Bucket List #85 Catch train from Coffs Harbour to Sydney NSW

That was the plan but I ended up catching it all the way from Brisbane to Sydney.

When I lived in Coffs Harbour as a teenager I caught the train down to Sydney on several occasions. Sometimes it was just to Kempsey or Taree to catch up with friends. I remember one time catching the train to visit a friend in Taree. They weren’t home when I got there so I slept at the railway station until the next train headed back north.

In those days the trip from Coffs to Sydney took 13 hours. It was the mail train and it was known as The Red Rattler. It stopped, it seemed, at very lamp post. The carriage was divided up into compartments with each holding about 8 people. You always hoped that you had one to yourself as you could lay stretched out along the seat and provided the train didn’t jerk too much you wouldn’t roll off if you fell asleep.

Due to timing and convenience I took the XPT from Brisbane. There are 2 services a day. I wanted to do the trip in daylight so caught the 5.55am which departs Roma Street Brisbane and arrives at Central Station Sydney at 8.12pm, a 14 hour trip. The reality of the day was that it departed at 6.27am, a half hour late.

Of course the train nowadays is much more quieter, the seats are quite comfortable and the buffet car services quite good food at very reasonable prices. The trip was $93 one way which I thought was excellent value. The return trip on the aeroplane cost $79 and only took 1 1/2 hours. Certainly catching the train was much more relaxing, comfortable and enjoyable.

Once we left Brisbane outlying suburbs behind the countryside was so lush and green. The route heads south to the first stop of Kyogle in NSW. As the train crosses the mountain ranges it runs beside the Lions Road.

In 1969, when the NSW government rejected the building of a connection road between NSW and QLD north of Kyogle, the local community, under the auspice of the local Lions Club, decided to do it themeselves. A world class scenic drive is the result.

Since 1932, people of the Northern Rivers of NSW had been endeavouring to have the direct route to Brisbane via the Richmond Gap in the McPherson Range constructed.

It is 30km shorter than the Summerland Way – Mount Lindsay Highway route.

When it was finally rejected by the NSW Government in 1969, the Lions Club of Kyogle became involved in promoting the building of the road, as a community development project.

After two years of investigating options for the route, a decision was made in 1971 to build the road across the McPherson Range connecting with the existing Shire Roads on Gradys Creek in NSW and Running Creek in QLD.

The Beaudesert Lions Club became partners in the project at this point.

The project captured in the imagination of the local community which contributed massive support in money, man hours and equipment time plus companies such as Shell Oil Co. (fuel), Hume & Hardies (pipes), McPherson Range Timber Co (timber) and Mel Hogan (timber & machinery).

Lion [member] Murphy Standfield donated his D8 Caterpillar tractor for 80 hours and supervised the actual construction of the road.

Finally, the road was opened on 15th December, 1970.

Contributions by travellers, Beaudesert and Kyogle Shires, the Queensland, New South Wales [and] Federal Governments, the NSW Forestry Commission, the 2/3 Field Eng. Rgt RAE and the XX Division Engineer Support Squadron of the Australian Army, the National Parks & Wildlife Service, the NSW Dept. of Agriculture, the Moreton Rabbit Board, and the property owners both sides of the border, have enabled The Lions Club to steadily improve the road.

In 1995 the last section of the road constructed by the Lions Club was sealed. In the second half of 1995 only 4 km of gravel remained on the Shire roads.

A truely unique road, however not suitable for caravans or motor homes.

The further we went into the train journey the later the train ran. Because of the single track mostly through to Maitland, we had to wait at Telegraph Point for the northbound XPT. What started as a further 15 minute delay continued as we were advised that due to a medical incident on the northbound train it had been delayed indefinitely at Wauchope waiting for an ambulance to attend.

We finally got going again only to have more delays the further we went. The crew were very apologetic and kept all passengers continually updated on the expected arrival times. Apparently delays happen almost every trip.

Eventually I arrived in Sydney Central at 10.29pm, some 2 and a half hours later than scheduled. Tired but very glad I made the trip by train.

Crossing the Brisbane River
Closing in on McPherson Ranges
Crossing Coffs Creek at Park Beach Coffs Harbour. As kids we used to jump off this train bridge.
Crossing the river at Kempsey
At least we had a river view while waiting at Telegraph Point

2 thoughts on “Bucket List #85 Catch train from Coffs Harbour to Sydney NSW

  1. WOW, the memories that came flooding back on the numerous times I’ve done that railway journeys from Sydney to Coffs Harbour and Brisvagus, thanks 🙏 for the trip Ray, Craig.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Craig. Yes it was wonderful to see the stations and sidings that were so familiar to us. Well until you brought that Sandman and our world opened up more. Sorry didn’t get to see you again when I came through Brissie. Next time mate.


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