As the Footplate Padre, I for one have been delighted to view the new style of railway documentary shown on SBS television in Australia. I have now viewed three of them and they run from 8.30pm thru to 10.50pm – that is well over two hours. The three I have viewed
New Zealand Railways
The genre is very different to anything seen previously, as with elite camera work, and without verbalizing apart from official train manager’s announcements, the information along the trip is provided by ‘white lettered explanatory notes’.
The viewing as shown by the camera work illustrates the rail trips from the front of the locomotives, from the carriage compartments, the cafeteria and lounge cars, the rear view of the tracks, above the train, side views, and townships and cities along the way.
Nothing of importance is missed. The view of the track ahead is particularly poignant as it illustrates the vegetative nature as the train progresses over the great gorges, amazing rail bridges, the tunnels, and tight curves and the like.
This railway viewing journey starts in Perth, Western Australia and takes the viewing all the way to Kalgoorlie with the most fascinating historical information (white lettering), across the Nullabor, the two Port’s - Augusta and Pierre and in to Adelaide.
Then back to Port Augusta and onto the Broken Hill line through Maryborough and the old tracks of 3’6” into the South Australian outback, and then onto Parkes, Bathurst, Lithgow, Blue Mountains, Penrith, Strathfield and on to Sydney.
After two hours and twenty minutes the viewer is as pleased as the passengers to have arrived! As a former NSW locomotive engineman and the Footplate Padre I have been on most of these track sections.
Again I have been privileged enough to have been on all these tracks and over many years.
This video runs from Auckland down to Wellington (then the ferry to the South Island), along the coastal rail route from Picton to Christchurch, then the TransAlpine from Christchurch over the Mountains to Greymouth on the west coast of the New Zealand south Island. The viewing then is by 4 wheel truck down to Queenstown and Invercargil.
In 1990 I was a chaplain at the Auckland Commonwealth Games and flew from Sydney to Christchurch and ran the rail to Picton, the ferry and then from Wellington to Auckland. I had a couple of my railway books and rode up front on a large section of the Wellington track and over the great bridges and gorges.
In 1997 our entire family did the rail trip to Christchurch and utilized the open viewing carriage for much of the trip. The last trip was another on the TransAlpine only last September with our entire family of 10 except two – we did the day trip.
This journey commences in Adelaide and works its way to Port Augusta, Port Pierre then up thru the South Australian inland to Alice Springs, then onto Katherine and into Darwin.
What is unique about this Ghan trip is that the train takes a long rest in both Alice Springs and Katherine where coaches take the passengers on tourist trips. We did this in 2010 where we went to the Katherine Gorge and met up with a Brazilian film crew who were fascinated with my years as the Australian cricket team chaplain. In Alice Springs we visited the Outback School of the Air and other sites.
Wash-aways have been a feature of this Ghan rail experience as the massive floods have washed away sections of rail perway.
It has my ministry to meet the crews and the train managers, the latest was the driver of the TransAlpine who was delighted to be given one of my railway books. Another encounter was on the Dunedin-Tierrie tourist train and I rode up front and discovered the same issues for locomotive engineman applied equally to New Zealand as they did to Australia.
On the Trans-Continental way back in 1978 I gave a New Testament with a red cover to a train manager. We stopped at Port Augusta on the way back east, and the passenger car bins were tipped into the platform bins. My wife and I were on a platform seat watching this happen an d my eye caught that red covered New Testament landing in the bin.
In a few seconds a gentleman came bye and his eye caught the red covered book, he picked it up from the bin, saw what it was, and salvaged it and put in into his pocket. I am aware the Scriptures are as sharp as a two edged sword and I have often wondered about that gentleman and his new found treasure.
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