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quokka

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  1. quokka

    GW Chapter 16

    This was not the fault of the train driver or your company, it appears that the driver of the truck, who is new to the fuel company, and from overseas, ignored the warning lights and bells, and crashed through the boom gates as your train was passing through. On behalf of our community, please accept my condolences for the staff that you have lost, and I understand that several passengers have also perished in this tragic crash, is there any way we can assist you anymore?” Mr Armstrong said to Dad. “Your community has already done so much with taking care of the passengers as well as dealing with the fire, if you can accommodate all the passengers as best as possible or arrange transport for them to get to their destinations, I will be happy to cover any costs incurred” Dad replied. “I have already spoken to all of the accommodation places, there is the motor inn, the two hotels, the motel and a number of B&B accommodation in town, and they are all happy to assist. The local bus service has also rounded up its drivers, and they have 4 buses ready to go” Mr Armstrong said, and Dad asked him to follow him. In the main hall, where the majority of the 234 train passengers are gathered, apart from those who are injured and are in either Narrogin hospital or on their way to Katanning hospital, a large group of locals were checking that everyone is fed and being well looked after. “Can I have your attention please” Dad shouted amongst the noise of people talking and groaning, and I let out a loud whistle to get everyone’s attention, and Dd looked at me before clearing his ears, which made some people laugh. “Thank you, son, for that ear bashing. For those who don’t know me, I am Christopher Ashburton, of ARG. The Police have informed us, that the fuel tanker truck was the cause of the crash, which I expect will be investigated fully. For now, thou! I wish to let you good folk know that we will make sure that you are all well looked after. The community of Narrogin has many places for accommodation for those who wish to rest for a day or two, before travelling on, and for those who wish to travel back to Albany, we have four buses on standby, ready to take you there, as soon as you are ready. For those who were in car one or two, I am sorry, we cannot recover any luggage from those cars, as the fire is still active, but for the passengers in the other cars, we will have stewards collect your luggage, and bring it to you, before boarding the buses. Do any passengers have any questions at this point in time?” Dad said to the crowd. “Yes, do you know who is missing or killed?” one man called out, and I stepped forward to answer this question, “My name is Vern Ashburton, our initial check was we had three train crew and 7 passengers missing, but now… it is only four passengers that are missing, and until the fire is out and… we will know more once the fire crews have finished their work” I said, choking a little as I spoke. “That is all we have at the moment, we have your contact information from your bookings, so we will do a follow up call soon, to check on everyone, thank you” Dad added, and we returned to the small meeting room. Dad and I stayed in Narrogin for three days, well over a day after the last of the passengers had left town, the majority of the injured, including Reynold, were still in hospital, either in Narrogin, Katanning or one of the hospitals in Perth, and as miracles would have it, two passengers were found unconscious and suffering smoke inhalation at the back of car one, so there was just two passengers missing. It took nearly two days to get the fuel fire under control, plus the bush fires that resulted int eh explosions from the crash site, which burnt 190 acres of farmland crops, plus about 420 acres of bush reserves, to the west of town. Westnet Rail had sent an engine to bring the rest of the train back to Albany, while a clean-up team began work on repairs of the track, with two sections of rail needing to be replaced, having bent from the extreme heat of the fuel fire, and we returned to Albany with the remainder of the train. When we arrived at the train station in the late afternoon three days after the crash, there was a large group of media waiting for us. “You better do this Dad, I am not up to dealing with this right now” I said as the train came to a stop. “Mr Ashburton will there be an enquiry into the cause of the accident?” one reporter asked, “We are leaving it in the capable hands of the police, to conduct a thorough investigation into why the truck crashed through the boom gate and into our train. We are saddened with the loss of three of our staff, along with two passengers, and we wish all of those who were injured, a speedy recovery” Dad said as I gave him a slight nudge with my elbow. My signal that I would take the next question. “When will your train services be recommencing, will you wait until the investigation is over?’ a reporter asked. “Once the tracks that are damaged by the fire are replaced, and the police have given us the all clear, we shall recommence our services on the Great Western, I also want to point out that although we had made a big effort to ensure all major road crossings have sufficient warnings, we will be commencing an upgrade with all public road crossings having signage and boom gate barriers at each level crossing. We will also have all private road crossings with extra signage installed, as well as signal warnings at each crossing, that is all for now thank you” I said, as I spotted Mrs Frazier arrive in her own car to collect us, and she drove us to the back gate of the house, and we rushed inside to avoid any nosey reporters from sticking their camera’s over the fence. Dad made sure that my brothers and I, had a thorough check up by our family doctor, and a psychologist also visited us to assess us from any trauma side effects, of which my two brothers were having some nightmares from the crash, but I was fine. With one train of the Great Western now being minus two cars, and just one engine, we would have to adapt a little. When the truck and train wreckage was removed from tracks, part of the truck was fused together with the front side of car one, so it had to be cut before they could be separated, and car one was a total loss, while Car two had minimal damage, most of it just smoke and water damage from the fire-fighting, and it was loaded onto a truck and transported up to Midland to get some repairs done to it. The new service to Exmouth was changed, so that the train could be used for the Great Western Service from Albany to Geraldton, until a new car one can be sent from Switzerland to replace the damaged one. The trucking company and the driver were found to be the cause of the crash, and so their insurance company had to pay for the replacement of the train car. The Exmouth service did begin, but not with any grand parade or anything, because of the crash, and it was reduced to one weekly journey, until there are enough cars to get the damaged train complete again, which would take about two months. It was on New Year’s Eve, when the new train car arrived to replace the damaged one, and I hoped that with it being the start of a new year, that it would be the start of good fortune for the family company ARG. The End.
  2. quokka

    Great Western

    One chapter to go till the end...
  3. quokka

    GW Chapter 15

    “They have been here since 7am sir, I had arrived at that time, to prepare for the arrival of supplies, and there were already three people waiting, and now it’s this big” Reynold said to us, as we approached him, and he took our luggage. Oskar and Tomas followed Reynold inside, while Dad and I stayed on the platform. “Dad, with the family taking up most of the family car, we and the three Admin staff with us, who will be seated in Platinum again, we have a total of 103 seats available. 46 seats in Bronze class, 36 in Gold Class and 21 in Platinum class” I said to Dad, just as Reynold returned. “I have temporary tickets with us, to cover that number of passengers, but what is the fare going to be for this journey?” Reynold stated. “Same as always, almost the same as what it would cost on a road coach” Dad replied, and I did a search on my phone for that information. “$156 for an adult fare, Dad” I said when the information came up. “Right, that is the fare for Bronze class passengers, add another $70 for Gold class, and $45 for Platinum class, did you get all the required supplies?” Dad stated, “Yes sir” Reynold said, before Dad went inside. “Right, that makes $226 for Gold class and $271 for Platinum class” Reynold said, as he jotted down those three prices in his note pad. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a total of 103 seats available in total, for the journey to Geraldton, so for those wishing to travel in Bronze class, with a ticket of $156, can you make your way to the rear of Car one please, those wishing to travel in Gold class, with a ticket of $226, make your way to the front of the last car, and those wanting Platinum class, with a ticket costing $271, please line up here” I announced in a loud voice, so all could hear me. Moments later, most of the crowd had gathered outside of car one, with only about two dozen for the other two classes. I stepped inside, and walked forward to Car one, and unlocked the door, while I left Reynold to deal with the Gold and Platinum class passengers. “Ladies and gentlemen, as you have noticed, we only have three cars with us for this journey, so there are only 46 seats available for this class, but there are 36 seats available in Gold class, that does include meals and non-alcoholic drinks” I announced to the crowd. About twenty people moved down to the line at the other end of the train, which I was pleased to see, but it still meant, that there were too many for Bronze, as I began to do the ticketing for the passengers. “Nearly twenty minutes later, I had the 46 seats filled, with the other stewards making sure that everyone sat in their correct seats, and a message from Reynold via a steward, informed me that all seats were taken in Gold class, and that half of the seats in Platinum were sold. There was about twenty disappointed people, who were not able to get a seat in Bronze or Gold, and they were not prepared to spend the extra amount for Platinum, so they had to miss out. Amongst the Gold class passengers, were the television crew of three, and two other reporters, and soon after we had left Learmonth, I received a message from a steward, informing me that the media were requesting a press conference. “Your turn Dad, I have had enough of those vultures for the time being” I said to Dad, who chuckled at my comment, “Alright, I guess I had better make an appearance” Dad responded before leaving our executive lounge. When Dad returned to the executive lounge, he sat down and sighed loudly, “Have you finished rearranging the timetables, and when do you want to announce the changes?” Dad asked me, “Yes, I have finalised it all, as long as you approve of it” I responded, and I retrieved a folder from the briefcase, and handed it over to Dad. “Well, this is impressive, and with this we can get passengers from Northcliffe, Albany, Esperance or Leonora, all the way to Exmouth is just one day, with connecting trains, that is one great achievement” Dad said to me. “That is not the case for the return journey, where passengers would only get as far as Midland in the one day, with connecting trains the following day” I responded. “Yes, I see, but I am sure that the passengers won’t mind, considering that you have slotted in time for tourist sightseeing at Nanga and Kalbarri, on the return journey” Dad said, “Yes, I thought we could make that a feature of the journey, if we can get the assistance of the station owner at Nanga, and the people of Kalbarri” I replied. “How about if we provide the 4-wheel drive all-terrain buses for the Nanga part of the stop, that way the station owners won’t have to pay any extra with vehicles, and they only have to provide the man power for drivers and guides” Dad said, “Yes, I like that” I replied. “I like how you have the Prospector and Australind running daily from Monday to Saturday, while the Southern Miner, Forester and Great Western are three days a week and the North Coaster is two days a week, I think that is very clever planning, to tie it all in together” Dad said to me. “Thanks Dad” I replied. “I see you have made sure there is connections with the Prospector, from Kalgoorlie, with trains to Albany, Bunbury and Northcliffe as well, you really have done a wonderful job with this timetable, but I suggest that we show it to our train drivers, and get their opinions on it, before we put it into motion” Dad said, and I nodded my head in agreement. When we arrived at Nanga Station, there was several station vehicles waiting to transport some of the passengers to the station homestead, 1.5 kilometres away and to Shark Bay, 6.5 kilometres away. Meanwhile, Dad and I had a meeting with the station owner in the lounge room on the family car, where it is much cooler and comfortable. After just fifteen minutes of hearing our ideas, the station owner was happy to be in partnership with our company, to provide station staff to drive the all-terrain buses that we will provide, and to give guided tours of the area around the homestead and to Shark Bay. Each of these buses can seat 28 passengers, plus a driver and a guide, and we decided on 4 of these buses for the first few months, to see how the train passengers respond to the tours, which is 112 passengers in total that can go on these tours. We also agreed to pay for the lengthening and sealing of the main runway for the station airstrip, extending it by 700 metres to 2.2 kilometres long, and the other runway would remain unsealed, but would also be lengthened from 1.2 to 1.5 kilometres long. When the passengers that had gone on a tour, had returned, we set off once again, having secured a great feature tour, for the train service. While we were travelling, Fritz and the other two staff members joined us, so we could brief them on what happened at the meeting, and to show them the new timetable. During this meeting, I suggested that we reduce the number of passenger cars, from the South West and Great Southern, and increase the number of cars heading north, as that would be where the greater number of passenger seats would be required, especially during the Winter time up north, which is the peak tourist time. Dad knew from experience and his many years of work as an engineer, that the trains can tow a total of 9 cars safely, so it was decided that one Bronze class car would be moved from each of the Southern Miner Trains, since it has the least number of passengers on its two services, and they would be added to the Prospector service, as it was now in great demand. We also would request Swiss Rail to send four more Bronze class cars to add to the two trains for the 3 times a week service from Midland to Geraldton and the two trains for the 2 times a week service from Geraldton to Exmouth. When we arrived in Midland at 6.45 in the evening, we caught a suburban train into the city, where Dad had booked the family and the three staff into a high-class hotel for the night, and by the time we had checked in, my brothers were almost falling asleep. Since they had already eaten on the train, I arranged for them to shower and get into their PJ’s, and they were soon fast asleep. I was about to head to bed myself, when there was a knock on the family suite door, and I went to answer it, and it was Franz who was holding a newspaper, which he handed to me. “Great Western is soon to become Great” were the headlines of the front page of the paper. “During the past week ARG, better known as Ashburton Engineering, with its main train service from Albany to Geraldton, known as the Great Western, will soon provide an even greater train journey, after completing a maiden journey from Midland to Exmouth and back. The journey passes through Kalbarri, Hamelin Station and Carnarvon, before arriving at their newest train station, located next to the Learmonth Airport, just south of Exmouth. On the return journey three days later, the train stopped at Hamelin Station to allow passengers to check out the homestead grounds of a working sheep station, as well as the Stromatolites at Shark Bay. The train also stopped at Kalbarri, to allow passengers to quickly explore the small coastal town, located at the mouth of the Murchison River and the Indian Ocean, before continuing to Geraldton and Midland today. There was a large crowd gathered at the train station at Learmonth for the return journey, but sadly they only had limited number of seats for this maiden journey, and many missed out on the journey, but we have been assured by the owner, that a full service will be available for the main journey’s that will be commencing soon”. “Not a bad article, thanks Fritz, I will make sure Dad sees it, goodnight” I said in response, and let the door close as I headed to the table, where I left the paper for Dad to read, before heading to bed. The next morning after a bit of a sleep in, Dad, my brothers and I, had breakfast together, and Dad announced that we would be spending another day in the city, before catching the train home. My brothers announced that they wanted to spend the day in the hotel pool, just having fun and relaxing, and I agreed to watch them and catch up on some school work, while watching them. Dad said that he and the staff would be having the day off, so he would join us at the pool. As we headed back to Albany the following day, we had just passed Narrogin, and we were picking up speed again, when suddenly the emergency brakes were activated, and I could hear the horn blaring. I was in the executive lounge reading a book, and my brothers were resting in their cabin when it happened, and the suddenness of the braking forced me back into my seat when I tried to stand up, just as we hit something hard and there was an enormous bang sound. Once the train had come to a complete stop, I opened the door to the cabin, and told my brothers to stay put until Dad or I tell them what to do, before I headed forward. It was when I reached the Bronze class area, that I first smelt burning, and I headed straight to the nearest internal phone, and pressed PA. “Attention all staff, evacuate the train immediately. Passengers, please follow the directions of our train staff, and leave the train in a calm and orderly manner, thank you” I said before ending the announcement, and as I entered the second car, I realised that we had derailed for some reason, and that it was getting hotter, so I went no further forward, and headed for the nearest exit, assisting passengers off at the same time. When I stepped off the train, I immediately saw the cause of the derailment, we had collided with a fuel truck, which was fully ablaze, and half of car one was also alight. Rushing back towards the family car, I saw my brothers climbing down, followed by my father, Franz and the other two staff members, and on seeing that they were fine I headed back towards car three, which was still completely on the track. I went to the connection of cars two and three, and unlatched the coupling, and disconnected the hydraulic and air hoses, before climbing up onto car three pushing the button inside the door of car three, which releases the brakes, and I immediately felt the train slowly roll backwards, as we were on a very slight decline, and I hit the button again, to activate the brakes, once we were about 500 metres from the wreck. Happy that some of the train was well away from the wreck, I ran forward towards the wreck to try and help as many people as possible, just as emergency services began to arrive, from town. “Mr Ashburton, do you know what happened?” a volunteer fireman asked as his vehicle stopped near to me, at the back of car two, “It appears that the truck failed to give way at the crossing, as we were passing through, we have approximately 46 passengers each in cars one and two. I have just disconnected and rolled back the rest of the train, so it won’t catch alight” I said, before climbing into the back of car two to see if there are any more passengers inside, and it was getting very smoky and hot when I entered, and I saw Reynold staggering towards me, looking badly injured. “Sir, all of car two is empty, and I am not sure about car one, I helped about 28 passengers from car one come through to car two and alight the train from there, I am not sure about the rest, here is the passenger list” Reynold said to me. I helped Reynold off the train, as a fire crew entered with some fire hoses, as they headed forward to tackle the fire, from inside and out, and we moved back well away from the fire which seemed to be getting bigger, as more volunteer fire fighters, plus the police and ambulance crews arrived. With the light industrial area also located in this junction, workers came rushing to assist as best as they could, and soon medical staff from the town hospital also arrived. While the more serious passengers were being treated by the medical staff, I began to check them off, from the list, also establishing which car and seat they were in. When I had finished checking off everyone that was alive and off the train, I found that we were missing two train drivers, one steward, and just 7 passengers, a lot less than I was expecting, which was a good thing. The local State Emergency group was activated, to do a search of the area, to make sure that there were no injured passengers that may have just wondered off, and they located just three people, sitting and huddled in a daze, behind one of the sheds in the industrial area. Ambulances and fire crews from Pingelly, Williams, Wickepin, Boddington, Katanning, Brookton and Wagin were dispatched to the disaster area, with the truck fuel fire explosions setting off small fires in the neighbouring crop paddocks and surrounding bush. For our family and staff, we were checked by the medical team, and sent to Narrogin leisure centre, to rest and recover from the ordeal, and members of the community had set up the kitchen and was preparing soup and sandwiches for the train people, plus giving them blankets to keep warm. I was chatting to my brothers, to make sure they were fine, when my mobile rang, and I saw the caller ID said it was Mum. “Hello Mum, the family and business staff are fine, but we have two drivers, a steward and 7 passengers missing, we had a collision with a fuel tanker truck just out of Narrogin” I said right away, and after a short chat, I handed my phone over to Dad. Once Dad had finished with my phone, he handed it back to me, and it soon rang again. “ARG, Vern speaking” I said answering the call, “Oh good, this is Mike Armstrong, Shire President of Narrogin, where can I find you please?” came a response, “We are in the leisure centre, and I am in the small meeting room off the main hall” I responded, “Good, I will be there in a moment, bye” the caller said and ended the call. A few moments later a man knocked on the partly open door and stepped in, “Mr Ashburton?” the man asked, “Yes that is me, but it was my oldest son, that you just spoke with” Dad answered, I have just spoken with the police, they agree with my initial assessment.
  4. quokka

    GW Chapter 14

    On my side of the house, I wish to congratulate Master Vern Ashburton on what he has achieved today andwish him all the best for his future” the Opposition Leader said before sitting down, and members on his side all agreed with that statement, before the Premier stood. “Mr Speaker, I wish to echo the comments made by my colleague on the opposite side. We have witnessed today, a truly talented young man, who I see will achieve great things in the future. I invite Mr Christopher Ashburton, and his son Vern, to meet with the cabinet, at a time soon, for a more detailed briefing, on what ARG plans to do, to increase rail passenger services in our state, which I am sure will promote a large amount of tourism into Western Australia” the Premier stated, and calls of agreement, came from both sides of Parliament. At that point, Dad and I stood, gave a slight bow and we left the gallery. When we came down the stairs, we were both surprised, to see two lines of Members of Parliament, gathered from the bottom of the stairs, to meet us and shake our hands. James was standing at the end of the line and escorted us back to the Minister’s office. Once inside, I sighed loudly, “Holy smokes Dad, please don’t do that again, without prior warning” I said in German, and Dad chuckled, “I knew you were the best person to do it, so why complain” Dad responded also in German, and James and the Minister just smiled. “Sorry, I was just telling my Dad off in a mild way, for springing that surprise on me” I explained to the minister and his assistant, who nodded their understanding. After a short chat, James escorted us back to the front door of the building, and wished us a good afternoon, and a waiting taxi delivered us to our hotel. We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and decided to watch the news before heading down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. “Good evening, at the top of the news tonight, 16-year old Vern Ashburton made history today, by being the first ever public citizen, to speak in WA’s Legislative Assembly, from the Public Gallery, after parliament had made an unexpected vote to invite Mr Ashburton to speak to Parliament, about his companies plans on new railway passenger services in WA. After a brief introduction, Mr Ashburton of ARG, formally known as Ashburton Engineering, handed over to his son in the Gallery to make the speech. It is understood, that Mr Ashburton’s son had a copy of the speech, but was unaware that he would be presenting it, even thou he himself put most of the speech together. Master Vern Ashburton received a standing ovation from the Members of Parliament, on conclusion of his speech, and afterwards he and his father were invited to meet with Cabinet, to present a more detailed report on the company’s plans. On leaving the public gallery, Mr Ashburton and his son were faced with the entire Lower House Members, lined up to shake their hands, before they left the building… and now onto the next story.” “You are famous now son” Dad said after we had both seen the news item, and I groaned at this, and Dad laughed. Within 3 months, work was well on the way, with upgrading the rail line from Bunbury to Northcliffe, with all vegetation that is too close to the rail line, being cut back or removed. Meanwhile planning was well in advance stages for the new rail line north from Geraldton to Exmouth, with the only section still in debate, being that in the Kalbarri area. Work was also been done to some of the existing rail line, to remove some of the tighter bends, especially in the Great Southern and Avon regions, where the rail line tends to follow the rivers and highways. In total, there would be 236 bends that would be straightened out, with new rail line laid, for most of it, and the old line was kept in place as switch tracks. This will allow for the train to travel at higher speeds than the past, and when completed, new timetables will be made, to adjust for the extra travel speed, with the journey from Albany to Geraldton being 7 ½ hours instead of 9 hours long, and the journey from Geraldton to Exmouth will take just 6 ½ hours. Mum had now two noisy babies to deal with every day, and I now regretted having the bedroom opposite their nursery. Mum and Dad had names them, Eliza and Jocelyn, and I had to admit, when they were quiet or sleeping, they did look very adorable, and eventually I decided to move to the only other vacant bedroom, located nearest to the stairs, which was a little smaller than my previous bedroom, but a lot quieter. As Christmas was approaching once more, Dad and I were as busy as ever with the company, along with Franz and the two remaining staff members, while the other two had returned to Switzerland, as they were no longer required. Business was doing very well, with an average of 87% of patronage with both the Leonora to Esperance line, and the Albany to Geraldton line. The changes to the rail line had all been completed, with a lot less bends for the train to deal with, meaning a better travelling time. Half a dozen bends had been removed on the Esperance to Leonora line, which also made the journey faster, with just over one hour of the journey removed, allowing both trains to leave half an hour later for the early morning journey. When the last of the track was finally in place at Learmonth, with a storage shed and train station also constructed, it was time to make the big announcement, that everyone has been waiting for, since it was now well known throughout the state, that the Great Western will be having a train journey from Albany to Exmouth, which will take just 14 hours to complete. I had been busy working out a new timetable that will fit in with links with the Prospector, and the Australind service, which we had taken over control of just two months ago, and it too was doing very well, from Northcliffe in the far South West up to Midland, which we decided to choose as our main terminal, and our company had invested in a large amount on building a separate rail terminal, on the other side of the multiple rail lines, and next door to the Westnet Rail Depot. We were also able to secure the purchase of the old railway workshops in Midland, which still have the railway line branching off towards them, and this would become the new home base for all our trains, when maintenance is required. Swiss Rail had sent us an additional two – six car trains for the now extended rail journey that is about to be launched, and they were currently being stored at the Rail workshops in Midland, and we had chosen our original rail team to be the staff, to take the first trip up to Exmouth. The plan is, for Dad and I to travel up on the Great Western from Albany, and while the train is doing a two-point turn just down the track in Woodbridge, Dad, the three-administration staff, my brothers and I would cross over the bridge to our new terminal, and wait for the train to pass, as it heads north. Once it has passed, the new train will back out of the workshop, and onto the main country rail line, and stop at the new rail terminal to collect us, before following the other train north. Dad had decided to let my brothers, Oskar and Tomas to come with us, to allow Mum to spend more quality time with the twins. We had also made some changes with the Prospector train, with an upgrade with the engines, so as to increase the speed, and allow for the journey to be half an hour shorter, and its timetable was adjusted slightly, with a 6.30 am departure from Kalgoorlie, so that it arrives in Midland at 12.15 in the afternoon, which suits the new timetable from Albany to Geraldton, were it now departs Albany at 8.30 am, and arriving in Midland at 12.30 in the afternoon, just after the Prospector. This would mean the Great Western will now reach Geraldton at 3.45 pm, and for now the passengers will need to stay overnight in Geraldton, before the train travels further north to Exmouth. For our journey north, we had our private car attached to our train, which only has the front Bronze Car, the rear Gold Car, a Platinum Car, and our private Car. Since there is just the crew and the administration staff, who are travelling north to Exmouth this time, we decided to not take the whole load with us, to conserve fuel. This would be a first for Franz, Albert and Ernest, as they had not seen anything of our vast state, apart from the journey from Perth to Albany, and the short holiday to Rottnest Island. They had already expressed how big the state was, just from the journey from Albany to Midland. When we arrived in Geraldton, just half an hour behind the scheduled train, which was now in the shed been cleaned, ready for the return journey tomorrow, we found a group of reporters and camera crews at the train station. “This is your department Vern, off you go now, and boys stay in the train, until your brother has finished speaking with the media” Dad said to me, when he noticed the small crowd. I groaned in annoyance, and reluctantly stepped off the train. “Master Vern, ABC News, can you tell us if this is the train heading north to Exmouth?” one of the reporters asked, as they stuck microphones in front of my face. “Yes, this is the train, making the inaugural journey north to Exmouth” I responded, “Can you tell us who is on the train with you for this journey?’ another reporter asked, the Managing Director, the Project Manager, and project assistants from ARG, plus myself and my two younger brothers” I responded. “That is all? What about the other Director, your mother?” the first reporter asked, “She is at home resting comfortably and minding the two new additions to the family, our twin sisters, who were born just a few months ago” I replied. “Congratulations, on being a big brother twice more, will you be inviting any other people for the rest of the journey north, and when are you leaving?” a third reporter asked, as he showed his packed overnight bag to me, which made me laugh, and I heard Dad laugh behind me, as he stepped off the train. “I will answer that question” Dad began, as he stepped up beside me, “as you know, we have gladly invited journalists to travel with us on our maiden journeys, as we have with the start of the Great Western, the Desert Miner, and now the extended journey of the Australind, which we will be renaming the Southern Forests. For this trip however, it will be just the family and staff for the journey north, as we will be up there for a few days for a short holiday. As you can see, we only have three full size cars, so we are not fully equipped for too many passengers, but after we return to Geraldton, we will commence the northern section of the Great Western, that is all for now thanks” Dad announced, and we both returned inside, and Reynold closed and locked the door. Fifteen minutes later, we set off towards the depot out of town, so that the train was facing the right way around, for the continued journey north, in the morning. With the journey to take just 6 ½ hours, we had planned to leave at 9am the next day, to give the crew a good enough rest, between journey’s, and Dad had booked us into the same hotel that we usually stay in, and the crew are booked into the same 4-star motel just 2 kilometres, up the road from the Rail Terminal. During breakfast the next morning, Dad announced, that he would be having the train stop at several places, so we could see some of the amazing views of outback Western Australia. After the Swiss team had returned from a short tour of the City of Geraldton, including visiting the HMAS Sydney Memorial, we, climbed into the Minivan, for the short journey to the terminal. The other train would have left at 9am, so it was well and truly gone, by the time we arrived at the terminal at 9.45am, where our train was facing the right way, and the crew were waiting for our arrival. Dad stepped inside and using the PA he called all the crew to meet on the station platform for a meeting. Once everyone was gathered, Dad announced that for the benefit of our international staff, we would be stopping at Kalbarri for an hour, plus at Nanga Station, to check out the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, and Shark Bay for an hour, before we continue to Exmouth, which would now make our arrival time of 6.30pm at Learmonth, where a couple of minivans will transport us into Exmouth. Dad had organised motel accommodation for all the train crew, and hotel accommodation for the family and staff, with a three day stay, before we travel back down to Geraldton. This was a first time for my brothers and I travelling into the northern area of Western Australia, and we were amazed at the changing scenery as the train headed north. The stop in Kalbarri, arriving just over an hour after leaving Geraldton was great, as we took a swim in the Murchison River, and had a short tour of the Kalbarri National Park, plus restocked on some supplies, before we set off once more. Our next stop would be Shark Bay, which will take us 1 ¼ hours to reach, and Dad had arranged with the Station owners, for us to have a tour of their homestead, before being taken to the bay to check out the Stromatolites, and the old Telegraph station, where there is also a caravan park. When we approached the town of Carnarvon, we only slowed down, so we could see the giant Satellite dish that is located on a hill, on the edge of town, which is part of the NASA tracking system. A few kilometres East of town, we crossed the Gascoyne River, which was very dry and sandy, and the countryside was now very different from a few hours ago. As the sun was getting low in the West, we finally pulled into our new train station at Learmonth, and we were quite surprised to see a large crowd had gathered to welcome us for the first time, and included some reporters from Geraldton, who had interviewed me yesterday afternoon. “Mr Ashburton and Master Vern, I am Kingsley Parkes, Exmouth Shire President, let me be the first to welcome you and your team to the Ningaloo Coast and our community” a man said as he stepped forward as we exited the train. “Thank you, Mr Parkes, it is good to be here, it has been nearly 18 years since I was last here, and I look forward to spending a few days here with my sons and staff” Dad responded. “Mr Ashburton, we understand that this journey was supposed to take 6 ½ hours, yet you are two hours late” one of the reporters said. “That would because we stopped twice on the way, firstly to Kalbarri, and then again at Hamelin Pool at Shark Bay, to allow my son’s and staff to see some of our amazing coast line” Dad replied, “Master Vern, can you tell us your thoughts on Shark Bay?” another reporter asked to me. “Well, I didn’t see any sharks, but it is truly a beautiful place, and I look forward to visiting it again in the near future” I responded before walking back into the train, “Mr Ashburton, how long will the train be staying, and will you be taking any passengers back with you?” the ABC television reporter asked. We will be staying for three nights, before heading back, and if we can get enough supplies, yes, we will accept paying passengers” Dad replied before following me back into the train car. We waited till all the crowds had returned to their vehicles and driven back to town, before we moved the train into the shed, to get out of the hot and dry direct sunlight. While the three-administration staff, caught a taxi to Exmouth, Dad and I had a meeting with the train crew, giving them their accommodation information, and discussing with Reynold the head porter, on sourcing food and drink supplies for the return journey. Once that was done, the train crew and our family caught taxis into town, to book into our accommodation, and to have a quick look around before dark. After three nights and two wonderful days in Exmouth, Dad, my brothers and I caught a minivan to Learmonth, to prepare for the return journey, with a set departure time of 10am. When we arrived at the train station, we were all surprised to see a long line of people waiting to buy a ticket, for the trip South.
  5. quokka

    GW Chapter 13

    When we arrived in Bunbury, we saw the train driver exit the driver cab, and he smiled when he saw us, and walked up to us. “Mr Ashburton isn’t it?” the driver said sticking his hand out, and Dad shook it before turning to me. “This must be your son, Master Vern, it is an honour to meet you both” the driver said as he shook my hand. “Thank-you, maybe you can assist us, we are looking for the Westnet Rail Depot please” Dad said to the train driver. “My name is Lance Warner, and I would be pleased to drive you there myself, since my work has finished for the day” the driver said, as he looked at Franz, “Sorry, this is our Project Manager, Franz Hiltz, he joined us recently, from Switzerland” I said to Mr Warner, who shook his hand. “Es ist mir eine Fruede, Sie kennenzulemen, Sir” Mr Warner said in fluent German, which surprised all three of us. “That is very good fluent German you speak there Mr Warner” Franz said in English, “I had a German grandmother, so it was spoken often at home” Mr Warner replied smiling, as he led the way to his 4-wheel drive vehicle. About ten minutes later, we arrived at the depot, in the outer suburb of Picton, “George, are you around, I have delivered some visitors to see you” Mr Warner shouted, “Over here mate” came a shout in reply, and we walked between the administration building, and the huge sheds, to find a man inspecting a car, that has no roof on it. “George, I have Mr Ashburton, his son, Master Vern, and Mr Franz Hiltz, to see you” Mr Warner said as we approached, “Thanks for bringing them Lance, I was expecting them, in about 15 minutes, but now is fine” the Westnet Rail Area Manager said, before shaking our hands, and Lance made his way back to his vehicle, and left. “Now Mr Ashburton, how may I help you today?” George Goodman asked, and I decided to take the lead on this. “Well Mr Goodman, we are looking into expanding our country rail service, and this includes restoring and upgrading about 200 kilometres of old rail line from Northcliffe to Bunbury” I said. “I’ve been warned to take notice of you, young man, and that is quite a challenge you are taking on there!” Mr Goodman replied, and Dad chuckled at his response. “He is getting very much like me every day, and I am not sure if that is good or bad” Dad said and Franz laughed, while I just smiled. “Do you have any knowledge of what the rail line is like?” I added, “yes, well the line from Bunbury to Manjimup is in good condition, and gets some regular use with a tourist train, but beyond that, it is very run down, and has not been in use for years” Mr Goodman stated. “I see, are we able to load a rail car to inspect the line please?” Dad replied, “Yes sir, I have been ordered to assist you in any way possible, and I will be happy to drive you here myself, it will take us about 2 ½ hours one way” Mr Goodman replied. “Very good, we are ready when you are” I responded, and Mr Goodman smiled and walked into the office to retrieve the keys, and let the office know where he was heading, and to request the change of tracks, so we can get on the south line from Picton East. Once on the track, with the rail wheels in place, we were soon on the southern line, and travelling at about 70 kilometres per hour, with the need to slow right down when we approached a small town, and press the train horn which is just as loud as a normal train horn, as we approached every road crossing, and with me being in the front passenger seat, I was given the duty of pressing the horn when required. When we arrived in Manjimup, much to the surprise of the volunteers at the Tourist centre, which use to be the train station, we entered the centre and Dad asked if anyone had any knowledge of the rail line from Manjimup to Northcliffe. “My Gran-daddy is to work for the forestry rail line, and you would get most of that information at the Rail Heritage Museum back up in Boyanup, or the main railway museum in Bassendean” an older man replied.Dad thanked the man for the information, and we headed out to look for a place to have some lunch. After an enjoyable lunch, I asked Mr Goodman, if we could go a bit further down the track, to see what condition the track is in, and he said we could, but at a much slower speed, to avoid derailing, and we had to cross 4 roads, before we even left the town. We noticed that there was a lot of trees that badly needed to be pruned, but the rail line was in fairly reasonable condition, and it had a lot of winding bends in the line, but as we approached a large dam, George stopped the train, as he was not sure about how stable the rail line is, with it being so close to the water line. We all climbed out and followed the rail line on foot, as it crosses over a corner of the dam, then comes to a stop, where the line has been covered over with sand. We walked on a little bit more and saw the line continued. Climbing back into the rail car, we reversed a little, before raising the rail wheels, and we turned onto a nearby track and followed it, alongside the railway line, which once again is covered over with sand, before returning to visible rail line again, but we remained on the dirt track, as trees and shrubs were very thick over the rail line now. We stopped just past a large shed, where a large gravel road is, and we presumed that the rail line had curved off a little way back. We were about to try and relocate the rail line, when we heard, then saw a farm vehicle approaching. “What are you doing driving on my property, without my permission?” the middle-aged man asked us. “Sir, my name is George Goodman, and I am the South West Area Manager of Westnet Rail” George said calmly. “So, what! Explain why you were on my land?” the man demanded in a raised voice. “Sir, we were not on your land, we were on the railway corridor, following the rail line from Manjimup, to see what condition the railway line is in” George responded calmly. “Fiddlesticks, it is my land, and you are trespassing” the man replied. “I think we have seen enough for now, Mr Goodman, we might as well return to Bunbury, the conventional way” I said ignoring the farmer, who stepped forward, and put his hand on my shoulder and forced me to turn to face him. “I suggest that you remove your hand, as you are assaulting son, who is a minor” my Dad said as he stepped in between us, “Oh and who are you, to be so Mr High and Almighty” the farmer demanded, “If you must know, my Dad is Mr Christopher Ashburton, from ARG” I said looking around my Dad at the Farmer. “Ashburton, as in Ashburton Engineering?” the farmer asked, “Yes, that is correct, this is my oldest son Vern, and my Project Manager Mr Hiltz” Dad responded. “I see, so is it really still a railway corridor, I thought that had been removed years ago, when my Dad was running this farm” the farmer asked. “I am afraid so, sir. Mr Ashburton and his team are here to assess the rail line, with plans to restore the rail line from Bunbury to Northcliffe” George said. “Wow, I would have never expected the line to be reopened, but I guess that will be good for the towns down this way. I am Sam Kent, local farmer and Manjimup Shire Councillor, and I apologise for the rudeness, earlier” the farmer said. “Apology accepted Mr Kent, not just a few small matters, for this project to go ahead, we will need your assistance, by carefully removing the sand that covers over the rail line in two places, and also to fill in a small section of your dam, so as to provide a stable footing for the rail line, of which we will be happy to supply the bluestone gravel to do that” Dad responded. “That will be fine, Mr Ashburton. Will the council be hearing some more, about this project soon?” Mr Kent asked, “Yes, but we are just doing a preliminary assessment for now” Dad replied. Then we arrived back in Bunbury in the late afternoon, George took us directly to our hotel, which Dad had booked yesterday, and we relaxed for a couple of hours before dinner, and retiring early, as we would be catching the 6am Australind back to Perth in the morning, and Franz would catch the lunch time flight back to Albany, while Dad and I spend a day in Perth. At the Perth Central train station, the next day, I spotted a newspaper at the small shop, with headlines that I wasn’t expecting, “Ashburton Engineering, South West plans”. I bought a copy of the paper and continued to follow Dad, as I began to read the article. “Manjimup Farmer and Shire Councillor, learnt yesterday, that the old timber mill railway line, from Northcliffe to Bunbury, passing through Pemberton, Manjimup, Bridgetown, Donnybrook and Boyanup, plus a number of smaller communities, will be restored and used as an extension to the Australind train journey, believed to be a new project of ARG, formally known as Ashburton Engineering”, the article said. I handed the paper to Dad, as we stopped at the taxi rank, before we climbed into a waiting taxi, and Dad gave the address to the hotel, where we checked in and dropped off our luggage, before heading to the office of the Minister of Transport. When we arrived at the office, the receptionist recognised us and smiled. “I am sorry Mr Ashburton, but Parliament is sitting, and the Minister will be there the whole day” the receptionist informed us. Dad thanked the receptionist, and we headed back down to street level, and caught another taxi, this time to Parliament House, which I had not been to before, although I had seen it sitting on top of the hill, on the northern end of St Georges Terrace. Once there, we were screened, passing through a metal detector, and having our clothes scanned, before we were directed to the public viewing gallery, where we sat down near the front of the gallery. “…Premier, what other secret deals is your government doing, that is bound to cost the tax payers millions of dollars?” the leader of the opposition demanded before sitting down. Just as the Premier was about to stand, to answer the question, we saw the Transport minister, who was seated beside the Premier, lean in and make a comment, before indicating in our direction, and smiling at us. “If the leader of the opposition, is referring to the headlines of today’s state newspaper, then no, we are not making any secret deals, if you wish to find out more about it, then I suggest you direct your questions to Mr Ashburton himself, and I welcome him to Parliament today, along with his son, Vern, who are currently in the gallery” the Premier responded before sitting down, and suddenly all eyes in Parliament were looking in our direction. “Oh Crumbs” I muttered quietly to myself, and Dad just chuckled, and when we saw the Minster for Transport leave the Chamber, we also headed downstairs, where the Minister was waiting for us. Mr Ashburton and Vern, what a pleasant surprise” the Minister said as he shook our hands, “I could have done with the all eyes on me, thanks sir” I commented, which made the Minister laugh. “Not only that, but you are now in the official Parliament Hansards, which is the records of all comments in Parliament” the Minister informed me, and I groaned in displeasure, which Dad laughed at. “Shall we move to my office, so we can talk” the Minister suggested, and we followed him through some large doors and down a long corridor, until we reached his offices, where we found James Markovich seated at a desk, looking busy. When he saw us enter, he smiled and jumped up to greet us. “Welcome to Parliament House, would you like a cup of tea or dink of some kind” James said to Dad and me, “Just water for me thanks James” I replied, “Same for me thanks” Dad added, as we entered the Ministers office and took a seat. Over the next half hour, Dad and I informed the minister of our ideas for including the old rail line, into the Australind Rail service, and we were just finishing when there was a knock on the door, and James entered, “Sorry to interrupt Minister, but we have a very unusual situation, in the Assembly” James said as he stepped forward, “and that would be?” the Minister asked. “An informal vote was just made, with 52 members for and 10 members against, that during the Matters of Public Interest this afternoon, Parliament has asked Mr Ashburton to make a twenty-minute address to the members, in regard to his plans for the South West Rail project” James said. “Well that is a first for me, and probably a first in history of this parliament” the Minister stated. “It is 12.15 now, so that gives you about 2 ½ hours to prepare” James said to Dad, “Well, I don’t know about this, we haven’t really done any planning of any kind, just the inspection of the rail line that we did yesterday” Dad commented. Dad and I were led into the conference room, where James provided us with a laptop computer to use, to prepare for this presentation. Dad was too nervous to do much, so he let me take the lead with writing a presentation, and after about twenty minutes of typing, I would stop and read back what I had written, and Dad would make some suggestions for changes, which I would make, before continuing. James came with drinks and food for us, while we were working, and when we felt that we had put together a good enough presentation, Dad asked James to print out two copies. At 2.35pm, Dad was led off towards the door to the side of the Legislative Assembly Chamber, and Dad asked me to sit behind the Speaker of the house, so he could see me for support. I sat down in the front row of the gallery directly below the speaker, just moments before Question Time ended, and the Premier stood up. “Mr Speaker, as agreed by the majority of both sides of this place, I wish to call Mr Christopher Ashburton, to present to the house, his companies plan for a railway project in the South West” the Premier announced, and I opened my copy of the presentation. Much to my shock, written at the top of the page in big letters, was a hand-written note from Dad, “You will be presenting this, from up there, good luck”, and I looked down as Dad entered the chamber, and he looked up at me and smiled, and he saw the looked expression on my face, as he stopped in front of the large central table, where the Premier and his opposite sat. “Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. It’s a great honour to be asked to speak to you today, and with the help of my Executive assistant, we have come up with a short presentation for you today. I am not very comfortable with speaking in public, although I have had to do more of it recently. My Executive assistant has excelled in public speaking during his high school years, and more recently with our business, and he will be making the presentation today” Dad announced, as he indicated up into the gallery, to where I was, and I stood up, which brought a lot of discussion amongst the members. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I may look very young, but I assure you that I am well prepared, as I put together most of this presentation this afternoon…” I said beginning the presentation. “In conclusion, ARG, or Ashburton Rail Group, as we are known now, has the financial support of a major Swiss Rail company, of which one of its senior staff, is a Director in our company. Our aim is to provide a fast, safe and high-quality rail service to regional Western Australia, with plans on the way to extend the rail service well beyond Geraldton soon. Thank-you” I said, and I sat down, and breathed a sigh of relief that it was over. Much to my surprise, the whole of Parliament began to applaud, with many of the members standing up as they did. By now, Dad was back in the Gallery, and he placed a hand on my shoulder, “Well done son, I am extremely proud of you” he said to me, as we watched the members of Parliament continue to clap, until the Speaker of the House called for order. Once everyone was silent, the Opposition Leader stood up and was recognised by the Speaker, “Mr Speaker, it has been a historical and memorable day to witness, what is most likely a first in this place, the presentation given to us just now, by a young and talented young man.
  6. quokka

    AP Chapter 6

    James was now softly crying, and I wrapped one arm around him for comfort. “I am sorry for your loss, Mrs Applegate. Your two older boys are very well, and are being a great help to us. We boiled their clothes and bedding when they arrived, so as not to bring any sickness to our farm,” I said to Mrs Applegate. “We have brought you some fresh water, some dried meat and 4 loaves of freshly made damper. I will leave them here for you to collect after we have left,” I said. “We appreciate that. We have been very low on food the last few days,” Mrs Applegate said. “I love you, Ma. Please stay well, and say hello to Pa and Mark for me,” James shouted. “I will, Son. I hope you are being good and helpful for Mr Cameron and his brother,” Mrs Applegate said. “They are being a great help, Mrs Applegate, and well behaved,” I said in reply, as I hopped down and untied the barrel, before carefully lowering it down to the ground. I grabbed the crate and put it next to the barrel. “We will call by again in 6 days’ time,” I called out before I waved. James also waved, as I turned the buggy around and headed back the way we came. “Are you ok, James?” I asked after about ten minutes of silence. James sniffed loudly and wiped away some tears. “I think so. I didn’t think it would be this hard living out here,” James replied. “When we come by again in six days, after we have dropped off more water and food, we will continue south-east to travel to Ceduna to buy some more supplies. We should have a corn crop by then which we can sell in town. I will save some for us and some for your family too,” I announced to James. “I wondered when you would be harvesting the corn. It is looking nice and tall,” James said. “That it is, and it will definitely help with our income, as money is getting rather short now,” I said. We stopped when we reached the boundary fence again to give Honey a rest and another drink of water, and we had a bite to eat of dried meat and damper before we set off again for the last part of our journey. When we arrived back at the house, James helped me to unhitch the buggy, and take Honey back to the paddock, where the cows and sheep were happily grazing. Archie and Adam were in the vegetable garden pulling up weeds, and they waved when they saw us approaching. “Hello, Boys. How is the garden looking?” I said as we approached. “Great, Big Brother. We will have a first crop of tomatoes and runner beans early next week, and the corn is almost ready to harvest as well,” Archie replied. “We will need those hessian bags to store the corn in, once the seed has been removed from the cob. We will take some to the Applegate family and sell the rest at Ceduna. I am hoping we can get a plough that Honey can pull, so we can plough the fields more easily, and we can grow more crops,” I replied. “Eliza died a few days ago. She’s buried near that big tree near the camp,” James said sadly. This news had Adam start crying, as he rushed into his brother’s arms for comfort. “Shh now, we have to be brave. We are the oldest in the family. Pa is still real sick, but Ma and Mark are both fine. We had to stay well away from the camp, so we don’t get sick too, but we talked to Ma from a good distance, before dropping off the water and food for them,” James said softly to his brother. That evening, as we ate our dinner, the Applegate boys were very quiet. “I think you boys will be staying here a lot long than we thought. So, tomorrow I want us to start work on building another extension to the house on the east end of the breezeway, with another 11-foot space, to allow air flow between the buildings. “This one will have the laundry and washroom, at one end, a store room in the middle and a 4th bedroom at the other end, which will be my new bedroom. This way you boys don’t have to share. “When James and I go to Ceduna next week for food supplies, we will come back with a plough and some more furniture for each of the rooms. I will try and get some water troughs for the stock yards and paddock, and some more farming tools,” I announced. “Do you want me to make up plenty of damper to take with you, for your trip and for the Applegate family?” Archie asked me. “Yes please, Brother. As many as you can the day before we leave,” I replied. For the next five days, we all worked hard, with just the Applegate boys helping me on the fifth day, as Archie was busy in the kitchen baking damper, making a total of ten loaves in the one day, which I thought was quite an achievement. We had started on building the third building, also we had harvested 60% of the corn, and taken the corn off the cob, bagging it ready to be taken to Ceduna. The night before leaving, I loaded up the buggy with a full barrel of water, some for the Applegate family and some for James, Honey and myself for our 4-day round trip, and in two packing crates, I had potatoes, tomatoes, some cabbages and runner beans, ½ a pound of freshly made butter, 4 dozen eggs, a bucket of fresh milk and half a bag of wheat for James’s family, and the horses, to help them get by, till we came back from Ceduna. At dawn the next morning, I harnessed up Honey and attached the buggy, had a quick breakfast of tea and damper, before James and I set off on our journey. About 2 ½ hours later, we approached the Applegate camp, and I stopped where the barrel was still sitting, where I left it. I looked in and saw that it had about 3 inches of water still in it, which wasn’t much, and the empty packing crate sat next to it, which I lifted onto the buggy, before unloading the full crate, which included 6 loaves of Damper, and all the vegetables that we picked yesterday, and the half bag of wheat. After untying the rope, I moved the barrel of water, so it was level with the barrel on the ground, I carefully tipped it, so the water poured into the near empty barrel, until it was ¾’s full, and secured the rope around the barrel on the buggy again. “Hello, Ma. Are you there?” James called out and Mrs Applegate quickly appeared. “Oh, James! It’s good to see you again. Hello, Mr Cameron. Thank you for the delicious damper. We have been enjoying it very much,” Mrs Applegate said in reply. “Hello there. How are things with the sickness?” I asked. “My husband started to get well again, but he has fallen ill again, and this time it seems to be worse than before.I have kept Mark well away. As you can see I have relocated his tent, and he collects fire wood and keeps it burning,” Mrs Applegate said. “I have left you with some extra water, along with some fresh damper, butter, eggs, milk and vegetables,” I called out. “Well, you boys have been very busy. I am so thankful to you for helping us this much, especially with looking after my two oldest boys,” Mrs Applegate said. “It is my pleasure, Ma’am. We best be off as we have another 2 days of travelling to get to Ceduna. We will see you in five days’ time with some more supplies for you,” I replied, and gave her a wave, before turning the buggy around. James waved to his mother as we left the camp. It was about half an hour later when we had turned onto the track heading for Ceduna, that I broke the very long silence. “Did you arrive in Ceduna on a ship?” I asked. “Nah, we arrived in Adelaide last year, and stayed there for about a month, before we travelled to Ceduna by wagon and buggy. Pa steered the wagon, with all the furniture, with my brothers, while I steered the buggy with the luggage, Ma and my sisters,” James replied. “I see. That must have been quite a journey,” I said. “Yeah it was. Rough as guts in some places, so we had to go slow,” James replied. “I noticed most of the furniture is still on the wagon,” I stated. “Yes, Ma wanted it to stay on there till we get the house built, but Pa had only just starting cutting the wood for the house before he got sick,” James said to me. It was 2 ½ days later when we finally arrived in Ceduna, and it looked like that the town was now starting to get quite big. Our first stop was to the grain merchants, where I wanted to sell our four large bags of corn. I was very pleased with the price that I got for the corn, as it was in big demand. I assured the merchant that I still had some more to harvest, and that we would plant a bigger crop next time. “What else are you growing on your farm, young man?” the merchant asked me. “Apart from vegetables for our own use, we have wheat and oats for our horses, dairy cows and chickens,” I replied. “Did you bring any eggs?” the merchant asked, sounding hopeful. “Yes, Sir. I have three dozen with me,” I replied. “I will buy those off you also, please young man,” the merchant said. Our next stop was to the farm supply store, where I found a good size double blade plough, which I purchased, along with two scythe tools for harvesting the crops, four more kerosene lanterns and a small drum of kerosene and then I spotted the cooking stove, which had a 4-foot high smoke flue pipe. I asked how much it was, and I was pleased that I could afford it. The salesman gave me a kettle and a skillet as a bonus, plus some more canvas and ropes. The salesman helped me and James, to load the plough and stove onto the back of the buggy. Next, we rode through town looking for a furniture shop, as I wanted to by some beds, so we were not sleeping on the floor all the time. James said that they had beds at their camp, so he suggested that I only get beds for Archie and myself. I also bought some cupboards and a bookshelf. With all of those purchases made, and with just food supplies to go, we decided to leave that till the morning, before setting off back home, so we found a tavern where we could get a good meal. With Honey unhitched and tied to the wagon, on the edge of town, we returned to the wagon with some hay and oats for Honey to eat, and we set out our bedrolls under the wagon, for our overnight stay in town. The next morning, we had a breakfast of hot tea and damper, before we hitched up Honey to the wagon, and made ourway into town to buy more food supplies. This time, I bought an extra amount of flour and sugar, as well as salt, tea, preserved meats, and some bags of wheat, oats and corn, which were quickly loaded onto the wagon, after which we set off again, leaving in the mid-morning, homeward bound, with a short stop at the Applegate camp, to drop off some supplies. It was late on the 1st day, of our return trip, that James noticed some dark grey smoke in the distance, but we could not go any faster with the huge load that we had on the wagon. When we stopped just before dark for our last overnight camp, we were closer to the smoke, but it would be another half day at least before we reachedthe Applegate farm camp, and James was starting to look very worried. When we finally turned onto the track leading to the camp, there was a small amount of smoke coming from the direction of the camp. When we arrived, we saw why there was smoke. The wagon with the buggy loosely attached behind it, since the horse was over at our farm, was standing near the water barrel and crates. Where the campsite was, there was now a low pile of burnt tents, and other things, with Mrs Applegate and Mark standing nearby. Glancing at the nearby wagon again, I noticed some luggage trunks had been loaded onto them. Mark walked towards them but stopped a few yards away. “W… we buried Pa this morning. Ma says she is going to ask if we can stay at your place for a while,” Mark said to me nervously. “Of course you can Mark. It will be nice to have some more people on the farm, and there is plenty of work to be done… I am sorry that your Pa died,” I replied giving him a comforting smile. “Thank you, Mr Cameron… Edwin. I don’t know what I would have done, if you hadn’t taken in my boys and now us,” Mrs Applegate said as she approached, stopping next to Mark. “That is not a problem, Ma’am. We are a new farm and all the help will be appreciated,” I replied. “Please call me Florence. I am not that much older than you, as I gave birth to James when I was just 17,” Florence said to me. I was a little surprised at this news, and I quickly calculated her to be 28 years old.
  7. quokka

    AP Chapter 3

    Thanks Will, much appreciated.
  8. quokka

    AP Chapter 5

    “Thank you, Ma’am. I presume you are one of my new neighbours that I was informed about on my last trip into town,” I responded. “That is correct, we have the eastern property on your southern boundary. My husband George is a former banker, but we had some trouble with some investments, so we decided to sell up and start afresh, and here we are. George and I have 4 children, with the older two helping with setting up everything. Adam is 8 and James is 11. Until we get organised we will be living in tents, but we have all the comforts of home with our furniture that we brought along with us,” Mrs Applegate said. “Well, thank you very much for your visit, Ma’am. As you see my brother and I have a lot of work to do, and there is little amount of daylight left for today,” I said as politely as possible. “Oh yes, of course. I am sorry to hold you up. It is good to meet my neighbours. I hope we can gather again sometime soon,” Mrs Applegate said. “I look forward to that,” I said as I saw Archie approaching quickly with a bucket in his hand. “Excuse me, but would you like some fresh cow’s milk?” I asked. “Oh, that would be wonderful. We haven’t even got that far with livestock and such. We just bought a lot of food provisions from Ceduna. I think George will be making regular trips there to get more supplies each month,” Mrs Applegate said as she accepted the bucket half full of milk from Archie, who just smiled before heading off again. I waved as they climbed into their sulky and rode off back to their property, about half an hour away, and when they had gone, I turned to search for my brother. “I’m in the new building,” Archie called out, and I walked around to the breezeway and into the open doorway. “I think we should make this into three bedrooms, just in case it is needed, and we can use it as storage area as well,” Archie suggested, when I arrived. “Ok, that is fine with me. You are building it, so I will leave it up to you, Brother,” I replied, and I headed back out to the stockyards to continue gathering rocks for an extension of the yards on the north side. I had decided to make a yard the same size as the first one, with an adjoining gate, to make it one big yard if need be, and I would include shelters in each corner to provide the extra weather protection. That night, I had been having difficulties sleeping, so I got up and dressed to go for a walk. Soon after I stepped out of the house, I heard an ewe in distress, so I raced over to the yard, carrying the small kerosene lantern as my only light source. I found an ewe lying on its side and it looked to be in labour. So, I quickly raced back to the house, gathered a bucket of water and some soap and returned to the yard. After about twenty minutes, the lamb finally arrived and surprisingly it was still alive. But it looked like the trouble was not yet over. Twins were a little rare, and often resulted in one lamb being born dead. After nearly two hours of birthing troubles, the second lamb was born, alive and much smaller than the first one. I watched as both of them managed to find a teat each and started their very first meal of their life. Once the lambs had finished their feed, I helped the ewe back to her feet, and made sure that she walked around a little so she didn’t become lame. She led her babies to a shelter and rested, while I headed back to the house, where I scrubbed my hands and arms, and stowed the bucket containing the afterbirth in a corner before heading back to my bedroll. “Where have you been?” Archie asked sleepily. “Helping one of the ewes with her first lambs, twins, and both of them are alive,” I replied. “Oh, I wish you had got me out of bed. I would have liked to have seen that. Err, what is that smell?” Archie replied, and I chuckled. “Something that I need to bury in the ground in the morning. I am too tired to do it tonight,” I replied, as I lay down and closed my eyes. “Edwin, get up. I am not cooking breakfast until you get rid of that awful smell,” I heard Archie say, as I tried to go back to sleep. I groaned loudly before forcing my self to get out of bed, and grabbing the bucket and the shovel, I went to bury the item that Archie was complaining about so much. Once that was done, I climbed back into bed, and fell asleep, until the smell of fresh damper and billy tea filled the room, and I was forced to get out of bed again. Once I had washed up and dressed, I went and had some breakfast, before heading over to the animal yard to check on everything. I smiled when I saw the two lambs happily having another drink from their mother. I handed out some grain and hay to all of the stock, and checked that the water trough had enough water in it, before I started work on the extensions to the yards. For the next two weeks Archie and I kept busy with our separate projects, and we finished both of them at about the same time, with me having to assist Archie with the new roof. We were happy to have the projects completed. We now had our own bedrooms, and the stock had a much bigger area to roam. During our evening meals we discussed other things that needed to be done around the property, and we decided that we needed to do some fence building, and that post and rail fencing would be the best option. Over the next four weeks, Archie and I travelled to the tree grove, and we cut down good size trees, cut them to 6-foot lengths, and stripped off the bark, before adding them to the growing pile. Another pile of logs that were 12-foot lengths, but thinner in girth, would be used for the two rails between each post. The vegetable patch was about 360 feet or 120 yards from the nearest corner of the stock yard, so we decided to make a post and rail fence from the vegetable patch wall, to the stock yard, and another post and rail fence from the vegetable patch to the closest corner of the crops, and the last post and rail fence to the other corner of the stock yard, making an area of about 40 acres, for the animals to move around some more. We were in the process of building the second fence, when we heard a horse approaching, with two boys riding bareback. I guessed they were the older Applegate boys from the neighbouring property. “Mr, our Ma and Pa sent us to you to stay. The young’uns have come down with something real bad, and we have been sent away so we don’t catch it,” the older of the boys said to me. “I see. Are you able to work to help cover you being fed?” I asked the boys. “Yes, Mr. Pa said to make sure we work hard while we are staying here,” the boy replied, as the boys slid off the back of their horse. “Go and put your horse in the stock yard, and then I will show you where you can sleep,” I said to the boys who nodded their heads and headed over to the stockyards located about 60 yards away from the house. While the boys were doing this, Archie walked up to me, “You know if they have been there, we should make sure they don’t give it to us,” my brother said to me. “Good thinking, Brother. Go and get a fire going under that big copper boiler that I brought back from the last trip. We will boil their bedding and their clothes. We have spare blankets now, so they can use them, and we can give them some of our spare clothes to use, so their clothes can be boiled too,” I replied. The copper boiler had a large bowl used to heat water for laundry and bathing, and the one that I had bought in Ceduna had a cast iron frame for holding the pot above the ground, leaving room for a fire pit below it. I had set it out the other side of the house 6 yards from the breezeway underneath the largest tree near the house. Once the boys had bathed in hot water and changed into clean clothes, their old clothes along with their bedding were put into the boiler and allowed to simmer for an hour, before being pulled out and hung out to dry. While this was happening, the boys helped Archie and I to continue building the post and rail fence, and with the extra two helpers we were able to get a lot more done in that afternoon. As we sat down to dinner that evening, the Applegate boys were very quiet, as they had been for the whole afternoon. “Don’t worry too much about your family. I am sure they will all be fine,” I said to try and reassure them both. Adam, the younger boy, burst out crying, and I was not sure how to deal with it. I looked over to his older brother, James. “We had another sister, Jennifer. She was ‘bout a year old, but she died a few days after we arrived at our new farm,” James explained. “And now Pa and Eliza are real sick too.” “Oh, that is not good. What about your younger brother? Is he ok?” I asked. “Not sure. He stayed with Ma to help her look after the others,” James replied. After everyone had gone to bed, with the Applegate boys sharing the middle room, I could hear soft crying, even through the thick stone walls. The next morning, after breakfast of damper and tea, we went to work on the fence, and we completed the second section of the fence just before sunset. I was pleased with how quickly the fence was being built, and I knew that we would need to run a line of wire between the ground and the bottom rail, to stop the lambs from getting through. Most of the ewes had now lambed, with 37 lambs now born, plus we also had two calves that had arrived in the world overnight, bringing the urgency to have the paddock completed as soon as possible. I also wanted to build a post and rail fence around the crop paddock to make sure the stock stayed out of there if they managed to escape, or stray in that direction when out grazing. The corn crop was doing very well now, being the faster crop out of the lot, and the wheat and oat crops were looking fairly good too. I also realised that when the winter was over, it would be time to give the rams and ewes a shear, as their wool was getting quite long. I was looking forward to that, so we could make some wool stuffed mattresses, using canvas as the outer lining. The large canvas sheet that I had bought and used to cover the buggy for the return journey, was big enough to make two good sized soft mattresses, using the twine and large needles to sew it all together. Six days after the Applegate boys had arrived, we had completed building the fence for our first paddock, including the wire along the bottom, and using some left-over split wood, I was able to make a 2-yard-long gate, to link in with the gate of the stock yard, so it was easy to let the stock move into the new paddock. Pleased with what we had achieved, we sat down to dinner that evening and James asked what the next task would be. I informed him that we would be spending a week felling more trees and cutting them to the required sizes, ready for the next fence to be built around the cropping paddock. “But before we do that, we need to go and check on your family. So, I suggest that we get a good night’s sleep, as we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow,” I said to the Applegate boys. The next morning, Adam announced that he wanted to stay on the farm, and Archie agreed to stay and look after him, while James and I travelled to the neighbouring farm to check on the rest of the Applegate family. So,with a packing crate of food, and a half barrel of water, we harnessed up Honey and set off in the buggy, heading south on the now main track, between the house and the south eastern corner boundary. Taking our time, we arrived at the boundary just under one hour later, and we stopped to give Honey a drink of water. Then, following the track south from that corner, which is the eastern boundary of the Applegate farm, we continued on until James pointed to the big tree about an hour later, which was the marker for the track heading west towards the Applegate camp. Less than an hour later, I could see four good size tents, a large wagon, a buggy, and two horses, but it seemed very quiet. So, I stopped the buggy a good distance away from the camp. “Hello, Applegate family,” I called out loudly. Shortly after, Mrs Applegate appeared. “Stay where you are. I don’t want you to get sick,” she called back. “How is everyone?” I shouted to her. “Eliza passed away two days ago. She is buried over by that tree. I fear that I will lose my husband soon too. Mark appears to be fine, and he has been a big help to me,” she replied.
  9. quokka

    GW Chapter 12

    “Ok, let’s give that a go, and no doubt, they will want to have some checks and balances put into place, to make sure the company is running properly” Dad said. Within a month, the deal was done, with the Swiss Rail company now owning 30% shares in the company, and a representative on the Board of Directors, we had over $11 million Australian in the bank, which would be enough to fund the laying of rail track from Leonora to Mullewa, with a lot of the track preparation already completed. We decided to call the whole journey the Great Western, since the train will be leaving from Albany and arriving in Esperance, via Geraldton and Kalgoorlie. Including the new trains recently arrived, there would be three return journeys each week. Two trains would do the Albany to Geraldton return journey, while the other two will do the Geraldton to Esperance return journey, with the Swiss company sending another two more gold class cars, so each train will have the same number of cars and classes. But before we could even start planning, the Swiss director – Franz, announced that he had some discussions with head office in Switzerland, and they have come up with an alternative suggestion, which we had never considered. It was proposed that with the money were paid had for the shares in ARG, plus an equal amount of money put in by the Swiss Rail company, we could build a rail line from the Malcolm rail siding, just East of Leonora, following the Leonora Laverton Road and Great Central Road, for 875 kilometres, to as far as Warakuna Community. From there, turning North on the Sandy Blight Junction Road, which is really just a track, through the Gibson Desert, for 284 kilometres to the WA / NT border, where the road or track is known as the Kintore WA Border Road, from there, heading in a rough North East direction, on the Tanami Desert, for 164 kilometres, before turning onto another access track for 107 kilometres to just before the Community of Nyirrupi, and turning North for 53 kilometres. From there, the track will follow another track heading North for 143 kilometres, till turning onto another track for 30 kilometres, till it reaches the Tanami Road, which is a well-maintained gravel road, at the locality of Chilla Well. From there the track will continue North East on the Mt Theo Station access road for 40 kilometres, till about 10 kilometres before the homestead. The track will continue to the North East, for 260 kilometres to the final access track, for 130 kilometres, till it connects to the existing Adelaide to Darwin rail line, just 1.5 kilometres South of the Tennant Creek Railway station. In total, from Kalgoorlie to Tennant Creek there will be a distance of 2086 kilometres, of which 928 kilometres will be in the Northern Territory, with another 264 kilometres from Kalgoorlie, the whole journey will be 2350 kilometres long, which is just 330 kilometres shorter than the Ghan Journey from Adelaide to Darwin. Dad, Mum and I sat in the conference room of the office, like stunned mullets, it would be a huge job, and it would take about 18 months to complete the job, and I was sure that it would cost a lot more than $22 million dollars. Dad must have reading my mind, as that was the first question he asked. “I am glad you asked. The Swiss company wants to do a partnership deal with the rail line, where we will be putting in 22 million Australian, as part of the ARG partnership, a 4-man team has already been established, to deal with the planning and preparations for the project and will arrive in Perth in a months’ time. They have already begun negotiations with the WA State and Federal governments, requesting input into the cost of building the rail line, with a suggested amount of $365 million Australian each, and from the Northern Territory Government, $248 million, plus Swiss Rail will add a further $350 million, which makesit a total of $1.35 billion dollars, to build the line” Franz announced, in very good English. “Wow, that is an awful lot of zero’s in all that” I commented, and Dad chuckled at my comment. “Yes,indeed there are, son” Dad said. “So, how does it all work out, with ownership?” I asked, “Good question, Master Vern, Swiss Rail will have a controlling share of the partnership, with the support of ARG’s $22 million, with the Federal Government and WA State Government having the next highest shares, and the NT Government having the least number of shares. ARG will have ownership control of the rail line, from Malcolm Siding near Leonora, all the way to where the rail lines join just South of Tennant Creek. There are quite many mining operations along where the line will be, and I am sure that they will request a spur line to be built and access to the rail line, which will assist with recovering the costs of construction. I understand, that you have already started acquiring shares in two rail freight companies, to have a better say with the use of the rail lines, so Swiss Rail may be able to assist with that. With the extra staff arriving soon, we will need to secure accommodation for the four men, who are all single, and are just average with their English Language, and I suggest that we get a bigger Office building to work from” Franz said. “Well in that case, the house next door to this office is currently for sale, and if we are going to move to a bigger office space, we can use this house as well, to accommodate the four men. Are you happy in the house you are currently in?” Dad said, directing his comments to Franz. “Yes, I am very happy in the little stone cottage, near the top of Grey Street East, with a nice 7 block walk to the office” Franz said in reply. “Good, we will go ahead with buying the house at number 25, and I will start looking at possible sites for a new administration base for ARG, and I have a good idea on one place in particular” Dad said. Within three quick weeks, Dad had purchased the old Bank building, on the corner of the main street and Grey Street West, directly opposite the town hall, as well as the adjoining building, which has two long term tenants in it. Thankfully the settlement was very quick, and Dad had already organised for the whole building to be refurbished, inside and out. The attached overhang, on the front and side of the building would be totally removed, as well as the large billboard on the wall, and the outside wall would be rendered, with a light green / grey colour. Once all the power, the roof, air-conditioning and plumbing have been checked and fixed, inside the building all the carpets would be ripped up. The two separate office suites at the very back, would have the walls painted, and new internal walls installed, with all the required light fittings, plus all the power, telephone and internet sockets, ready to be leased out. The main bank building will have a large reception foyer, with tasteful furniture and art work, beyond that, there will be the reception desk and three administration offices, a small meeting room, a conference room, a staff room and bathroom. Through a door and upstairs, there will be the two large front offices, a large meeting room, plus a bathroom. Every office will have the best furniture in it, along with original paintings and hard-wearing plush carpets, as will the meeting and conference rooms. Dad, Franz and I discussed and decided that, Dad and I would share an upstairs office. Franz as the Project Manager would have the other upstairs office, and the three offices and the meeting room down stairs, would be shared by the other four staff. We had decided that when all the renovations and refurbishment are completed, and we have settled into our new office building, we would not advertise in anyway what the building is used for now, and that the front door would remain locked during office hours, with a door bell and a small sign – “Press for Service” to one side, and we would enter and exit the building from the side entrance, each day. With the adjoining building, Dad was negotiating with the tenants, a hairdresser and a real estate agency, to have them relocate to the newly refurbished office suites on the side street, so that we can knock down the back half of that building, to make it into one large office suite, and to allow for more private parking space. When completed, one tenant will be returning to the front building, while the other will remain in the side building, with a larger area available to them, and Dad offered both tenants, a 15% reduction in their rent during the renovation period, and no raise in rent for a period of two years. The 15-metre wide and 40-metre long building will be reduced to 20 metres long, allowing for a 40 x 15 metre parking area at the back of the building, so now there will be 24 parking bays instead of just 14 parking bays, meaning each tenant would have 6 parking bays each available to them. Renovations were only half way through when the four new staff arrived in Perth, and so to allow for some extra time, Dad treated them to a week’s holiday on Rottnest Island, plus a few days either side of that time, in Perth, to give us two weeks to get the new office building and the two houses ready for the new staff. It was unfortunate, that just a month after our new staff had arrived and settled into their new homes and jobs, that we received news from the Federal, NT and WA governments, that they would not be putting any partial funding into such a large project, so we were now back to the drawing board. Dad called for a full ARG staff meeting, which included a now very pregnant Mum, Dad, me, Franz and the other four staff, and we sat down in the conference room, to discuss our options. “I would first like to tackle a current situation, I would like to alter the timetable for the Esperance to Leonora trains, to have a morning and afternoon train from each end. It will be a very long day for the drivers and stewards, but with a very early start, the trains can reach Kalgoorlie from both directions, in time for the morning Prospector to Perth, then continue on, after an hour break in Kalgoorlie, and be at each end in time for a turn-around, so as to get to the Prospector to Perth at 1500 hrs, and still have it three days a week” I suggested, in German. “Do you think there will be enough passengers to warrant the very early starts?” Franz asked me, “I think it would be good for business people, so I suggest that we go ahead with it, and see how it goes” Dad added, also in German, and that is the language spoken for the rest of the meeting. “The morning Prospector from Perth, will arrive before the connecting trains from Leonora and Esperance arrive, or those who wish to continue, and I think we should keep that service to just as it is and not expand on it” I added, before I stood up and headed to the maps cupboard, and after some searching, I found a topographical map of the Mid-West and Gascoyne region of Western Australia, and placed it on the table, for all to see. “If we are going to think about expanding North, we need to look at this and work out a feasible route. North of Greater Geraldton, we have the Chapman Valley, Northampton and Shark Bay Shires, with places like Kalbarri and Shark Bay as good stopping points. Because of the National Park at Kalbarri, and the neighbouring station, it may be easier to skirt along the East side of town, squeeze past the golf course, and cross over the river, so as to run between the ocean to the West and the river to the East, but we may get some displeasure on having a railway bridge over the Murchison River, so close to town. The other options are to keep following the main highway north, skipping Kalbarri all together, or we can go through the National Park, but on a raised track, to avoid too much environmental damage, and cross over the Murchison River, just before Mount House Station homestead” I suggested. “I like the idea of a raised track above the ground, but how high will it need to be?” Franz asked, “Well for a guess, I would say no more than two metres, with the only requirement is holes for the support pillars and beams, to support the track” I said. “That could work, and it would also keep the environmentalists and State Government happy, once over the river, where from there?” Dad responded, “I suggest, continuing North, about 15-kilometres inland from the coast, till we reach the Useless Loop Road” I suggested, and some of the men laughed at the name of the road. “You have some very strange place and road names in this country” one of the newer staff members commented. “That we do have, continue please Vern” Dad added. “If we follow the Useless Loop road East to Shark Bay Road, that will put is very close to Hamlin Pool, which is a popular tourist site for seeing Stromatolites, and the bottom End of Shark Bay itself. From there I suggest we pass on the East side of Carnarvon, over the Gascoyne River, and stay on the East side of the North West Coastal Highway, past the Exmouth turnoff, follow the highway till we reach Burkitt Road. From there, we follow that road in a North West direction, past Giralia Homestead, until we have cleared the bottom of the Exmouth Gulf, then continue North, till we reach the Eastern side of Learmonth, which I suggest as our Northern Terminal” I announced, pointing out each location as I went along. “What is Learmonth, I have not heard of it?’ Franz asked. “It is the main airport for the region, 22 kilometres South of the smaller town airport, and 35 kilometres South of the town of Exmouth, on the North West Cape” Dad responded. “Why are there two airports?’ one of the other staff members asked. The smaller airport, is only gravel, and is used for aerial sightseeing flights, while the Learmonth Airport, is sealed, and can handle larger aircraft” I answered, “I have a feeling, that you are not telling us more about this big airport?” Franz asked, and Dad chuckled at this comment. “You are correct with your observation, Learmonth is a jointly operational airport, used for civil passenger aircraft, but it is also a RAAF Airforce base, with a 3 kilometre long runway, it is used for training, and is known as a bareback base, because it is in caretaker mode during peace time, but can be activated quickly, because of its close proximity to Darwin and Asia” I replied. “So, have you worked out a rough distance for this extra train journey?” Dad asked me, “Not really, because it will depend on which route is acceptable by the State Government, in the Kalbarri region, but for a guess, I would say over 900 kilometres” I replied. “That sounds feasible” Franz stated, “I have also been looking into a different project, with restoring used and disused rail lines in the far South West, as an extension to the Australind train, if we decide to take that rail service on as well” I stated, “Interesting, can you tell us anymore?” Mum said, having spoken for the first time since the meeting started. “Well, there is an existing rail line, some in use and some not in use, and in need of some major upgrades, that runs from the city of Bunbury, all the way down to the small town of Northcliffe. The train line passes through the towns of Donnybrook, Bridgetown, Manjimup, and Pemberton, plus a lot of much smaller towns and localities along the way, with a total distance of about 190 kilometres” I said. “I think we should seriously consider that project, as well as the one north to Exmouth” Dad commented, and everyone agreed. The next day, Dad sent an email to the Minister of Transport, stating that we would be interested in taking on the Australind rail service, once we had completed the purchase and upgrade of the rail line from Bunbury to Northcliffe, to make it part of the same service. Within a few hours, we received a reply from the Minister. “Dear Mr Ashburton, I am thrilled to hear that you are considering restoring the rail line from Northcliffe to Bunbury and adding it to the Australind Rail Service. I look forward to seeing your plans, and we will be happy to come up with some sort of deal, regarding the rail line corridor. Yours Sincerely, E Barrett, Minister for Transport” The first thing we had to do, is to inspect the rail line and see what work needs doing to it, so a few days later, Franz, Dad and I flew up to Perth, then caught the mid-morning Australind train down to Bunbury.
  10. quokka

    AP Chapter 4

    South Australia, not West
  11. quokka

    AP Chapter 4

    Happy with what I had achieved, I jumped back onto the buggy, and continued the journey in a south-easterly direction for the town of Ceduna. It was quite lonely travelling on my own, but it was the only way to get supplies, and for the stock to be well looked after, as they were essential to our survival. I was a little surprised when I arrived in town in 2 days. I went straight to the blacksmith shop first, and asked if I could have 2 pounds of builder’s nails, and ½ a pound of fence staples ready before I left in a days’ time. I also asked if I could have a small hammer, that was easy for hitting the nails into the wood. With that order made, I headed to the stock supply store, where I put in an order for some stock hay, wheat, two steel buckets, and some fencing wire, some wire cutters, and two pairs of gloves. I saw iron water tanks available for sale and I ordered a 500-litre tank as well, and some steel piping and fittings to attach to it, plus a hand water pump and a boiling copper. Next, I headed to the general store, where I ordered flour, sugar, tea, soap, some more rope, an empty water barrel, a large canvas ground sheet, and I was even able to order 100 litres of tar, so that I could make the roof water tight. I would need to heat it up to get it to the right consistency, before applying it to the roof. I even found some dining furniture, with a small table and two chairs for Archie and I to sit on, plus a food safe and storage cupboard. I also found some window panes, to allow more light into the house. I arranged to pick up this order last, before heading back to the farm. As I was eating my evening meal, in the only hotel in town, I managed to write a short letter to our family back home near Plymouth. “Plymouth Farm, Ceduna, South Australia, 29th April 1912 - Dear Ma and Pa, I am sorry that I have not written earlier, but we have been very busy trying to establish our farm. It is a lot bigger than we desired, but it is beautiful country. The open skies are amazing during the day and at night. We arrived in the port town of Ceduna on March 9th, and we spent less than a day picking up supplies, before heading off north west to our new farm. By horse and buggy, the journey takes around 4;days to complete, and this is my first trip back to Ceduna to get supplies, while Archie stayed on the farm to mind the animals and to do some work. He is a very hard worker. I know you would be as proud of him as I am. I must go now, I have just finished my supper, and I have lots to do before I start the journey home to the farm tomorrow. My love to you all, Edwin”. It was late afternoon the next day, as I was loading up the last of my supplies, and almost ready to leave, when I heard a man speak. “Well I be! Are you not the young man that has a farm occupation license up in the northwest corner of this region? Err, Cameron, isn’t it?” the man said to me after I turned around to face him. I recognised him as the man who issued the license to me. “That is correct, sir. You issued me that licence nearly two months ago,” I responded. “And from what I see here, you are heading back out that way?” the man asked. “Yes, sir, my brother is minding the farm while I am away for 4 days. It took us nearly a week to get there, as the stock were slowing us down a fair bit, but with just the horse and buggy, I have been able to make the journey here in just 2 days,” I replied. “Well good for you, young man. How are you coping out that way? Been getting any rain?’ the man asked. “Yes, sir. We have a well now, and it has a good amount of water in it. We have 20 acres of crops in the ground, and a good size vegetable patch as well, and lambs about to drop any week now,” I said. “By the way, you will have neighbours fairly soon. Two of the properties south of you have been selected, and they will be heading up that way in the next few days or so. They know that you and your brother are up that way, so they may call in at some point,” the man said to me, as I did a final check of my load on the buggy before climbing onboard. “Thank you for letting me know. I will keep an eye out for them. Goodbye for now, sir,” I responded and I flicked the reins to get Honey started on our trip home. “Who is that young man?” I heard a women’s voice ask, but I didn’t hear any more of that conversation as I headed out of town. On my first night, it rained heavily, and luckily, I had everything that didn’t need to get wet underneath the canvas, and I lay on my new canvas sheet, under the buggy, with Honey hobbled and standing nearby under a tree, covered with another canvas sheet that I bought especially for her to keep her warm and fairly dry. The next day, it was clear and sunny, and the warmth made Honey eager to move faster, but I didn’t want to over-work her, especially with some on the heavy load onboard. So, we went at a nice steady pace, especially when there was no set road or track to the farm yet, only the one that I had been creating, as I was following the buggy tracks from my two previous trips. After just over 4 days on the road, I was pleased to be home again, arriving at the boundary fence soon after 4pm. I saw the posts that Archie has been installing in the ground along the boundary line. All of them were fairly straight, and I noticed that they were spaced closer together than I expected. I climbed off the buggy and paced out the distance between two of the posts, and worked out that they were 700 feet apart, which was fine by me. It was just a lot of work for my younger brother. Not seeing any sight of him, I continued north towards the homestead, before I saw him sitting on the fence watching the animals. When he heard the buggy, he jumped down and raced towards me, with a big smile on his face. “Hello, Edwin. Boy am I real pleased you are home. I was getting very bored being here on my own,” Archie said to me happily, and I smiled as I climbed down, while Archie began to unhitch Honey. He took her back to the stock yard, where he gave her some hay. Archie helped me to unload everything that was on the buggy, once it had been secured to the tree, and once that was done I was given some fresh damper and billy tea. “In the wood crate, you will find some nice surprises,” I said to Archie who dashed over to where the crate was. He peered in and pulled out two jars. “Jam and honey! What luxury! Where did you find this?” Archie said happily. “Some ladies in town had a fundraising store, and so I bought a few jars of preserves, as well as some freshly made scones for my supper that night,” I explained. “Scones! Aw, you could have saved some for me,” Archie complained, and that made me laugh. “It is alright. They gave me the recipe, so you can make some yourself. I also bought a small butter churn, so we can have our very own butter,” I said. “Fantastic! I look forward to that,” Archie said, all smiles. “By the way I like what you did with the boundary fence. There was no need to have to put in an extra post, but it does look better, especially when we will soon have some neighbours on our southern boundary,” I said to my brother. “Thanks. It wasn’t that hard really. Have you met them yet?” Archie replied. “No, I only met the man who I spoke to at the Colonial office. He told me about it,” I responded, and Archie just nodded his head in understanding. “What else have you been doing while I have been away?” I asked. “Well, I have started building a fence around the vegetable patch. Then I want to build one around the crops as well,” Archie said to me. “Well, you have been busy. I don’t blame you for taking a rest in the afternoon. I have some fencing wire with me, so maybe we can use that for around the crops to keep the sheep and cattle out, if they ever escape the yard,” I replied. “Actually, I have been letting the sheep out in the morning, so they can do some grazing, and they have been coming back to the yard in the late afternoon. It seems they know that it is a safe place to sleep overnight,” Archie informed me. “Well, that is a good idea, but make sure they only graze on the grasses, as some of the shrubs may be poisonous for them,” I said. After a short break, we got to work with installing door and window frames, for the house, so we could finish building the house, and the next day we headed back to the grove of trees, this time to locate a thick tree, that would be used as the main centre beam to run the full length of the house to support the cross beams, and then the planks would be placed on top of that, and the tar used to seal the spaces between each of the planks. It took us two weeks, but it was finally completed. We now had a house with a water tight roof, and the basic furniture that I had brought back with me. The food safe fitted nicely in the corner, close to the fireplace for easy access, and we even had plenty of planks left over to have a solid wooden floor, to keep the dust out. For now, we stored all of the stock feed in the house to keep it out of the weather, since it had been raining on and off for the past few days. With the house now fully completed, we got to work to build up the height of the stone walls on each corner of the stockyards, so they were at least six feet high, and when that was completed, we built wooden roofs over each corner, sealing each join with tar, to make it water tight, and the animals were now happily able to shelter from the rain. The crops and the vegetable garden were all looking very good, with a good amount of germination for everything that we planted, and I was looking forward to enjoying some of the vegetables when they were ready. Once the stock shelters were completed, Archie suggested that we make a start on the second building, but I was more interested in expanding the stock yards, and making a start of the fence to protect the crops. Archie had spent all of his spare time finishing the fence around the vegetable garden, with a two-foot high stone wall, and a two-foot post and rail fence on top of it, which we could easily climb through to get access to it, for weeding the garden and for harvesting when they were ready. We ended up deciding that once I had completed the foundations, Archie would work on the second building, while I worked on the expansion of the yards, and that is how it happened. We had enough wood to build the window and door frames, which I helped Archie with, and he did all of the stone work of the building, which was ten feet from the front of the main house, allowing a nice roomy breezeway between the buildings, with both of them having the single sloping down outwards. We had to make a few trips back to the grove of trees to cut down and split some logs for the roof of the second building. We did all of the splitting down near the grove, so it was easier to handle the wood. On returning from our last trip to the grove, we were quite surprised to find a sulky standing at the side of the house with the horse standing in the shade. As we approached the side of the second building, a lady carrying a toddler, with another child standing next to her appeared from between the two buildings. She smiled as we pulled up and pulled on the brakes. “Good afternoon. How may I help you?” I said politely, as I approached, leaving my brother to start unloading the wood on the back of the buggy. “Hello. My name is Florence Applegate. This is my youngest, Eliza. She is 3 this month, and the second youngest, Mark, is 5,” the lady said. “My name is Edwin Cameron, and that is my younger brother Archie,” I said following on with the introductions. “It is a pleasure to meet you, young man. Are you both alone, or are your parents away at the moment?” Mrs Applegate enquired. “My brother and I travelled to South Australia on our own, and we are establishing this farm, in the hope that our parents and siblings will join us in the near future,” I replied. “I see. Well, from what I have observed so far, you have done a remarkable job,” Mrs Applegate said.
  12. quokka

    DSJ Chapter 9

    Hi @ReaderPaul yes there is already a second story for this one, called Deep Space Settlement. Regards Preston, aka Quokka
  13. quokka

    GW Chapter 11

    “Well that sounds fine to me, I think if we did do the other trip, we wouldn’t have enough trains” Dad responded. “If we have the Great Western leave Port Hedland on Tuesday and Thursday, it would arrive in time for the Wednesday and Friday morning Prospector, which will get to Northam in time for the connection to Albany and Geraldton. Meanwhile the train north from Esperance to Port Hedland can leave on Tuesdays and Thursdays, getting to Kalgoorlie for the afternoon Prospector, and reach Port Hedland the following day, plus we will need a side track at Wiluna, which is where the two trains will pass each other in the middle of the night” I said. “Well son, it looks like you have everything worked out, I will leave you to prepare the presentation for the mining companies” Dad said to me smiling broadly. During the long journey back home to Perth, I spent most of the time that I was awake, working on my laptop computer, so by the time we arrived home in Albany, I had most of the work completed for the presentation. When I sat down to dinner, the day after arriving home, I could see that my brothers and parents were waiting for me to tell them my suggested plans for the trains, which made me chuckle quietly. I have worked out a travel route and timetable for the new Great Western route, from Port Hedland, to Esperance, which is a distance of 1582 kilometres, with the northern section travelling mostly at night, with a departure of 1700 hours or 5 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Port Hedland and leaving Esperance at 0940 on the same days. South bound, will connect with the morning Prospector, which will get to Northam in time to connect with the trains to Albany and Geraldton, the north bound will connect with the afternoon Prospector to East Perth, while the Great Western will continue north to Port Hedland, arriving the following morning. With the current Great Western, which will be renamed the Coastal, and the Prospector timetables staying the same, we will have three train routes, that at some point connect, with only the south bound new Great Western having the right timetable to travel from Port Hedland to Geraldton or Albany, with minimal layover time” I announced. “Sounds great son, when is the meeting with the mining company?” Mum said to me, in reply, and I turned to Dad for that information, “We have set it for early next week, to allow us to recover from our trip. By the way Vern, Mum and I have agreed on the splitting of the shares, as I had said to you the other day, and we have sent a response back to Switzerland, including declining that they send staff to Albany to assist with the company.” Dad answered. “Have we had a response back from the Minister, regarding taking over operations of the Prospector?” I asked Dad. “We have, less than an hour ago, I will let you read it later, but the gist of it is, that they are disappointed with our response, but are happy to allow us to take over just the Prospector, and they wish us to attend a meeting to discuss the plans for handing over control” Dad replied. With the new trains due to arrive in Geraldton in just over a week’s time, Dad got to work to recruit some new train crew, including four more drivers, two porters and 6 stewards. Once he had employed the new staff, they got to work with training, joining the twice weekly return journey on the Great Western. A week later, with both meetings over, and with the Prospector about to become part of Ashburton Engineering, Dad and I joined the Great Western, the day after we received news that the new trains from Switzerland, had arrived in Geraldton, and were being stored in the Westnet Rail Yards out of town. Dad had decided that we would follow the Great Western south bound, we would have all crews with us at Geraldton, and with four crews and four trains, with Dad driving one of the new ones, we would travel down as far as Northam, then East to Kalgoorlie, with the second Coastal Miner following us. Work had already begun, on building the new rail line from Leonora to Wiluna, while the mining company would build the rest from Newman to Wiluna. Work was nearly completed on the new train station extensions in Northam and Kalgoorlie. A new train station and storage shed have been completed in Esperance, located just 4 kilometres from the centre of town, and the turn-around track just South of Leonora, has been extended, with a storage shed built at the end, to store the new train until the new track northwards is completed in about 4 – months’ time. It was going to be a long two days, and with the renovations now completed on the family car, that was included on the train north, so Dad and I had a place to sleep, as we would be sleeping onboard the train for the whole trip. When we finally arrived in Geraldton, we waited for all the passengers to disembark, and the crew to do the clean-up, before the Great Western was taken out to the yards, out of town, so that the Diamond class car could be attached to one of the new trains. The new Great Western was already in the storage shed near the train stain, waiting for its maiden journey from Geraldton to Albany, and the train we travelled up in, will remain in Geraldton, until the day after, before heading South, while the new train will head North. A few days after arriving home from the European trip, Dad had changed the Great Western timetable on the website, so that the trains will be heading North and South, on the same days, meeting in Northam, to match with the Prospector heading West to East Perth, starting in two days’ time. At the same time, the Coastal Miner will begin service from Esperance and Leonora, with bookings for that service being quite good, especially with the heavy advertising happening for the past three weeks. Two days’ time was also the day that we take over control of the Prospector train, from East Perth to Kalgoorlie, so that all at once, we have additional country train services, that have timetables that make it possible to travel a lot more, at less the cost than travelling by plane, and faster than travelling by car. Dad had informed the media, that a special news conference was being called at the Northam train station, for 12 noon tomorrow, when the new Great Western, the two Coastal Miner trains and the Prospector will meet. When all three trains arrived in Northam, shortly before 12 noon, there was a sizable local crowd, who had been informed of the new trains coming through today, but sadly there was very little media presence, which Dad was not too happy about. “Mr Ashburton, Avon Advocate, could you tell us why there are so many trains arriving at once?” one reporter asked, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the train at the front, is the new Great Western, that will travel in partnership with the original Great Western, which is still in Geraldton. The train that I drove, and the one behind it, are the Coastal Miner trains, that will travel between Leonora and Esperance, and we will be heading East to Kalgoorlie shortly. In two-days’ time, our company will take over control of the Prospector service, which will remain on the same timetables. The Coastal Miner will have a timetable, that will allow for passengers to travel from Leonora or Esperance, in the morning, and catch the afternoon Prospector to East Perth, also the timetables are being adjusted slightly so that passengers on the Great Western can travel from Geraldton or Albany andcatch the afternoon Prospector to Kalgoorlie” Dad announced. “Sir, Avon Valley Gazette, do you have any plans for extending the services in any way?”, “Good question, and since you two are the only media bothered to turn up today, you have an exclusive. We are working in partnership with a large mining company, where building from each end, we will have a train service from the South Coast of Esperance to the far north of Port Hedland. We are extending the rail line from Leonora, north to Wiluna, and the mining company will build from Newman to Wiluna, with the two lines connecting hopefully before the end of the year” Dad announced. “Sir, that would truly be a great rail journey, what are you going to name it?” the first reporter asked, and Dad smiled as he turned to me. “Ladies and Gentlemen, when the new train line is completed, and ready for operation, the Great Western will take on that journey from Port Hedland to Esperance. The northern section will be done in the late afternoon and at night, so it will arrive in Kalgoorlie, in time, to connect with the morning Prospector service to East Perth, and it will continue South to Esperance, arriving just before lunch time. The North bound train leaving Esperance, will arrive in Kalgoorlie in time to connect with the afternoon service of the Prospector, and arrive in Port Hedland at 6am the next morning” I said, just as the Prospector announced its arrival, with a blast of its horn. “Master Vern, one more question, will you have any passengers for this trip to Kalgoorlie?” the second reporter asked, “No, it will just be the crew for the relocation, unless you happen to be packed and ready to go” I answered with a big grin. “Actually sir, both of us have our luggage in the ticket office, just in case” the first reporter responded, and that made Dad laugh. “Very well, you two have our permission to join us” Dad said, and that was the end of the press conference, as the two reporters dashed off to retrieve their luggage. “Put them in Platinum, we might as well milk them with as much publicity as possible” Dad said to me, before reboarding the train. Once the two reporters were onboard, I called the front driver cabin, to say we are ready to leave, and Dad gave the horn a good long blast, before we started moving, with the other train to follow us in 15 minutes time, while the Great Western continued South, and the Prospector headed West to East Perth. We arrived in Kalgoorlie just before 6pm, where there was a large crowd of people at the train station, including a good presence of media. “Mr Ashburton, there are rumour flying around that you not only have taken on extra passenger services in Western Australia, but you have also began buying shares in two prominent rail companies, that involve rail freight in this state, do you care to comment?” a reporter said which caught me totally by surprised, and I turned my back to the media, to hide my shock. Once Dad had completed the media conference, with lots more questions being asked about his involvement in shares, we caught a taxi to the hotel that we had booked to stay in, while the engine drivers, drove the trains out to West Kalgoorlie, for its overnight stop. Once we had entered our suite, I turned to face Dad, to get some answers of my own. “Sorry about that son, I should have warned you, I have been working on getting some more control on train movements in Western Australia. At the moment, Queensland Rail owns the freight business in Western Australia, and I would like to see it back in WA control again, so I have been quietly buying shares in the company, in hope of buying the freight, that use to be known as ARG. I have also been quietly buying shares in the Westnet Rail, to try and get more control of the infrastructure side of the rail network in WA” Dad said to me, “I see, well it would have been nice to have some prior warning, instead of looking like a stunned rabbit in headlights” I responded, which made Dad chuckle. “I have also been thinking about changing our name, so it is more suited to what we do, since the name ARG no longer exists, since QR took over, I thought about using that name, since it is no longer a registered name, and it fits with our name. ARG can now be Ashburton Rail Group” Dad announced, and after a few moments of thinking about it, I agreed with the name change. The following day, Dad and I were on the train heading North, while the other one heads South to Esperanceand we arrived in the goldfield’s town of Leonora, just 2 ¾ hours later, and after a one hour stop at the new train station, we headed to the train shed, to secure it, until it makes its first trip to Esperance in the morning. We would join the train as far as Kalgoorlie, and catch the afternoon Prospector to Northam, where we will stay overnight, and have the Diamond car connected to the Great Western when it arrives from Geraldton, for the return journey home to Albany. Dad had already organised accommodation for the one driver and three stewards., with a long-term lease of two houses. It was a long five days of travelling on the trains, and I was very glad to get back home again and try and get back to a normal routine once more. The day we arrived home, Mum had a copy of the Western Australian newspaper, and the front-page headlines were about the Great Western. “Ashburton Engineering steps up!” was the headlines, and Dad and I continued to read the story. “Ashburton Engineering has stepped up its services in Western Australia, with the Albany to Geraldton, proving to be very popular, and with a new service beginning today, from Leonora in the Goldfields to Esperance on the South East coast, and vice versa. Ashburton Engineering also took over control of the Prospector services, as of today, and timetables have been made to allow for connections between the three services, allowing people to travel to large parts of the southern half of the state”. “Well that is a good bit of free publicity, hopefully it all continues that way” Dad said to me. Over the next few days, we monitored the media very closely, and every evening, we received a report from the senior Porter for each train, of which all was positive feedback. As I came downstairs just before dinner, a few days later, I saw dad talking to someone on his mobile, so I went to the kitchen to see what Mrs Frazier had prepared for us. “Out of my kitchen Master Vern, I have already had to shoo away your two brothers” Mrs Frazier said to me, so I headed back into the lounge room, just as Dad ended the call. “Anything interesting?” I enquired, “Your former school wants to settle out of court for $5,000, but I said that we would accept no less than $45,000 and an official apology, which they said they would consider and get back to us.” Dad informed me. By the end of the first week of all three services operating, we had an average of 95% bookings for each service, and both Dad and I were very pleased with everything, especially with the connecting train services, having a dramatic increase in passenger numbers on the Prospector. The name change, from Ashburton Engineering to ARG – Ashburton Rail Group, when ahead without any fanfare, and as the weeks and months passed all the services continued to do well, with an interesting side effect to another transport service, with passenger numbers on flights to and from Albany and Geraldton to Perth reducing by a large amount. When work on the rail line from Leonora to Leinster was about to be started, we were shocked to learn that the mining company had decided to defer the project. to a time when it will be more profitable for the company. Dad was furious with this news, and I was getting very worried, that this could cause some problems, and at dinner time, no one was very talkative. When my brothers finally went to bed, Dad, Mum and I sat at the kitchen table to discuss what options we must recover from this problem. “What bout we go back to the original plan, of connecting Leonora to Mullewa, so we have a journey from Albany to Geraldton and Geraldton to Esperance, via Kalgoorlie” I suggested, after a very long period of silence. “That would be good son, but without financial support we can’t do it, and no way am I going to get this family into heavy debt” Dad responded. “If we change the shares, so Dad and I have 25% each, Vern, you have 10% and the boys stay at 5% each, that would give us 30% shares that we can offer to the Swiss Rail company, for the price of say, 8 million Francs, which includes a small discount, to what they paid before” Mum suggested, and Dad smiled.
  14. quokka

    AP Chapter 3

    When I peered down the well, I was shocked to see that we had some water in the bottom. “How deep is the water do you think?” Archie asked me. “Pull up the ladder and check the bottom of the ladder. That should be a good indicator,” I replied, and I watched as my brother pulled the ladder up, and laid it down on the ground. “About two feet, I would say, but who knows if it will stay that way. It may just seep into the ground. Let’s bucket some of it up, and we can fill up the animal trough with it,” I said. Once the water trough was full, we got to work to clear as much land as we could, so as to start planting some crops, with me clearing away the shrubs and rocks, while Archie began to dig up the soil, to get it loose enough to allow crops to grow. I had decided to let the chickens out into the yards, as they had started to lay eggs, and with the few wooden packing crates that we had with us, plus some straw hay, we made up two nesting boxes for them, and they quickly settled into their new home. By the time our third week in South Australia had arrived, we had cleared a total of 20 acres of land, and we had planted 5 acres of corn, 5 acres of oats and ten acres of wheat. The water in the well had dropped down a little bit, but with the occasional rain every few days, it was staying at a steady level, so we had a good supply of water for now. “Hey, Archie, I know it can’t be the limited feed that they are having, but does it look like our father has given us pregnant sheep and cattle? If so, then we should have some lambs dropping in about 6 to 8 weeks’ time,” I said to my brother. “That would be fantastic, Brother. Our first lot on our new farm,” Archie replied happily. “And we may have some calves drop in about 10 weeks’ time if they were mated at the right time,” I added. With the crops now planted, and with water in the well, we decided to get started on the house, and using some of the heavier soil dug out from the well, we commenced to lay the foundations for the house, with the walls to be at least 1-foot thick to provide some insulation from the heat in summer and cold in the winter. I decided that the fireplace and chimney were the most important part of the house to be built first, so as to make cooking a little easier. I made a bendable panel out of branches, to assist with creating the arch for the front of the fireplace, and in just two days, we had completed the fireplace and a 4-foot high chimney, that opened on the back at the top, to stop rain from coming inside. With that completed, we moved all of our cooking and eating supplies into the kitchen area, and began building the walls, from the kitchen end first, stopping the wall before half way on one side, to make way for a wide doorway, which I wanted to make four feet wide. I was not sure what to do for a door frame or for windows, and decided on concentrating on the bottom half of the walls all the way around first. With the house going up very well, we decided to spend a couple of hours each afternoon, adding to the wall of the stock yards. We soon had it up to the same height as the house, at 3 feet from the ground, which was now plenty high enough to keep all the stock secured, without them being hobbled, even though Honey stood nearly 6 feet tall, from front hoof to the top of her head. With the yards, we had cut thick branch posts, and added them into the wall, as we were building it, so that they stuck two feet higher than the wall, and we bound thick branches along the top of those branch posts, to create a higher barrier, to stop them from jumping out. There were two trees in the yard and quite a few around the outside of the yard. We put the chickens nesting boxes, in the very low branches of the two trees, about 5 feet off the ground, hopefully high enough to stay out of reach of foxes, which was a worry for us, although we were unsure if they were causing a problem to other graziers in the region. With the regular rain that we had been getting, the ground was now nice and moist, and the first of the corn seeds were now starting to sprout. Archie had found some packets of dried seeds, in amongst our belongings, with our mother’s hand writing informing us what kind of seeds they were - pumpkins, tomatoes, onions, garlic, runner beans, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and parsnips. Archie had been busy planting as many of the seeds as possible, once I had cleared away another area for a vegetable patch. For some time now I had been trying to figure out what to do about doors and windows, plus the roof, and so one morning, leaving Archie to keep an eye on everything, I jumped onto Honey’s bare back, with just a halter and short reins, and we went searching for any suitable building materials. After a few hours, I was starting to get a little disheartened with not finding anything, and I was thinking of heading back home, when I spotted some trees in the distance that looked a little different. The closer I got to the grove of trees, the happier I became. They were big strong eucalypts, and there were lots of them. Looking at my pocket watch, which read 11.20am, I headed back to the homestead, which was south east of where I was. As I was heading back, I realised that I also needed to start making a boundary fence of some kind to indicate where our land was. Knowing that we were the most northern property in the region, I felt that the southern boundary was the most important. Arriving back at the homestead, I found Archie in the kitchen busy cooking another damper, which was our main food at the moment, until we got some vegetables growing. As we sat down and ate our lunch of salted meat and damper, washed down with some billy tea, I discussed the plans with my brother. Using the buggy, we could cut down a number of trees with the log saw, and split the logs with the axe, and loaded them onto the buggy so Honey could cart them back to the homestead. The only problem was that I had never tried splitting logs before. I had seen it being done at shows in England, but this was different, and I really needed to have more tools. “If you use the heavy hammer, to hit in both axes to split the logs, it maybe a matter of trial and error, but I am sure you can do it, Brother,” Archie said to me, and I smiled. “You know that might just work. Let’s give it a go and see how it turns out,” I replied with enthusiasm. With no rain in the distance, we untied the buggy and pulled it away, and swung it around, so we could attach it to Honey’s straps, and with the two axes and the saw, some hay and water, we set off in the direction that I located the trees. Just over an hour later we arrived at the location. “I think these will be perfect for our home, Edwin. Lets’ get to work, so we can start working on the house some more,” Archie said excitedly, and with Honey released from the buggy and hobbled to allow her to graze, we got to work to select the best trees. We cut down five tall ones, and after measuring them, we cut them into 20-foot lengths. Some others we cut into 7-foot lengths, with some 2-foot lengths that would be perfect for the windows. With the correct size lengths now done, we decided to try splitting some of the logs, starting off with some of the shorter lengths. After a bit of fiddling around, we managed to get one short log turned into five planks, each one being about two inches thick. We tried it again, this time with the next length up, and again we managed to get 5 planks of wood, with each one also being about 2 inches thick. We now had enough planks to make the door and window frames for the house, but I had no nails to join them together. “Maybe we could dig out small holes in the wood, and make wooden nails,” Archie suggested. “I am not sure. Let me think about it. We may be able to make a join of some kind,” I replied, as I thought back to when I learnt carpentry in high school. I just wished I had thought of getting nails from the blacksmith while I was in town. Once we had Honey hitched up to the buggy again, we loaded up the wooden logs and tied them down to stop them from rolling off, then we added the planks that we had already split, and we began the long journey back home, which took us nearly two hours because of the heavy load that Honey was pulling. Once the wagon had been unloaded, we unhitched Honey and lead her back into the yard, where we had a good long drink. We gave out some hay for all the stock to eat, along with some wheat. “I think one of us, may have to go into town and get some more supplies. We are going to run out of hay and wheat soon, if we don’t go,” I commented to my brother, as we watched the sheep, horse, cows and chickens happily eating together. “I think that would be a good idea, but before you go can we build some shelters for the stock in each corner of the yard, with planks of wood over each corner,” Archie suggested. “That would be a great idea. It will give them shade in the summer time too. How about we get half of the house completed, so we have a little bit of shelter from the rain, then the animal shelters, before one of us goes to town,” I said. “You better go. You can navigate a lot better than I can. I am bound to get lost,” Archie said to me. “Yes, that can be very easily done with all these shrubs and trees around us. I don’t want to lose my little brother, after everything we have been through these past few months,” I said. After a short break, we got to work again, continuing to split the wood into planks, with the longer logs being harder to split that the others. “Maybe you can start marking our boundary with fence posts. Just cut down some thin trees that are no more than ½ a foot thick and about 8-feet long, and dig a hole at least two feet deep. Put the post in and fill in the hole. Make sure you stomp down on the ground around the hole to make sure the post doesn’t move around too much, and that the fence line is fairly straight. I suggest maybe putting each hole about 4 feet to the west, of the survey marker. That way you will know it is a straight line,” I suggested to my brother. “I think I can handle that,” Archie replied confidently. “If you start from the south-east corner, which is the closest to the homestead and work west from there, you should get a good amount of the fence done during the one week that I am away,” I said. “One week! Is that how long it will take you?” Archie said sounding shocked. “Actually, it will be more like six days, as I won’t have sheep and cattle slowing me down. Do you think you will be ok during that time?” I responded, starting to wonder if it was a good idea to leave. “No problems, Brother. I will be fine,” Archie said to me smiling. In the next week we cut down another six trees and split them into planks, so we had a good stockpile, and in the cooler parts of the morning and afternoon we would work on building the external walls of the house, leaving spaces for where the windows and the door would be located. With one half of the house almost completed, we secured three planks in between the top layer of rocks, which the roof would be attached too, but for now we just lay the planks across the top of the wall to provide a basic cover, to allow us a partial dry space for sleeping, cooking and eating. When the day came for me to start the journey to town, Archie was very quiet, and I nearly decided not to go, but he insisted that we needed to get building supplies and food for the stock and ourselves. With enough water for both Honey and myself, hay and oats for Honey and two damper loaves for myself, I set off at day break. For the first part of the journey, I pulled out my old red shirt, that I had added to my travel pack, and began tearing it into long strips. When we arrived at our southern boundary, just a few hundred feet from the south-east corner, I stopped and let Honey rest, while I went to the tree nearest to the corner boundary and tied a strip of red cloth to a thin branch, before continuing west, following the boundary line, tying strips of material to trees along the way, till I ran out of red material.
  15. quokka

    GW Chapter 10

    “Are you ok sir, Reynold sounded concerned just now?” the second driver asked me, “Yes, I just need a while to calm down a little” I said as I picked up the phone and pressed the number for the closest Buffet servery. “Is Reynold there please?” I asked, when my call was answered, and a moment later, he was on the phone. “Forget the cuppa, call the police, and ask them to meet the train at the next main town, which I think is Wagin, we will be arriving there in about twenty minutes” I said to Reynold then ended the call. “I will remain here, until that man is off my train, at Wagin” I commented to the drivers, before returning to the crew lounge and sitting down. A long twenty minutes later, the train came to a stop at the Wagin train station, where there were two police officers waiting for us, and I stepped onto the platform, from the side door at the back of car one. “I was expecting an Adult, are you Mr Ashburton?” the police sergeant stated. “Yes Sergeant, the name is Vern Ashburton, co-owner of the Great Western” I replied, holding out my hand and shaking the two officer’s hands, “We were informed, that you have a passenger that you wish to be removed from your train?” the police senior constable said. “Yes, he is a big man, in plain leathers, looks to be a bikie, rounded face, full gingery moustache and beard, over six-foot tall, he is in Car 2 Seat 5. I wish him to be removed for public disturbance and assaulting a minor” I responded, showing the clear red mark on my arm, where the man had grabbed me in a tight gripand the police senior constable pulled out his mobile and took a few photos of my arm, and one of my upper body. “Lead the way Mr Ashburton” the police Sergeant said, and they followed me onto the back of car one, and through the door to car two. As soon as the man saw the police, he stood up and turned to run the other way, when he ran straight into the third driver, who was of similar build, and the bikie was quickly detained. I turned to the other three men at the same table, who didn’t look too pleased. “It is up to you, you can leave on your own merit, or I can have you forceable removed” I said to the men, “We will go quietly, but we are not happy” one of the other bikies stated, “Tell your friend… that he is banned from travelling on any train operated by Ashburton Engineering” I stated, “His name on the ticket says he is Mr Ben Wilkes” Reynold added from behind me. “Right, so tell Mr Wilkes what I said, and be lucky that I don’t ban you three as well. I will give you a 50% refund on your ticket, but Mr Wilkes will receive nothing, because he assaulted a minor, as I am only 16 years old” I said to the men, who nodded their understanding, and stood to collect their luggage and leave the train. Once we were moving again, and now over 15 minutes behind schedule, I headed back to the Diamond car, and tried to relax. Less than ten minutes later, my phone rang, and the caller ID showed that it was Dad. “Hi Dad, what’s happening?” I said as cheerfully as possible. “I’ve just had a worrying call from Reynold, are you ok?” my Dad responded, “Yes, I’m just a little shaken up, and a slightly bruised arm, where he grabbed me, that is all” I replied, “So, what has happened to the guy who grabbed you?” Dad asked. “In the custody of the police at Wagin, and I evicted his three friends as well, telling them they will get a 50% refund, while Mr Wilkes will get nothing in return, apart from a lifetime ban, and some time with the police. Although I didn’t point it out to them, I am glad that you added the Code of Conduct of Passengers, as part of the conditions when purchasing a ticket” I replied. “As long as you are ok, I am tempted to have you get off at Northam and get you to catch the afternoon flight back to Albany from Perth” Dad said to me, “I am ok Dad, don’t worry, it has all been sorted” I responded. “Ok then, we will see you at home tomorrow afternoon then” Dad said, sounding still not very happy with the situation, “By the way Dad, since there is only going to be one Diamond class, I think we should reduce the number of cabins to three, so as to allow more room for a dining room, lounge and study” I said, and there was a long silence before there was a response. “We will discuss any changes, when you are back home, have a safe trip, bye for now” Dad said, and he ended the call. During the next two hours of the journey, I thought about what Dad had said to me, and I had come to a decision just 15 minutes before we arrived at Northam. “Reynold, can you please contact the Prospector, and let them know they will have one more passenger to East Perth, as I am heading back home” I said to the Porter, when he answered my call. “Very good sir, consider it done” Reynold responded before I ended the call, and pulling out my mobile, I dialled the number for the Airline, that does flights south to Albany, to book a seat on this afternoon’s flight, before gathering my luggage and preparing to leave the train. Once on the Prospector, I relaxed, and tried to ignore all the activity happening on the train, but it was hard, when there were people moving around all the time, and I made a mental note of this. At East Perth, I caught a taxi directly to the airport, as I had just over an hour before boarding the afternoon flight to Albany, that would get me home at 5pm. When the taxi dropped me off outside the office about twenty minutes after landing at Albany, I let myself into the office building, disarmed the alarm, and walked to the back door, where I reset the alarm, and walked out the back door, pulling the door closed, before making my way through the side gate, that leads to the house. “Master Vern, I was not expecting you to be home till tomorrow night” Mrs Frazier said sounding surprised as I walked into the kitchen. “No, plans changed, after an incident on the train, earlier today, and I came home from Northam” I explained, as I headed upstairs to my room. For the next week and a half, I chose to remain at home, and not travel on the train twice weekly, and instead, I spent the time concentrating on my studies, and work with Dad in the office. When the day came for us to leave for our trip to Europe, we had packed lightly, with one small suitcase and a briefcase each, and we took the late afternoon flight from Albany to Perth, before catching our direct flight to London, leaving at 7.20 pm. We would be arriving in London at 5.05 am local time, and we would have just over 3 ½ hours, layover, before catching our connecting flight to Zurich, where we would arrive at 11.40 am local time, where we are booked into a hotel to rest, since we will be travelling for nearly 21 hours straight. When we did finally arrive at our hotel in Zurich, I went straight to my room, had a shower and collapsed onto my bed, promptly falling asleep. Dad woke me up nearly four hours later, and suggested that we go for a walk, to get some exercise, before we have some dinner, which I gladly agreed to. When we returned to the hotel after half an hour of walking, Dad checked his emails, and called me over, when he saw one of interest. “Mr Ashburton, after reading about the success of your current train route from Albany to Geraldton, and with some discussions with the Mining company Board, it has been agreed, that we would like to inform you, that we have reconsidered your offer. We feel that it will be beneficial to the mining company and the state of Western Australia as a whole, to have a train line from Newman to Geraldton, via Meekatharra and Cue. We look forward to your response to this request”. “Well that make a big change doesn’t it” my Dad said after allowing me to read the email. “Yes, but I have one concern about that route to Geraldton, the distance from Newman to Mullewa is around 900 kilometres, right? Well, I estimate the distance from Newman to Leonora, less than that distance” I said. “You might be right their son, and it would mean that we could have a journey to Port Hedland to Esperance, via Kalgoorlie, that would be more beneficial than from Port Headland to Albany” Dad responded. Retrieving my own laptop, I began to work out the two distances with the assistance of Google Maps, “Dad, I was wrong, it is 120 kilometres shorter to Mullewa, than it is to get to Leonora” I said once I had worked it out. “I see, and where is the junction, if there were two lines, one for each direction?” Dad asked me, which surprised me a lot. “Err, a locality called Kumarina, north of Meekatharra” I replied, “Well, let’s begin working out more details for two lines, so we can present them to the Mining company, when we return to Western Australia” Dad announced, and I nodded my head in understanding. The two-week stay in Switzerland, was informative, and tiring, as we spent 6 days a week doing 8-hour days, of which most days was spent in meetings. On the last day, we had our final meeting with the Board of Directors, of the Swiss Engineering company. “Are you sure that you don’t want to return to living and working here in Zurich, your talents are wasted being so far away” one of the Directors said to Dad in German, and Dad looked at me, took a deep breath and let it out before answering. “As much as I would like to sir, my main commitment is to spend more time with my family” Dad responded also in German. “So, tell me young man, what new projects are you working on in Australia?” another Director asked me. “Well sir, we were planning on establishing a second country service from a large town in the south east coast, called Esperance, to the mining town of Leonora, with a stop-over in the mining city of Kalgoorlie, but plans have changed since leaving home, as we received an email from the big mining company, that we had approached on a different proposal, and they have seen how well and popular our current train journey is operating, and are requesting a new proposal” I responded. “I have heard all about it and checked out your website, including the journey map, and I am very impressed” the Board Chairman began, can we find a map of Western Australia, so you can show us this new idea that you have” he added, speaking to one of the assistants seated at the back of the room. “Sir I have my laptop computer with me, and would be able to show you, if we can connect it to the Audio-Visual equipment” I said. Five minutes later we had a large map of Western Australia projected onto the large screen, which is a map of the railway lines in the state. “Gentlemen, there are a few versions of railways in this state, the Perth Suburban rail network, which is all electric. The 5 main lines beginning and ending here in Joondalup in the north, Perth in the City, Midland in the East, Armadale in the South East, and Fremantle in the West and Mandurah in the South Coastal. As well as that, we have the Government country rail service, from East Perth as the main terminal, south to the city of Bunbury, that train is known as the Australind, and there is the Prospector that travels out to Kalgoorlie, and on the same rail line the Avon Express goes as far as Merredin. At the moment, Ashburton Engineering provides a country rail service, from the City of Albany in the far south coast, to the city of Greater Geraldton, in the Mid-West of the state, and we are currently preparing to have a service running from the south east coastal town of Esperance, to Leonora, via Kalgoorlie” I announced, as I pointed out the locations and the rail lines on the map. “What are the lines located in the far north?” one of the Directors asked me, “Those rail lines sir, are privately owned and run mining rail lines, providing access from the mine sites in Tom Price, with a link to the Port of Roebourne, and from Newman, with a link to the Port Hedland port facilities” I responded. “Apart from the port facilities that you have stated, where are the other ports, that load and unload large amounts of cargo?” the Chairman asked, “The Town of Esperance and City of Albany both have major port facilities, as does Geraldton, Fremantle and Bunbury” I replied. “Wouldn’t it be best if all the rail lines were linked together?” one of the Directors asked, and I looked at Dad, before sitting down. “That is a good question, and one that we are looking into, as mentioned earlier, we will be meeting with some mining companies, when we return, to discuss plans for doing just that, with a rail link from Newman, down to Leonora, to link in with the rail line to Kalgoorlie and Esperance, and also west to Geraldton, via Mount Magnet. Both distances are about the same, and if this takes place, it will allow mining companies to travel to Esperance or Geraldton, if the Port Hedland Port facilities are not available, due to severe weather conditions like Cyclones, which are a regular event in the wet season, from November to April each year” Dad said. “Christopher and Vern, before you both arrived here two weeks ago, we met to discuss ways of working together, with your projects in Australia, and we would like to put a proposal to you” the Board Chairman said to us, which surprised both Dad and me. “Go ahead Mr Chairman, we are listening” I said politely, “For an investment of 7.63 million Swiss Franc, we would like to ask for a 15% share in your company, and send you one or two staff, to assist with your business” the Chairman said. “Well sir, we would have to discuss it with the other director of Ashburton Engineering, before we could give you a response” Dad said in response, “Who is this other director, may I ask? the Chairman asked, “My mother” I replied simply with a smile, and this made the Chairman give a short laugh. “Very well, we will await a reply, preferably within a week, which will be about the same time as your new trains arrive. After the meeting ended, and we were wished a safe journey home, we headed back to the hotel to rest, before we began the trip home tomorrow. “Holy smoke Dad, 7.63 million Francs, what is that in Australian Dollars?” I said as we climbed into a taxi, “About 11 million Australian, at a rough estimate” Dad replied, “Wow, so how are the shares for the company divided at the moment?” I asked. “Mum and I have 32% shares each, you have 16% and your brothers have 10% each, so if the Swiss Company want 15% shares, we would have to take them out of mostly you and your brothers shares, so Mum and I still have controlling shares” Dad said. “If us boys lose 5% each, then this won’t affect your shares” I suggested, and Dad immediately shook his head no. “I want you to have more shares than them, so we will have to come up with a better solution, what about if we offer 14% shares for 7 million Francs, then we will have a better way of dividing the shares, Mum and I will lose 2% each, yours will remain the same, and the boys will lose 5% each” Dad suggested. “Ok, but what does that convert to in Australian currency?’ I responded, “I would say about 10.1 million, which will help us to keep our dept down along way, compared to if we did it on our own” Dad said, “Ok I agree with that, let’s see what Mum says to it, when we call her tomorrow morning” I said and we chatted about other plans, once we get back to the office in Albany. Back at the hotel, I went back to my computer and started to work out some ideas, and after nearly two hours of putting together a plan, Dad walked up to the table. “Come up with any solutions?” Dad asked me, “Yes, I think that we should keep the Albany to Geraldton journey as it is and maybe change the name. I suggest we have a separate journey from Port Hedland to Esperance, which will be the Great Western, leaving Port Hedland at 1730 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it arrives in Kalgoorlie in time to link in with the Prospector the next morning, to East Perth” I started.
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