Friday, 1 August 2014

Raleigh: great wine, no trains!


I'm going to share with you one of my wife's favourite railway adventures, and it involves no trains! Because after finding the former location of Raleigh Railway Station south of Sawtell on the New South Wales North Coast Line, that is exactly what I saw. No trains!


Raleigh Railway Station once stood 586 km from Sydney as the train rolls. Although it is located directly on the Sydney-Brisbane North Coast Line and sees a passing parade of interstate freight trains and six daily XPT services, passenger trains haven't stopped in this town of only 259 in a long, long time. Built in 1915 and demolished in 1990, you'll find no remaining trace of Raleigh Railway Station today. All that stands on the former platform side of the track is a drab concrete block signal relay box marked 586-490.

Raleigh Railway Station south of Coffs Harbour, NSW 2014, showing the signals for the passing loop and siding.

A passing loop and overhead signal bridge are signs of some regular train activity, and a siding does still remain in the former railway yard that was used as recently as 2006 to manufacture concrete for use on the Pacific Highway upgrade, but in 2014 Raleigh is nothing more than a passing loop for trains to cross on this single track stretch of mainline between Sydney and Brisbane. So what do you do when you've already used up your one photo opportunity on the only daylight XPT to slip through this slice of the New South Wales Mid-North Coast on a day of train watching, umm, I mean sightseeing? You take your wife to that little winery you found marked on the map that convinced her to come along for the day in the first place. The Raleigh Winery.

What happens when you bring girls along on a railway adventure, you stop at wineries such as this one. Raleigh Winery, NSW.

I suppose as far as railway adventures goes, this one did unearth another hidden gem. You drive right past Raleigh Winery when searching for the site of the former railway station, so its impossible to escape the attention of your wife if she's sitting in the passenger seat beside you. I was already prepared that waiting to photograph a train passing through Raleigh was out of the question, and why would you when you could be sitting beside the Bellinger River with a cheese platter while sipping a glass of rose` instead.

Chambourcin grape vines at Raleigh Winery, NSW.

After sampling a range of their famous brandy-creme`s and learning that their secret to growing grapes in such a moist and humid environment was by planting Chambourcin grapes at the vineyard along the banks of the Bellinger River, we settle back on their spacious timber deck with a cheese platter, a bottle of rose` and some warm winter sunshine for the next hour or two. Except for me, I'm once more the designated driver as it was my railway adventure. So with one ear on the conversation, and one ear listening out for a horn blast from the railway line only 800 metres or so away, I had to admit I didn't hear a single train pass through for the entire time we were there. Giving the girls their wine time seemed like a good call after-all. Oh well, I may not have seen any trains, but I guess I'll have a bottle of their Chambourcin Rose` to take back home with me to Queensland. It will be perfect the next time I have a barbeque, and a reminder of my railway adventure to Raleigh.

Although the XPT simply rushes past Raleigh these days, you can still gain an appreciation for the train journey along Australia's East Coast by downloading my book Train tripping Eastern Australia. The window seat guide to the rail journey between Brisbane and Sydney will provide some laughs and have you arriving at your destination feeling that you have just completed your very own railway adventure.


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