This is a trip report for a journey I took in August 2013.
I had arrived in Sydney in the early morning on the overnight XPT from Melbourne, and after a day of travelling the trains and ferries of Sydney, I arrived back at Central Station to catch the Bathurst Bullet. Although it was 45 minutes until my train was due to depart, the 2 car Endeavour DMU was waiting at platform 2, wearing the yellow, blue and silver CityRail livery. As I had plenty of time, I took some photos of the Endeavour and the double deck H set on the adjacent platform. I bought a coffee from the coffee shop on the station (no cafe on board the Endeavour) and found a seat.
Endeavour DMUs are comprised of fixed 2 car sets, capable of running in multi unit within their class. They are diesel-hydraulic, and were built by ABB in Dandenong, Melbourne in the late 1980s. They were built to replace the aging 620/720 class railcars operating local services on the South Coast, Southern Highlands and Hunter Valley. One of the 2 cars has a toilet (TE car), and the other has luggage space (LE car). Seating is 2+3 and reversible.
The little train departed Central Station precisely on time, at 17:55; the bogies creaking and groaning over the points as we left the station. The 2 car DMU was about 60% full as it quickly powered up to line speed through Sydney’s inner west. We stopped to pick up passengers at Parramatta and Penrith, before beginning our ascent into the Blue Mountains, but unfortunately it was after dark, so the scenery wasn’t visible. We reached Springwood on time, and by this stage, the train was about 80% full.
The train made good time, and we arrived at Katoomba a few minutes ahead of schedule. The same at Mt Victoria, and by the time we arrived at Lithgow, we were 6 minutes early. One of my NSW correspondents has since informed me that the Sydney crew change over with the Lithgow crew here, and it is very important for the Sydney crew that the train arrives on time. The reason for this was the Sydney train ready to depart from the adjacent platform (the next train being 2 hours later). By this time, we had been travelling for 2 hours 30 minutes and it was becoming evident that although the plucky little DMU was more than capable of the long journey, the hard seats were not designed for this sort of work!
Lithgow was the last stop before Bathurst (although we still had just over an hour left to travel) and there was now only about 30 people left on the train. We raced on through the evening at speeds of up to 145 km/h, arriving at Bathurst right on time. Bathurst was cold and dark at 21:40. The train was to return to Lithgow at 22:30, and I spent some time talking with the Train Guard, before deciding it was too cold and that I should get some rest, as I was to catch the 05:48 service back to Sydney the next morning.
I had booked a room at the Victoria Hotel, which is located across the road from the station; literally a 2 minute walk. The rate was reasonable ($40 for a single room with shared bathroom) and it was perfectly positioned. I entered the main bar, where there were a few locals nursing their last beers before closing time, and informed the bartender of my booking. He spent a few minutes looking at the booking sheet, before finally muttering “why has he done that… what a genius”. He informed me that the manager had given away my room, but there was another available. He told me that I would be in the “Top Flat”. I told him that I didn’t care where I was sleeping, as long as there was a warm bed.
I was instructed to go to the top of the stairs, turn left and go to the end of the corridor “your room is straight ahead… I think it’s number 22”. I did as instructed, but at the end of the corridor, I found room 24. To the right of me was room 22, and I wasn’t sure which door I should try to open. As the hotel was fully booked, I didn’t want to creep someone else out by trying to open their door at 10:15pm. I examined the key for further clues, but all it said was “TF”, presumably for “Top Flat”. In the end I decided to go for the door straight ahead (24). I quietly inserted the key, and it turned. The door swung open, and there were no screams or cries of alarm, so I entered the room.
Actually, what I had entered was another hallway; the “Top Flat” was actually an apartment. I turned on the light, and investigated my surroundings; the apartment was old and in a mild state of disrepair. Tiles were cracked, paint was faded and carpet was worn. Despite this, it was clean and tidy, and suited my needs exactly. The apartment consisted of a small bedroom with 3 single beds, a bathroom and toilet (a bonus, as I had expected shared facilities), a kitchen and stairs leading down to a large lounge room. In the lounge room were another 5 beds, a couch and a TV. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to enjoy all of the facilities, as I had a train to catch in less than 7 hours, so I set my alarm for 05:00 and prepared for sleep. It was growing colder by the minute, so I gathered up all of the blankets in the small bedroom and fell asleep underneath them.
I woke needing the toilet, but reluctant to extract myself from under the blankets. I had no idea what time it was, so I checked my phone on the way to the bathroom; 04:59 and -2 degrees (yes… minus 2). I was looking forward to a hot shower on this frozen morning. I turned on the hot tap and nothing came out. A few seconds later, there was a sigh, a gurgle and a blob of black water was spat out of the shower rose. The black water stopped, followed by a stream of freezing, clean water. After about a minute, the freezing water turned hot.
After my gloriously hot shower, I made my way across to the station. The train was already waiting at the platform, having arrived from Lithgow at 04:40 and I waited in line to use the single ticket machine. The machine did not accept notes and the ticket office was not open, but fortunately the Train Guard was standing next to the machine with a bag full of $2 coins. After buying my ticket ($8.40 from Bathurst to Dungog – not bad for a journey of over 400km), I bought a coffee for the long journey and after a few dark photos, I boarded the train.
The train was around 50% full as it eased out of Bathurst on time. Although it was below freezing outside, the heating on the train was working well and it was warm and comfortable inside. Dawn began to break as we rocketed towards Lithgow, and as it got lighter, I could see that we were going through thick banks of fog. The sun was completely up as we went through Wallerawang and the fog gave way to a light mist, nestling in the gullies and creek beds. The Driver slowed between Wallerawang and Lithgow and there was a lot of horn tooting as he shooed some errant grey kangaroos off the line. The ‘roos shooed, we resumed our high speed run into Lithgow.
We arrived at Lithgow on time, and after a brief stop, we were on our way again. The mist was now completely gone, and the day was clear with bright sunshine and a brilliant blue sky. The spectacular views of the Blue Mountains which had been hidden in the darkness the night before, were now on display was we descended towards Sydney. The endless eucalypt bushland and impressive peaks, along with the early wattle blossom made for a very enjoyable journey, as we stopped at Mount Victoria, Katoomba and Springwood. By the time we arrived at Penrith on the border of the Blue Mountains and Sydney’s West, the train was about 80% full and still on time.
We had a spirited run along the quad tracks in Sydney’s outer west, overtaking slower suburban trains. We stopped at Parramatta, then crawled into Central at the tail end of the peak hour, arriving 2 minutes late. A good trip, but my bum was numb from the hard seats and I was more than ready for breakfast before my next leg towards Dungog.