As the wet season begins once more in northern Australia, I’m reminded of our visit to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the dry season of 2014.
We assemble at the Normanton railway station in Far North Queensland at 8:00am to board the Gulflander train to go to Croydon 150kms away. The Gulflander is also known as the train that goes from nowhere to nowhere. The pretty little wooden station is all gussied up with flowers in pots and railway relics. In Queensland’s colour of maroon the diesel rail motor has three carriages. The 3ft 6inch wide line was opened in 1891 and the train shakes, rattles and rolls its way along at an average 25mph. In the dry season every Wednesday it travels to Croydon and every Thursday it returns. Ken the driver gives a brilliant commentary for most of the five hour journey. We learn about the history of the rail and the flora and fauna. What happens in the wet season and the history of the region and of course the gold mining that was once the mainstay of Croydon. We deliver mail to a cattle station and pick up tour groups along the way. This is a busy little train.
During the tea stop at Black Bull Siding we get to see how the train and its line work. The Gulf region of Australia is prone to flooding in the wet season so the railway line has been built on hollow metal sleepers filled with sand. It requires very little maintenance and true to its design has withstood horrendous floods. In 1974 the flood waters were higher than the tree tops. In 2009 the flood waters didn’t recede for three months and stretched across a vast 10 million hectares. Now that’s a flood of biblical proportions.
2009 Statistics courtesy of http://www.northerngulf.com.au