Monday, 27 April 2015

The Troop Train to Cooroy

24th April 2015

The time is 6.50am and we are dressed and ready to head into the Troop Train, the anticipation is huge not knowing what the day has in store for us and to think the troops that would have caught this same train to Brisbane ready to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives.

We can only imagine what they were thinking the morning they were packing to board whether they would ever see their families again, who they were going to meet on the train, will they know anybody the thoughts that would have been tumbling around their heads.

We on the other hand arrived at the RSL to board the bus to Maryborough train station, was a little sad that they couldn't bring the train into town as it would have done in the early days. 

 The Mayor of Maryborough – Gerard O'Connell was present at the RSL to wish us a safe journey and inside the RSL were military men who were attending the ceremony at Maryborough State High so we got a photos with them. We piled onto the bus and amongst tension, excitement early morning blues checking out who was on the bus.

We arrived a t the Railway station and there stood the most amazing sight   ..she was big, red with a long line of carriages trailing behind her.. The guys running the train QR had such a huge job head of them with trying to get all the long distance passengers onboard and then a pile of excited school children.

Finally settled in the last carriage with a window seat were ready. The first sign we were moving was the slight rocking then the build up of steam and the train left the station - the train started of very slow and steady, as it warmed up the train got fast and a stronger pull. The whistle was quite loud but echoed in the bush. The adrenalin rushed through our bodies full of wonder and adventure.

The smell of burning coal drifted back and the steam was floating past our window, the carriage was rolling and swaying as we built up speed. The seat are shiny leather and bouncy. The interior of the train was so beautifully made the timberwork so intricate and the pressed metal ceilings not something you see too regularly. It was such a magnificent piece of work, the art work that was carved carefully into the ceiling and walls.

The cab hostess was very straight forward in her rules, no body parts out the windows, no children to wander alone, and watch crossing from carriage  to carriage beware the steel plates can move together.

So we all settled in for the journey of a lifetime then we were told we could wander up and down and could go a far as the dining car.

So of course we were off. Sandra came with her miniature medals of her grandfather and that was so nice how many people stopped her and asked her about them. All the passengers were so polite, we received so many high fives and smiles. The Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss was on board, he was very kind and got a photo with us. The people, staff, actors and everyone in general made it even more of a delight.  '

Everybody that we approached greeted us like long lost friends and everybody was so friendly. It is great to meet people and they enhance your experience just by saying hi.. Did this happen to the soldiers who were on their way to Brisbane to sail away. We they greeting everybody like long lost friends or sizing everybody up knowing they would depend on these people for their lives in the near future.

As we snaked along the trains, gripping anything that we could to stop us from falling face first into the lap of a complete stranger and watching where we were stepping we were constantly stopped by new people asking which school the girls had come from. What the medals on their chest were for and were they enjoying themselves.

Following our conga line was an employee of QR who was a brilliant tour guide directing us to keep on going don't stop at this carriage you need to get to the dining car and check out the galley I asked him how important the train was of him and he was one of the fitters who worked on the train.
What a cool job he was a big part of the success of this trip coming off. We reached the dining car after checking out the loo.. Remember you cannot go to the loo while in a station or siding as the toilet is a straight through hole to the tracks.. So the poor people standing on the platform will see what you have done after the train pulls out.

On board the train were a group of people who had travelled from Winton and were going to Brisbane and they were having the time of their lives, some were veterans and their wives, others were avid historians and others proud Australians who wanted to experience what the Soldiers experienced. So many smiles, memories and stories to tell.

Then the coolest group of volunteer re-enactment groups that represented Nurses who served and the 9th Battalion. The 9th gave us a talk on the journey on the train explaining how the soldiers had no idea where they were going and that they would eventually find out, and what the soldiers were travelling with as in the papers they had to carry, their dog tags and the importance of these items.

One of the 9th Battalion gents gave us a pull down demo of what was in his kit and why they carried what they did.. The best being the boot biscuit and he showed the Maryborough State High School students how to soften the biscuit on the heel of his boot then shared it with them.

We travelled down the line through lots of tiny little sidings and the turnout of the locals was a sight to see with people lining the tracks and waving their Aussie flags.

As we pulled into Cooroy station we were greeted with a huge fanfare of people and a band playing. As we disembarked the train we were met by friendly faces, TV cameras (which they wouldn’t have seen in 1915), the Deputy Prime Minister gave a speech and we headed to the RSL

There was heaps of uniforms, both military, emergency services and Police as we left the train station on our journey to the RSL. We went over a bridge which was packed, when we reached the RSL there was a massive turnout of locals and there were speeches from the Deputy Prime Minister and the President of the Cooroy RSL,

The RSL made a lovely lunch and we sat with a group of train travelers who were doing the journey from Winton to Brisbane and were veterans of the Navy. The husband and wife met while in the Navy during Vietnam and to this day the romantic story continues....

Compiled by Cheyenne Ross & Leanne Wroe

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