Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Quick Trip to Queensland: out hunting EMUs

So we're in the middle of Brisbane, living atop Central station, and have half a day to kill. What shall we do? We shall go gunzelling!

We left Asha to rest her weary knees and read her book, bought a GoCard (which is, according to the station staff, like a Myki but refundable), and headed down to the platforms. Since all the lines run at a fairly low frequency there were some minutes before the next service was due, but that was OK because it gave us a chance to check Wikipedia so we could recognise the different types of train. The original 1970s EMUs are almost all still in service, so let's ride as many as we can!

Central Station has an underpass connecting the platforms which is lined with old photos of QR operations - a sort of mini museum. The stand-out feature for me was a little window in the wall (which was, we saw, only a modern facade over a much older wall) showing all the types of tiles which had lined the underpass in years past. Let's bear this in mind for Flinders Street - since the tiles are heritage listed but any attempt to clean them is doomed to failure because of their maintenance intensity, we should copy this idea of just preserving a very small section in a special heritage section of the station.

When we finished looking at the photos we started our gunzelling with a trip to Roma Street. If you're reading at home, you can think of Central as Flinders Street and Roma Street as Southern Cross. So we found ourselves an EMU, jumped aboard and waited. Yes, Central is like Flinders Street even to the amount of dwell time for each train running through.

EMUs have a quite distinct set of sounds. Most of them are vaguely reminiscent of a W tram - the controller notching up, the motors revving, and the air brakes. We never heard the compressors though. The seats aren't original, but they're very nice, just like the ones in the IMUs we rode last night.

At Roma Street we headed for Platform 10, to see if any long distance trains were running. Mmmm, narrow gauge locos. Or maybe tilt trains. No such luck - it being Boxing Day there was track work and everything was bustituted. Then we went to Platform 2, which is where the XPT calls in. Dual gauge track with a huge gap between the rails! And overhead wires!

Even better, Roma Street has a busway stop attached - in fact, the busway is really part of the station, because there's cross-platform interchange between the XPT and the south-eastern busway. Now I have to tell you, busways are big in Brisbane - since the trains have such low frequency, the buses have to be pretty good, so they've given them Class A right-of-way to make them quick. Shall we take a ride? Yes, let's.

We don't want to get lost, so we take a bus which is heading for another bus/rail interchange. The bus is just like any other (a fairly modern Volgren, for the record) but as it descends into the tunnel we're disappointed to see that the busway is just a road - no o-bahn guidance system or anything. There's even traffic lights to separate out the different routes, so while they've done the most expensive bit of Class A infrastructure (the tunnel) there's a lot they could do with smart technology to speed up the trips.

South Bank isn't a very good bus/train interchange, but that's not a disaster because it's so close to the city that people are unlikely to interchange there. Heading to the station we find that it's 15 minutes before the next train back to the city, but that gives us a chance to take photos of outbound trains!

We stay on the train through Central and go to Bowen Hills, partly to get a bit more of a run (it's another EMU so we want to get as much time on them as possible) but mostly because Mayne Depot is there. We saw it on the way in last night - sparks, locos, the lot, all maintained and stabled there. Unfortunately we can't get anywhere near it because of the security, and there's a freeway bridge running right past so we can't even walk around the perimeter like we used to do at Southbank tram depot.

It's now time to head back and check out of the hotel. Kristi is coming to pick us up and life is always fun when she's around.

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