Thursday, 11 April 2013

Moree: north by north-west

Moree, (simply pronounced more-ee), is an outback town in the north-west of New South Wales. Located 666 kilometres by rail from Sydney's Central Station, (or 665.6 km to be precise if you want to avoid superstitious numbers), you could be forgiven for thinking that the town is appropriately positioned in the middle of a dry and desolate outback hell. But that's far from the truth. Moree is the hub of a thriving cotton and grain producing area that sees plenty of trains regularly loading from the many silos located along the rails, and a daily Xplorer train service to and from Sydney that brings plenty of tourists to Moree's artesian spas.

Moree Railway Station in New South Wales as I photographed it on sunset in September of 2011. Countrylink operates a daily Xplorer passenger train to and from Sydney to this typical looking, although now unattended country railway station, in the north-west of the state.

My stop in Moree was a brief one. Having followed the Newell Highway south from the Queensland border at Goondiwindi, I was racing fading daylight and a sunset rendezvous with the arriving Moree Xplorer. But, as is often the case, the train was running late. With an overnight drive south to Victoria ahead of me, there was just enough remaining daylight to snap a few photos of the sad and lonely platform, much to the amusement of the locals who sat in their cars waiting for the train to bring their friends or loved ones to town.

You see, Moree was once an important railway hub despite the town only boasting a modest population of 9,729. The railway station opened in 1897, and just north at the town of Camura the rails once forked in three directions, west to Mungindi, north to Boggabilla and east to Inverell. Today the Inverell branchline is closed, the line to Boggabilla ends at North Star and the Mungindi branchline is closed beyond Weemeelah. Export cotton handled in shipping containers and grain railed in covered hopper wagons make up the majority of traffic on the North West line. The railway station is now unattended.

Sunset on the edge of the outback. Moree Railway Station, just off the Newell Highway, 2011.

Five minutes later I was back behind the wheel, heading south into the darkness. My next destination south along the Newell Highway was the town of Narrabri. A few miles south of Moree however, a bright shining light suddenly appeared out on the plains. It seemed the Moree Xplorer wasn't running that late after all.  As the highway swung parallel to the railway line, we caught a view of the train as it rushed by in the opposite direction, all two carriages of it. With the windows all illuminated in that timeless shimmery green tint that epitomizes train travel by night, we could see all the passengers inside settled back in their seats. Their journey would soon come to an end.

See also; Narrabri: passing through by night

No comments: