Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Westlander - Charleville to Brisbane

The bus from Quilpie arrived in plenty of time to catch the train back to Brisbane at 6:15pm. The train left on time but it was almost dark. I stayed up until about 9pm and then decided to sleep in the lower birth and I must say I slept very well. Although I had enjoyed the bus ride to Quilpie, it was over 400 kilometers (300 miles) round trip and long bus rides make me tired.
 The next morning I woke early again. Unfortunately it was still overcast.
 By now we were close to Toowoomba on the rich agricultural country of the Darling Downs.

 It's mostly flat plain on the Downs with some occasional hills.
 I suspect this was a gas extraction plant that uses fracking. There is great concern throughout the farming communities on the Darling Downs about the state government selling the gas extraction rights to land that is currently used for farming. This area is one of Australia's most fertile and it seems very shortsighted to risk this extremely valuable farming resource for gas extraction when there is so much gas available in the north west part of Australia.

 A bigger gas plant. Again I am presuming this is what it is.

 We reached Toowoomba again about 7am.
 My last chance to haunt at Toowoomba station.
 Some of you might remember the floods that hit Toowoomba in January 2011. The city center is surrounded to the east and west by two small creeks which could not cope with over 6 inches of rain in a short period. The flooding video shows that shed on the right about 22 seconds into the video. One of the train staff mentioned that the station itself was not flooded.

The two creeks then combine to form Gowrie Creek that flooded to a great height. According to this video, this bridge was 8 meters underwater.
 The train line going down the range was damaged and there is a lot of work still going on to re stabilize the track.
The views are really great on a clear day. On an overcast day like this, you have to appreciate the mistiness of it all. Toowoomba is one of the most beautiful cities in Australia and there are wonderful views to the east from the edge of the escarpment where Toowoomba is situated.

More work. There had to be over 100 men working with various graders, bulldozers and trucks.

The railway lines at the picturesque station Spring Bluff were badly damaged but the station buildings and flower gardens remained unscathed. Here is an interesting time lapse video showing the repairs. In the past we have often returned to Brisbane from Toowoomba via this road because the road is so interesting compared to the regular highway.
Piled up damaged sleepers.
The workers often waived as the train went past.

The bridge on the left washed away and was replaced by this new bridge. The flood was in January and the line reopened in May.

We were told that the occupants of all houses that were damaged in the flood were given a container to store their stuff in while they were doing repairs.
So this is Murphy's Creek which filled with water. Normally there would have been just a trickle of water.

 To get some idea of the torrent, watch this video.

I suppose the lesson to be learned is that when you see a tiny creek at the bottom of a large gorge you have to realize that every now and then, that gorge is going to fill with water because it filled up in the past.

I presume this is wheat.

Helidon,site of some of the worst of the flooding. This area seemed to be ok but it is a little higher than other lower lying areas. Here is some aerial video.

Wrecked house. I heard that the authorities have moved people out of these low lying areas and given them land on higher ground.
Note the house to the left.

Another container.

Of course, life moves on and the crops grow and need to be harvested.
From the rail bridge at GattonHere is video of the flood going under the bridge.
Old pub at Gatton. 

This dog trotted out happily to greet the train.
It had started to rain as we passed through Grandchester. The first train line in Queensland ran from Ipswich to Grandchester in 1865. Why they put it here is a mystery to me.
Where the suburban trains go to bed at Ipswich. Note the razor wire at the top of the fence to keep the graffiti artists out. Queensland Railways goes to great lengths to keep their trains graffiti free and it seems to work. I like traveling on these carriages more than any other suburban network I have been on.
Downtown Ipswich.

The bridges at Indooroopilly over the Brisbane River. My parents used to live close to these bridges and we had a good view of them from the back veranda. Their house has since been replaced by high rise buildings.
So we arrived back at Roma Street and you can see the platform where the train eventually stops, off to the left. It took another 25 minutes to get there as we did the loop around via the showgrounds, Bowen Hills and Central Station.
Eventually we arrived, but we were on time.

There is a good car pickup and parking area right by the platform which is very convenient. There is also a taxi rank.
The suburban lines are colour coded so it is easy to pick out the line you want.
The roofs of Roma Street Station. Apparently the space above has been sold and there will be high rise erected above the station. Such is progress.

So it was a very enjoyable trip and I encourage anybody reading the blog to do the journey sometime. Unfortunately, I suspect that the Westlander will get the chop one day because it must be losing boatloads of money. There were many more passengers heading into Brisbane than were heading west, but if there were 50 I would have been surprised.

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