Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Kempsey: trains and Akubra hats


Kempsey Railway Station is about as country as they come, despite only being located 15 minutes inland from the Pacific Ocean. Located 503 km north of Sydney by train, Kempsey is Akubra hat country and was also the birthplace of Australian Country Music Legend Slim Dusty. Melody Ranch, the boyhood homestead of Slim Dusty, still attracts visitors from around the world who come to see where the singer songwriter of more than 100 country & western albums grew up, while more than 160,000 Akubra hats per year are manufactured right here in Kempsey.


Kempsey Railway Station yard as seen from the platform in 2007.

The town of Kempsey was first settled by timber cutters on the banks of the Macleay River in 1836. Plentiful stands of Australian red cedar timber meant that the town of Kempsey was already well established by the time the railway line was laid in 1917. The large red brick station building has stood in West Kempsey, marking time and watching over the passing parade of interstate container trains, XPT's and the occasional train that stops to drop some goods wagons in the small railway yard. Finding Kempsey's railway station when traveling on the Pacific Highway involves turning off the highway onto Macleay Valley Way and following Belgrave Street through the heart of town until you reach the railway line. The station is on Kemp Street, and there is a large sealed car park built around some giant date palms that may give your car enough shade to keep cool while you step out with your camera. If you're traveling on a family holiday like I was back in 2007 when I left the highway to photograph some trains, you best be quick if you don't want to return to a car full of cranky kids.

Kempsey Railway Station, mid North Coast New South Wales, Australia. Photo taken 2007

Oops, too late. There is an XPT due to pass through in less than 10 minutes. That's just enough time to head to the Macleay River Railway Bridge and shoot some more photos. While I've passed through Kempsey by train plenty of times in the past on both the Brisbane XPT and Murwillumbah XPT, this was the first time I had pulled off the highway to try photographing one. So I thought that a shot of the train crossing the Macleay River might make for a change from photographing the train at a station.

The southbound Brisbane XPT crossing the 1917 built Macleay River Railway Bridge at Kempsey. 2007.

The bridge over the Macleay River is typical of the steel through truss railway bridge design that was adopted for the North Coast Line following the construction of the original Hawkesbury River Bridge north of Sydney. With my wife reminding me that my 15 minute detour to Kempsey was now officially over, it was time to hit the road once more. Pity really, I would have like to have checked out if there were some cheap Akubra hats to buy in town. I might have looked the part on my next Train Tripping adventure. But you can get a full appreciation of traveling this line by train, download by window seat guide Train Tripping Eastern Australia. The self-guided railway adventure will give you a run-down of each station and major point of interest between Brisbane and Sydney, and turn your train trip into a real adventure of your own.


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