Sydney time . . .

Before the sale of our house in Melbourne was finalised, I was required to fly to Sydney each Monday morning and stay in the airport until close of business on Friday evening, after which I would fly back to Melbourne.
At that time, the hotel near the airport was the Hilton, and I became so familiar with their menu that I was able to order an evening meal without studying the menu.
It sounds an exciting life, but laptops had not been invented, nor the mobile phone, and the city was an expensive taxi ride away because the rail link had not been built and buses did not stop anywhere near the hotel. I read a lot of books.

The above picture shows the current hotel which is the Novotel / Mecure Hotel, which is in the Accor Group of hotels.
The building has also been a Holiday Inn hotel, but the building is the same as I remember thirty-five years ago.

The area now known as Walli Creek was an industrial area in 1985 and was part of Arncliffe until redevelopment started and the area that was redeveloped became Walli Creek after the creek of the same name.


From industry to . . .


What a change of view from my stay in the Hilton.
The picture is from the current hotel’s web site.

As the time for moving from Melbourne became imminent the Company flew Maureen to Sydney for a long weekend, which we used to find a house to rent for about six months while we looked around for a house to buy.
I asked my colleagues for suggestions as to which suburb to consider living and perhaps buying in, the overwhelming suggestion was Sutherland Shire, because it was ‘beachy’, on a railway line, close to the airport, but not too close, and affordable. The river scene at the start of my blog is of the river about a hundred metres from my house. I cannot see it from the house, but the view is just around the corner.     plumber-sutherland-shire

The picture above is of Sutherland Shire beach in the suburb of Cronulla in Sutherland Shire, about thirty minutes from where I live. Cronulla is on the ocean, not Botany Bay and Sutherland Shire is known locally as just, ‘The Shire’.
It was called such well before J. R. R. Tolkien’s (1916-1971) fictional Middle-earth’s ‘Shire’, described in The Lord of the Rings.

Sutherland Shire is named after Forby Sutherland who was a member of the crew of HMS Endeavour, Captain James Cook in command.
Sutherland died of consumption on the 2nd of May 1770 and was the first British subject to die in Australia and the first European to die in New South Wales.

Captain Cook arrived in Australia on the 29th of April 1770, and after Sutherland’s death he named a point of land at the eastern end of Botany Bay, ‘Sutherland Point’.


Captain Cook’s monument at Kurnell, Sutherland Shire 

We found a house to rent in The Shire and later bought in The Shire, and still live in the house that we bought in 1985.  
The house we bought is smaller than the Melbourne house because Sydney prices are higher, so the dollar had to go further.

In 1985 the population of the Shire was about 170,000 and the drive to work took me about thirty minutes. Today with a population of around 230,000 the journey would be a lot longer.

My time at work had been taken up with ‘finding my feet’ and organising a standard procedure of operation in the six Australian offices and the three New Zealand Offices.
I also had to make myself known to our network of agents across the Pacific south of the Equator. My only communication facility with the agents was via fax or phone.  

Papua New Guinea, PNG  same time zone as Sydney

New Caledonia, New Cal  the flag in the 1980’s, time zone plus one hour 

Vanuatu, Vanuatu  time zone plus one hour

Solomon Islands, solomon time zone plus one hour

Nauru, Nauru time zone plus two hours

Kiribati,  Kiribati  (pronounced Kiri-bass) the old name was the Gilbert Islands – time zone plus two hours 

Tuvalu,  Tuvalu the old name was Ellis Is., time zone plus two hours

Cook Is, cook time zone minus twenty hours 

Fiji, fiji  time zone plus two hours

Western Samoa, Samoa time zone minus twenty-one hours in the 1980’s and 90’s. 
In 2011 on the 29th December Western Samoa cancelled the 30th December and ‘restarted’ on the 31 st December.
By doing this they ‘moved’ the date line because most of their business was with New Zealand, Australia and Asia and they wished to be in a similar time zone. Today W Samoa is plus three hours from Sydney.

American Samoa, A Samoa time zone minus twenty-one hours.
Can you imagine doing business between W. Samoa and American Samoa today, the flight between the two countries is about twenty minutes, but different days. 

Tonga, Tonga time zone plus three hours

Tahiti, Tahiti  in French Polynesia. Time zone minus twenty-hours

I had a small problem when I wanted to speak to our agent in W. Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Is. or Tahiti because when it was Monday in Sydney it was Sunday in their country, so our working week was a day short – unless I spoke to them from home on my Saturday, which was their Friday. 

In New Caledonia & Tahiti our agent had to be bi-lingual in English and French because I could not speak French – which is why the original title of my blog was to be ‘I’ll never go abroad’, being the answer, that I gave my French teacher when I was thirteen after failing a French exam.
She asked me how I proposed to speak to anyone when I went to France. I still cringe at my answer.   

On the move again. . .

Con note

It was 1982 and things were ticking over nicely, but I was unhappy with our consignment notes that we handed out to our customers. The above example was produced as continuous stationery, partly to make the production easier and partly to maximise the stowage of new consignment notes into neat piles once the box was opened. We would supply our larger customers with boxes of stationery so that they could share the blank consignments notes out to various departments.

It was in late 1982 that I was introduced to Alec who I met through a mutual friend. Alec was a computer programmer and had recently created a program for Melbourne transport system. He was ex RAF and trained in the field of electronics before migrating to Australia. 


I bought a TRS 80 for my son & I to play with, I liked the very primitive strategy games, and my son liked the ping pong games.
The above is not the exact model but it gives an idea of how ‘primitive’ computers were in the early 1980’s.
E-mail, as we know it today, had not been invented and the internet was still in the future. 

Within a short time, I came to realise what could be done with a ‘computer’ in Skypak.

On meeting Alec and speaking with him about the possibilities for computers I realised that I had met someone who understood completely some of my daft ideas.
I had been puzzling how to pre-print consignment notes with the customer’s details already completed in the shipper’s field of the consignment note.
To make life easier for our customer to use us would help retain that customer, even at a higher overall rate than our competitors.   

I had considered an electric typewriter, but this would require a staff member to insert a new consignment note to preprint a client’s address on each note, which was too labour intensive and uneconomical.

I bounced a few ideas off Alec and explained about the continuous run stationery and the positioning of the consignment note every time we wished to print. Alec made notes and took sample consignment notes away with him.  

At that time, we had a limited computer system in the office. It was used mainly for communicating with head office in Sydney via a dedicated telephone line.
It had a printer attached to print pre-alerts of inbound shipments so that our staff could meet the aircraft on arrival. The office was about a twenty-minute drive to the airport. The system was similar to an early fax machine. 

Alec returned a few days later with a machine and a 5 1/4-inch floppy disc.


For those who do not know what a 5 1/4-inch disk looks like , the above is an example.
Alec attached his small machine to the inhouse computer screen and inserted his floppy disk into his attachment and up popped a layout of a consignment note – he then typed in the detail of our address and inserted several consignment note in to the attached printer that usually typed out pre-alerts.
This time it typed out consignment notes with the same address on each . . .
This might seem a small thing to have created, but for us in the early 1980’s it was a huge step forward.
We began to produce pre-printed consignment notes for our major customers.

Within days I was receiving faxes from our overseas offices who wanted to know how the pre-printed consignment notes were produced.
Because I did not own the simple program (simple compared to today’s world) and had not yet come to agreement with Alec, I told our overseas offices that I would pre-print consignment notes on behalf of their customers for one Australian cent per consignment note. . . . 

Within days I had a steady revenue stream that went to the profit line of the Melbourne office.
It did not take long for head office to phone me and ask why I was using so many consignment notes from our stationery stock, yet our shipments had not increased . . . once again the accounts department had picked that something odd was going on in Melbourne!

The next system was to create a POD (proof of delivery) system that recorded the details of each shipment, and in particular the date & time of delivery and the person’s name who signed for the item. At that time, it was all completed manually, and we would file the delivery sheet in case it was required in the future.
Now I wanted Alec to create what we now call a data base so that it would be far faster to find the information that go through reams of paper files. I tried but could not find a way of making this system into a profit line.

While all this was going on we still had to sell our services, and for me it was an exciting and busy time.

In 1983 the sales manager obtained the forms to apply for the Governor of Victoria’s Export Award, which was an annual event. The award went to a company for outstanding international success in the professional business services including legal, accounting, administration, and support services.
We spent hours refining the ‘pitch’ of our application.

When the awards came out it was a great surprise to all of us that we had won the award and in addition we were the first service industry to win this award. Traditionally it was a manufacturing company that would win such an award. Perhaps it was because we were one hundred percent focused on the export market – we did not offer a domestic courier service, only international.


Being the State manager, I made the front cover of Business, but could not have done so if it had not been for the support of all the staff. The actual award was presented at Government House by His Excellency the Governor.

In March 1981 Maureen and I bought land in Sunbury on which we would build our house.


The day the first bricks arrived on site we drove to the site to make sure that the brisk were the bricks that we wanted. Our children in the above picture are now 47 (daughter) and 45 (son) how time flies. 

house 1

The house as it was in 1985 – we still had the Holden Station wagon, which can just be seen – this was Maureen’s car. The building behind the car is a ‘granny flat’ a complete unit for Maureen’s parents – completely independent from our house, but its position allowed us to keep an eye on her parents. Life was good and we were happy living in Sunbury.  

Sometimes success can be a trojan horse – creating short cuts in the operational area and forcing down our international transport costs caused the GM to ask me to move to Sydney and take over the Regional Operational job.

This meant that I would have the responsibility for the operation of the company from Perth in W. Australian to Tahiti in Polynesia.

I did not want the job because I was happy in Melbourne, as was Maureen and the children. 

I offered to do the job working from Melbourne, but this was rejected because I would be too close to my replacement and this might cause problems.
Plus, the position was a head office position, which required all the head office staff to be in proximity of each other. 

While I was in ‘limbo’ – the house was up for sale and the new manager had taken over my old position, and the Company opened a satellite office not far from the main Melbourne office to allow me to write an airfreight manual, because the Company was being offered larger and larger sized consignments that were too large for our onboard courier system and they required a standard system of operation.

Writing the manual was an interesting task because I did not have to worry about the day to day activities of the Melbourne office, I had other worries . .  

OIP (1)

Life revolved around research, coffee, cigarette’s and a keyboard

I did have a side trip to Hong Kong, because while I was still manager, we gained a large movement of annual reports from one of the major banks in Melbourne.
The banks were obliged by law to publish their annual report and to send a copy to every share holder however large or small – posting was expensive, because many of their shareholders lived overseas.
The reports would be printed in Hong Kong, so the Company sent me to oversee the procedure and arrange the global distribution for about 77,000 shareholders. The total weight was 6,600 kilos (6.5 tons).
It was an interesting exercise and I was there for about a week because the law required that the reports had to enter the postal system on the same day – we air freighted the reports to our offices in the UK, US, Singapore, Australia, N.Z, Japan, S. Africa to name just a few destinations, with instructions to post on a particular day so that we could prove the date of posting globally.
We invoiced the bank for a lot less than it would have cost to post the reports from a single origin place such as Australia or Hong Kong.
The service we offered was called Mailfast and I think it is still available, it used to be called Multi-mail, and thanks to the internet if you do a search on either name the result will show details of multi-e-mails, how time have changed.  


I first visited Hong Kong in 1963, it had that feel of excitement, and that feeling was still there in the mid 80’s. I took the above photograph and the one below during the business trip.



Hong Kong – in happier times, mid 1980’s

A few weeks later I was in London for a global meeting of ops managers.
Maureen rang me – she had sold the house – I could no longer drag my feet –
Sydney here we come. 


Christmas 1981 to Feb 1983.

It was getting close to Christmas 1981 so what to do about a staff Christmas party? Christmas in Australia is our summertime, so we would not be interested in a log fire, hot mead and Ho Ho Ho.
Ideas were bounced around from restaurants (very expensive) to a cash outlay to allow the staff to do their own thing . . . but I wanted something special.
It was the sales manager who came up with the answer – a Christmas picnic and a spot of water skiing at Bonnie Doon. The sales manager also had a speed boat, and she was happy for us to ski as long as the Company paid for the fuel – not a problem.
I had not heard of Bonnie Doon and had to look it up. It was about 170 kms (about 105 miles), North East of Melbourne.


The town of Doon was named after Doon in Ireland, but others say it is of Scottish origin, and was originally a central area for the local farms and over time the small town grew, so that in 1866 a post office was opened.
In 1869 six Chinese men bought the mining rights in the Dry Creek area for £45 (about £5,391 today or AUD $9672) and started to look for gold.
They found 19 oz (538 grams) of gold in one week.
Using the current price of gold this equates to AUD$43,358, about four and a half times times the value of the cost of the mining rights.

Hundreds of men followed, and a canvas town was created and they named this town Doon.

It was not until 1891 when the first steam train arrived in Doon that the town was renamed Bonnie Doon.

In 1915 Goulburn and Delatite rivers were dammed to construct Sugarloaf Reservoir.
The area expanded as a farming community, so it was decided to expand Sugarloaf Reservoir and raise the weir, now called Eildon weir. The population at this time was about 400.
In 1955 there was heavy rain in the catchment area and thousands of acres were flooded and much of the town disappeared as the water rose, the Eildon weir had become Eildon Lake.

I wanted a special cake for the occasion, so I gave my business card to Maureen and she arranged for the cake . . .



The cake was as colourful as the badge shown below, it is just that the only photograph I could find of the cake has faded over the years.

cake o3

All the plans were made and the date fixed, which was a Saturday, and then the General Manager rang me to ask what we were going to do for the staff Christmas party. He seemed quite pleased with the Bonnie Doon idea, so I felt obliged to ask him to join us.

The General Manager arrived in the office on the Friday before the party and this was the first time he had seen the staff in uniform. I was not sure how he would feel about the large ‘stationery’ bill.

Fortunately, he liked what he saw and told me that within a few weeks the new uniform would be worn by the warehouse staff in all Australian offices. Now I felt that I could enjoy Christmas.
Our Christmas a lunch was a large BBQ and those who wished to ski could do so.


Yours truly on real skies as against the hatch board attempt in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) during my time at sea.


Overall, the Christmas BBQ was a great success, particularly for the staff to meet the GM at a social occasion. 
During the following years I got to know the GM quite well, and always found him to be a great ‘boss’. 
Of course, being an Australian company, everyone was on first name terms, a culture change from the UK, which took me a little time to get used to when speaking to the GM – ‘Ron what do you think . . . ?’ 
In the UK it would be Mr.  . . . and perhaps first names at a social function.

The following year 1982, the area around Bonnie Doon suffered from a draught. 

The picture below shows that there is only about 29% of the water left in the lake in 1982 and the water level was falling every day.
Trees that had been covered by water years ago, once again saw daylight. Part of the original town that was flooded in the 1950’s started to reappear.



Within a very short time the area near where I skied a year earlier. . . . 

The drought lasted for many months, Christmas 1982 came and went, and the drought was recorded as the worst in the 20th century.  

I lived about 30 minutes outside the business area of Melbourne and once I left the freeway after a ten-minute drive, I was in a more bushy area for the rest of the drive home, and every day I watched the land dry out and the grass and trees die. 


On the 8th February 1983 I was at work when at 2.30 pm the temperature climbed to 43.2 c (109.8 F) and a dust storm could be seen approaching the city – it hit us at 3.00 pm with a sudden drop in temperature and very high winds that damaged homes and uprooted trees.
It was estimated that about 50,000 tons of topsoil was stripped from farms and a thousand tons of this soil (107,000 kilos) was dropped on the city in the hour of the storm.


This picture is of the dust storm was taken on the 8th February 1983 during the drought. Picture from the internet.


It looks like rain, but it is topsoil that reduced visibility to around 90 mtrs (100 yards). The large vehicle on the left is a tram. 

Eight days later the 16th February, the Ash Wednesday fires began – the drought had created ideal conditions. The large green mass in the top left-hand area of the above map is Mount Macedon Range – famous for the story of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ which is a book & a movie.


Hanging Rock

Mount Macedon was an area that was easy for us to visit for picnics, and it was an area that we showed visitors, particularly overseas visitors, because we could see the Range from our house.
The temperatures were over 40 c (104 f) and the hot dry wind from the centre of Australia was making life uncomfortable.

bushfire The fires began and we could see the smoke and smell the fires as the Macedon Range burned. The wind brought burnt black leaves and branches and dropped them around Sunbury, some of the branches were still alight.

Friends of ours were visiting us from the UK and had arrived only a day or so earlier. Once the fire started and the news flashed around the world the phone rang hot with calls from the couple’s family in the UK. It was an unusual start to their holiday.

Seven lives were lost in the Macedon area and 295 square kilometres of land was burnt out with the loss of 628 buildings. 
Maureen and I were fortunate that all we suffered was the constant ‘rain’ of burnt offerings. 

cars   Homes in Mt Macedon after the fire had passed through.


A small part of Mt Macedon a few days after the fires.

Little did we know that we would experience another bushfire over the Christmas period of 1993/4 . . . .  there are times when a white Christmas had a great attraction.


Knighted ferries

YHA Germany

I was sixteen when I made my first visit ‘abroad’ in 1960, (I do not count Wales).

I had been asked by a family friend, who was a teacher, to help look after a group of British school children while youth hosteling in Germany or DJH short for Deutschland Jugendherbergen

We were to stay at Youth Hostels as we made our way up the Rhine by rail and returned via paddle steamer Bismark.


Paddle steamer ‘Bismark’

Due to the long journey from Birkenhead to Ostend, the group leader had booked us in to the Zeebrugge youth hostel in Belgium, which was a short distance along the coast from Ostend. The one thing I do remember about Ostend was a particular coffee bar, which had a jukebox.
Jukeboxes were not new to us, but we had never seen a jukebox linked to a TV screen.
For one Belgium franc (well before the EEC and the Euro) we were able to play popular songs and watch the singer on the screen. This is the only memory I have about my first visit to a foreign city.

A few years ago, Maureen and I entered Zeebrugge harbour on a cruise ship and I found myself thinking of the Mersey ferry boats, Daffodil & Iris in WW1, on St George’s Day 1918.


Zeebruge Harbour at sunrise, pictures taken from our balcony.


The entrance to the harbour can be seen (beyond the immediate quay) where the British sank the two derelict vessels.


The two ferries took part in the commando raid to sink obsolete ships in the main channel at Zeebrugge, to prevent German U-boats leaving port.

Raid-diagramblogsize_1 Although severely damaged, and with many killed and wounded, the two ferryboats managed to return to England, and eventually made their way back to Mersey.


Daffodil arriving back in the Mersey after emergency repairs at Chatham.


Above is the Iris on her return – both ships carried the HMS prefix during the raid, and both had many shell holes. In addition, the superstructure had been riddled with machine gun fire.

The funnel of the Iris was kept as a ‘memorial’ for some time, but I am not sure where it is now.

Eight VCs (Victoria Cross – the highest award for bravery in the Commonwealth) were awarded after the raid, unfortunately two hundred and twenty-seven men were killed, and of those I think seventy are buried in the cemetery at Dover.

The whole operation called for volunteers and of the 1700 who volunteered eleven were Australian. Of the eleven, seven were decorated for bravery and some of their medals can be seen in Canberra.

Dover  – BBC News a centenary after the raid in 2018. The link is a short video.

In honour of their contribution to the raid HM King George V conferred the pre-fix ‘Royal’ on both Mersey ships, and they became the ‘Royal Iris’ & the ‘Royal Daffodil’.
The second descendant of the ‘Royal Iris’ came into service in 1951, and it was in 1965, on this ‘Royal Iris’, that I danced with a young girl who would later become my wife in 1969, fifty-two years ago.



Once alongside my daydreaming changed when I noticed Belgium navy ships berthed across from our berth.

I wonder if they think of the raid on St George’s Day (23rd April).

A train set, every child’s dream

!st train

The first train arrived in Parramatta on the 26th September 1855.

The first steam train in Australia ran in 1854 from Melbourne to Port Melbourne and by the time of federation in 1901 the network had grown to over 20,000 kms (12,500 miles).

Today in Thirlmere, about a thirty-minute drive from Mittagong is the largest collection of historical railway rolling stock in Australia.
A pensioner the entrance fee was $10, could not fault the value, because our visit was well over two hours.


0-6-0 steam engine, E 18, built in England in 1866 by the world’s first locomotive building firm Robert Stephenson & Sons, and was one of nine shipped to Australia for service in and around Sydney.
In 1897, E18 was sold to a coal company and not ‘retired’ until 1963, fortunately it was at the beginning of the railway preservation period, when this engine was ‘rescued’ and kept as one of the early examples of the railway era in NSW.


Close to E 18 is the carriage that was used by HM the Queen and Prince Philip in 1954 when they toured Australia. The carriage was the Governor- General’s carriage. As far as I know the Royal couple did not sleep on the train, but had meals and drinks onboard, which was prepared by the onboard staff.



It was difficult to capture the inside due to sunlight on the windows even though the carriages were inside a large building.

In addition to the ‘Royal’ carriage there were examples of


Postal sorting carriages


Transporting the dead carriages. . .


Prison carriages

The first government trains began in 1855 and one requirement was the transport of prisoners. They were gaols on wheels to move the city criminals to the isolated prisons in the country.
The carriage could accommodate five wardens, and in busy time up to fourteen male & eight female prisoners.
The prison vans had segregated cells based on gender.

The last rail prison van was withdrawn from service in 1975 when special road vehicles became the norm.
In 1947 in Melbourne the authorities were using electric prison trams to move prisoners.
Darcy Dugan, a prisoner, dug his way through the roof of a tram using a breadknife. The tram was the only purpose-built prison tram in the world and is now exhibited at the Sydney tram museum – which is not far from where I live and is now on my bucket list.


From inside the museum, we moved outside to play with the BIG toys . . .


The AD60 the last of its kind – a massive machine of two engines fed from one boiler and for train lovers the wheel configuration was 4-8-4+4-8-4


You can see the size of the engine compared to Maureen – this machine was big.

Conceived in England by Herbert William Garratt and the first Garratt’s were smaller built in 1909 for Tasmania. The concept was picked up globally.

Post WW2 freight traffic in NSW was booming and using the engines at the time was limiting the haul weight because the rails were not strong enough and the authorities did not have enough steel to rebuild the network, particularly over the Blue Mountains. 

The AD60 was the answer – 265 tons of power, (270,000 kgs) 108 feet (33 mtrs) long, built by Beyer-Garratt in the UK and came into service in NSW in 1952.
They began life in Australia just before the advent of diesel engines.
Fifty Garretts were ordered, but the last eight were cancelled in 1957. The last Garratt was withdrawn from service in 1973.

6040 was the last of this ‘breed’ of engine to run on the NSW rail network.


Follow the yellow brick road into the Great Train Hall.


1st Class of yesteryear 


Davis Palace Sleeping Car Company a US company sold two sleeping cars to NSW in 1882, they were carriages number 8 & 9. Number 8 was renamed Lady Parkes after the wife of the Premier Henry Parkes and number 9 was named Lady Robinson after the five times Premier of NSW John Robertson.
The carriage that I photographed was Number 9, Lady Robinson carriage.


The dining room


The bar . . .hic!

The two carriages in the museum are the only two Davis Sleeping Cars left in the world.


Built in 1877 by Beyer, Peacock and Company, of Gorton, Manchester, England.

This engine was used on the suburban passenger services around Sydney and NSW and became the longest serving locomotive in NSW history at 94 years and 9 months before being ‘retired’ in 1973 and placed in Enfield Transport Museum before being transferred to this museum in 1975.   



As the Australian railway network grew it became obvious that that we should have a common gauge across the country.
The problem was that the Sydney network was ‘standard’ gauge of 4 ft 8 1/2 inches (1435 mm), which was the gauge used in the UK & Europe, but Victoria and parts of S Australia had used the Irish gauge of 5ft 3 inches (1590 mm) so passengers and freight had to change trains at the border between NSW & Victoria, which very inefficient.

There was also a third system of 3ft 6 inches (1050 mm) in Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia. 
The Federal Government wanted a standard system across the country – Sydney & Brisbane were linked in 1930, but it was not until 1962 that Sydney and Melbourne were linked.
The train that linked the two largest cities became known as the Southern Aurora and it was on the 14th/15th April 1962 that the first train completed the journey without changing trains at the border.   


In 1966 Maureen travelled by the Southern Aurora from Sydney to Melbourne, it took 12 hours.


38 20 was built by the NSW Government in the Eveleigh Railway Workshops in 1947. This engine was the 20th of 30 38 class locomotives built to haul express trains.


Sorry to say, but 20 38 was looking her age.


The first Pullman Sleeping Cars were introduced in NSW in 1891. The first eight were shipped from the US flat packed (think IKEA).
ABX 1007 was built in Australia for NSW railways in 1899 in the Pullman style, it was a sleeping coach and later in 1944 became a medical carriage.
It was retired in 1975 and converted to a sitting coach to be used on heritage rail trips.

In addition to the skilled staff who maintain and restore the railway stock on display there is a support team of volunteers. While we were looking around the museum, we saw various cargo wagons were being repainted in traditional colours by some of the volunteers.


The above will give you an idea of the condition of some of the rolling stock when it arrives. I was in the historic part of the museum (left hand side of the fence) and across the fence I saw the above in the ‘waiting’ area.


The above coaches were in the historic area waiting to be refurbished.  


At the end of the museum building there was the Roundhouse, which is where the rollingstock would be reborn. Outside you could see a large turntable that was being used when I took these pictures.



I copied the above from the visitor guide to show that the Roundhouse was a large operation. 


On the outside of the Roundhouse visitors could look into the work area from a viewing platform and watch rollingstock being refurbished.


I found that over two hours had passed by the time I took the last photograph (see above) and the whole experience was well worth the money.


Finally, I thought you may be interested in how 60 40 looked before the skilled craftsmen of the museum became involved.     

During our visit to the museum Maureen stood alongside this engine to show just how large it is for a steam train. 

The piece of film below show a ‘double header’, which means two engines at the front of the train. These trains are pulling a very heavy load up hill.  

A blast from the past

Southern Highlands part 2

Waterfall & Potatoes

DSC07039clone dat

We decided to visit Fitzroy Falls because the last time were visited the falls was in 2006 and at that time the falls were covered in mist. The above is the river that feeds the falls and as you see it is not very ‘active’ due to it being the end of summer.


The river flows under a walkway towards the ‘falls’.


The falls during our visit in 2006.


The falls earlier this month (March 2021) the drop is 81 mt (266 feet).

The falls are in the Morton National Park, the traditional country of the Yuin people and the views are magnificent – my poor effort do not do the views justice.




The area is famous for the wildlife – kookaburras, black cockatoos, eagles & falcons as well as certain insect life.


Termite architecture. 


and of course the platypus.

In 1798 a platypus was sent to England for identification, because people had never seen such a creature.

The English at the time thought the animal was a hoax- because it had a muzzle like a duck – a tail like a beaver – webbed feet with claws – the back legs of the male have poisonous spurs, which can kill attackers as large as a dog – the platypus is an egg laying mammal – it suckles its young, but it does not have any nipples – is it any wonder the English thought it was a hoax?

They live in the quiet areas of eastern Australia in clean freshwater streams or lakes and the best time to see them is early morning or in the evening – they are very shy.

We were close to a small town (village) called Robertson (pop 1865 in 2016) which is famous for a particular type of potato.
Like every other town which is famous for something they have to a ‘big’ something from a sheep, or a prawn, or a bandanna, so of course this town had a large potato.


The Big Potato – Robertson the home of the Highland spud.


Next door was the local supermarket which sold bags of potatoes (in various sizes ) with The Big Potato logo on each bag of course.

Our next stop was a pie shop that had become famous and when I asked the location I was told to keep driving and it is well sign posted.
Pie shop

  So we were looking for something like the above . . . . . . . 

Pie shop2 But all we saw was a dilapidated building without any indication that this was the place we wanted. So, we kept going and ended up driving half way down a very winding Macquarie Pass with bends at a top speed of 15 km / hour (9 mph) before I was able to find a place where I could do a U turn. 


Traffic coming down hill with a trailer / caravan did not leave much room. 


On the way back we realised that what we thought was a dump was the pie shop being repainted.

We entered the shop to check out the pies, I was quite looking forward to a pie or two for our lunchtime picnic  –
I did not buy, because the prices were too expensive at $9 to $10 for a very small pie and around $25 for a ‘family’ size pie, if the family was not more than two adults. Suddenly, I had lost my appetite. So, we left.


On our return trip to Mittagong we passed the Wingecarribee Reservoir. The area is a picnic spots and lookout points that is only available for day visit –
overnight camping is not allowed. 
Upstream of the Wingecarribee River that feeds the reservoir, is an ancient peat swamp, home to many endangered species.
The reservoir supplies Bowral and Mittagong, and during drought times can top up Sydney’s water supplies.

In drought times Wingecarribee Reservoir water can be released into the Wingecarribee River – which flows via another river and a lake before entering into the Sydney supply system via Warragamba Dam.
The distance from Wingecarribee Reservoir to Sydney is about 130 km by road.

Sydney has eleven major dams (21 storage dams) to supply the city with water.

Remember the walkway at Fitzroy Falls just before the actual falls – the second photograph at the beginning of this blog?

The Falls after a drop of rain   

Southern Highlands – part 1


By late February  we, in NSW, had over 35 days free of Covid-19 so I thought it was time for a short holiday.

Not sure how clear the map is, but we decided to visit the Southern Highlands and we decided to stay in Mittagong (marked with the red line).

Grand We picked the Grand Country Lodge in Mittagong. 


We had booked before Christmas but had to cancel due to ill health, so I asked for the same room as I had originally booked, but it was not available.
We were given a larger room for the same price as compensation. Could not knock the customer service.

212224002  Queen bed and a single so we had plenty of room for just the two of us.

The price included breakfast, but due to Covid-19 the dining room was closed, and breakfast was delivered to your room the evening before and placed in the fridge.


The room was equipped with a kettle, toaster, cutlery & crockery for three. Each evening we would tick various items on the breakfast sheet, and this would be delivered. The above gives you an idea.

c4b9d58c_b Powerful shower over the bath and great drying towels.

Underground parking available, all in all we were pleased with the accommodation.
Except for the map the above, the pictures of the motel are all from the motel’s web site.
Welcome to Grand Country Lodge | 4 Star Mittagong Accommodation

They are better than mine.


Next door to the motel was the information centre, so we did not have to go far to find the information that we required.


Mittagong is a pleasant small town, the centre of which, is only about a ten- minute walk from the accommodation.


Not too far from where we stayed is an attractive park, which contained a children’s area.


Mittagong from Gibraltar Heights overlooking the town.

For my Australian readers Mittagong has a large Dan Murphy’s  . . . . and a good choice of restaurants.

We had five days, so we decided to try and visit two new places each day.

Bowral is a short drive from Mittagong so this town was our first trip for site seeing.


 The Grand Hotel 


The New Empire Cinema from 1915, still in use . . .


Shopping alleyway – the cinema is behind me, we found Bowral to be quite a pleasant town. 

From Bowral we moved on to Moss Vale – it looked nice in the pictures that we had seen –


but overall we found it to be an unattractive place  that had a large amount of transit traffic, and that crossing the road was a touch of Kamikaze crossing unless you were happy walk quite a distance to a controlled crossing. 

We moved on to our next stop which was Bundanoon.

I quote from the Bundanoon web site –
Bundanoon is the ‘Quintessential Southern Highlands Experience’ and the perfect village alternative to larger towns such as Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Vale.

In 2016 the population was 2729, quite a small town that you can walk around in about eight minutes. As you see in the above picture, the ‘traffic jam’ has not been invented in Bundanoon.
In April each year (we were too early) they have a Brigadoon festival, which is a Highland Festival to celebrate all that is Scottish. 


The railway station . . . 


153 years old and still working – although I did not see any trains or staff.


If you can read the short history of the town (more like a village) you will see that the area was explored in 1818.


A touch of yesterday – but it was closed when we visited.


As we drove out of town, I stopped to take the above picture – we were the only car around.
It was a beautiful day, and it was very quiet, and all I could hear were the birds. 

Next stop Berrima, for The Surveyor General Inn


The oldest continuously licensed inn in Australia.


 I ordered our drinks from this bar


Many of the local shops were aimed at the tourist, but they were different enough to make a visit enjoyable, and from the shop next door to the above, we bought Daffy.


We like to buy the odd souvenir during our travels so this time it was Daffy, and the boots will not allow him to sneak up on us . . .  

Do not try and do it all . . .


There were a few hectic weeks between the current manager planning his move to Sydney and me taking over his role.
When I was at sea, we were taught to delegate, so I advertised for an operations manager, while I tried to understand the full aspect of managing the office and the staff.

I hired an ex-air cargo man from a freight agent who I thought would have the wherewithal to grasp what we did for a living and to organise the warehouse operation and the delivery / pick-up drivers.

It did not work out all that well and after a few weeks he left to return to ‘normal’ air freight rather than fast pick up and shipping to be delivered overnight to London or Los Angeles.

His replacement was not much better and in both cases I had Helen show both new ‘boys’ the ropes and how things worked.

Life was hectic, so I shut my office door and thought of where I had gone wrong in training the two failed operational managers.
Then it dawned on me, so I went out to speak to Helen and told her that from this minute on she was the Operations Manager for Victoria .


She tried to change my mind because in her mind she was a secretary, but she was far more than a secretary, she already ran the operation and had tried her best to train the two failed operation’s managers. It was not her fault that they had failed, it was my fault for hiring them.

Eventually she came round to my way of thinking and she moved her desk to overlook the warehouse. The warehouse staff were mixed in their reaction to Helen’s new position, but they all knew that she knew the operation backwards, and she would not put up with any skiving or shirking.

Now I had a female operations manager and a female sales manager (who had joined Skypak before I arrived).
Now I could start learning about budgets, sales targets, and writing reports to head office. 

Since joining the company I had been concerned that there was something missing to gender pride, by the staff, in the company and how they saw themselves as Skypak employees. 

I then realised that they did not have a uniform – nobody in the company had a uniform.

In addition, although we had our vans painted in company colours, they did not have the company logo on the roof of the delivery vans – nor did any other courier company at that time have a roof logo.

First thing first, we had the logo painted on the roof because the people who made the decision to use a particular company would never see the logo on the side of the van from the 40th floor, but they would see the log on the roof of our vans. 

That was fixed quickly.

Uniforms – my problem was that I did not have a budget to uniform the staff, because none of the staff in Sydney had a uniform.

I wanted yellow shirts and blue badges and flashes.



so that the staff had a feeling of pride.


  Yellow shirts and blue trousers or shorts in summer.

Three shirts, trousers and shorts and how to hide the cost because I did not have a budget. The roof painting of the van was easy because I put the cost down to ‘repairs’ & touch ups for our new owner IPEC, see the rear door of the van below.


So, I spread the uniform cost over several weeks of ‘stationery’. I got away with it for some time even though Max, the head office accountant, wanted to know why we were using so much stationery. . . .

After some weeks of wearing the uniform there was an incident with one staff member (male) who arrived in work not wearing his yellow shirt. I asked him why he was not in uniform – he told me that his mother had failed to provide him with a clean shirt – she had not washed his previous day’s shirt. 

The staff member was in his early twenties, so the fact that he was incapable of washing his own clothes was unacceptable.
On pay day I had his weekly wage sent to his mother, so when he signed for his wages, he was surprised not to receive any.
When he asked where his money was . . . I told him to ask his mother.
From that day on he was always in a clean uniform shirt, as was everyone else who had witnessed our chat.

We had a small turnover of warehouse staff, but when we had a vacancy I would advertise and let the local government labour office know.
The first person to apply arrived in a singlet vest, shorts, flip flops, and he was unshaven. He had not made any effort dress accordingly for an interview, even if it was in a warehouse. 
We had a short chat and I told him that he was unsuitable, and I thanked him for his time. He then produced a government card that was his record of applying for a job so that he could keep drawing unemployment pay.

I refused to sign, because I considered that he had not made any effort to even try to fill the vacancy. He became quite upset and abusive. 
As I ordered him off the premises, I noticed his girlfriend sitting at the bottom of the office stairs. 


She was dressed in a mix of westerner clothes, a Bolivian native style shawl and a Bolivian lady’s style hat, but I could see that she was not Bolivian.

The next interviewee was dressed as if he wanted the job and he looked intelligent and I thought he would fit the required roll. 

We had a pleasant chat during which time I told him the area in which he would do pick-ups and delivery.
Once he knew of the area, he told me that because he was against tobacco, he would not be able to pick-up or deliver to/from Phillip Morse who had a cigarette factory in the area designated for the new driver.


This was the end of the interview because he had ruled himself out of the running. I was not going to hire anyone who had a problem with his job description. Also, Philip Morris was a major customer of Skypak.

I was then accused of discrimination and that he was going to report me to the authorities (which authorities??).

I reminded him that he had a problem with tobacco, and I required someone who did not have a problem with tobacco, which is why I was not offering him a job, but I did sign his record card for unemployment pay.  

He left, and I never did hear from the ‘authorities’.

I did find the right person for the job, and I did not have any problem with the pick-up & deliveries in that area. This driver stayed with the company for years.

The pleasurable part of the promotion was being invited to Sydney to be ‘appointed’ as the State Manager, but also to receive my own car.


The General manager gave me his car, which was a Ford Fairmont and all I had to do was drive it the thousand kilometers back to Melbourne, a job I was happy to accept.
Only six months or so earlier I was on top of the world to have the operational vehicle for my own use, now I had a Fairmont!

The New South Wales registration plates on the Fairmont spelt out ‘SKYPAK’ instead of the normal letters & numbers.
The car was now based in Victoria so I had to get it registered locally, (Victoria) but my personality would not allow me to keep the SKYPAK plates, so I just ordered the standard plates, BCN364 I think was the number issued.

Flamboyancy was not for me; I left that aspect of the job to the sales staff.


Time flies


Time just flew as I became involved with Skypak and the operation.

I was pleased to note that I could call on at least fifteen different languages amongst the staff, so if I had a problem with any shipment overseas, I could take advantage of our time zone and speak to a customer, airline or customs officer during their working hours.

The newspaper reading supervisor thought I was being unreasonable by asking him to supervise the processes that were happening in the warehouse.

He left soon after.

I was fortunate in having Helen, the Tongan lady, to help me understand various aspects of the operation. She was a fund of knowledge.

It was time to study the international cargo rates that Skypak was paying the airlines.


All the airlines were members of IATA (International Air Transport Association) and even when I worked for an airline,I found it odd that they supported an operation that was illegal in most countries i.e price fixing.
In 1980 there were 100 members from 85 nations in IATA.

All airlines charged the same rates on the same routes for passenger tickets and cargo rates. If they did offer a different rate and they were reported then they would be fined, so there was a lot of pressure on the airlines not to step out of line.
If you knew your product you could construct a rate that was ‘legal’ but cheaper than the rate for point to point. There was a system called intermediate point rule, which allowed a cheaper airfare to a further destination to be used for the route that you required.
For cargo the description of the goods might be ‘tweaked’ to generate a cheaper kilo rate between two points. For example, newspapers and periodicals are entitled to a 50% discount off the full cargo rate, but if the goods were classed as paper or stationery there might be a special commodity code number that allows for a cheaper rate again.
I had ten years’ experience of tweaking cargo rates to obtain the cheapest rate for the customer, so now I was the airline’s customer, and I knew to what length the airline would go to make a sale.

I loved my job at Skypak.


I requested a meeting with Qantas Cargo, and their sales representative arrived for the meeting. I asked for their best rate to London. The rep did not know my background, I was just the new boy on the block for Skypak.

Cargo at that time was offered as follows – a minimum rate, followed by a high rate per kilo for traffic up to 45 kilos and then a lower rate per kilo over 45 kilos to 100 kilos and then a reduction from 100 to 250 kilos and so on.

Once you knew the rates you could work out break points, for example if the under 45 kilo rate is $5 / kilo and the kilo rate over 45 kilos is $3 a kilo I would multiply the 45 x $3 to get $135, and divide this by the under 45 kilo rate i.e $5 , to obtain the break point, which is 27 kilos.
So, if I had a bag of documents over 27 kilos it was cheaper for me to call the shipment 45 kilos on the paperwork than the actual weight.   


In this picture you can see a standard courier bag, which when packed with documents could weigh over 25 kilos. At that time, you would expect a male to be able to lift and handle a 30 kilos bag without assistance. H&S was in its infancy. 

Being aware of the airlines ability to ‘bend’ the rules I asked for a simple kilo rate that was a lot lower than the historic high rates that Skypak had been paying. 
It was as if I had insulted his family, because he was so indignant that I had even suggested such action. IATA would not allow such rates!
Qantas would be fined!

He then told me, in a roundabout way, that I should support Qantas, because Qantas was the national airline. I then pointed out that it was Skypak International that paid me, and my job was to make a profit, not support the national carrier’s high airfreight rates.
He didn’t even stop for a cup of tea.

The next rep I invited in was from British Airways.


I knew that they carried cargo from Manchester to London by road, for major British & American air freight companies free of charge.
The amount of money that these major airfreight companies spent with various airlines dictated the level of overall service. 

The rep was not the BA cargo manager that I had contacted looking for job ideas, but a regular cargo rep. He knew that most of our shipments were being carried by Qantas so there was a big incentive to ‘do a deal’.

We did do a deal and came to an agreement that the paperwork would show the correct IATA rates, and an incentive fee would be paid once a month depending on volumes of kilos shipped.

Suddenly Qantas lost the Skypak International traffic to London, but they did keep the Los Angeles traffic – I did not wish to burn all my boats.

At the end of the first month the British Airways rep came in with a small package for me.
While he was drinking his tea, I opened the package just a little – it was the ‘incentive’ payment. I returned the package to him.

‘What’s the problem’ he asked.

‘It is cash’, I replied.

‘Isn’t that what you wanted?’

‘I wanted the incentive fee as a cheque made out to Skypak International’ I told him.
I knew how the game was played and accepting cash would leave me wide open to accusations of corruption.
Accepting a cheque I was a servant of the company and unable to take advantage of the incentive fee.  
Every month I would send a cheque to Max, the company accountant in Sydney, with a note that the enclosed amount was part of Melbourne’s sales revenue.



A few weeks after I started, I was invited to a lunchtime businessmen’s function by the Skypak manager to celebrate Australia winning the Bledisloe Cup.
My problem was that I did not have any idea what the Bledisloe Cup was, or even that it was linked to a rugby match.

My Manager was a Kiwi and was a bit down in the dumps as New Zealand had lost, but he thought it would be good for me to attend and meet people who were also our clients.
The lunch was very nice and the people I met were hospitable and pleasant, but I wonder what they thought of me being at such a function and did not have clue as to what was being celebrated other than Australia had won at rugby.
It was huge learning curve for me.

During my settling in period Skypak was sold to an Australian company called IPEC (Interstate Parcel Express Company).IPEC

IPEC had been in business since 1955, and had expanded internationally into Europe and Asia.
IPEC’s purchase of Skypak was followed by extraordinary growth for Skypak and we became the second largest international courier company in the world. 

Six months after joining Skypak the Melbourne manager was promoted to manage the Sydney office and I was promoted to the position of Melbourne’s Skypak manager.

Writing this blog, I thought of the Australian migration officer in Manchester who had told me that I was unemployable.

It would have been nice if he had said something like –

DSC05066 Do not look back, you are not going that way . . .

I took the photo on one of our earlier cruises.

Skypak International


I think that the background of Skypak makes quite an interesting story.

The seeds of the Company started in Japan, by two Australians.

One had arrived in Japan as a member of the Australian occupying forces after the defeat of Japan and had remained after the formal end of the occupation in 1952.

His command of the Japanese language was so good that he found work in the Japanese film industry playing the part of the ‘idiot’ westerner. Later he would be asked to read the news on television – in Japanese.

I understand that he met his future business partner at a function. His future business partner worked for the Australian Trade organisation in Tokyo.

In 1957 a Japanese company called Overseas Courier Services or OCS for short, was founded to offer speedy document delivery worldwide for Japanese businesses.

As part of this courier service OCS also offered newspaper subscriptions to Japanese businessmen living abroad, and one of their major destinations was Sydney in Australia.

Our ‘film star’ and Australian Trade official could see an opportunity, so they approached OCS and offered to be their agent in Sydney, because at that time the Japanese companies were expanding in Australia.

Their proposal was accepted, and they organised document deliveries in Sydney as well as Japanese newspapers.


Although the above picture is in English most of the newspapers were in Japanese.

Business was good and as the partners delivered inbound documents, they were asked to take documents back to Japan. Later they were asked to courier documents to the UK & the USA.

This new business would require a different name to OCS so Skypak International was born as an agent for OCS.

The idea of international newspapers took hold, so they started selling subscriptions to various newspaper such as the London Times & the Financial Times.



Demand for American papers generated the import of the New York Times. 

NYT They needed a name for this new product – and ‘Newsfast’ was born to compliment the ‘Document Courier’ service.

The company could not grow without opening an office in Melbourne, some might say the business capital of Australia, so Skypay International opened a Victorian office to service mainly the banking industry.

It was the banking industry that gave them their next idea. The ANZ Bank (Australia and New Zealand Bank) asked if Skypak could take their New Zealand share holder’s annual reports to New Zealand – and post them -Mailfast was born.

At that time (well before the internet) Australian companies had to issue an annual report of their business and each report would be posted to share holders who were located all over the world.
The postage cost was extremely high via Australia Post . . . .so Skypak Mailfast offered to ship the mail for the UK shareholders to London and post them all at local rates – they offered the ANZ Bank a package deal of airfreight and posting, which turned out to be below the price of Australia Post – sold, said the ANZ! 

There was a consideration that this might be illegal in Australia as the postal service was a Government controlled service.

It was illegal for anyone other than the post office to handle personal mail, but it was not illegal for business mail to be handled by anyone.
Mailfast had arrived and even managed to upset the UPU (Universal Postal Union) which is a UN organisation that coordinates postal policy across the world.

They could not fault the service because it was not illegal to airfreight business mail and to allow the destination post office to distribute the mail locally – all post offices currently offer this service and Skypak Mailfast was doing exactly that, by beating Australia Post rates for large volumes of the same type of mail – annual reports. 

This was the company that I had joined as their operations manager for Victoria.


I spent my first day at work in Australia working alongside the warehousemen who processed the courier traffic.
I made sure that I went out to the airport, which was about 20-to-30 minute drive to see exactly how the system worked i.e lodging out going courier traffic and collecting inbound documents.

Later in the afternoon I was with one of the drivers to do pick-ups in the city centre. Just to clarify the pick-ups were courier documents not a lady of the night.

As the day ended for me, which was around 6.00 pm, the manager gave me the keys to one of the operational vehicles and said that I could take it home for the weekend, and that it had become my ‘company car’ when the office was closed, but it was to be available for anyone to drive during business hours. 


I was over the moon, someone else was going to pay for the fuel, and Maureen could drive the second-hand car that I had bought for the family!
The two children in the picture are our son & daughter, my daughter is now 47 and my son 45, at least I would not have to say to them ‘if only’. The picture shows my ‘new’ (for me) company car.

With keys in my hand, it suddenly dawned on me that I did not know how to get home, and it was now dark and it was raining heavily. I had arrived by tram and train . . . 

I figured that as I had navigated around the world surely, I could find my way home without a map.
Sat-nav for cars had not been invented at that time and a street map was of little help in the dark while driving, so I headed for Port Philip Bay, because I reasoned that as soon as I got my feet wet, I would turn left and just follow the coast road until I recognised an area that I knew, such as the railways station.


The trip along the coast was about 40 km (25 miles) and in the rain it took me nearly two hours.

After the excitement of the day, driving an unfamiliar car in heavy rain and in darkness, and not being sure of where I was going or even where I was during the drive, it was great relief to reach home, eat a hot meal and fall exhausted into a comfortable bed. 

Welcome to Skypak and Australia.

I’ve been everywhere man