Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kiama: Chasing trains and Blowholes

Kiama Railway Station lies 119 km south of Sydney by train and marks the end of Sydney Trains' electrified network. The classic 1893 station building today is still welcoming visitors to this beautiful country town by the sea, and also makes a fantastic stepping off point to go in search of the town's major attraction, the famed Kiama Blowhole.

Train time at Kiama. Passengers get off the electric train from Sydney at left, to board the Endeavour service to Bomaderry/Nowra on the right. Photo March 2015.

While most tourists or day trippers to Kiama quickly file off the train to go exploring about town, I'd flown down from Queensland for the weekend with my wife especially to take a trip over the South Coast Line and photograph some trains for my book Train Tripping Around Sydney. And Kiama Station didn't disappoint. 2 hours and 20 minutes after boarding the train at Sydney's Central Station, I was pulling out my camera to photograph the celebrated changing of the trains at Kiama Station. With the South Coast Line continuing 34 km further south to the towns of Bomaderry and Nowra, passengers are forced to change trains from an 8 car electric Oscar double decker set to a waiting 2 car Endeavour diesel railcar set to continue their journey south. It's like a scene out of the past, much like the days of changing trains at the break-of-gauge town of Albury on the New South Wales and Victorian border.

Kiama's 1878 Post Office with a departing train to Sydney in the background, March 2015.

Kiama itself is a historic seaside town, and nearby Manning Street is full of historic buildings such as the 1874 Westpac Bank and the 1878 Post Office. Stopping to take some photos of the Post Office I was even able to snap a shot of an arriving train from Sydney as it crossed over the Terralong Street Bridge in the background.

Normally the blowhole sends a spout of water shooting up to 82 feet into the air. On our visit in March 2015, the blowhole was a no-blow, but the scenery was still amazing!

While the short walk to the blowhole was a chance to take in some amazing scenery, the blowhole was a no-blow on the day of our visit. There wasn't even a splash to be seen. What we were able to see was the 1887 lighthouse and nearby harbour pilot's cottage and gift shop before following the harbour foreshore back towards town.

An ice-cream while we watch trains go by in Terralong Street, Kiama. 2015

Back in town we were able to find a quiet seat outside the ice-cream parlour on Terralong Street, and watch an arriving train thread its way through town towards the station. All up 3 hours proved plenty of time to enjoy lunch, a visit to the blowhole and a leisurely walk through town, before boarding our afternoon 2.55 to the city that would see us change trains at Central and be harbourside at Circular Quay by 5.30 pm to enjoy the sun setting over Sydney Harbour. Kiama would have to be one of the prettiest towns I've visited, and a day trip from Sydney on the train in many ways doesn't satisfy the urge to say I've been there. One day soon I'll have to return again with my wife, and you can stake your house on it that when we do, it will be for more than a day!

That's me standing beside the 2.55 pm to Central at Kiama Station in March 2015. This brand new Oscar electric train would later become the cover of my book.

If you're planning on visiting Kiama by train, the best way to appreciate the 238 km return train trip is by downloading my 99 cent eBook window-seat guide titled Train Tripping Around Sydney. Inside it is packed with enough fun-filled facts to turn an ordinary train trip into a real railway adventure of your own. And if like us you don't see the blowhole in action, you can rest assured that the scenery around Kiama alone will make your trip worthwhile. Oh, and in case you were wondering, that is a train at Kiama Station on the cover of my book.

Available now from only $0.99 cents through the following retailers


Monday, April 13, 2015

Katoomba: Blue Mountains by train

Katoomba is one of those names that invokes a sense of natural wonder thanks to the image of the Three Sisters at nearby Echo Point. But before you hop off the train for a day of sightseeing in the Blue Mountains just 2 hours west of Sydney, take a moment to look at Katoomba's railway station. Built in 1891, it replaced the earlier 1874 station building to cope with the growing demand for tourists. Yes that's right, Katoomba Railway Station has been welcoming tourists to the Blue Mountains for almost 125 years.

The goods shed as viewed through the lens from near the Parke St overpass in 2010.

The Main West Line first passed through Katoomba in 1868, and by 1874 a small station had opened to serve a ballast quarry that was originally known as The Crushers. All that changed in 1877 when the station was renamed Katoomba, and the town went on to enjoy a decade long boom as a tourist destination. The nearby Carrington Hotel opened in 1883 and by the early 1900's was considered one of the premier tourist resorts in the British Empire. One word could easily describe the scene at Katoomba's original tiny station as each train arrived from Sydney bringing hundreds of holiday makers. Chaos. So in 1891 the New South Wales Government Railways erected a large timber station building constructed on an island platform with its own subway linking to the funnily named Gang Gang Street, and visitors by train to Katoomba have been using it ever since.

Take a close look at this photo of Katoomba Railway Station I took in March 2015. What can you notice that is different about this Blue Mountains station? 

I've visited Katoomba three times in my life, once as a young boy back in the early 1980's, the second time when I returned with my own family in 2010 for a week long holiday, and most recently in 2015 when I visited to write about the journey to the Blue Mountains for my book Train Tripping Around Sydney. Each and every time I have left Katoomba, I have done so telling myself that I will have to come back before too long. Scenic World, the Three Sisters, Echo Point and the nearby Jenolan Caves and Zig Zag Railway are all good enough reasons to return. But Katoomba Railway Station sums up what has been attracting visitors to the Blue Mountains for over a century. Its the gateway to something different. In fact, if you look closely at the station building while you are standing on the platform waiting for your return train to Sydney, you will notice another peculiarity that makes Katoomba a little different. The station is actually built on a curve. And I'm not just talking about the platform, the station building itself is bent like a banana.

Our arriving 7.26 pm train to Sydney cuts through the fog at Katoomba Station in March 2015.

Katoomba makes a great day out from Sydney, and the best way to enjoy a visit to the Blue Mountains in my opinion is by train. For all the tips on where to go and how to save yourself some money on getting there, you'll have to download my Number 1 Bestseller Train Tripping Around Sydney. At just 99 cents, inside you'll discover all my tips and secrets for packing a lifetime of memories into a getaway to one of Australia's most scenic destinations. And all this is just a 2 hour train ride away from Sydney. But don't take my word for it, after all, tourists have been trekking to the Blue Mountains by train since 1891.

Available now from only $0.99 through the following retailers


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Leura: some Blue Mountains air

The Blue Mountains Line is a popular one for day trippers from Sydney to escape the city for some fresh mountain air. So when visiting Sydney for 3 days to write the next book in my Train Tripping Series, I naturally couldn't go past catching an Intercity train up into the Blue Mountains to visit the charming little village of Leura.

Leura Railway Station as viewed from the overpass at the eastern end of the platform. The station building still looks the same as it did back in 1902.

Leura Railway Station first opened in 1890, some 22 years after the Main Western Line first passed through town in 1868. The station building that you step off at today however, dates back to 1902 when the Main Western Line was first duplicated and is nestled in a rock cutting on the side of a mountain ridge. At a height of 3,241 feet above sea level, Leura enjoys a cool climate and even the occasional snowfall during the winter months, making it a perfect location to enjoy a weekend escape from Sydney.

That's me madly scrawling notes for my next book before our train to Katoomba arrives. Leura Station 2015.

The historic Leura Mall is located at the top of the stairs at the eastern end of the platform, and breaking my journey to Katoomba here for an hour gave me just enough time to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee with my wife and a short wander through the enticing gift shops before we had to be back at the station for the next train.

An Intercity double deck V set arriving at the Blue Mountains station of Leura. Our next stop is Katoomba. Photo 2015.

While the best thing about riding a train up into the Blue Mountains is no doubt the scenery from the train window, another surprise about riding a Sydney Trains service on a Sunday was their Super Sunday Fare. We paid no more than $2.50 each for our return trip to Katoomba, making a train ride to the Blue Mountains one of the most affordable sightseeing excursions you could ask for when visiting Sydney. And the best way to appreciate the trip to the Blue Mountains in detail, is to download by eBook Train Tripping Around Sydney onto your tablet or iPad or smart phone for a window seat guide to three fantastic journeys around Sydney that will turn an ordinary train trip into a real railway adventure of your own.

Available now from only $0.99 through the following retailers