Sometimes The Wrong Train Takes You To The Right Station

I’m not sure exactly what makes a tradition; is it the number of times that something is done, or is it a belief or custom that’s passed down from one generation to another. Towing a caravan down to Rosebud and parking it amongst the tea trees for the summer holidays has been a tradition for generations of the same families. Tossing the garter at a wedding is a tradition. I’ve always wondered about a tradition where you watch a man whack their head up a ladies dress, and then fiddle around for a few minutes with their hands to find a garter to toss at their mates. Would you really enjoy watching your dad, after getting married for a second time, putting his head up his new wife’s dress so he can find a garter to toss at you. But having a few plates of lamingtons on the dessert table at a wedding reception is a tradition I understand.


I drove a taxi part time to earn a few dollars when I went back to college to study for an advanced degree in Instructional Technology. The tradition in Australia back then was if you were male, and travelling by yourself, you’d hop in the front passenger seat of a taxi. And that’s what just about every male passenger did. It was also part of the tradition to talk to the driver. By the time you’d dropped a passenger off they’d have asked you what type of day you were having, how did you come to be driving a taxi, and how about the weather we’re having. I don’t get the tradition of taking a taxi so you can bash somebody’s ear about nothing. But heading down to Bunnings on a Saturday arvo and grabbing a sausage sizzle, or spending Boxing Day on the couch with a stubby, and falling asleep watching the test cricket are a couple of traditions that make complete sense to me.

I think I’ve started a new tradition for myself. The last couple of times relatives have visited Omaha we’ve taken them to the Durham Museum; I think rellies at the museum is now a family tradition. The Durham Museum is housed in Omaha’s Union Pacific Railroad’s restored art deco Union Station, and the building, as well as the working soda fountain are considered to be part of the permanent exhibits. There are several life-like, talking statues scattered around the elegant first floor waiting room; it’s easy to imagine it’s the 40s and you’ve just bought yourself a ticket for the Westbound, City of Los Angeles Streamliner.

image source:jmcadam

I sauntered over to the train timetable and checked for the Westbound 103. I was soon joined by another traveller; we stood together but alone in a deafening silence. I turned to my fellow passenger

Me: g’day mate
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Afternoon
Me: By ya self
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Going back to Denver; it’s my first time in Omaha. There sure are a lot of tracks out there; must be a lot of trains coming through here each day
Me: Sorta reminds me back when I spent most of the May school holidays making railways in our back yard with my cousin Peter. He lived in Dandenong. His mum let him catch the train by himself to Newport. He’d stay at nanna’s place for three or four days. My brother and I had a Hornby O Gauge goods train set; mine was green for the Great Northern Railway and his was red for the Midland Railway. We shared a passenger train. The goods trains had four different types of goods carriages and a guards van
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: I heard they’ve got thirteen sets of tracks out there
Me: No worries mate. I reckon we had enough rails to cover one side of the backyard; we had two stations, some level crossings, a few points, some wooden bridges, and a collection of curved, straight, and cross over metal railway lines
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Let’s see now; the platform for the 103 Streamliner
Me: We built our railways on the dirt side of the backyard. We’d start in the morning by digging valleys and gullies, and smoothing out spaces for other different types of shapes. After dinner we’d join the rails together; making cross overs, using the points for station sidings, and inventing long meandering tracks. Peter had to be back at nanna’s for tea by five o’clock so we’d pack everything up around four o’clock
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: Do you want to grab something to eat in the dining room; wonder if they’ve got Whitefish
Me: The next day we’d start a new layout; making it up as we went. I don’t remember ever running an engine or carriages around any of the layouts; we never finished any. Sometimes we’d push some of the carriages around different parts of half done bits of track though
Fellow Traveller at Station Timetable: I’ll save you a seat
Me: No worries. On the last day of Peter’s little holiday in Newport we’d catch the train into town and spend the whole day going to different Newsreel shows. Cheers mate, see ya in the dining room

After listening to the life sized statutes, who could easily be mistaken for real people, it’s easy to imagine you’re about to catch your train as you take the stairs down to Platform One. Waiting at the platform is a collection of restored, luxurious Union Pacific train carriages from the 1940s; the train includes a Club Car, Lounge Car, and Pullman Car. As you walk through the passageways of each carriage you could think you’re a passenger travelling in the Sleeper carriage, and you’re just stopping off in the Lounge while waiting for your bed to be made up. The platform and track is enclosed, and windows look out to what is left of the railway lines passing through Omaha.

I settled back into a seat in an open section of the Pullman carriage and closed my eyes; before long the train slowly started to move. As it gathered speed the carriage started to rock from side to side and I heard the comforting rhythmic clickety-clack of train wheels.

image source:jmcadam

McAdam is a small town in Canada on the New Brunswick-Maine border. The stone, chateau-style railway station was a hub for Eastern Canada and the US; over 15 passenger trains a day passed through the station. The station is now designated as a Heritage Railway Station. In 1943 Winston Churchill visited the station and acknowledged the people of McAdam. It is said that when his train pulled into the station and stopped, he was standing on the platform of the Observation Car smoking a cigar. They say that he spoke briefly to the gathered crowd; ending his speech with God bless you all and raising his hand high in the air and giving the famous V for victory salute. But I find it more endearing that Winston’s daughter was so appreciative of the people of McAdam that she blew kisses to them from the platform of the Observation Car as the train left the station.

Railway Pie was first served at the station in the early 1900’s. Honouring the tradition the Restoration Committee has brought it back as a fund raiser. From July 1st until the end of September Railway Pie is served every Sunday afternoon at the restored lunch counter. Many say it’s worth the trip just to choose a slice of delicious Railway Pie; twenty plus varieties of homemade pies are baked with love by local volunteers.


Sunday afternoon was also mum’s baking day. After our traditional Sunday roast lamb dinner the kitchen counter tops became mum’s pastry bench. Her Sunday afternoon baking staples were sponge cake, lamingtons, butterflies, vanilla slices, and matchsticks; occasional she made an apple pie. Mum used Granny Smith apples and made the pastry from scratch. Even though mum never seemed to weigh or measure any of the ingredients, her staples were delicious; her apple pie was just as memorable. Nanna also made apple pie. She put whole cloves into her pies. As youngsters we silently gagged when we bit down on a clove; of course we never said anything about the overpowering, sickening taste of cloves. After all it was nanna’s apple pie. When I think back nanna and mum’s apple pie would have been right at home in the McAdam Station lunch room.


As I was finishing off my wander through the restored carriages I pondered whether to stop at the old fashioned soda fountain and order a float or a malt. The phosphate could be a little something to inspire me as I contemplate a recipe for McAdam Pie; and I’d have a serviette to scribble the recipe on.

I don’t remember what Peter and I named the stations on our wandering never finished May school holiday backyard layouts; I wonder if we called them McAdam Junction and Wallace Central.


All Aboard for Railway Pie at McAdam Railway Station

Durham Museum

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