I am riding the rails again and it does not disappoint. I live in Sydney and travel to Canberra and Melbourne often. To avoid some of the carbon and cost of flying, I take the train between Melbourne and Sydney, Sydney and Brisbane, and out west into the heart of NSW whenever I can.
Australia passes by out the window, more intimately than along the roads where linear forests have been planted to give an illusion of remaining greenery. The train cuts through real life, honest dirt and the land as it is. The seasons float by with all the dust, the floods, the greenery with animals and plants that help tell of the landscapes.
Ta Tickety Tum. The rattle and hum,
Of the wheels as they run true on the track.
Even if we couldn’t see out the windows, it's easy to tell how life on the land is faring. When there's feed on the ground and moisture in the soil, the talk between passengers is bubbly, friendly, safe, laughter lies close to the surface. It's okay to open a conversation – to ask how the farm is and whether they got the crops in, have a giggle and share a story.
The bubble and fizz of the chatter above,
Between new found friends and age old love.
When the land is dry and bare, or we trundle through smoke and dust… the tempo is slow, glances are modest, no searching for eyes, no questions, just politeness and a little extra personal space. Even if your land is okay, it’s likely someone is having a rough time. So there's no laughter, no loud conversations – the mood is subdued as we all watch transfixed as the land sits alone on the other side of the glass and the wheels clack over the tracks, switching from tenor to bass with an occasional glide as we turn a corner.
Ta-tickety-tum, ta-tickety-tum, ta-tickety-tum
Ba bompity bomp
Few people take on the long train stint from Melbourne to Sydney – it's too crazy to sit for 11 hours from city to city. The majority of riders come and go between small towns, just an hour or two apart, the train linking families, crossing generations. The small town friendliness expands onto the train – you never quite know with whom you will have a connection, so everyone gets a smile, a word of thanks, apology or slice of humour as you bumble and boil down the narrow aisles, nearly landing in laps and sending drinks in the wrong direction.
Bonds form over the paper or knitting design,
Shared stories make obvious how we align.
Time is long on the train – compared with the plane when barely have you sat down and it’s time to get back up again. Of course, flying saves time and time should be saved. But then it should be spent well. On the train, without wifi or phone reception along most of the route I flip between people watching, small conversations, walking the carriages and dedicated quiet time to get concentrated work done, finish the crossword or write a quick blog – time well spent.