Thursday, 4 August 2016

Point Clare: The Angry Station Mistress

Thirty years ago, I set out on my BMX bike as a young boy armed only with a Kodak 110 mm camera to take photographs of trains passing between Gosford and Point Clare Stations. Nicole Kidman had only just made her onscreen debut in BMX Bandits, Paul Hogan had introduced himself to the world as Crocodile Dundee, and double-decker V-sets were still wearing their original 'blue goose' livery as they plied their trade on the recently electrified mainline between Sydney and Newcastle. Looking back on 1986 a lot has changed, while on the other hand a lot has stayed the same.

This photo of a V-set was taken in the cutting just north of Point Clare Railway Station in 1986.

As a 14 year old, processing a roll of film back then cost the equivalent of a month's pocket money. To make matters worse, I quickly learned that using a 110 mm pocket camera was near impossible to keep still to avoid camera shudder. Still, looking back on the few photos that were actually discernible brings back a flood of memories.

There was the time that I was travelling back from Woy Woy Station with some friends when we realised that the carriage we were travelling in was not going to pull up alongside Point Clare's short platform. Point Clare was one of those stations that the train timetable advised passengers to travel in the rear 2 cars. So as the train slowed for its scheduled stop and the platform rushed into view, I quickly pointed out to my friends that we were going to have to jump. Of course I meant once the train had stopped, but before the train had come to a complete stop, my friend had pried open the carriage door and leapt from the still moving train. The carriage doors on the V-sets may have automatically closed, but you would manually pull the handle for the doors to slide open. Those who can recall the single deck U-sets may even remember the sight of commuters shooting the breeze while standing in open doorways on moving trains. Anyway, hitting the ground running, my friend's short little legs kept pace alongside the train for about 5 seconds before making a spectacular head-over-heels tumble for what felt like an eternity. When the train finally did stop, the open door of the carriage we were riding in had stopped just 6 foot past the end of the platform. We easily jumped down to track level to exit the train. Our other friend however, was now standing on the platform above us, dripping blood from both knees and elbows while cowering beneath the stern gaze of the Station Mistress who had stormed towards him after witnessing his spectacular exit.

Yelling at him to jump, our friend escaped the Station Mistress's wrath by climbing through the platform safety railing and jumping down to where we were standing at track level. Laughing as the train pulled away towards Gosford, our friend joined us, bruised forehead and all, and we left the Station Mistress to angrily shake her fist at us as we scrambled through the long grass and bracken ferns towards the safety of the road below.

This 86 class electric loco had just exited the cutting and was crossing The Broadwater into Gosford in 1986.

I still look back on those days with a sense of wonder. As in, its a wonder I didn't get in more trouble or get myself killed. Trouble always seemed to have a way of finding me when I was young. Thankfully raising kids of my own didn't turn out to be quite so hair-raising. Now, thirty years later, Paul Hogan may have long retired from the silver screen, but Nicole Kidman is still an established Hollywood actress in her own right. And although my BMX bike is probably rusting away at the bottom of a rubbish dump somewhere near Gosford, those V-set double-decker trains are still plying the rails north of Sydney. So when it came to collating the images for my book 30 Years Chasing Trains, how could I leave out the photograph at the top of a V-set double-decker train arriving at Point Clare Station? It may not have been the best train photo I have ever taken, but it was certainly one of the first. Seeing it grace the pages on the introduction of my book not only reminds me of Point Clare's short little platforms, but of one very angry Station Mistress from 1986.

preview this book now exclusively through

See also; Gosford: Growing up with trains

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