang in a fork in the tree. Fire would be something very much on my mind if I lived there.

Ok, enough nature and fresh air. It makes me cough. I needed to inhale some train air-conditioned air and some traffic fumes. I need to get back to the city. Back to the station. I went to the end of the platform so that I could get on the hopefully quite first carriage and I did. The train arrived at the time it was supposed to depart, 4.01. I just have checked and it should have arrived at 3.53. Seems timekeeping is not quite right on this train line.

It was another Comeng train and the air con was quite noisy and the carriage suspension made a nasty grinding noise at times. I figured since I was close to the driver, it was safe as he wouldn’t put himself at risk. False assumption probably. I sat on the opposite side so that I could view the other side of the track. Travelling to Hurstbridge I saw cows and horses. Travelling back, I saw a rabbit, a pair of galahs and a gorgeous pair of parrots.

We arrived at Eltham and I saw that the time to depart was 3.21 and it was now 3.18. Well, there will be a wait and I was right. There were quite a number of people waiting for a train going in the other direction. I had sort of vaguely noticed when coming out that it was still single track after Eltham towards the city. We sat there and the outbound train arrived at about 3.25. I was sure we would then depart and only be a couple of minutes late. Nope, there seemed to be a change of drivers and I am guessing that the driver of the obviously late outbound train took over the controls of my train. We were now seven minutes late and did not make up any time at all. The trip inbound seemed slower. After the extremely spaced station in the outer area I was getting a bit annoyed at how close the inner stations are. It seemed that we had just left one and were stopping for another. Not even so fast between Clifton Hill and Jolimont. There was a brief wait at Flinders Street Station before pulling into the platform. Around eight minutes late and spot on time for the departure of the train for it’s next journey.

Now, I did not quite understand the single-track business. I thought it was only the last couple of stations. I have now checked and here is how it works.

The first single track, Clifton Hill to Westgarth astonished me. Why? Heidelberg to Rosanna then Greensborough to Hurstbridge. I just cannot see why anyone would build a railway line with a single track, long overland trains excepted. I can’t remember the details now, but dual track between Melbourne and Bendigo was replaced with a single track. In such cases, if one train is in trouble, it has a snowball effect. Ridiculous from my non knowledge of trains systems perspective.

From home to home, the outing was less than four hours and it was time well spent. I enjoyed it very much. I could have gone any day this week almost, but chose to wait for a not so cold sunny day. Good decision. When I told R about it, now he wants to do it, so I will have to repeat it. But looking at the street directory this evening, I have noticed that there is a lake in Hurstbridge and something marked as a ‘lone pine’. Might be interesting.

I must be getting terribly choosy too. I did not see one guy for the four hours that I thought was hot.


  1. Was the comeng an Alstom refurb or a EDI refurb (yellow ends)? I think the EDI's are a lot better than the Alstom stock.

    Also, it seems that Siemens are beginning to sort out the suspension on their trains. The few carriages i've been on in the past few weeks are alot less 'bouncy'.

  2. First point, no idea. I am a hopeless train spotter. At a guess, I would say the lesser quality refurbish.

    I have travelled on maybe three Siemens trains and apart from learning later that they only have two doors per carriage, I though that they were wonderfully smooth and quiet. I was impressed. Pity they can't do the same for their trams.

  3. Not one hot guy? You needed me with you as a blokespotter while you spotted trains.

  4. I is not a train spotter of any type. I guess when I take R with me next time, we will blokespot together. As I said, I am terribly choosy now.

  5. In defence of the north eastern suburbs , it's just a great location. I think it's the forgotten part of Melbourne. Somewhere like Ivanhoe for example, is close to Kew and Camberwell Schools, and it takes only about 15-20 minutes to get to the city by car or train.

    The area I live (Greensborough) is good in that you go 10 minutes in one direction you're in rural open space, but go 20 minutes the other way and you're in downtown Fitzroy/Carlton.

    Oh and it takes about 15 minutes to drive to the airport at 100km/h the whole way with no tolls.

    Myself I just don't get why people live in the middle-eastern and southern suburbs, they are just so damn monotonous. To me it just doesn't feel like Melbourne.

  6. I suppose we all like the areas we are familiar with.


Democracy is all very well, but why give it to the people? - Audrey Forbes-Hamilton.