THE best-laid plans of mice and mums often go awry.
Well, I've taken some creative licence there, but you will get my drift.
I booked three one-way tickets for myself and my daughters on Friday night's XPT from Albury to Sydney.
It only cost $1 each for the kids to take the train.
Just when you thought you couldn't get anything for a $1 any more, if you're aged 4 to 15 (and travelling with your grown-up), you can actually take the train from Albury to Central Station. (The NSW TrainLink $1 Child Fare can be booked for up to four kids living under the same roof when travelling with one or more adults who pay a full fare. It's good to know. I didn't.)
The only downside is that the night XPT leaves Albury at 11.05pm.
The only downside is that the night XPT leaves Albury at 11.05pm. I had figured it was Friday night, the start of the NSW school holidays and an experience for the kids to boot! An eight-hour train ride would be tolerable if we all slept through it!!
I had figured it was Friday night, the start of the NSW school holidays and an experience for the kids to boot!
An eight-hour train ride would be tolerable if we all slept through it!!
We'd take three light polo fleece blankets and travel cushions, and the kids would get eight hours of solid sleep.
Sold, sorted, done.
At 8.10pm Friday, I got an alert on my phone.
NSW TrainLink wishes to advise that due to a mechanical issue, CLK 622 the 19.50 Melbourne to Sydney XPT is significantly delayed and is not expected to depart before 2200hrs. Also there will only be a limited supply for the buffet service. For further updates call 13 22 32. NSW TrainLink apologises for any inconvenience.
As a not very frequent flyer on trains, it hadn't even occurred to me that the XPT might run late.
Let alone, three hours late.
I phoned the number for further updates, waiting only 15 minutes as I got bumped up the line to speak to a human.
I was told they could not estimate when the train would arrive in Albury now but I should show up at 11.05pm anyhow in case they decided to run buses.
I was not thrilled about taking a taxi to the train station and a slow coach to Central, alternatively another taxi home and yet one more back to the station for the significantly delayed train.
Eventually I found a website that gave me the new ETA for the XPT into Albury.
It stated the train was due at 1.05am, before that blew out to 1.30am, then 1.45am and, finally, 2.10am. It was literally getting slower by the second!
My girls went to bed in their clothes and shoes, I set the alarm and booked a taxi.
Arriving at the Albury Railway Station at 1.45am, passengers were strewn everywhere.
Some were asleep in seats, others on the floor. A handful of grown-ups were snoring. All of the kids were wide awake.
NSW TrainLink staff apologised profusely to us for the situation the minute we walked through the door. I felt we'd got off pretty lightly as we weren't camped at the station for the past three hours.
We boarded the XPT at 2.10am, just as the latest update on the NSW TrainLink website promised.
MORE MATERIAL GIRL:
We reclined our seats, pulled up our blankets, drew the curtains and slept soundly until 8am.
Soon after one of the crew came over the loud speaker to explain that we were essentially running on one engine at the back of the train instead of one at each end.
It's not my area of expertise but that didn't sound ideal!
"We had a few 'I think I can' moments but we all leaned forward and we got there together," the crew member quipped.
"Thank you for all being really lovely even though we are now running stupidly late into Sydney. It's embarrassing and you all deserve much better."
If I wasn't travelling down the back in Car C, I would have given that crew member a warm hug.
Increasingly rare today, this frank and honest, owning-it dialogue actually made the whole trip worthwhile.
The $1 children's fares also helped!
Happy travels this Easter, dear readers.
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