Warren Heggarty asks: is this a record?
Graeme Seaman is a member of three RichmondPRA services: Westclub at Penrith, Newcastle King Street (where Graeme says you can get a REALLY GOOD LUNCH) and Armidale. With such far-flung memberships, it’s logical that Graeme was the right guy to organise a series of long-distance group outings by rail for his mates.
Graeme had already been on many solo weekend trips to places like Nowra, Oberon and Gulgong, but In 2011 one of the other members at Westclub Penrith suggested a group excursion to Bathurst. Scott Turner, who was a staff member at Westclub at the time, said that Graeme should put forward an official proposal. The idea seemed a bit daunting at the time, like most new ideas, but after a bit of brainstorming it was pretty clear who was the right man for the job: yep, Graeme.
Eventually, after much research and planning, Graeme and six other RichmondPRA members set out for Bathurst on their first inaugural rail excursion. They went by City Rail as far as Lithgow, then by Country Link Bus the rest of the way to Bathurst. It was a success, and everyone loved it.
Since then the group has traveled to Newcastle, Buckingham House in Surry Hills, Wollongong, The Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney, Manly (which included an obligatory ferry ride) and Lithgow. They’ve visited some of these locations more than once, as you can’t see everything in one hit.
“The first time we went to Lithgow there was heavy snow.” Graeme said. “We found out that a tree had fallen across the tracks and we were sort of stuck in town. There was nothing for it but to visit the Workers’ Club. So, by the time they’d finished there, the trains were running again.”
This turned out to be a great excuse to organise a second trip to Lithgow. For the sequel, the group checked out the old Small Arms Factory. The factory is situated a good half-hour walk from the centre of Lithgow, and is a treasure trove of great historical value.
The ground floor of the factory has a collection of assorted products made on-site, as it had been a huge enterprise during World War II, while upstairs is a pistol collection that had been donated by a private collector.
Thankfully there were no dramas on this occasion, but Graeme had some wisdom to share:
“The weather is always different in Lithgow, so it’s best to take a jumper!”
On their trip to Newcastle, the group saw the BHP museum exhibit.
“That was great! There’s a lot of noise and smoke and stuff, and heaps of signs telling people to hang onto little children. It’s a simulation of the old-fashioned steelworks showing what it was like back then, so you want to keep your distance.”
Wollongong and New Outlook is another frequent destination of the group. On one occasion, however, the group arrived on a day when New Outlook happened to be closed! No matter: it was the perfect opportunity to pop into Maccas and then take a ride on the free shuttle bus around The Gong.
“These trips were all done on a $2.50 pensioner’s ticket, you know,” said Graeme. “There were no other expenses, apart from what we ate.”
Graeme notes that they’ve been down every major railway line “except the one that goes through Campbelltown and down to Goulburn.”
Well, there’s always next time.