21 September 2008

The Carnival of Flowers. Part 1. The Train Journey

I think I'm going to have to do this in three parts...the train trip, the parade and the gardens. So bear with me..

I was up at 5.00 am yesterday morning and after showering, feeding the cats, having some breakfast and making a flask of coffee (much needed), I picked up the train at Corinda. That meant I didn't have to drive all the way into the city to Roma Street. I still had to leave home by 6.15 as the train was due at Corinda at 7.00 and I'd rather be early than miss it. I had about 10 minutes to spare once I got to Corinda so poured my first cup of coffee. It was an overcast and slightly foggy morning but the temperature was predicted to be 30 degrees and it certainly wasn't cold at the station.

There were a number of others waiting and soon enough we heard the whistle in the distance, then the tell-tale chugging and a light appeared around the bend...it was the steam train. I felt quite excited because steam trains evoked memories of travelling on them when I was a child, .

The train pulls into Corinda Station.

This steam locomotive, the BB181/4 class, represents the most successful of the express passenger train locomotives constructed for Queensland's Railways. The locos belong to the "Pacific" type with their wheel arrangement of a leading four wheel pony truck, six large diameter driving wheels and a two wheeled trailing truck. The tender rides on two bogies, each with four wheels. From the printed hand out of the Australian Railway Historical Society - Queensland Division.

We were in Car C, which was the first carriage in about eight. I found Helen and Julie, sat down and had a look around. The old wooden carriage had wide seats, seating four, with the aisle down one side as opposed to being in the middle with seats either side. I was entranced with the lights, although realised that the shades were not the originals. Still they did look pretty when switched on. All the carriages were different, some with compartments, some with tables, there was a dining car and a car with a souvenir counter and we mustn't forget the bar!

Our carriage.

One of the light shades. It was pretty hard to get this centred with the swaying of the carriage...I had about three shots before I got this one.

Pretty when switched on.

We started off, rather slowly as the engine strained to pull us along, but quite soon we were going at a reasonable pace. We were impressed with leg room and the comfort of our old wooden carriage...unlike the modern commuter trains! We opened the windows and waved to people who had come to see this old girl chugging along. It only happens once a year during the Carnival of Flowers. Parents brought their kids down to vantage points, train enthusiasts had set up cameras on tripods, some cars followed the train all the way to Toowoomba and back again. That's not enthusiastic...that's nuts!

Startled horses and cows kicked up their heels and kangaroos bounded into the bush in alarm at the snorting rattling monster that disturbed their peaceful grazing. A large flock of llamas stood placidly chewing their cuds and gazing at the mad humans hanging out the windows pointing, oohing and aahing. The driver blew the whistle at people who waved at us, and gave a good long hoot at crossings.

We had a couple of stops to pick more people up then we were on our way for real. Up the Little Liverpool Range with two tunnels, the longest of which is the Victoria Tunnel, being the longest single bore tunnel on a main line in Australia. Then down the range in to Laidley.

The Lockyer Valley is the flat "speedway" section of the railway. The old highway parallels at this point and crews in steam days took great delight in letting the mail trains go flat out along this section. Unofficial records of speeds up to 67 miles per hour have been noted.

We stopped at Helidon at the foot of the Great Dividing Range to take on water and attach a diesel locomotive for the climb up to Toowoomba.

Replenishing the water tank.

A more close up view of the engine, for the train buffs out there.

Once all this had taken place, the climb up the range began in earnest, with five chain (approximately 100 metre radius) curves and grades varying between 1 in 60 and 1 in 45 at the steepest pinches. We passed the remains of a huge ballast quarry at the former station of Cliffdale. Then came Spring Bluff, 15 km from the start of the climb. Spring Bluff is now famous for its gardens, always highly recommended for the Carnival Competition. They were spectacular but unfortunately, I missed the photo opportunity. There were loads of people there to wave and cheer when we laboured past.

During the climb up the Range, we passed through seven tunnels, making nine for the whole journey. If you can't go over a mountain, go through it. Once we reached the summit, we had spectacular views across the Lockyer Valley from near the Harlaxton Quarry. Then it was the downhill run into Toowoomba.

The whole journey took four-and-a-half hours including the stops. Two hours of this was for the climb up the Great Dividing Range alone.

I tried to get the diesel and steam engines in this shot.

Looking to the end of the line of carriages.

If you enlarge this, the pink colouring slightly left of centre is a mass of flowering ti-tree which had been planted by someone...in the middle of nowhere.

We stopped at a siding to let this coal train pass...it was about 1 km long...and the noise of the brakes as it slowly wound its way past was deafening. Note the graffiti on the last coal truck...they were all defaced like that.

Looking across the Lockyer Valley with Harlaxton Quarry on the right.

We detrained at Toowoomba Station and Helen, Julie and I, along with several others made our way to the main street for the Grand Parade, which I'll tell you about tomorrow. Watch this space...


Peter said...

G'day Robyn, yes Wazza and I did go up to Toowoomba for the Carnival of Flowers, we spent much of the time in the City Gardens and were both a little disappointed with the parade this year, but considering the severe drought that has afflicted the area for years the gardens looked great, it was very hazy from Picnic Point over the valley and Tabletop Mt. though.
I didn't know there was a steam train up for the Carnival, sounds like a good but SLOOOW trip.

Jellyhead said...

Sounds wonderful! This makes me want to take the kids on a steam train trip - something we've done once before, but not for ages.

I'm looking forward to seeing all the blossoms in Part 2!

Gattina said...

First thing I noticed : You fed the cats ! then I continued to read and I thought I would have loved it to ride on this old train !! It must be a wonderful trip ! and even kangeroos along the railroad ! wow !

wazza said...

Gidday Robyn,

I've been up to Toowoomba on a steam train a few years ago. This was with the Railway Society and the train stopped on the way up there and on the way back to allow passengers to film the train as it steamed by.
It was a enjoyable trip. As Peter mentioned the flowers in Queens Park were fabulous but we thought the parade was a little disappointing.
Your review of the journey up was very interesting.

Merle said...

Dear Robyn ~~ Sounds like a lot of fun and you had a lot of fun. One of my cousins used to drive a steam train in
Melbourne. It was called the Puffing Billy, he was a real keen steam man.
Warren sent me some lovely photos of the gardens and flowers. Very beautiful.Glad you are not in your winter yet, hold it off as long as you can. I will ask my doctor about the Panadol Osteo- thanks for the info. I take 4 Panadol on a good day, 6 on a bad day. I am allergic to Codeine so hope that isn't in it. Looking forward to the next post/ Take care, Love,Merle.

Remiman said...

What a grand adventure.
Reminds me of the time when I was twelve and my mom took me on the "steam" train to her hometown in Indiana.
Lots of nostalgia for me riding along with you.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Ooooooh, Robyn! This is wonderful!

I have not ridden on a train in almost 40 years and not one pulled by a steam locomotive since I was about 5 years-old! One of my Mom’s brothers and two of her sisters worked for a railroad and I was around trains from my birth until I was in college!

Your photos bring to my mind so many good memories! Thank you for this post! I look forward to the next past!

Flip Flop Floozie said...

What fun!! I don't believe I ever rode a steam engine train!! That had to be fun and quite the experience. What a trip!! Now looking forward to the "rest of the story"..Sandy

Flossy said...

How cool!!!

Now I want to ride on a steam train...

Mountain Mama said...

What an incredible adventure. I love train rides and used to take them from here in Washington state down to San Diego California to visit my kids before they moved back home. I love that we can see so much through out the ride. We never got to see such exotic animals as you though. I hope you got lots of photos to share.

Walker said...

Very nice train.
The don't make them with that much charactoer no more but its all about comfort now.
We have one old one like that left here that they have turned into a dinner train that runs in the summer.
While they chug on a 60 mile trip back and forth servers bring your dinner while the the scenery passes by the window.

Gypsy said...

The only steam train I have ever been on was the Puffing Billy in Victoria. I really enjoyed it, the slower pace and comfort, it was wonderful.

I'm glad you and the ladies enjoyed the trip so much. I'm just going off to cook dinner and will then be back for the rest. I'm dying to see the flowers but will wait until I can enjoy them at a leisurely pace.