Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Casino: like Mother, like Son

I came across an old photo recently from the days when my mother was a young girl working in the dining cars for the New South Wales Railways. She had stopped over for a crew change at a place called Casino in the far north of the state. Forty eight years later I found myself passing through Casino after returning from a vacation with my family. I had to, just had to stop at Casino Railway Station, and step into the photo myself.

It was 1966, and my mother, a young girl by the name of Barbara Hutt, had been working as a railway girl on-board the Brisbane Limited. Casino was the crew change point where the dining crew would end their shift and camp the night in the barracks before working a train back to Sydney the following day. I of course was not on the scene yet, my parents had yet to meet when my mother was working a train back from Melbourne where my father had traveled for an athletics meet. Being a key stop on the Sydney-Brisbane North Coast Line, Casino still sees its fair share of trains pass through town today. However, a closer inspection of the photo above reveals that a lot of Casino's railway landscape has in fact changed. My mother appears to be standing with a wide, curved expanse of platform that is separated by two tracks. When I visited Casino Railway Station in July 2014, there were four tracks along the front of the railway station.

Casino Railway Station 2014. Today there is no platform 2. It was filled in sometime in the 1990's.

This led me to do some sleuthing. Armed with my camera, I walked to the far south end of the railway station, that's the Sydney end of the platform, and discovered a clue as to why it was so hard to stand in the same position where my mother's photo had been taken back in 1966. Casino was once in fact an island style platform with tracks on both sides when it opened in 1930. Today only platform 1 faces the rails. The station had been remodeled sometime in the 1990's as part of the Countrylink Station upgrade program, with the land filled in to accommodate a more convenient passenger set down area, car park and road coach interchange. The site of the old barracks where my mother was standing in the photo is now a child day care centre on the corner of Colches and Canterbury Streets. The upside I guess is that the railway station has a rather impressive facade facing the entrance to the station. Given that it was once platform 2, I suppose it is hardly surprising.

Standing where my mother would have waited at Casino Railway Station to work the return train to Sydney in 1966. Only this is 48 years later, in July 2014.

The same four tracks still run parallel along platform 1. Today the Brisbane Limited is long gone, as too is the now closed Murwillumbah branch line. In its place is the long running Brisbane XPT that heads north across the border, and the Casino XPT that truncates here to connect with the road coaches that serve the Northern Rivers. With both XPT services that stop at Casino having a buffet car for on-train food service, there was nothing more for me to do than stand in the warm afternoon sunlight and imagine this is where my mother would have stood if she was waiting to work a train back to Sydney. As they say, like mother, like son. The trains still run in our veins.

Casino and the New South Wales North Coast Line also feature in my book Train Tripping Eastern Australia. With three daily XPT services running on the North Coast Line, my self-guided railway adventure is the best way to experience the journey from Brisbane to Sydney from the window of a train, and gives you a funny yet informative appreciation of the line's rich history.

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