1pm – Chose not to lug our bags down to the railway station to catch the train to central – would have just been too painful with all this stuff. This is a celebration, so we’re going to do it comfortably ! Call for a cab instead. Silver Service, naturally.
1:30pm – checked bags in at Central station, informed that train not due to board until 2pm. Go grab a pie for lunch while we wait.
2pm – 3pm
We wander the length of the platform and back before going back to ask where our carriage is. Right in the middle actually.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the attendants seem a little surprised to see a young couple check in to the most expensive cabin on the train (there is just one of these deluxe cabins !). Naturally, this reaction pleases me. We did notice that the vast majority of the passengers in Gold Kangaroo class seem to be retirees !
Our cabin is not exactly as I had imagined it – but still very nice. At least twice the size of the other Gold Kangaroo cabins – two whole windows to ourselves, our own lounge chairs, complimentary fully stocked bar fridge (beer, champagne, softdrink), video system, small double bed with an additional fold down single bed above it if required, and quite good storage space as well.
We make ourselves comfortable waiting for departure, watching trains pull in and out of Central station. When we do finally pull out, we don’t even notice at first – very smooth start. Soon, we are trundling through the Sydney suburbia, watching people watch us as we pass.
3pm – 4pm
We come to a complete standstill for nearly 15 minutes while we wait, just out of Penrith, for a couple of local trains to wind their way up through the mountains. Eventually we head off again, across the Nepean River before working our own way up into the blue mountains. By this time it is starting to get dark – given we are almost at the winter solstice, the sun goes down a little too early for my liking.
Earlier, we were asked which dining group we would like to be in – the “Maroon” or the “Navy” group. The maroon is the “Sunset dinner” and the Navy the “Moonlight dinner”. Given we usually prefer to have eaten by 7pm, we chose the earlier dinner – the “Nanna dinner” as Leanne calls it, since it was scheduled to commence at 6pm ! The Navy group started at 8pm.
5pm – 6pm
We are invited to a reception in the lounge car for the maroon diners. They pass out champagne and orange juice, and we find a seat to be told some of the history and details of the train.
I’m actually disappointed in that this is what they consider a “baby” train – only about 17 carriages all up, and less than 500m long. The Ghan leaving Adelaide for Darwin tomorrow is going to be a giant in contrast – well over 1km long. I asked our host how they manage to board a longer train than ours, given that when we walked the platform back at Central, the train took up the entire length. Quite simple is the answer, they simply split the train across multiple platforms and join them back together when they are ready to leave. Apparenltly the Ghan out of Adelaide sometimes uses three platforms to board ! I still wonder how they handle smaller stations such as Broken Hill – will have to ask someone about that.
They ask around whether anyone is celebrating anything special – first asking about anniversaries. We put our hands up and tell them it’s our 10th wedding anniversary. Somone else is having their 30th ! Leanne will actually turn 32 on the last day of our journey to Perth too, but we didn’t mention that.
We feel quite young sitting in the lounge car – which is almost exclusively filled with retirees. Fortunately there is a woman who doesn’t look quite that old travelling with her two teenage sons, so at least we are not the youngest by a long way !
6pm – 8pm
We are ushered into the dining car – the “Queen Adelaide Restaurant Car” and seated for dinner. Tables seat four, and the carriage is full, so we are seated with another couple. As it turns out, they are the couple who were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. He worked for Customs for many years, and is now retired and has developed an interest in computers, so we were able to share some interesting converstations about travel, customers regulations, computers, personal video recorders and other such wonderful topics (I think the women may have been a little bored though !).
The food was very nice – a sweet potato and leek soup to start with, very tasty, followed by lamb for me, and a salmon trout for Leanne. Dessert was a slice of chocolate tart for Leanne and a piece of pavlova for me – with very nice rich cream on top, yum. They are very civilised on this train – they even do hot chocolate – neither of us drink tea or coffee, so in many restaurants we miss out if they don’t do something like a hot chocolate as well.
All this time, we get glimpses of various towns as we go by – Leura, Katoomba, Lithgow and so on. It’s quite dark by this time, so there’s not much else to see.
8pm – 10pm
We retire to our cabin, to discover our bed has been made while we were at dinner. After sitting and watching the world go by for a while – with the lights off in the cabin so we can see outside better, we get some reading material and sit and read for a while before climbing into bed.
The bed is surprisingly good – a bit narrow for the two of us, but that just makes it cozy (!), and is just about the right length for me to sleep fully stretched out, although an extra inch or two would be nice. You wouldn’t want to be any taller than 6’2″ if you don’t like sleeping curled up !
Given I have been getting to bed well after midnight for the last few weeks, I find it difficult to get comfortable and fall asleep. The track is pretty rough and bumpy, and the carriages are making quite a lot of noise. The airconditioning system also makes the air very dry and a bit uncomfortable too, and the temperature fluctuates making it difficult to stay comfortable under the covers.
I’m sure I doze on and off, but every time the train hits a bump I seem to wake up.
Major towns/sidings travelled through today: (awake) Sydney, Penrith, Katoomba, Lithgow, Bathurst, Blaney, Orange East Fork, (asleep) Parkes.