Dad used to walk me to the train line near Kilkenny station in suburban Adelaide when he felt like a bit of train-spotting. The station was a short walk from my Grandparent’s house, where my Dad spent his boyhood years. I guess these walks were nostalgic for him, but for me, the late afternoon trains rolling in and out of this lonely and neglected station transfixed my imagination.
Then-as now- the station wedges itself in the middle of rundown industrial buildings. Graffiti lines the brick walls, the windows have been smashed out, and the usual debris of squatters and discarded construction materials litter the earth. These remnants of a more prosperous age create an isolated and faintly foreboding atmosphere at the station, despite the major road that cuts through the track just beyond the end of the platform. Positioning ourselves just past the station and away from the city, we would stand alongside the track in the twilight glow. Often Dad would bring my Grandpa’s old video camera to immortalise the moment for posterity. It was one of those 1980s models that had a large microphone attached to the top of it. Cumbersome, inconvenient but cutting-edge technology in those days.
As the trains turned the corner in the far distance, Dad would put his hand on my shoulder and guide my attention toward the faintly approaching light of the first carriage. “That’ll be the 4:44 pm,” he would say. “It’s running a bit late.” As I turned my gaze to the oncoming light, I would find myself stuck in a sort of trance. The approaching noise and light contrasted with the silent calm of our position alongside the track. The impending meeting of the worlds of silence and noise more exciting to me than a feature film.
As the train belted past, I would close my eyes and bask in the rush of air as it blew across my face. Then, just as soon as the last carriage passed, I would turn around and watch it retreat into the distance. The soft glow of its fading light and gentle rattle of carriages whispered their goodbyes for another day.