Wednesday, June 21, 2017


On to Melbourne!

But, first?  How to get there?  Fly?  You's a couple hours, but you wouldn't see a thing.  What's between Sydney and Melbourne?   Drive?  You could.  It's 500+ miles between the two cities.  That's a lot of time behind the wheel on the wrong side of the road.  There is the train...  Should take about eight hours.  Or 11.  I can't really remember so I tell Patti and Dan eight.  It's 11.  (think that caused any controversy?)

So, we gathered our stuff, Ubered over to Central Station, the one time the Uber had enough room we didn't have to put one suitcase on the rear seat...  Checked our luggage, found the train and settled in for the ride.  The train was fairly full, but they assigned us seats together, one car away from the cafe car.  The seats were comfortable and the ride was pretty smooth.

XPT train waiting to depart for Melbourne

Sydney Central Station

Sydney Central Station concourse

A pair of XPT trains waiting in the station

Part of the reason to travel by land between locations is to get a sense of what a place looks like and what happens there.  There is no stunning scenery between Sydney and Melbourne, but the area is all about grazing.  Sheep and cattle everywhere, along with some farmland for grain  - to feed the sheep and cows.  The terrain for the first third of the journey had the train winding up hills and around curves at very modest speeds.   As the terrain flattened out, the speed picked up and we ran along at 70-90 mph for long stretches.  

Climbing the hills leaving Sydney
Typical New South Wales station

Australia, like Ireland and New Zealand, is a land of baas. 
They grow stuff in Australia, too.
(even RR signal pole lines - those are long gone in the US)

Dan with muffin and flat-white on XPT train.
Rolling the last hour into Melbourne

We arrived Melbourne just after dusk into a great, new trainshed.  We picked up our checked baggage on the platform just minutes after arrival.  Our Airbnb was just two blocks away, so we wheeled our suitcases away and checked in, then headed out for dinner and some grocery shopping.

New trainshed in Melbourne - Woolworth Supermarket in the station has this view from picture windows.
Interesting feature, the tracks on the far east side of the station are dual gauge.  Victoria uses 5' 3" gauge.  New South Wales, 4' 8.5" (standard gauge), the result of some bad communication and stupendously bad decision making over 100 years ago.

Melbourne isn't anything like Sydney.  Sydney is like New York City in many regards.  Big and all business.  Melbourne is like a great European City - only much newer.  Diverse and walkable.

Our first day there we rode the tram (Translation: tram = trolley car, trolley = supermarket cart/buggy) down to Federation Square where we booked a bus tour.  The city center of Melbourne is a free tram zone.  As long as you stay within the 1 mile by 1/2 mile grid, your ride for free.  That grid is saturated with tram lines.  You never have to wait for more than a couple minutes for one headed your way.  A route around the edge of the square was covered by some restored, historic trams.

If Sydney is "ferries everywhere", Melbourne is "trams everywhere"!

Restored tourist loop tram
Happy tram passengers

Tourist loop trams is popular

Red ones go anti-clockwise 

Articulated - low floor

Single - high floor.  Passing trainshed

Green ones go clockwise

Trams only street

Trams day and night

The city got it's start from a gold rush in 1854.  When the rush was over, the world's gold supply had grown by 50%.  It was larger than the California and Klondike gold rushes added up.  The gold rush brought people in from all over the world resulting in a multi-ethnic city that remains culturally diverse to this day.  The gold money was used in the late 19th Century to build out the city center plan with one great building after the other.  Many of those buildings remain today with many new 20th and 21st century ones added.

Royal Exhibition Building

Yarra river bridge on St. Kilda Rd.

Eureka Tower

Flinders Street Station

We hopped off the on-off tour bus at the city market which was several acres of produce, meat, seafood, prepared food, gifts, souvenirs, trinkets, junk and everything in between under cover.  Later that day, we took a walking tour through the town, then ended the day along the river watching the casino put on their propane cannon light show.
Melbourne has lots of interesting lane ways (alleys).
Sometimes they are covered to form an arcade, like this fancy one.

This one is rather like a service alley - with interesting public art.

Tour scene

Yarra River looking toward Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

This arcade is full of chocolate!

This lane way was full of cafes

Melbourne has lots of shops and public places in the heart of the city.

Fancy mosaic floor in arcade

Tour leader

Public art space in action

Along the Yarra River

Propane Cannon show

The second day, we rented a car and went out to see the Puffing Billy Railroad located in the ex-urbs of Melbourne.  It's a narrow gauge - 2' 6" -  railway that went belly-up in the 1950s that's been restored as a popular tourist line with much of the original equipment.  It's a fairly scenic route over trestles, through woods and ferns, by towns and along a ridge.

Blasting up the hill.

Home signal - approach.

English-style railroading.  The station master has the bell, not the locomotive.
And, the conductor blows a whistle instead of "all aboard".
Also, no whistle at level crossings.  Too bad!

"High Green."  Here we go.

Making a pickup en route

Through the woods

American-style cab

Surely, escaped from pet shop!  Nope. Crimson Rosella Parrot.

It's a tank engine.  Taking on water.

Ready for the return trip.

Through the ferns

Legs out is the preferred way to ride.

Over the trestle, through the ferns.  

That afternoon we headed to Phillip Island to watch the nightly penguin parade.  The Little Penguin spends all day at sea eating.  They return at dusk, hundreds of them, and march up the beach to their nests in the ground. Many of the nests are hundred of feet inland.  It happens like clockwork.  A large, protected colony of Little Penguins has seating and they sell admission with proceeds used for wildlife conservation.  You can sit, watch and listen - they are very noisy - but no pictured allows.
Waiting for the penguins

Our perch.

Here is my recording with a couple public domain pictures:

The third day in Melbourne, we took in the sports museum at the local cricket pitch - the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG) which had fabulous displays about sports and sports heroes we knew little about.  The three big sports in Australia are:  Australian rules football (aka "aussie rules" or "footie", cricket, and horse racing.  Oh, and tennis. They even had a stuffed and mounted Phar Lap, the famous race horse!  Like us, they call soccer "soccer".

Lots of displays.
...obviously (I have no idea what this is)

Sydney Olympic tennis togs

Good old what's-his-name, the "Babe Ruth of Cricket"

Holographic cricket star

Model of the MCG

We grabbed lunch in an lane way (fancy alley), hit the library to see the Ned Kelly homemade suit of armor.  Ned was a bushranger  - sort of like a cowboy - who, while robbing rural banks, burned the mortgage papers of local destitute farmers, making him a bit of a hero ala Robin Hood. He was eventually captured after a protracted gun battle, tried and hung.

Where they jailed Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly's home made armor.  It worked!
He was taken alive - so he could be sentenced to death.
His last words?  "Such is life!"

Melbourne has been "tramming" since the start.

The reading room.  Nice!

Later we took in the Melbourne museum to get a look at their aboriginal history and culture exhibit and finally went up in the Eureka Tower to get an ariel view of the city at night.

Melbourne Museum scenes:

Blue whale bones
From the Eureka Skydeck:
Art Center (blue spire) and MCG


Looking toward the harbor

Good night, Melbourne!  Tomorrow, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef! Our last stop in Australia.

What!?!  No Ayers rock?  No Alice Springs?  No riding the Ghan?  Sorry.  Can't do it all on one trip!  Gotta save something for the next time.

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