So darling share this wine with me, we’ll be together on the eve of World War 3

Friday night concert! I was sold on Things Of Stone And Wood – though my compradres were really going for the support act, Club Hoy.

It might be cruel to call TOSAW a one-hit wonder, though none of their efforts charted as well as Happy Birthday Helen. But the song was on an album called “The Yearning” (1993) which I really really liked back in the day… perhaps apart from the title track, which seemed overly earnest and solemn. I liked it so much I had both the album on CD, and the EP of the single. Listening to the album today, it’s still terrific.

Friday night’s concert was a full performance of “The Yearning”, a near 25th anniversary performance. I admit, the last two concerts I’d been to were similar setups: Ocean Colour Scene’s Moseley Shoals, and Deborah Conway’s String Of Pearls.

A nostalgic Gen X-er and his money are easily parted.

Northcote Social Club, 24/3/2017

M and I made our way to Northcote and met up with Tony and Elizabeth. We found some dinner and as we chatted over some food, which gave Elizabeth and I a chance to hear Tony and M’s tale of being shushed for talking at a concert many moons ago by a fan of the support act. Don’t talk over Dave Graney!

A notice in the window of the Northcote Social Club gave us the running times of each act (and a song lyric on the sign above), and we opted for dessert over Rick Hart (sorry Rick).

We headed into the club at about 9:30 and found a spot close to the stage.

Club Hoy at the Northcote Social Club, 24/3/2017

Club Hoy came on, and were really good, despite two blokes behind us talking incessantly about the other concerts they’d been to (and presumably talked through).

After a few songs, another bloke trying intently to listen to the band turned around. “Shhhh!”

“Sorry mate”. They disappeared. I laughed and laughed (quietly). Thank you, defenders of support acts everywhere.

They finished up, and suddenly from nowhere, TOSAW fans filled the room, with the two biggest blokes in the place crowding out some of our view. Alas, Tony and Elizabeth bailed at this point to return home to their respective families before it got too late (it was about 10:30pm), which was a great pity because I think they missed a great show. (But I would say that; I accept I’m a Club Hoy newbie and a TOSAW fan.)

Things Of Stone And Wood, Northcote Social Club 24/3/2017

Lead singer Greg Arnold doesn’t look a day older – his long hair, beard and moustache probably help, and I was left wondering if he’s had them since 1993 or if he just grew everything out for the anniversary tour.

No matter. They rocked. It was a great show, with TOSAW tragics singing every word, but everyone present in the sold-out club seemed to enjoy it. And let’s face it, a good deal of what makes a great show is whether the crowd gets into it.

There was some nice band repartee as well. They seemed genuinely delighted to be there in front of such an appreciative crowd, and don’t seem to mind being known popularly just for Happy Birthday Helen (“it took us around the world”).

They answered something I’d long wondered: was The Yearning (track 7) meant to lead straight into Single Perfect Raindrop (track 8)? Why yes! But due to a miscalculation of sorts, on the cassette the effect was ruined, because you had to turn the tape over. No such problem on the CD.

After the 14 tracks of the album, they went on to play a few later songs, including one that sounded very familiar when I heard it: Wildflowers — which they remarked is unfortunately relevant again.

…as well as the B-side “She Will Survive”, with its very memorable lyrics about Jane Austen.

And then it was over. What a great show, and a great night out for $40.

If you remember them from back in the day, and have a chance to catch them (that show was sold out, but they’re on in Geelong this weekend), I can thoroughly recommend TOSAW.

A quick look at Caroline Springs station

On Tuesday I headed out to the new Caroline Springs station for a look around. It opened at the end of January.

I caught the 17:59 train from Southern Cross. It was heading to Bacchus Marsh, and it was full — at least by V/Line’s standards, which means every seat was taken — reflected in their official capacity figures. In fact, a dozen people were standing in my carriage by the time we left Footscray. Since the last time I’ve ridden an H-set, it appears that V/Line has fitted the seat sides with handles to help cope with standing passengers.

Passengers arriving at Caroline Springs

We rolled into Caroline Springs about 5 minutes late, and the first thing you notice is that it’s in the middle of nowhere; about 800 metres from the nearest houses. This of course is a complete contrast to most of Melbourne, where suburbs developed around the railway stations, at least up until about the 1930s when the rail network stopped expanding.

I touched-off with my Myki, and followed the crowd. A reasonable number of people were getting off the train here, given it’s only a half-hourly service in peak hour and the station’s only been open a couple of months.

Evidently Caroline Springs Station’s working name was Ravenhall, because it turns out that’s what shows up on the Myki transaction record… they still haven’t changed it! Local MP Marlene Kairouz says it will be fixed.

The other thing that changed is that the original plan for a single platform was revised in 2016, before the station opened, but after much of the station was built. It was sensibly modified to have two platforms, with a short extension to the duplicated track from Deer Park West to just past the station. Looking at the completed station, you can’t really tell it’s been modified along the way.

Subway at Caroline Springs Station

Leaving the station takes you via stairs (ramps also provided) and an underpass to the only exit to the north. There’s a car park, a bus interchange, and a bike cage. Several bikes were in the cage, but most people walked to their cars, with a few boarding the waiting bus, which left a couple of minutes later.

Car park at Caroline Springs Station

Bus stops at Caroline Springs Station

Bus stop at Caroline Springs Station

Bike cage at Caroline Springs Station

There’s a bike path that goes into the station precinct, and ends at the bike cage. I’m not sure if the road from the suburb, Christies Road, has bike lanes or if there’s any kind of separate bike path or connection to the nearby Deer Park Bypass trail.

Bike path to Caroline Springs Station

Here’s an odd thing: in the underpass was a surprising number of millipedes, mostly on the walls, some on the floor. This is not something I’ve seen before so visible in a station, but around Australia, including in Victoria, millipedes have caused train delays and even been blamed for a train crash in Western Australia. In 2012 they forced V/Line to ensure all trains were at least two carriages. I hope they’re aware of this latest occurrence.

Subway at Caroline Springs Station

Millipedes in the subway at Caroline Springs Station

As I looked around the car park snapping photos, the PA sprung to life: “For the gentleman taking photos, is there something we can assist you with?”

I snapped a couple more, then walked back into the station and paused by the booking office window. The station assistant came out of the back office where he’d presumably been watching the CCTV like a hawk. “Nah mate, I’m good, thanks.”

Touching-on my Myki as I re-entered the paid area, I waited for the train, and looked around the platform, taking a few more photos and trying not to look too suspicious to my vigilant friend.

There’s a fully-enclosed waiting room with an information screen and timetable display inside. With little weather cover around the station, that’ll no doubt be useful on cold winter mornings.

Waiting room, Caroline Springs Station

This next photo shows along the platform there are markers for where the different length trains should stop. You can also see the base of a future staunchion, which seems to have been installed as part of provision for electrification of the line, which is expected next decade. Good forward planning. The sign on the fence refers to the adjoining conservation zone, which probably means there will never be development immediately around the station.

Platform at Caroline Springs Station

Looking west you can see where the double track ends, with just single track extending beyond towards Melton.

Caroline Springs Station

The single track is going to be duplicated as far as Melton as part of a project to upgrade the Ballarat line that was announced last year.

Oddly they list “duplication of 17 kilometres of track between Deer Park West and Melton” — perhaps the already-duplicated section to Caroline Springs was technically part of the same project or something. No matter – it made sense to do it while building the new station.

Single track of course plays havoc with train operations. Any little delay can very quickly snowball, as trains have to wait for each other.

In this case, there should have been another train from the city to Ararat, due at 18:45, which should have enter the single track, before passing the inbound train I was waiting for, at Rockbank at 18:50, which would have reached me back at Caroline Spring at 18:55.

But that train to Ararat was some 26 minutes late departing the city — and may have delayed (or been further delayed by) the inbound trains following mine. It’s a precision juggling act that won’t be required to the same extent once the line is duplicated.

V/Line blamed the long delay on the late arrival of another service… this was a train from Waurn Ponds on the Geelong line, which had suffered extensive delays right through that evening’s peak hour. It beats me why they run their operation like this, with delays on different lines cascading onto each other… but Metro’s not much better at times.

The Ballarat line upgrade project will bring a much needed boost in terms of track capacity and reliability. It’s good that Caroline Springs finally has its station, but further upgrades will help passengers at stations in Melbourne’s fast-growing outer suburbs, and right along the line.

Provided they can keep the millipedes under control.

Postscript: An update from Marcus Wong:

Whinging with credibility

Following a little jaunt out to Caroline Springs on Tuesday (more on this in the next post), with some tweets along the way, I had an interesting Twitter conversation with a disgruntled Geelong line user.

One of my tweets noted that a huge crowd waiting at the platform for a Geelong train had in fact fitted into the train when it eventually arrived. (The exchange is reproduced below.) My correspondent took umbrage at this, thinking it implied the Geelong line is all fine.

My view is that showing a photo of one train that a platform that looks okay doesn’t imply that every train is fine. It doesn’t even imply that the train in question didn’t become overcrowded down the line when it picked up more passengers.

Here’s the thing:

I have been told repeatedly by those in power — ministers (from both sides), senior bureaucrats, operator staff (from the CEO down), that they appreciate (and pay attention to) my observations because I call out both the positive and the negative. Good, bad or ugly.

It’s also gained the PTUA credibility with the media, who know they will get an honest assessment of a situation.

Remember the boy who cried wolf?

If I was 100% critical all the time, it wouldn’t be credible.

If I claimed the entire public transport system is 100% stuffed, it wouldn’t be credible. (If it was 100% stuffed, so many people wouldn’t use it and rely on it every day.)

I do tweet plenty of pictures of packed services. But I also try to put it into context, and to understand why it is so.

  • Running late? Why?
  • Previous service cancelled? Why?
  • Short train/uncommonly small bus/tram? Fleet shortage or some other factor?
  • Unexpected or poorly planned special event?
  • Or is the regular service simply inadequate for the usual demand?

The nature and cause of the problem will determine the solution, and who’s responsible for fixing it.

It’s not in my nature to be relentlessly cynical and negative all the time. Not even on Twitter.

Fortunately it appears that this helps progress the debate to solutions, rather than just get bogged down in endless criticism and whinging.

So I’ll keep calling it as I see it.

Thoughts? As always, leave a comment.

~ ~

~ ~

The tweets in question:

Learning to drive

Masters Hardware couldn’t launch a viable business against Bunnings, and only a couple of years after launching, have closed up all their outlets.

As this photo shows, they also couldn’t construct a functioning pedestrian crossing:

But here’s one thing they did manage: they’ve provided empty car parks right across Australia for learner drivers to practice in.

Yes, we may be more public transport-oriented than most households, but we do have a car, and the time has come to teach my offspring how to drive.

They haven’t waited as long as I did (I was 27 when I got my licence), but neither have my kids jumped into it at the first opportunity. We ended up getting them Proof Of Age cards when they turned 18 because they hadn’t got Learners permits yet.

But it’s starting to happen now, and apart from paid lessons, we have headed down to Masters a couple of times. And both times, other L-platers have been doing laps as well.

As it turns out, it’s not perfect at South Oakleigh, because there’s an active supermarket at the other end of the car park, and an alarming number of motorists like cutting through the car park at diagonals to get to it. Sure, you may save five seconds, but you risk smashing into a learner driver.

Figuring out the clutch and manual gears seems to be about as hard and frustrating as I remember it being when I first learned.

(I’ve been thinking about upgrading my old car, which might include going to an automatic — more on this soon. Something for family discussion.)

Anyway, we’ll keep practicing, so thanks again, Masters.

Old photos from March 2007

Another in my series of ten year old photos: March 2007.

Smartbus advertising at Caulfield station. It was nice to see them promoting the frequent service, but there was only one problem: it wasn’t true. The Smartbus serving Caulfield (route 900) has never been better than every 15 minutes in peak. (And really, the frequency/radio thing is a bit lame.)
Smartbus advertising (March 2007)

The Town Hall tram stop in Collins Street. Yes, even back then, the entrance ramp was a bottleneck at busy times. Note the canvas roller for the destination displays – these days they’re all LEDs.
Collins Street/Town Hall tram stop (March 2007)
Collins Street/Town Hall tram stop (March 2007)

Train bingo at Richmond – tracks to/from platforms 2, 3, 4 and 5 have trains. Back then, Richmond’s platforms and ramps were largely uncovered. More shelter was added in 2015.
Trains at Richmond (March 2007)

Delays on platform 5 at Flinders Street. As I recall, it was a stinking hot day.
Delays on platform 5 at Flinders St (May 2007)

Glenhuntly station, then my local for some days of the week. A Comeng train crosses while a Z3-class tram waits. Despite the current level crossing removal program, this hasn’t changed – trams still wait while trains crawl across.
Tram waits for train, Glenhuntly (March 2007)
Tram waits for train, Glenhuntly (March 2007)

Also Glenhuntly; a Comeng train on platform 2, while a Siemens train arrives on platform 1. The earlier Siemens liveries were pretty ugly, but the Connex version was quite pleasing to the eye, I thought.
Trains at Glenhuntly (March 2007)

The Railway Museum at Williamstown, from a visit that month. Who is, or was Bill Bragg? Presumably not related to Billy Bragg the singer. I don’t know – searching Google didn’t find any answers. Anybody know?
Railway Museum, Williamstown (March 2007)

Also at the Railway Museum. I’ve been visiting since I was a kid. In many ways it hasn’t changed much.
Railway Museum, Williamstown (March 2007)

Flinders Street station; delays on platform 8.
Flinders Street Station (March 2007)

In 2008 I used this photo to compare to an old one from the same angle, and The Age subsequently reprinted them.
Sunday Age 12/10/2008

Another angle at Flinders Street, on the same day, in the mirror.
Flinders Street Station (March 2007)

Back at Glenhuntly, what a surprise, someone is queuing where they shouldn’t.
Glenhuntly; car queuing on level crossing (March 2007)

Something you never see anymore: the marker for a wheelchair to board a 3-car train. 3-car trains were the bane of evening and weekend travellers, resulting in horrible crowding at times. Nowadays they’re almost all 6-cars all the time.
3-car train wheelchair boarding point (March 2007)