Thursday, April 27, 2017


NSW Railway Engineering History

Last week, Mum had a few days off work so we did and overnight roadtrip to check out some historic things a few hours to the west of Canberra. The top images are of the Junee Roundhouse. Junee is nearly exactly half-way on the main southern railway line between Sydney and Melbourne. The line started operations back in 1878 and Junee became an important railway depot. In 1947 this huge roundhouse was built to service and repair locomotives and rolling stock. It is one of the few completely circular roundhouses and had the largest turntable in the southern hemisphere. The rail depot closed in 1993 and the roundhouse was taken over by commercial companies who use half of it to recondition locos. The other half is a museum. It is impossible to get a photo that shows the whole roundhouse, so I have copied a section of Google Eatrh that shows it. The bottom images are of a clever bit of railway engineering near the town of Bethungra, north of Junee. Here the line has to climb a steep gradient and until the early 1940s several extra engines had to be attached to boost the trains up the slope. The solution was to build a diversion that spirals around a convenient hill. That made the climb possible for all trains. Trains going downhill still use the original line, trains going uphill use the spiral. The closest I could get was a small parking bay off the highway where I could see three lines of track - the original line closest to the road and two lines of the spiral track going up the hill. Once again, Google Earth shows it clearly although you probably need to check it out using GE to get a bigger view.

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Monday, April 24, 2017


Historic Port Arthur

One of the "must see" places in Tasmania is the ruins of the historic Port Arthur convict settlement. Port Arthur started as a small timber cutting station in 1830, but quickly grew into penal settlement with over 1100 convicts. The convicts worked at timber getting, ship building, brick and shoe making. The first 5 photos are of the large penitentiary, which actually started out as a flour mill (note the small bear climbing on the foundation stone). The large flat area of land in front of the building was initially the harbour, but one of the physical punishments inflicted on the convicts was to make them cut trees, haul them down to the harbour and sink them with stones and earth to build gardens and lawns. Tree trunks are visible in the drains here today. Imagine the immense number of trees buried here and the hard labour imposed on the convicts. The 6th and 7th images are of the Asylum, a separate prison where the worst convicts were kept in solitary confinement and where most of them went mad. The last 2 images are of the guardhouse at the entry to the penitentiary, and the ruins of the guards' barracks. The barracks were a small castle with turrets; not much remains today. Port Arthur closed as a penal settlement in 1877. On April 28, 1996, Port Arthur was the site of one of the worst acts in Australian history when a gunman, Martin Bryant, killed 35 tourists and injured 23 others before being captured. This was one instrumental in leading to Australia's strict gun laws. Mum was visiting Port Arthur just the day before. More photos of the site are coming. A good summary of the history of Port Arthur is on the website

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Hobart Docks

One of the places we stayed at during our Tasmania trip was the Grand Chancellor Hotel. This is just across the road from the docks and the marina where small boats  moor, and the terminal where cruise ships moor. The large cargo port is some way around the harbour. Just about every day we stayed there I could see cruise ships there for the day, sometimes one getting ready to depart while another was arriving for its turn at the cruise terminal. I saw 8 different cruise ships during the 6 days we were in Hobart. The area around the docks is very interesting to walk around (or be carried around if you are a small bear). There are lots of boats, great fish 'n' chip shops, and some very good restaurants (hey, I spelled it right!!). More photos of the dock areas coming soon.

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Monday, April 03, 2017


Do Your Homework !!

Here's a prime example of why you should always do your homework before visiting anywhere. One afternoon during our Tasmania trip we just headed off following the coast to see what we could find. Along the way we came to a great lookout point where we had good views of the lower Derwent river and the yachts that were sailing there. There was also a canon on a concrete base and a plaque saying that this was the site of the Alexandra Battery, built in 1804 to protect the entry to Hobart harbour. I don't think the canon is any use now as the only thing it would hit is the tree in front of it. We spent a bit of time watching the boats and then drove on. However, if the Oldies had done their usual checking up on what we could expect to see on the drive they would have known that just over the curve of the hill there is the remains of the battery fort. The last photo (from Google Earth) shows just how close we were. The white G is where the canon is, the X is where we sat, and lower down the hill you can see the old gun emplacements and remains of the fort. So the Oldies got no photos of this historical site at all, not even of the round control hut we sat near. I have had harsh words with them and threatened to demote them from official drivers, navigators and photographers on my future expeditions.

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