Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Train Tripping Around Melbourne

Melbourne is Australia's second largest city and the capital of Victoria. Having spent 4 years living in the Victorian country town of Foster, Melbourne was always an exciting place to visit for the day on the train. But that was almost 25 years ago, and apart from exploring Melbourne's inner city, I never got around to discovering what really lay beyond the Yarra River. So for the fourth book in my Train Tripping Series, I thought it was about time I revisited Melbourne to see how much I could explore of the city by train in just 72 hours.

Melbourne is considered Australia's most cosmopolitan city and the birthplace of Australia's cafe culture. When it comes to trains however, the city has a rich railway history. Melbourne was the location of Australia's first public railway and still maintains a tram system that is the largest in the world. It seems there aren't too many places that you can't visit by hopping on a train or a tram.

So after months of research, I headed off armed with a Myki card loaded with $50 credit to find the best that Melbourne could offer by train and by tram. From Geelong to Gembrook, from the MCG to the brightly coloured Brighton Bathing Boxes, I covered 365 km in just 3 days, along the way experiencing a tour of the MCG, dinner in Carlton's Lygon Street, an AFL game and a day out on Puffing Billy, all at a cost of under $1 per kilometre.

So what do you get when you cross 83 brightly coloured bathing sheds, a much travelled cottage, a band from Little River and a 9 story shot tower? You get this 365 km self-guided railway adventure that is the perfect travelling companion for exploring Melbourne from the comfort of a train. So welcome aboard my fourth Train Tripping adventure. Train Tripping Around Melbourne. I hope you enjoy the ride.

ISBN: 9781310681929
Available now from only $0.99 through the following retailers


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My 100th Blog Post

So it turns out that this is my 100th Blog Post. As a writer it is something to be celebrated. As an Author, well.... it seems I've got a little sidetracked blogging about my travels, riding on trains and sharing some advice on writing. All of these have taken away from time I could have otherwise spent writing my next book. So what else can I do except acknowledge the occasion, and take a walk back through some of my highs and lows of the past 4 years.

Why did I need to write a blog when I had just signed my third novel with a publisher in the United States?

I read somewhere that a blog was a necessary tool as a writer to engage with his or her audience. I think the premise went something like this; a blog is a means of directly conversing with your readers, whereas a website is more of a shopfront window for your books. I didn't care much for the idea of blogging at the time. I already had a website for my books with my publisher, and I'd already spent money having my book promoted at book fairs around the world. Success was going to come my way, it was just a matter of when. Nevertheless I started this blog, and since June 2011 I've been banging away on my laptop while trying to find that magical way of bringing myself to people's attention without inventing a hundred new ways of saying "please buy my book".

I started blogging about the places I visited while touring with my books, and it all got out of hand from there.

Shortly after signing with a US based publisher for my third novel Last Wish of Summer, I pulled the rights to my first two novels with my self-publishing company and spent the next year writing a sequel, The Rag Doll Cafe. Yet only two years after my signing, and with my sequel being prepared for release, I received the news that Last Wish of Summer was being pulled from their list due to a slump in sales. I then made the call to not proceed with a sequel to a book that was no longer going to be in print, and suddenly all I was left with was this blog.

My blog was soon documenting my every move while exploring the railways along Australia's east coast, and helped spawn my Train Tripping series of books which would go on to become Number 1 Bestsellers on Kobo.

So I suppose I owe everything to this blog. It was the one constant positive in what was a depressing time in trying to regain the rights to all my work. And my blog was there to enjoy each book's re-release, (including the first time release of The Rag Doll Cafe), after an extended period of outsourcing cover designs, formatting and publishing my work in eBook form through Smashwords. As my blog posts about my travels and railway adventures grew, so too did the idea for a book, and this year I will release the fourth installment of my Train Tripping adventure books. All three to date have become Number 1 Bestselling railroad books on Kobo and Smashwords. So for what is my 100th Blog Post, I say Happy Birthday. May the next 100 Posts be even better, and my next book not be too far away.

Now let's look at some of my highlights from the past 4 years.

My Top 5 most-read Blog Posts

  1. Other Side of 40 - Ouch! This still hurts.
  2. Adding Some Local Flavour - Popular post on sponsorship.
  3. Byron Bay: Australia's most easterly point - Still a huge favourite.
  4. Maydena: rail-track riding in Tasmania - Featured on Discover Tasmania.
  5. Coffs Harbour: fish, chips and trains - A surprisingly popular post.

My Top 5 least-read Blog Posts

  1. Why should I care? - I guess nobody did.
  2. Is social media working? - Does anybody really care?
  3. Beware of the snakes - Maybe there aren't any.
  4. The Christian Fiction conundrum - Apparently there's no conundrum.
  5. Start selling books somewhere - Couldn't sell this idea.

My Personal Top 5 Photographs

Moffat Beach, Queensland - I survived a brush with a six foot shark here while surfing one morning. You can read the story by clicking on the photo.

Casino, New South Wales - I retraced a 48 year old photograph of my mother to find the spot where she would have stood when working as a dining car attendant for the New South Wales Railways.

Rotorua, New Zealand - I was invited by Neil Oppatt to experience Rotorua's Railcruising experience when visiting New Zealand. You can read my first travel writing assignment by clicking on the photo.

Rotorua, New Zealand - My first trip outside of Australia, ever. This was a family holiday I will long remember. You can read about New Zealand's thermal wonderland by clicking on the photo.

Cairns, Queensland - Despite getting very few hits on this post, this photo was special in that I finally made the 1,681 km trip by train from Brisbane to Cairns only months before The Sunlander train was retired. It was a snap decision I'll never regret making.

What were your favourite posts?

Why not let me know what you enjoyed reading most by adding a comment below? After all, who knows what I'll be writing about another hundred posts from now.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Seymour: A Victorian Railway Town

Seymour Railway Station is located in central Victoria on the North East and Interstate railway corridor. First opened in 1872, it was a key railway depot for the Victorian Railways and at one time employed 245 men at the height of the railway era in 1950. Today, it still serves a busy role as the junction for the North East and Goulburn Valley Lines.

A Steamrail excursion train at Seymour Railway Station back in 23 July 1989.

My first visit to Seymour occurred back in the winter of 1989, while The Flying Scotsman was winding up on what had become an extended tour of Australia for our Bicentenary celebrations in 1988. Paralleling an R class Victorian Railways steam locomotive from Melbourne, the two trains arrived in Seymour and were turned in readiness for the return trip to Melbourne.

That's me back in 1989, the 17 year old train enthusiast in the acid-wash stretch denim jeans.

Back in those days, I was just 17 years old, and still in the early years of my railway photography skills. I had however advanced from a 110 mm pocket camera to a full size 35 mm automatic. Scanning these previously developed photos some 26 years later does not do anyway near enough of a good job compared to today's point-and-shoot digital cameras, but I'm glad I've kept them all just the same. It's just a pity I thought I'd never need the negatives again once my photos were printed.

The Flying Scotsman hauled many trips between Melbourne and Seymour during it's visit Down Under in 1988-89.

The Flying Scotsman of course was a standard gauge 4' 8-1/2" engine, and before the full standardization of the former 5' 3" broad gauge line between Melbourne and Albury on the New South Wales border, the Scotsman was limited to hauling excursion trains on the standard gauge line out of Melbourne. The broad and standard gauge lines paralleled each other just north of Melbourne, and Seymour became the perfect destination for daytrippers to witness one of Great Britian's finest locomotives in action.

You have to love 1989 workplace health and safety concerns. Train enthusiasts were free to wander all over the railway yard at Seymour to photograph the Flying Scotsman on its visit to Australia, so long as they didn't get hit by a train.

Seymour has long been a railway town, and today the former locomotive depot and roundhouse is used by the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre. It was already at work as early as 1983 in preserving and restoring Victoria's railway heritage, and today has a number of restored steam and diesel locomotives in operation, some of which are even hired out to private freight operators on a short term basis.

The Flying Scotsman taking on water from a tanker provided by the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre during it's Australian visit in 1989.

Seymour's railway precinct still looks much the same as in years gone by. Following the standardization of the North East Line to Albury, a third platform was added to handle trains on the broad gauge Goulburn Valley Line. The former goods yard is now used to stable V/Line intercity services to Melbourne, such as the Sprinter railcars I photographed when I last visited Seymour in 2011.

A V/Line Sprinter railcar ready to depart for Melbourne, photo 2011.

Platforms 1 and 2 still ooze of that railway atmosphere of years gone by, and visiting Seymour again all those years later takes on a surreal feeling when you have two impatient teenagers waiting in the car.

Platform 1, Seymour Railway Station, Victoria, Australia 2011.

With trains still coming, going and being restored, its safe to say that Seymour will remain an important Victorian railway town for many years to come. Only I might be waiting a long while for The Flying Scotsman to return.