Monday, 13 April 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.

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