As a young teenager, I would often go off with a friend to ride the rails in country New South Wales.
“All trains would leave from Central, the large station where all the suburban and country lines would connect.”
My youth passed me by many years ago, but one of the reasons why I headed off into the bush by train was because steam locomotives were still common out there, and there are few things more thrilling than riding in the cab of a steam train as it casually lumbered along a single, rural track.
Every journey began at Sydney Central Station, and it was a fantastic place to be as train travel was still relatively romantic then.
Central, at that time, had a huge domed concourse, off which the platforms would run. In the centre of this concourse was a magnificent, wooden destination board with every train, it’s platform and every station on the journey grandly displayed.
“I would stand there and read about each train and imagine how excited the passengers must have been knowing they were about to undergo such a fabulous journey.”
Right next to the destination board was possibly the best newsstand that the world has ever seen. Perhaps I have used a touch of poetic licence there, but it did have a fabulous array of newspapers and magazines, many of which were imported from overseas, which were not available elsewhere.
I was at Central again, after many years, to board the Indian Pacific for the long journey to Perth and I was shocked to find that my beloved destination board was long gone, and that fabulous newsstand nowhere to be seen.
It is a pity, for without them, Central has no allure. Vital pieces of the station’s historical structure are missing. A part of the station’ soul is gone. That great wooden bastion has been taken away, replaced by a functional video screen that has no style whatsoever.
Yes, I understand that we have to move on and can’t retain everything from the past, but it is a shame that some of that ambience that was once associated with long distance train travel couldn’t be preserved.