Gulflander to Croydon
On Wednesday we were off to Croydon on the Gulflander. This is a 5 hour journey on a rail motor with one carriage and covers the 140k or so to Croydon from Normanton. We left at 8.30 am. The train was full, probably 40 or so people, most going the full distance and some getting off after about 40k at a place called Critter’s camp to rejoin their bus trip. During the dry season the trip is very popular and the Gulflander runs on a number of days for tours etc. The trip we were on was the regular weekly run to Croydon and then back the next day to Normanton. It started operations to Croydon in 1891 using steam locomotives, the boilers were fired with wood not coal, with wood in short supply in the Gulf country rail motors replaced the steam locomotives in 1929.
The rail motor we were on RM 93 commenced its life on the line in 1982, built-in 1950 and has been reworked and refurbished a few times since then. Its 6 cylinder diesel engine though is 69 years old, the whole thing works like a truck except on tracks. The train runs on hollow steel sleepers that are set in the ground, there is no ballast or embankments on the track where the line is flood affected. Floods apparently just flow across the line and do little if any damage. 90% of the sleepers and track are original and have been in place for 120 years. A couple of sections have recently been replaced due to rust finally taking hold in an area where acid from old mining operations has leached through the soil and damaged the sleepers.
As the train rattles along, the driver who is also the station master and ticket seller, gives a running commentary on the history of the line, the environment through which it passes and the communities that used to line its track (these are long gone).
On the previous Monday we had done a short trip on another rail motor RM 60 which had been built-in 1931. This travelled about 4 miles to the 4 mile, curious that! There is only one track all the way to Croydon with some triangular turnarounds at various places to allow the train to change direction and head back to Normanton. This little rail motor has been fully restored and rattles along at about 30k an hour.
RM 60 needs to be cranked to get her going
The Gulflander arrives in Croydon at 1.30 pm in time for lunch at the Club Hotel and a short wander around town. We chose to return by a bus service to Normanton at 3.30 and arrived back at 5.30, to pick up the car which we had left at the station. It was still there. Other passengers were staying overnight in Croydon, returning on the Gulflander the next day to Normanton. It was great day out for nostalgia lovers!