Holiday Greetings from a Post-Petroleum Moment

Downshifting into the holiday, here’s a bit of pure transit tourism.

Transit is often a source of frustration in Sydney, but no city I’ve encountered offers better transit options for getting into the natural world.  Sydney is ringed on all sides by spectacular national parks.   Most are served by the electrified outer-suburban train lines, which run usually every 30-60 minutes and deliver you to small stations right at a trailhead.  It’s remarkably easy to go for a long day of hiking, or even to launch a backpacking trip, without a car.  One of the longest day hikes I’ve ever done was 26 km along the coast of the Royal National Park just south of the city.  Using a train+ferry at one end of the hike and the train at the other, the whole trip was possible, and even pleasant, on transit.

Wondabyne On Saturday, as part of a long day of hiking in Brisbane Water National Park just north of Sydney, I had occasion to use what some claim to be Australia’s smallest railway station, Wondabyne.  It’s at the center of this Google Earth image (easily found as “wondabyne, nsw, au”).

Wondabyne is the only station on Sydney’s huge rail network that cannot be reached by car.  It lies on a stretch where the tracks follow the shore of an ocean inlet. The station has the water on one side, and steep wild hills on the other, but no roads.

In Australia, a named dot on the map is no guarantee of a town.  The “suburb” of Wondabyne consists of a small quarry hidden in the bush, a couple of houses, a simple wooden dock suitable for fishing, and a
trailhead leading into the national park.  That’s it.

DSCF4110The platform is less than one car-length long; only the rear car of a train can open there, and only if someone requests the stop.

On the one hand, Wondabyne Station is a dreadful precedent.  We can’t possibly build a rail station to serve every possible rural destination, and you wouldn’t want to ride a train that might stop at all of them.

On the other hand, waiting for the train at Wondabyne, watching a sole fisherman at work on the little dock, listening to the birds and the waves, hearing no human sounds apart from automated train announcements and the conversation of my companions, it was possible to imagine I was in a post-automotive world, or at least a post-petroleum one.

Have a great holiday.  I’ll be back around January 2.

8 Responses to Holiday Greetings from a Post-Petroleum Moment

  1. Brent Palmer December 21, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    I daresay there’s a station even smaller: Eumundi, in South East Queensland, consisting of one bi-directional platform, which is also one carriage long (although they’re in the process of extending the platforms at stations in the area to full length).

  2. Beige December 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    That is amazing.
    I had a somewhat-related experience visiting Germany. The youth hostel we were at was in fact right on a road, and we got there by minivan, but out front was…a bus stop. On the side of a mountain so far out of town you could see the Milky Way at night. To American eyes, the sort of place that could never, ever be served by public transit, not in some future fantasy of unimaginably expanded transit let alone now. But there it was.

  3. EngineerScotty December 21, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    Beige–how often did busses come by? And how much would it cost to ride the bus there?

  4. Ted King December 21, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    This puts me in mind of the transit-friendly comedy team Flanders + Swann. Two of their numbers are listed below. Also, Michael Flanders is on record saying that the fork-lift used to load him and his wheelchair onto an airplane (1960’s) was an amazing way to lift forks (eating utensil implied).
    “The Slow Train”
    “A Transport Of Delight” (aka “The London Omnibus”)
    [Fifth post, @ 50%]
    NB – There’s an alternate version with “a smart MG” instead of the tram line. Various versions of F + S’s works are on YouTube.
    P.S. One could also consider their hippo song a transit song. The refrain includes “mud, mud, glorious mud”. Naturally, one should use the sarcasm tag when praising mud in a transit context. TK

  5. Joseph E December 21, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    Beige, many very rural areas have bus service, albeit infrequent, slow and expensive. Siskiyou county, where I grew up, has a few bus routes. One stops in Greenview (Population 200) 8 times a day, on the way to Etna (pop 781). Another bus runs only on Friday and Monday between Yreka and Happy Camp, and stops at Hamburg (pop 80) and Klamath River (pop 100). I believe you can request a particular stop at your house.
    Clearly, this is a coverage and life-line service. The whole county population (40,000) is less than the one-way ridership on one of the light rail lines in my city.

  6. Joseph E December 21, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    More relevant to this situation, most South American countries have great bus service to national parks and local parks near cities. And in my time in Costa Rica, I was able to get to any corner of the country on daily buses for no more than $10 one way (and that for an 8 hour trip), and this without any government subsidy. Unfortunately, in the last few years the roads in the cities have become chocked with private automobiles, and bus service has slowed down greatly with all the traffic.

  7. Peter Parker December 22, 2009 at 2:33 am #

    Around Melbourne we have Route 788 to Point Nepean National Park every 45-70min with 7 day service, the Stony Point train (daily service roughly every 2 hours), buses into the Dandenongs (ranging from infrequent services on 694 & 698 to 30 – 60 min frequencies 7 days a week on route 688), trains to Hurstbridge (semi-rural), Route 782 to Flinders etc, ferries to French Island, an occasional service on 562 to Kinglake, Mt Donna Buang (possibly hikable from Route 683 approx hourly 7 days a week) and services to Warrandyte (578/9 and others).
    In fact many of the above offer better services than some outer suburban routes serving normal housing densities.
    In contrast Perth environs are poorly served (except possibly the foothills around Kalamunda and Mundaring). Attractions like Whiteman Park, the Swan Valley and coastal towns north of Perth have no or limited service so a car is essential for touring.

  8. Riccardo December 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Great stuff Jarrett. Of course Wondabyne is the but of many jokes! In theory there are other houses surrounding the coves that use their boats to moor at Wondabyne and catch the train there. I don’t know how much this actually happens these days.
    The quarry has a rail siding in it (or did last time I looked) where occasionally a wagon will be shunted to collect sandstone. They have a sandstone carving competition there from time to time.
    Like Wonda, the larger station at Woy Woy has a ‘commuter carpark’ for boats