Saturday, April 21, 2012

Big Day Out: Zig Zag Railway

Part Two of our massive day in the Mountains.  Having picked 10kgs of apples at Shield's Orchard we flung ourselves back into the car and hurtled onto Bell's Line of Road once more.
Well, I use hurtled euphemistically.
You see we managed to end up behind the 40+ members of the Chrysler car club, who were having a leisurely day out.
So it was a slow and scenic drive.

But, eventually, we arrived at Clarence, where the Zig Zag railway begins, high above Lithgow.

Lithgow is an old mining town and back in 1890 the trains were a vital link to transport the coal to the coast.   However, because its an incredibly steep rise from Lithgow on the western plains, to the ridge which leads across the mountains to Sydney, trains were not able to go directly up.  Instead they zig-zagged across the near vertical cliff walls.  Stopping after each rise and changing direction to take the next climb.

Of course they eventually built a tunnel system and the Zig Zag railway was left in the caring hands of volunteers, and steam and diesel train enthusiasts.  Who have maintained it with the love it deserves (why yes, I am a train nerd, I caught it from my Grandfather).

We were supposed to be travelling by steam on Thomas the Tank engine (and yes, this is a full size steam engine with Thomas's smiling face).  But Thomas's boiler went phut just before Christmas and they are still struggling to fix it.  So he was waiting for us in the sheds, down at the bottom of the valley (along with a world of fun).

Instead we caught the diesel engine.  Without doubt one of the most awesome living examples of steam punk I have ever seen in my life.  An incredible bit of machinery (yes, train nerd, sorry).
Diesel Engine
All aboard
Down in the sheds at the bottom of the valley there was a carnival.  It was cheerful and the kids had a ball.  But, there was something about the place, a sense of abandonment that you only really get with places that were once really busy, and are now left empty.  I would not be there alone at night, not even if you paid me.
The Sheds
They had the most amazing face painters - usually you expect a butterfly or a flower on the cheek, but Miss 6 asked for a tiger and this is what she got.
 After an hour it was time to catch the car back up the ridge.
So exciting to be on a train going at 10kph

Next stop Chestnut collecting.  Yes, they still had painted faces :)

2 people love me:

Natalie said...

Oh wow! What a great day out :)

I'm a train nerd too, my bucket list consists simply of taking all the  great rain journeys in the world - starting small with the small heritage railways in Australia, then up on the Ghan, across on the Indian Pacific, and (eventually and rather hopefully) the Trans Siberian and the Orient Express.

I haven't been to the Zig Zag yet, I will put it on my list!

farmer_liz said...

yay for train nerds! I come from a long line of train nerds too. I went on the zigzag a couple of years ago, got a great photo of my dad sitting up with the driver :) It was great fun to see the workshops too, they are maintained by such dedicated people, great to see.