If you look at a map of Australia it may not even appear there, for Watson has a population of zero.
Once a small fettler settlement containing several houses for the families of workers who serviced the railway line, none of that is left at Watson anymore. In fact, there is precisely one piece of furniture that is all that is left of the settlement.
Sitting ride beside the railway track is an old lounge chair. It has been there for years and it is mostly unattended, but the lounge chair has one important purpose – it is where Santa Claus sits to greet the children and adults who flock to Watson in December each year to meet the Indian Pacific Christmas Train.
The Indian Pacific is one of the world’s great train journeys. Crossing the continent of Australia, it links Perth, on the Indian Ocean with Sydney on the Pacific shore. As well as being a great tourist train, it serves a secondary role as a local train for many of the small communities. Picking up passengers who live isolated lives to transport them to the big smoke, or wherever else they may wish to go.
Each year the Christmas Train brings cheer to the small outback towns by delivering a well-known singer to perform a concert and Santa to distribute gifts.
“At Watson, many of the people from the remote communities travelled for as much as five hours each way in order to enjoy this annual ritual.”
On the trip that I recently did, the artist was popular singing star Ricki Lee who put on a great concert in sometimes trying conditions. At Watson there was no stage, no electricity for amplification, just an old couch for her to sit on, and the onlookers to crowd around, and a welcome as good as she would get playing a stadium.
Performing a repertoire of songs which everyone knew, she introduced Santa, who climbed down from the train to be greeted by cheers.
The joy of the occasion was marvellous, and even inspirational. It was a very touching experience to see such isolated people connect with the outside world for a change, and to feel a sense of importance and a sense that at least someone cared for them.
The Indian Pacific makes many journeys across Australia each year; but it is the Christmas Train which best expresses that true symbol of generosity and inclusion which so represents a true Christmas spirit.