Sunday, January 22, 2006

Adventures in Australia

I arrived in Melbourne, Australia last week to begin the second leg of this overseas tour. One of my hosts met me at the airport where we later joined up with another engineer from Chicago.

Since it was the weekend and there was no need to rush to work, our host was nice enough to take us out for a little drive before we went to the hotel. Last time I was in Australia, there wasn't much of a chance to see the area immediately around Melbourne so this was an interesting trip.

Geography lesson:

One of the big reasons Melbourne exists is that it's in the middle of a very large, well protected bay. So big, in fact, that you can't see the open ocean from Melbourne (you can't even see the end of the two peninsulas that form the boundaries of the bay.) So to get a better look at things (and for the sake of burning a little time over the weekend) we drove down the Morninton peninsula.

It's a nice little area, dominated by retirees and vacation homes with plenty of beach-houses and shanties for the beachgoers. Out near the end of the Peninsula there's a ferry that can take you across the bay to the Bellaraine peninsular.

The ferry (actually 2 of them) sails frequently and can shuttle cars and people, with considerable comfort, from one side of the bay opening to the other.

On the other side of the bay we stopped for a quick meal then drove over to the Bellaraine peninsular Railway station. This railway is run by a group of enthusiasts who restore and operate old steam locomotives and other railway equipment.

The locomotives were very European in appearance, which can be said about many things in Australia thanks to it's British colonial days. This 0-4-2 makes a great example. The portal windows, buffers, and odd wheel arrangement would fit perfectly in an old British railyard, whereas in America it would have been labeled a 'critter' (small, unusual piece of rail equipment) rather than a locomotive.

This locomotive looks much less European than the other one. Aside from the buffer plates on the front, it could easily pass for an American docksider. Of course it's pulling larger coaches than you would normally see behind an 0-6-0, but that's probably because the larger locomotives on the BPR would cost much more to operate on a regular basis.

From there it was on To Ballarat, but that's a post for another day.


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