We have been doing a bit of travelling this year recording for the National Library. Darwin, Caloundra, Bourke and Mackay among other places. At the moment we are sitting on a plane coming back from North Queensland and I'm thinking about just how easy it is to get around these days compared to my youth.
Travel to Sydney from Forbes was an adventure by car, train or if you were fortunate plane from Parkes airport. Car was a lengthy trip over roads that could not even compare with anything we have now. The Eugowra Rd was unsealed so preferred option was through Parkes to Orange. Victoria Pass was a challenge as most cars, including my Morris Minor, were underpowered and with very little in the way of brakes could be very scary!
Second option was our steam train, The Forbes Mail, departing 6pm every night, I think, and arriving at Sydney Central Station the following morning. Beautiful wood paneled old style compartments but as cold as the South Pole in winter. If you were financial enough a sleeping compartment could be booked, but I was seldom that lucky. As there were no booked seats in 2nd class the skill was to spread your luggage around to make it look occupied.
I still have fond memories of the magnificent indicator board at Central Railway Station where all the towns enroute to your destination were shown. It was all hand controlled by turning the individual segments. I believe it is preserved in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, certainly hope so.
The ultimate way of getting to Sydney was by aeroplane via Parkes airport, a true adventure. Butlers air Transport ran the service with old DC3s in the early days and many of the pilots were ex WW2 veterans. Some of the stories of their escapades are hair raising.
My uncle Arthur Genge ran the Volkswagen shuttle bus from Forbes to Parkes and my father would often relieve and I would tag along. Weather reports from the airport to the plane were easy with the ground crew sticking their heads out the window and radioing the pilot with the ‘report’.
If lucky enough to fly we kids were allowed to go into the cockpit with the captain. A wonderous thing for a young lad.
By chance one of the interviews we recorded on this current trip was with a former Air Hostess who flew in the DC3s and didn't they have it tough. No overtime or penalty rates and very long hours. Being unpressurised the aircraft could not gain height to escape turbulence and sick bags were often required. Maxine, our hostie interviewee gave us an insight in to one of her more unpleasant tasks involving sick bags, a pair of tongs and false teeth. Hope you are not having a meal at the moment!
Thank goodness for modern transport, the internet and wonderful travel agents we have in Forbes.