Towing an infinate number of peeling painted freight wagons and at the rear two solid but decrepit wooden passenger carrriages, survivors of a forgotten era,diesel No.1748 rolls into platform 4 at Roma Street Brisbane Transit Centre at 6.20pm on a Thursday evening ready for its 6.30pm depature. This is the Dirrinbandi Mail. Local commuters waiting for their suburban train home survey the freight come passenger train which, in railway parlance is affectionately termed a `Mixed Goods`. Many looked amazed when they witnessed three passengers clambering aboard, for although the passenger carriages are provided , not too many take this journey. Perhaps some were looking at us in a nostalgic way remembering the days of steam when carriages of this vintage were the only kind. On the outside the red wood is faded but inside it is unpainted and still holds its sheen, albeit some window sills are coated with a slight film of dust. The green carpet is faded, worn and stained from the ceasless tramp of feet over the years. No passenger on this train however would be so naive to expect or indeed want it any other way. We three, Bill Want, Steve Webster and myself, Terry Everson, made our way to our allotted compartment. Being the only passengers it mattered little in which compartment we travelled. The economy class sleeper was short on space but had such amenities as a small table that folded out from the wall, a fan,two glasses and a water bottle,a fold out, brilliantly shining stainless steel wash basin and a mirror. The top bunk was ready for occupancy as was the bottom bunk which formed the seat. The middle bunk folded out from the wall with great difficulty, even with the strength and mind of three. Checking out the rest of the train it was immediately evident that first class sleeping berths were more salubrious. They had two bunks equipped with towels, sheets, blankets and pillows as well as the other ammenities we had, which also included for some inexplicable reason, a blind on the mirror. The end carriage for seated passengers only was a box type containing two sections split by an interconnecting toilet. Seating arrangements were two facing seats on each side. Right on 6.30pm we rolled out of Roma Street Station, commuters on the station waving with such enthusiasim usually reserved for those who may not return. Despite the timetable set for this 668 kilometre journey, it was evident from the start it was not going to be a crawl all the way. We careered through outer suburbia at a speed bordering on reckless. The carriages rocked and swayed more than a drunk walking home from a night on the town and the creaks and clunks emanating from the bogies beneath us , as we fought to remain in our seats, had us fearful of imminent disaster. Feeling we would be safer in bed, we retired soon after leaving Ipswich but not before we borrowed some pillows and blankets from the first class compartment. Bill, suffering from a dose of the flu, quarantined himself in the adjoining compartment suitably medicated with `Sudafed` tablets. Steve and I stayed put with Steve having the bottom bunk and myself the middle bunk wherein I was secured with restraining straps. The night was uneventful although the sleep was intermittent. Morning dawned near Goondiwindi and we were ready for breakfast on arrival while freight was being unloaded. The refreshment room attendent was obviously not used to so many passengers as it took him over half an hour to serve the three of us with toasted sandwiches and coffee. After posting our order we asked the guard how far it was to the town centre which we wanted to photograph and if we would have time to get there and back before the train departed. He advised us that it was five blocks away and to let him know when we get back. I stayed to take possesion of our breakfast order while Bill and Steve headed for town. Not surprisingly they were back before our breakfast was ready and duly reported their return to the guard who held the train until our breakfast was ready. The train rolled on across the open plains at a more sedate pace under an azure canopy through hitherto unheard of sidings until our next stop at Toobeah. This siding, like many throughout the country, is in the twilight of its usefulness and is destined to cease operations in the not to distant future. One can only guess the longevity of the reamaining sidings on the Dirrinbandi line. At Talwood, our next stop, drums of fuel were being unloaded for the local fettlers who have as their mascot `Rusty` the dog who sported a porters badge on its collar. In the next small town of Thallon, time was allowed to purchase some microwaved pies from the general store and the Station Master gave us the use of his jug to boil some water for our thermos, although he was too busy to indulge in idle conversation. Wagons were unhooked here and shunted into sidings. We took some photos and video film of the activity here and the guard checked that we were aboard before giving right of wayto the engineman. Some local aborigines also joined the train here for an afternoon sojourn to Dirrinbandi. After nineteen hours fourty minutes and surprisingly on schedule we jolted to a halt at Dirranbandi, end of the line. The town encompasses an area of about two square kilometres and has one main street consisting of the usual Cafe, Butcher,Cut Price Grocer, Post Office, Bank and a second hand furniture store. We had three hours here before our return journey. Three hours to restore our equalibrium.!
This is a journey I took with three friends on a freight come passenger train from Brisbane to Dirranbandi. The train no longer runs now so it is a bit of history. We were the only three passengers for almost the entire trip. I hope you find my account of the journey a bit humerous.