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The Zig Zag Railway

Guess what! My parents are planning their next visit Down Under! YAY! Although I love travelling there is a few things to be said about being visited.

Let’s just briefly mention the huge savings we have by not going overseas, glance over the fact that we don’t have to split ourselves into a million pieces and visit each and every person under the sun (that we know of) and just spend a minute on enjoying the fact that we get to be tourists in our own (new) town.

As you may know, we’re new to Perth and so I was very excited to be visited by Brooke, a Darwin friend and fellow blogger, the other week. With her two little kids in tow she told me over a cup of coffee about how much she enjoyed her few days in Perth and mentioned pretty much every highlight around here they had seen. I nodded intently while she was running through her eventful days and stirred my cup silently because it seems that Thorsten and I have been extremely successful at avoiding getting to know this city at all. Embarrassing you might think, and you know what? You’d be darn right!

So  you see, we really need time to be tourists. Apart from these purely egotistical indulgence – that I get to see things when my parents are here – I am simply looking forward to spending time with my folks. In preparation for their visit I’ve had a think about their last time here in Australia. You know, all in the spirit of recapping experiences, remembering what my parents loved doing, learning from mistakes and planning things ahead.

Part of my research – so far – included an informal interview with my Dad, which went a bit like this:

Me: So are you excited about your trip in November?

Dad: What trip?

Me: The long one?

Dad: Which one?

Me: The one where you come to visit us, DAD!

Dad: Oh yes, that one. Yes. But you know it’ll be a long flight. We only have a three-hour stop in Dubai and…

Me: Cool. So, I was thinking about what we could do while you’re here. Do you have any ideas already?

Dad: Yes. Well, we couldn’t book any flights within Australia because I don’t like Qantas. Don’t like them at all. So, but we couldn’t book any cheap flights within Australia with the one that we’ve got now.

Me: That’s ok. There’s plenty to see around Perth too. Have you heard about Margaret River? It’s a beautiful wine region not too far from here. Would you like that?

Dad: Well, yes. Wine. That’s always good [chuckles] yes. I’ve also read about  this rock that’s in a wave formation. That’s in Perth too, that’ll be interesting.

Me: You mean Wave Rock, that’s a good one to do. It’s only a five-hour drive from where we are so we can spend a weekend there.

Dad: How far?

Me: Just a short drive. You know, four and a half or five hours or so.

Dad: What? That’s far! I was told it’s in Perth. Are you sure it’s that far?

Me: Yes, yes. Quite sure. That’s ok, we can do a weekend trip.

Dad: But it’s not going to be like this train we’ve visited in Sydney, will it?

Me: What train?

Dad: The one in the Mountains that went zig zag? [chuckles]

First of all, I was really impressed with my ability to ignore my dad’s German pessimism. Secondly, I must admit, I was a bit surprised my dad  mentioned the Zig Zag Railway in Lithgow (not Sydney), because it had been one of the topics we’ve never discussed.

Apart from the fact it has nothing to do with the Wave Rock I was starting to think my dad is actually into trains…

The zig zag train had been one of the travel destinations he had explicitly requested to see on my parents’ first trip. Why? Because he had watched a documentary on TV about how it had been built in the 19th Century and was intrigued by the engineering masterminds and their solution enabling the local train to climb up the hill by constructing zig zag tracks.

Not sure whether these are the only zig zag tracks in the world, but at least they are very rare. And you know why? Well, because, as we found out first hand, it’s faster to hike up the hill than to sit on a zig zag train. In fact, it’s not even one train, but two that go in a v-shape each. You even have to wait at the platform for one to leave and the other to roll in…

Admittedly, I recall sitting on the trains’ old leather seats as exciting for the first three minutes. Then, the following next three-quarters of an hour where lacking so much excitement that we all (even my dad) fell asleep while slowly rumbling up and down the hill.

So, if you’re planning a weekend trip around Sydney and are really, really, REALLY into old trains this might be the thing for you.

Unfortunately Dad did ask whether there are any trains in Perth…well, if anyone has exciting thoughts on this, please do share!

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brooke - Little Miss Moi #

    haha! So very funny. Firstly, your dad, bless him. Trains and no Qantas flights. Don’t blame him really! Secondly, you got me out to Hilaries which I’d never heard of and definitely wouldn’t have visited, but it was lovely out there. So you’ve seen that! 😛

    • It was lovely catching up, thank you again! Glad you liked the place. It’s one out of two locations that I know around here…sadly!

  2. Maybe you’re destined to start your own railway. 😉

    As always, a fun read!

    • Oh dear, do you think? One thing is for sure, I will need to research more about trains in and near Perth to satisfy my dad’s thurst for train trivia…but I must admit, even thinking about this is making me feel sleepy…

  3. Sorry to barge in, I just read Perth and thought about this other blogger, Louise, who I featured to one of my post because of the street arts posted on the blog.
    Here’s a link about Perth Alley Art –>
    Just in case, you want to meet another blogger from Perth. That’s all. 😀

    • Thanks for that, I’ll definitely check out Louise’s blog. How exciting!

      • Hi Christina,
        You might like to check out the Kalamunda Hills. Here is a link to the Zig Zag Cultural Centre. Kalamunda had a real zig zag railway which is now a lovely scenic drive. Be sure to check out the Kalamunda History Village, it is a great example of early days in Australia and has some great exhibits. More here:

      • Hi Louise
        Kalamunda!? We’ve just been to Kalamunda the other day to see the craft market and little did I know I was only metres away from another Zig Zag train, history village, cultural centre and cafe. My dad is going to love that, for sure! It’s beautiful up there in the hills I’ll definitely go back. Do you live near that area?

      • Yes, it’s not far from where I am. It’s a nice drive out there and this weather is great for it too. Have fun!!

  4. David #

    Hi Christina,
    Your blog caught my attention because of the mention of Zig Zag, which I have been involved with. Sadly they are not running steam at the moment, just vintage Rail Motors, but that’s another story.
    Just thought I’d mention the Hotham Valley Railway, about an hour south of Perth.


    • Thank you, David. I’ll definitely check that one out!

  5. D.Marie #

    It’s so true…so easy to get wrapped up in “living” day to day life that I’ve forgotten to get out and appreciate Melbourne for more than just a means to make money on the way to my next stop! Determined to get out and explore some galleries, concerts, museums, and all other such touristy ventures! Looking forward to reading what shenanigans you and the parents get into!

    • Glad I’m not the only one who gets caught up with everyday life…at least you get to enjoy life music, even though it’s at work. My parent’s visit is still a little while away, they’ll be here in November. Are you planning to come over to the west coast at some stage?


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