Back in November, I found the perfect present for my husband. A trip on a 1930 diesel train to Ballarat, followed by a paddle steamer dinner on Lake Wendouree, before returning to Melbourne on the same train.
Unfortunately, the November trip was booked out.
We decided to book for January. Great idea. Except that after printing out the ticket, it was posted on my noticeboard and completely forgotten. Until February.
I emailed DERMPAV and explained. Admitting my query was a long shot, I asked if they would honour the tickets. I was very surprised and happy when they agreed to rebook us. So we were rebooked for May.
Except that was the same weekend as my mosaic workshop. Oh dear.
I contacted them again.
We were booked for yesterday. They even rang in the morning to be sure we were going to make it.
We were there early. We debated which platform (yes, I forgot to ask) and made a guess.
The wrong one.
As the train slowed into the opposite platform, we sprinted down the ramp, along the underpass and up the ramp.
In time to see the train pulling out.
Ah well, we thought. Perhaps they’ll pull into the yard and come back – this side is the way to Geelong.
But no, they didn’t come back. We rang them and they suggested we catch a vline train to Ballarat, and join them at the station.
Okay, that could work. Except the next Vline train wasn’t for nearly 2 hours.
More phone calls. That would mean we arrived in Ballarat at almost the same time as the diesel.
We whiled away our waiting by joining the throngs at Footscray Market. It was all we could do to ignore the bargains – but carrying the week’s shopping to Ballarat and back seemed less than sensible. We did navigate the lunch choices with enthusiasm. Japanese and Italian – sequentially rather than in fusion.
Finally we boarded the very fast, very comfortable Ballarat train.
And arrived, as predicted at almost the same time. Our arrival, our story, provided the ‘inflight entertainment’ for other passengers and the (volunteer) staff.
Talk about planes, trains and automobiles, or in our case: wrong train, bus, paddlesteamer, bus, right train.
Lake Wendouree was about the clearest-sky we encountered all day.
Then the sun set.
This is us, finally boarding the train we kept seeing and missing.
Although it was dark, it was a lovely warm, companionable journey home.
We obeyed all rules.
The train is lovingly maintained by volunteer DERMPAV train enthusiasts. They looked after all of us (even recalcitrants) with great humour and warmth and sooo much food.
Next weekend they’re off to Mildura for a three-day trip. It’s difficult to say who enjoys these journeys more – passengers or crew. It doesn’t really matter. It was a grand adventure.