2008: Narrogin, Western Australia

English-style Defunct Railway

Small town Australia is blessed with enormous shambling, rambling old hotels, as I knew from my 2003 visit to Coonabarabran, NSW. And they’re cheap. Narrogin was no exception, being $45 for a night at the only place in town. Credit was out of the question, so I made first use of my charge-free Nationwide cash card.

This initiated a major expense-saving regime. I got my money at the going exchange rate without incurring the buy/sell spread of credit cards. Cash became king again.

Out the back of my hotel, railway tracks and station promised trains, but not for passengers, not since 1978 anyway. Did freight ever rumble through? In that area grain was the most likely traffic and I assumed the line still carried it. That was before I grew to understand that Australia was not like back home.

The moment the last train clatters over a British railway line, the tracks are lifted with indecent haste. Not so down under. The entire infrastructure can rot unmolested for decades. I passed innumerable road crossings, complete with warning signs and flashing lights, that hadn’t seen action since the days of steam. In fact, the same was true, not just of railways, but almost any edifice.

Perhaps this has a lot to do with the pressure on land in the UK. We can’t afford to leave idle or unproductive space but the Aussies… they have room, tons of it.

I figured, and later learned evidence of, the downside of these defunct crossings. A train near Cairns ploughed into a vehicle. I could imagine how the driver, lulled into inattention by them, failed utterly to register a real live railway line. Just my story, but it may have been so.

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