Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Around Melbourne

Events of Tuesday 16th May 2017

After Myanmar's summer heat, it had been a shock to cross the equator and arrive in Perth in their autumn. Although I was warm enough in the day, each night as the temperature dropped I felt cold and needed an extra blanket on the bed. Melbourne was similar. My hotel room had Air Conditioning but my normal reaction is to turn it off, to prevent the noise from the fan disturbing me. However, without the Air Conditioning heating the room during the night, I'd needed an extra blanket for comfort but I slept well in the huge bed.

Having checked out the walking route from my hotel to Flinders Street Station the previous day and taken the precaution of purchasing the 'Myki' credit card-sized local transport ticket to use on Tuesday, readers will not be surprised that Tuesday turned into a 'Railway Day'. In addition to trying out the 'Metro' local trains, I wanted to travel on the Puffing Billy Railway - a substantial tourist railway in the hills to the east of the city. I knew from my previous visit back in 2006 that it was possible to reach the tourist railway by local electric train from Flinders Street, although on that occasion I was on a coach trip. This time, I was warned to allow at least 90 minutes for the journey travelling by rail.

I took breakfast in Hotel Lindrum's restaurant named, oddly, 'Felt' (Lindrum was a famous billiards player so the name refers to the green baize covering a billiard table).

Hotel Lindrum, Melbourne: 'Felt' Restaurant.

I walked to Flinders Street Station in time to catch the 8.22 a.m. to Blackburn, with the intention of changing at Blackburn to a following train which went on to Belgrave.

Melbourne to Belgrave: Concourse area at Flinders Street.

The 8.22 a.m. train was a few minutes late arriving at Blackburn and, by the time I'd worked out that I needed to go to a different platform at Blackburn to join the train onwards to Belgrave, I was in time to see it depart without me.

Melbourne to Belgrave: Blackburn, looking towards Belgrave, showing 'Victorian' pattern signal and train stop.

However, I successfully caught the next train to Belgrave and, on arrival at Belgrave, a footpath (identified with a painted, blue line) led me to the terminus of the Puffing Billy Railway.

The Puffing Billy Railway's website is here or, for more technical information, see the Wikipedia article here. On the day of my visit, trains were operating as far as Lakeside and I purchased a return ticket to travel to Lakeside on the first departure, the 10.30 a.m.

Puffing Billy Railway: Belgrave - Lakeside: Passengers boarding the 10.30 a.m. at Belgrave.

It's a charming railway, run mainly by friendly volunteers, but (with my background on British railways) I couldn't get used to the officially-approved seating position adopted by many of the passengers.

Puffing Billy Railway: Belgrave - Lakeside: I didn't try the officially-approved seating position adopted by many of the passengers.

The gradients require the narrow gauge 2-6-2 tank locomotives forming the majority of the motive power to work quite hard. The 10.30 a.m. was a long train and we were double-headed from Belgrave to Menzies Creek.

Puffing Billy Railway: Belgrave - Lakeside. The gradients require the narrow gauge 2-6-2 tank locomotives to work quite hard.

At Menzies Creek, the train divided and the pilot engine left us in order to work the detached coaches back to Belgrave to form a later train. We then continued to Lakeside where our engine took water and ran round the coaches, leaving the locomotive crew a short break before setting off back to Belgrave at 12.30 p.m.

Puffing Billy Railway: Locomotive 14A ready to return from Lakeside.

I decided to return on the 12.30 p.m. train, continuing to take lots of pictures. In addition to the elegant and well-maintained steam locomotives, a feature of the line which particularly appealed to me was the semaphore signalling, much of it Mackenzie and Holland lattice posts.

Puffing Billy Railway: Lakeside - Belgrave. Leaving Menzies Creek, showing a 4-arm bracket signal (motor operated).

I've no doubt I will produce a more technical report on this remarkable line in the future.

Puffing Billy Railway: Lakeside - Belgrave. Crossing the timber trestle bridge.

Back at Belgrave, I walked to the electrified broad gauge 'Metro' station and only had a few minutes to wait before the next train via Richmond to Flinders Street.

Belgrave station, with the train I caught to Melbourne on the right.

On arrival at Flinders Street, I decided to traverse the mainly underground 'City Loop', passing through the huge, modern Southern Cross station, followed by subterranean stations at Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament. Having reversed direction around the City Loop, the next station was Richmond (again), where I alighted. Richmond, with its ten platforms, seems to be Melbourne's 'Clapham Junction'.

Richmond station, with Melbourne's skyscrapers in the background.

I crossed to Platform 1 for the next service back to Flinders Street which took around four minutes to reach the southernmost platform at Flinders Street, a bay. Exhausted by all this travelling, I walked back to my hotel and didn't venture out again, taking a dinner of soup and sorbet in my room whilst working on the computer and just watching the trains go by.

Related Posts on this Website

Next post describing this trip.
All Burma-2017 Trip posts.
All Australia-2017 posts.

My Pictures

Hotel Lindrum, Melbourne.
Melbourne (2006 and 2017).
Melbourne's Local Railways (2006 and 2017).
Puffing Billy Railway (2006).
Puffing Billy Railway: Belgrave - Lakeside (2017).
Puffing Billy Railway: Lakeside - Belgrave (2017).

[Text amended, pictures added 7-Sep-2017]

By Air to Melbourne

Events of Monday 15th May 2017

I was picked up a little after 8.00 a.m. on Monday to be taken to the domestic airport at Perth to catch a Quanta flight to Melbourne. I was sad to leave Keith, Fhines and Sasha behind.

I was travelling Economy and the large Check-in Hall was completely devoid of staff (except for a single Business Class check-in desk). So I thought I'd better attempt to use the Self-Check-In and Bag Drop which, rather to my surprise, I managed without incident.

With only minimal hand carried luggage, security was next. There were plenty of staff there and all were friendly and charming, improving my mood considerably.

At the Gate, the seating overlooked the Boeing 737-800 we were about to board and, on time, Quantas staff checked boarding passes and the passengers shuffled down the air bridge to the aircraft. The economy cabin had 3+3 seating and I did find it cramped but the cabin crew were welcoming.

Perth Airport (Domestic): My Boeing 737-800 to Melbourne.

We took off promptly but there was a fair bit of turbulence as we climbed to cruising altitude. Once things had settled down, a meal was served. I had sausage and mash (in a cardboard box) but it was warm and tasty. As well as an orange juice, they followed up with tea or coffee (I had tea, of course) and later in the flight we had a frozen Snickers bar. We reached Melbourne in just over three hours. All in all, I found it a very satisfactory experience.

Melbourne Airport.

Because it was a domestic flight, the driver of my booked car was able to meet me in Baggage Reclaim - displaying my name on the screen of his mobile phone which looked very professional. We had a few minutes wait before baggage started to arrive at the carousel, but my two pieces appeared fairly early so we were soon driving into the city.

Although Melbourne has plenty of modern buildings and skyscrapers, many rather older buildings remain, giving the city an atmosphere which appealed to me, as it did on my first visit back in 2006. That first visit was part of a trip I call 'Round the World 3'. There's a very brief description in the post here but only the sections titled 'Saturday 18th' and 'Sunday 19th' talk about my expeiences in Melbourne.

This time, my travel agent had recommended the 'Hotel Lindrum', an old office building converted with a modern interior. My room on the third floor looked across the street to the complex network of railway lines entering Flinders Street Station, which pleased me greatly. All of the trains were Electric Multiple Units and the service was intensive - I discovered Melbourne's population is four and a half million and growing.

Melbourne's Railways (2017): The approaches to Flinders Street Station, viewed from my room at the Hotel Lindrum.

By the time I'd checked-in, it was late afternoon (Melbourne is two hours ahead of Perth) but I decided to take a short walk before it became dark. My route from the hotel took me along Flinders Street, parallel to the railway, towards Flinders Street railway station.

Melbourne: 'W' class heritage trams provide a free service around the city-centre Circle Line.

Melbourne: Flinders Street Station busy with commuters at 5.30 p.m.

I visited the tourist office, purchased a local transport ticket to use the following day, had a portion of chips in a station cafe and purchased a Coca Cola and Kit-Kat to take back to the hotel. It was dark by the time I was back at the hotel, so I worked in my room on the computer until bedtime.

Related Posts on this Website

Next Post describing this trip.
All Burma-2017 Trip posts.
All Australia-2017 posts.

My Pictures

Perth Airport (Domestic).
Melbourne Airport.
Melbourne (2006 and 2017).
Hotel Lindrum, Melbourne.
Melbourne's Local Railways (2006 and 2017).

[Text amended, pictures added 6-Sep-2017]