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Page last updated:  25 March 2006



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SPECIAL  RAIL  TRIP  TO  TANTANOOLA

15th November 2005
Put on especially for 2 French Railfans who flew out from France to Australia, and they stayed in Mt Gambier 4 days.
This more special now as the "Limestone Coast Railway" that was is now no more in 2009.

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Tantanoola station and Goods shed
Note: passing siding been removed.
 (pic Geoff Donoghue) 

Just shows answering a posting at the Train Sim.com forums in the U.S. a few years ago, as to what can happen to change one's lives later on. Little did I know this posting I answered by email would be a start to a full-on corresponding email relationship between a railfan photographic Frenchman from Marly le Roi (suburb of Paris) named Éric, who can read, write and speak English and a retired Aussie railwayman. 

Éric takes holidays each year in August to go to Switzerland with his wife and son and his French railfan friend named Luc of long standing who is a railway conductor for the SNCF at Laval in France (300 klms west of Paris), who comes to Switzerland to take pictures of Swiss trains with Éric each year. In August 2004 whilst in Switzerland Luc mentioned to Éric maybe is an idea to go to Australia to see John, if you like Éric I could come with you to Australia though I have never flown in an aircraft.

So the Aussie trip was planned and some 15 months later on 5th November 2005 they flew out of Roissy Airport Paris 11:15pm on Air France, changed aircraft at Singapore to a Qantas flight and arrive Melbourne Monday morning 7th at 6:30am and caught the morning 8:45am train at Spencer Street to Warrnambool, where we finally met each other face to face when they alighted from the train. I drove from Mt Gambier to Warrnambool to meet them, was an interesting first meeting and a get to know each other on the 2 hour drive back to Mt Gambier. The Aussie language was not quite what they expected, but we soon sort of worked that out. 

They suffered from jet lag and spent first 2 days with us in the Mount and they looked around the city and lakes. On 3rd day they went to Warrnambool by Vline bus, thence to Melbourne by train for 6 days photographing trains and trams in and around Melbourne. They then flew back to Mt Gambier on Tuesday 15th for their last two days in Australia where I had organised a total surprise for them on their return arrival in Mt Gambier as I had hired the Limestone Coast Railways two Red Hen railcars for a return trip to Tantanoola, and to have a luncheon at the Tantanoola Tiger Hotel. We had eight other guests invited to go on the trip, so all up including the three crew was 14 people who all enjoyed an all round interesting trip. It was a very memorable outing for all. 

Next day we were again very fortunate to have another Red Hen train trip offered to us. This time with a booked group of ladies from Warrnambool who came to Mt Gambier by bus. They joined the train at the Mt Gambier station, then a rail trip to Kalangadoo and the bus picked them up at Kalangadoo for trip back to Warrnambool. An extra redhen railcar was put on for us and again many thanks to Limestone Coast Railway for another excellent time.   

These 2 days on the Red Hens was one of the highlights of my life as it was 43 years ago I use to collect tickets on these Adelaide suburban Red Hen railcars in 1962- 63 before I was fully qualified railwayman and then was shifted to Jamestown on the Narrow Gauge till closure of the Narrow Gauge in 1970, thence to Mt Gambier. 

Our French friends had an absolute marvelous time and commented, "that this could not ever have happened in France" which made it all that much more special.

So there you go, our hard working volunteer tourist railways do (did) offer something not found elsewhere.

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Arrival Mount Gambier Airport

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Aircraft finally arrives 40 minutes late.

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Éric and Luc (centre) collecting their gear.

Their aircraft from Melbourne was due in at 9:10am, but was delayed at Tullamarine Airport 40mins. The Red Hens were organised to be at station at 10:30am. Originally the idea was to get them off aircraft at 9:10am, get their gear to Mid City Motel (near railway station) I was then going to take them straight out to Loco sheds and just say that the LCR have taken the railcars out of the shed for them to view and photograph. Then, on pretext say LCR have just offered to give us a ride to the Mt Gambier station and back to Loco sheds. Once at station, then spring on them the surprise that we are all taking a round trip to Tantanoola and to have a good lunch at the Tantanoola hotel. (already booked) BUT of course best laid plans always go amiss. The darn aircraft was 40 minutes late. This required some quick changes to the plan as it's a 15 minute drive from Mount Gambier airport to Mid City Motel which thankfully is very close to the old railway station.

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The lads are smiling happy to be back in the Mount.
Both take quick shot of their aircraft.

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Éric and I walking towards station near Kmart.
Of course Luc taking pictures behind us.

So a quick mobile phone call to Bill of LCR to say the aircraft is late and we cannot do the original plan, just have the train at station at 10:30am, so mad dash (no speeding) to Motel. The people of the Mid City Motel were fantastic in helping with luggage arrangements (can highly recommend the Mid City Motel) So we only had short walk to Railway station just 2 minutes before the LCR train arrived. We stood by Kmart and they wanted to know why we do this. I say you will soon see. 
Now LCR's timing was perfect as just then the Red Hen sounded the horn for the Wehl Street crossing and the look on these fellows faces was just fantastic. "A TRAIN" they both said excitedly. Yes and quick let's get over to the station and get some shots of it coming into the station. 
After a few shots and the train stopped at the station platform, I said to Éric, "this train was organised just for you both and that we have a few friends coming along as well and we are all off to Tantanoola for a lunch at the local hotel there. This whole train is just for you, we will stop and take pictures wherever you want along the way". Éric looked astonished and said, "this all for us". Yes I said, the whole train is your call entirely". 
When Éric translated this to Luc, as he did not understand or speak English, the look on their faces was truly priceless. The next 10 minutes I was being thanked quite a few times.  For me a nice surprise for them.


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Now the trip to Tantanoola and return

We got over other side of platform to get good shots of the LRC coming to the station, was perfect timing.
Note the old station signal cabin now boarded up.

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Red Hens arrive at Mount Gambier station.
The one eyed guard at rear.

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The LCR volunteer lads arrive for their crossing keeping duties.


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Éric asks permission to have picture taken at the driver's controls. (not moving of course)

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Éric (centre) his face says it all

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John in doorway we near ready to depart.
Joy Towner (2nd person) watches on.
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Bill Towner (driver) we are ready to go.


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Éric all smiles as we go over Bertha street Xing.

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Shot of LCR loco sheds from railcar windows as we head down the marshalling yard towards the Junction.


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Here we stop and alight the Railcars before Mt Gambier Junction White Ave road crossing.

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We alighted here for photo stop.

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Railcars passing the old Junction Cabin.

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Railcars stop to pick us up. 


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Switches set for Tantanoola.  (Millicent line)
The track to right is to Kalangadoo (Wolseley line


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John was taking next picture. Éric watches on.

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Joy's head (2nd person) shows in this picture

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This is a pretty part of the track.  I was so surprised how much the trees have grown since the early 1990's.

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Inside view of 334 leading railcar.  Many times I walked this isle collecting tickets in 1962-63. My brother is using his new video camera.


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Here we had another photo stop at MARTE.
Here I got big shock as Marte yard is now a sawmill operation. Only tracks are the switches each end, that's all.

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Here I alight and give my French friends a wave.

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The lads taking their pictures.

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The railcars pull up a bit further for this shot
 and for us to get back on board.

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Another view of track looking out between
driver and 2nd person.

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Another good view of different countryside.

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Plenty of trees in this area.


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Here we stopped for a run- by photo shoot at an old closed forest crossing. The uphill run past us was an excellent sound and the sounding of the horn of the Red Hen was a great sound out amoungst all the trees.

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We were dropped off at crossing and railcars 
reversed back down the track.

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Here the railcars are heading towards old crossing.
They sounded great.

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Good shot as they head over the old crossing.

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Same again, different angle

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Trailing railcar 405

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Here pulling up after the run by.

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Pushed back to deserted crossing to pick us all up.

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Our French mates heading back to railcar.
They were pleased with this run-by


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On our way again

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We are on our way again.


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I hardly recognise the old track from 15 years ago,
scrub grown a lot, but looks great sight.

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Now into open plains country at Burrungule.


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We were like a couple of kids looking out the 
windows with wind in the hair.  Good stuff.


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We stop short of crossing at Tantanoola to photograph railcar entering Tantanoola yard. Normally the switches are set for goods shed platform these days account passengers to alight from train for luncheon. Today we will do some photo shots in front of the Tantanoola station, so switches needed to be changed.
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Stopped before main road crossing we alighted.

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Railcar crosses over crossing,

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and stopped short of the switches.

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Bill (driver) changes the road for main line.

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Railcars now in front of Tantanoola station

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We get ready to push back for the goods siding.


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Red Hens pushed back to head over to goods platform for our guests to alight for luncheon at Hotel

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Luc getting that that special shot

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now coming to the goods platform

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Railcars at goods platform. Engines were shut down.

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Tantanoola station from goods platform

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Goods shed. Background is Tantanoola Tiger Hotel

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Tantanoola Tiger Hotel from rail yards.

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Our guests and crew all start to alight.

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Okay guys, get ready for an all rail family picture



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The crew and guests except the French lads
as they were taking this picture.
Éric and Luc all the way from France to
stand here at Tantanoola. Good memory.

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Éric, John (yours truly) and Luc


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Lunch at the Tantanoola Tiger hotel.
Home of the famous Tantanoola Tiger.


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The Tantanoola Tiger in Hotel on display.
For the story about this animal click HERE.

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Éric and Luc enjoying an Aussie beer with us
before our lunch was served in dining room.


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After a nice enjoyable lunch the railcars being readied for return trip to Mount Gambier

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Railcars both now being started


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Charging up the air, all the guest's aboard.
One last parting shot for the three of us.

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Now all ready to go folks, Bill at the helm

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A look down the track from Tanty goods siding.

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Here we stopped at Burda Bank for another photo shoot. Front view

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Same spot.
Rear view

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Hello we are now back at the Mount. 
The Valley lake is on the other side of crater rim.

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Passing the Junction cabin over White Avenue crossing to head through the marshalling yard to station.

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Here about to cross over Bertha street


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Now over Bertha street heading towards Wehl Street
 road crossing, thence to the Mt Gambier station.

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Back at the station after a great day all round.


For me I'd like to say many thanks to the helpful volunteer staff of the Mount Gambier Limestone Coast Railway that did make this rail venture possible for our French friends to experience and enjoy an unique railway here in the South East of South Australia. Australia.

Sadly the LCR is no more, so we lucky to do this trip.

 


NEXT  DAY  WE  DID  ANOTHER  TRIP  WITH  L.C.R.  
THIS  TIME  TO  KALANGADOO

See next page:
 Limestone Coast trip to Kalangadoo

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An extra bit

As soon as Red Hens return to loco the crew got the Casey Jones out for a patrol return run to Kalangadoo.

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