Across Australia in 4 days – Part 4: Face to face with the Indian Pacific

Originally posted December 24, 2009 ¬ 12:10 AM on previous web server

Previously on Across Australia in 4 days – Part 3: Sydney Landing

With the repacked High Sierra backpack heavy on my back, the Acer netbook computer snug in its bag and the luggage bag in tow, I stepped into the elevator down to ticketing level of Sydney Airport’s International Terminal train station.

After purchasing an AirportLink train ticket costing AUD 15.20, I made my way to Platform 1, down one level from the ticketing area, using an escalator.

The platform was dimly lit, but there was enough light for me to take reasonably sharp ambient-light pictures using ISO 1,600 setting on my digital SLR camera. I needed to hold the camera really steady though, because the shutter speeds were quite slow at 1/16 and 1/10 seconds, to compensate for the dim lighting.

Sydney Central Station, the place where the Indian Pacific was waiting, was the fourth stop towards the Town Hall station from the International Terminal. While waiting for the correct train, a train came and gone in the other direction.

The train consisted of peculiar double-deck carriages. I thought up to that time only buses came as double-deckers. The double-deck carriages were the first that I had came across in my limited encounters with trains.

My train came. I found that the CityRail carriage was actually split into three compartments. The first was the compartment that I had stepped into from the platform floor. The ceiling was high, running up to the roof of the carriage. This compartment was quite small, with only a couple of seats and room to stand. A few steps away were stairs to the the lower-level and upper-level passenger compartments.

I chose to remain in the first compartment, occupying one of the seats, so that I could easily get off the train later without much hassle dragging my luggage bag up or down the carriage’s stairs. The compartment was full. Two stops away from Central Station I stood up and offered my seat to one of the standing co-passengers.

20 minutes into the short journey, I disembarked at Central Station. The platform was on ground level in the open. It was quite cold, the chill biting through my light jacket. I walked hurriedly to the end of the platform where there was an elevator which went underground. I took it. At the bottom I followed the signboards to the main station terminal. The walk ended at an escalator which went up to ground level. There I could see the main terminal. And I could also see the platform that I had just came from. I realized then that the walk after the elevator was actually underneath the ground level platforms, a sort of underground bridge from the platforms to the main station building.

In the main building of the station I paused to take some pictures. The Sydney Central station building was a classic Victorian-style train station building, with high roofs supported by massive dark-colored steel girders, with substantial parts of the roof made of translucent materials, which allowed natural lighting to illuminate the station.

The station reminded me of London’s Liverpool Street Station, which had seen me many times in 1993-1994, when I used the InterCity trains between London and Colchester, the town where I stayed with my wife and two small children during my 10-month study leave at the University of Essex working on my MSc degree in Telecommunication and Information Systems.

I then wandered around the station looking for the Indian Pacific. I saw it at the other end of the building, the unmistakable dark blue-liveried locomotive on Platform 2. I also saw many people standing and sitting on the station’s benches, with luggage bags at their feet. My would-be co-travelers on the Indian Pacific!

Not finding any signboard pointing to the Indian Pacific’s luggage check-in, I asked one of the gentlemen standing in the vicinity of Platform 2. He directed me towards the CountryLink office on the platform to the right of Platform 2.

I found the office, or rather I found on one side of the corridor of the platform a portable metal signboard with a picture of very long train meandering in crimson light of a late afternoon across a bushy plains, saying “Indian Pacific Luggage check-in area”.

I went in to the check-in counter, pulled out my internet-booked Indian Pacific ticket and told the counter staff that I was going to Perth. He smiled broadly and called out to his partner,

“Hey Sheila, this guy wants to go to Perth!”.

The way he said it sounded like he thought I was really adventurous (read crazy guy 🙂 ) going on the very long 4,000 over kilometers’ journey, alone, from Sydney to Perth.

“He wants to go to Perth, he gets to go to Perth!” answered Sheila from somewhere inside the office. Sheila sounded cheerful, hehe.

The bloke then took my luggage, tied an orange-colored tag on the bag’s handle and gave back my ticket with a copy of the orange tag stapled on.

Freed from the heavy bag, I walked back into the station to do some exploration and to find some tucker (Australian, for food) for my growling stomach.

At 1:00 pm I bought an Indian Pacific book from the Rail History shop, costing me AUD 20.00. The book was full of images and hot off the printers, having been published just one month before, in September 2009 . It chronicled the history of Indian Pacific and showed the different locomotives that were used over the years to haul the train across Australia from Sydney to Perth and return.

At 1:14 pm I finished my lunch outside the station’s Hungry Jacks (equivalent to Burger King) outlet. My lunch consisted of two pieces of Bakehouse Egg & Lettuce Sandwich and a bottle of Mount Franklin Spring Water. The sandwich was about the only thing that I could find that satisfied my halal criteria.

The growling stomach pacified, I wandered around the station looking for a chapel or a quiet place where I could do my Zohor and Asar prayers. I found no suitable place. So I decided to wait and do my prayers on board the Indian Pacific.

Across the station at Platform 2, the Indian Pacific was still there, waiting silently for the boarding to start sometime after 2.00 pm.


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