As the Footplate Padre I received a letter from Barry Blair the editor of Inside Rail E-News from his New England area and was interested to read the writer's issue about passenger trains to and from Sydney.
The letter noted that for the writer to catch the train to Sydney so as to assist with rail patronage, the cost became prohibitive, as the timetabling meant he had to spend two nights in Sydney. It was cheaper to fly down in the morning and back in the evening.
Travelling on any Australian intercity or country passenger train today, there are, on the most part, two categories of people.
Railway patronage at this level carry many pensioners and this is good. Pensioners are off the busy highways. Pensioners are enjoying their well earned working years to enjoy their free rail passes or very reasonably priced travel.
My wife and I travelled on The Ghan in 2010 between Darwin and Alice Springs and it was a case of spotting those who were not pensioners.
The other group are young professionals who catch the train for convenience. I’ve travelled a number of times on the Wodonga to Melbourne morning trains that get into Melbourne before 9.00am. If you don't book, you don't get a seat.
The same can be said for the inter-urban trains from the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong to Sydney, or the equivalent from Gympie or Ipswich to Brisbane, or in WA, from Bunbury to Perth.
This is a far cry from yesteryear with the great name trains of the nation that were the quintessential of travel in the sixties. The diesel locomotive changed the railways for ever when they first began to grace the Australian railway network from Queensland all the way across the continent to Western Australia which allowed such trains to gain their reputations.
The Sunlander (Cairns to Brisbane), Inlander (Townsville to Mt Isa), Midlander (Rockhampton to Winton), Westlander (Brisbane to Toowoomba and further west). These were world leaders in the fifties. NSWGR had numerous such name trains: The Brisbane Limited; Gold Coast MotorRail; Southern Aurora; Riverina Express; Northern Tablelands Express; Newcastle Flyer. Victoria too: The Spirit of Progress. South Australia The Overland; Commonwealth Railways: Trans Continental; Western Australia The Australind.
These name trains, the Dionysian of Australian Rail were part of an era where one lined up at a railway station office window to book your ticket. The cost of air travel was prohibitive. That era has gone.
One books your ticket on-line today.
Travelling as a missionary across the nation, time becomes costly. One way or another we all move with the times, especially in Mission roles. Many of Mark Tronson's colleagues now carry an iPad in their brief case or hand-bag, it's their entire office including the Bible.
I’ve even got the Bible on his iphone and it's read at any time (although I like my printed King James Bible).
So now imagine, the benefit of "Very Fast Trains", a subject that is now back on the agenda. As fast and so much more convenient than air travel city centre to city centre!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html