Supper took place outside the train in another ghost town, Laurina, next to a vast sheep station of the same name covering 10,000 square kilometers (0.48 Wales, 0.33 Belgium).
I was angry when the two carriages were guided in a group and disembarked and removed from the list. The Indian Pacific crew shared the characteristics of Overland’s colleague’s hens, which were understandable in this remote area.
Except for the shortstop at Cook, I was on the train for almost 24 hours and was dying to get out.
That was the problem of desert day. There weren’t many places available for excursions outside the train. A table was set up in the space between the train and the abandoned old post office and station building.
It was a wise idea to eat under the sky in this forgotten corner of the Outback. And it amplified the contrast between the comfort on board and the emptiness outside. Food was carried from the train galley to the table, and when we ate, the sunset was taken over by the stars.
I was sitting next to Derek, an Akbra man who worked for a Sydney company that recycles building materials. He talked about his work as he progressed through the main course (with roasted lamb or fish with vegetables).
“Brick, stone, concrete-we crush it. It will be a good road pavement.”
“I collect bricks,” he said. “I have those big mountains outside behind my place-my entire garden is full of them.”
For a while I thought he was joking – he had a concise delivery style that hinted that he might be pissing – but I asked about his oldest brick At that time he had the answer.
‘It’s from 1865. The year is written. They were destroying Maitland’s house, and most of the bricks went to the council’s museum. I asked, “Can I bring it?” A few weeks later it appeared at my doorstep.
Ian was worried about Derek’s work. “Don’t crush too many bricks,” he said.
“Sorry, fellow, that’s the way we make money,” Derek said. Then, thoughtfully, as if worried about Ian’s feelings: “We never see those convicted bricks anyway.”
I thought Ian was eccentric, but his enthusiasm for bricks was strangely contagious.
When he explained the origins and characteristics of his collection-obviously some old bricks needed to stay moist, so it was okay to leave them in his backyard-I I started to see the charm of the heritage. Every brick had a story, so to speak.
“Be careful, my family wants me to skip them all.”
“For storage?” I asked.
“No, to get rid of them!” Ian said with a smile, at least knowing what his hobbies would look like to others. I asked Derek if he was proud of his recycling work.
“Well, we’re going to eventually run out of landfill, right?”
After the dessert, I wandered to the far end of the table where the train crew was packing. A cut-off metal drum burned a fire, a fairy light was wrapped around a tree, and a battery-powered lamp lit the table. In this soft light, the photo with the train in the background had an atmosphere.
This is an edited excerpt from the book Head South: By Rail from Far North Queensland to Western Australia By Tim Richards (Fremantle Press). This book is available online at all great bookstores. https://www.fremantlepress.com.au/products/heading-south
Ride the rails with my new companion, a brick collector
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