Trouble only Comes in Threes

The track had barely re-opened to Forsayth, but on 12 May we ran our first charter of the year for Outback Aussie Tours, between Forsayth and Mt Surprise.

Charters are often requested and booked by groups where they have the numbers to justify the price of ‘their own train’. This also places less strain on the accommodation because independent travellers are not competing with groups for the beds.

When we run a charter, we use the spare railmotor unit, and run it as a single car. We attach the charter unit to the scheduled train, in the days before the charter, and it is dropped off at one of the stations on the way. In this case it was Mount Surprise. On the day before the charter, the crew drive out from Cairns, fire up the railmotor, and take it over to (in this case) Forsayth, and stay overnight. The next day, we are joined by the charter group, and we work the unit back to Mt Surprise. The unit is then put away and the crew return to their home base at Cairns. The unit is then sent back to Cairns, attached to the next scheduled Savannahlander.

Anyway because this was the first of the seasons charters, it is reasonable to observe that things are not as polished as they could be. On Monday, the crew arrived at Mt Surprise and attempted to start the unit up.


Flat Battery. Someone had forgotten to turn off a switch.

To cover such scenarios, there is an inverter / charger unit that can be plugged into the train and charged up. Normally. Seems this was overlooked on this particular trip. Fortunately, a bunch of workers were returning to their nearby depot for lunch, and they were in a truck that had the same voltage our our train. And our vehicle contained a very long set of jumper leads, and the first issue was duly dealt with.

As we are heading along it became apparent that there was no microphone on board that was compatible with a newly upgraded PA system. So it became necessary to modify and old microphone that was hiding in one the lockers, by removing its plug and hot-wiring into the amplifier. With only just enough lead to reach the drivers position, it was terribly awkward to use, but at least we could provide a commentary.

The rest of this trip went off without a hitch. These are good runs with only the crew on board, and we can use these ‘quiet’ times to seek out new points of interest along the way, or photograph parts of the country side. It was unseasonably overcast with occasional showers coming through, so instead of the usual brilliant sunlit scenes, we had to work with brooding skies and dull light.

The Empty Car on the transfer movement, at Einasleigh

The Empty Car on the transfer movement, at Einasleigh

The Riverbed - Bottom of the Delaney Gorge

The Riverbed - Bottom of the Delaney Gorge

A waterhole in the Delaney River, near the 224 km peg and where the photo above was taken

A waterhole in the Delaney River, near the 224 km peg.

On the charter trips, it takes a little while to get to Einasleigh where lunch and refreshments are served. The jug is usually boiled so that a cuppa can be had before we head off for the trip. However an hour before departure, the still cold urn spoke volumes about the unserviceable state of the heating element. No cuppa. The good news is that trouble comes in threes, and this was the third glitch, so we were confident of a trouble free trip for the remainder of the journey. And so it proved to be the case.

On the Newcastle Range

Charter group disembarking for a group photo

With the first charter run for the year dusted off, we have the cobwebs from the off season blown away and ready for the next dozen or so during the year.

The group pose for a photo on the Newcastle Range

The group pose for a photo on the Newcastle Range