Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

Trains of ghost, trains of groove

Penned upon the 7th of August, 2007

I grew up hardly twenty minutes from Victoria’s famous Puffing Billy historic railway, and so, naturally, I hadn’t ridden it for years. When we were invited to ride out to Emerald Lake (a scene I remember fondly for an Alice-themed Adventure, no less!) for a Hanging Rock-style picnic, we accepted with relish, followed by cucumber sandwiches and teacake (oh dear.)

Rugged up against the cold and bemused at the engine’s enthusiasm.

Puffing Billy is a collective system of steam trains which wind through the mountains and rainforests between Belgrave and Gembrook, providing witness to scenes of simply unrivalled beauty. It’s largely volunteer-run and operated, including the drivers and conductors, and they really are very friendly – there out of love, and thoroughly in the spirit of the thing.

Lady Tanah, looking beyond radiant.

It’s not the cheapest day out, certainly, even on a concession fare – they do have to maintain the tracks and engines, after all! – but I found that it can be well worth it if you plan ahead with some old friends, and with some new ones of thoroughly agreeable character. A closed carriage, a delicious repast, a bottle of champagne and talk of steampunk larceny and a more efficient design for the bicycle – what more could you ask for of an evening? A further three cheers for the hostess!

Misses Aowyne & Cass, perhaps bushland flâneurs?

Thinking of trains…, I found my old copy of The Last Express, an adventure set on the Orient Express at the eve of the Great War. It’s one of computer gaming’s forgotten classics, with an ingenious open-ended gameplay model and Art Nouveau-style graphics. It’s also unique in featuring a well-educated hero – a talented doctor who speaks French and Russian and dabbles with equal skill in international politics and the study of ancient holy texts. I mention The Last Express, not only for its own merits, but to compare it favourably with the recent Murder on the Orient Express – despite David Suchet’s contribution, the latter is sadly skippable. The portrayal of the heroine as an artistic, cultured Frenchwoman would be rather more convincing if the writers knew the least about art, culture or France. Also, a bug in the climactic scene makes a perfect score only achievable by accident. Tsk!

The Last Express; the concert scene.

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Commentary upon “Trains of ghost, trains of groove”

  1. Nathan was heard to remark,

    Upon the 7th of August, 2007 at 6:36 pm,

    Sounds like you had fun.
    I went on Puffing Billy when I was about 10. I blinded myself in both eyes with soot. I couldn’t see for 24 hours.
    I never went on it again.

  2. Meaghan was heard to remark,

    Upon the 8th of August, 2007 at 5:43 pm,

    So jealous!

    It looks as if you and your friends had a ball- or at least a small assembly with the Sir Roger De Coverly and a quadrille!

  3. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 15th of August, 2007 at 12:16 am,

    If there’s another, and I think there will be, I’ll see if I can’t include guests! And, actually, that was a mandrill – but boy, could it dance.

  4. gilda was heard to remark,

    Upon the 15th of August, 2007 at 2:09 am,

    oh WOW. that IS you in that first picture, right? you look soooo good standing with the train!! it’s like, magic! totally brilliant. i would love to have a ride on an old-fashioned train. oh and i love cucumber sandwiches, by the way. yum!

  5. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 16th of August, 2007 at 5:31 pm,

    Aw, thankyou! I just feel like I look silly – the train chose that exact moment to gush enormous clouds of steam, and I wasn’t the least sure I’d even be visible!

  6. blackberrymoose was heard to remark,

    Upon the 25th of August, 2007 at 2:15 pm,

    I grew up nearish to Puffing Billy too. As a kid my brother and I did the christmas at Puffing Billy where you get a train ride with Santa AND get a present. Talk abut a wee child’s wet dream!
    I’ve not been there for years. Can you still hang your legs out through the bars across the window?

  7. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 26th of August, 2007 at 12:05 am,

    I thought for a wee child, a dream with wetness was more likely to be a scary one…
    But, yes! Though we were in the closed carriages at the back. Not that that stopped the tiny fellow who shared one leg of the journey with us from hanging out the window. He was a cutie!

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