The Mary Valley Heritage Railway

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A Major Distraction:

Now, five days since my dear wife Eunie crossed her final bridge, life is grinding on with a bizarre surrealism that I did not think possible. In fact, none of this is thinkable. Some of you out there will know exactly what I am talking about. The rest will find out soon enough.

Fortunately, my friends, really my propper-uppers, recognise my need for distraction and have continued to drag me out for “walks” and provide me with videos in the evening and valiantly attempted to keep me from brooding at the computer or, worse yet, sitting with the thousand yard stare in my eyes. Meanwhile, I’m putting on as brave a face as I can manage for their sakes and mine too, if the truth be known.

Sunday’s major distraction was the Mary Valley Historic Railway, which under happier circumstances I would have enjoyed more. Here is one of the locomotives and its tender on the turntable at the end of the line:

It is quite a contraption. The whole shebang spins around slowly until it is going back the way it came. Then the locomotive hooks up to the what was the back of the train and pulls it back to Gympie.

I’ll intersperse the misery with the fun stuff as I go along just to keep you informed and on your toes. Today, I have the chores of going to the funeral home to sign yet more papers and pay for Eunie’s cremation, going to the dentist for who knows what and having a new will drawn up. Pardon my sarcasm when I say that I have had better days. I have to remind myself that I’ve had much, much worse.

This is probably the most illustrative image of what the The Valley Rattler  is all about – a nostalgic and amusing, if somewhat rocky ride behind a puffing steam engine across some very beautiful Australian countryside:

I didn’t see any kangaroos.

This is the Club Car. The entire railway is operated by volunteers. It is really quite amazing. When you take into account all of the time and skills required to keep it going it’s hard to fathom the dedication required:

All of the money required is raised through the sale of tickets and charitable events.

Tomorrow I will go back to the funeral home to get Eunie’s ashes. In the morning there will be a memorial service at the Anglican Church. Tomorrow afternoon Rich, Jenn and I will bid farewell to Val and thank her for being a rock for us. We will then drive back to Brisbane and stay overnight. On Wednesday, the three of us will fly back to Madang – yet another thing to simultaneously long for and dread.

And here is a view into the heart of the beast:

There is roughly four hours of travel time which consumes about two tonnes of coal.

Here is a shot of the guy who drives the train. On the day we travelled with him he was celebrating his 80th birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Engineer:

The next few days are going to be very hectic and disturbing. Every time that I think I’m dragging myself out of deep denial I find myself thinking that it simply can’t be true. It’s a bad dream. I got four hours of sleep last night – the worst night yet. I can’t stop the chatter in my head. Last year’s New Year’s Resolution was to teach myself to turn off negative, unproductive thinking – stop trying to think myself out of insoluble problems. By mid-year, I was largely successful. Now that’s all blown away like the sparks from The Rattler’s boiler.

It may be a couple of days before I get a chance to post again. I’ll be back. Hopefully, I’ll feel like writing something less sombre. We’ll see.

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17 Responses to “The Mary Valley Heritage Railway”

  1. kristy Says:

    You have some wise friends who are taking good care of you. Glad that you have friends to travel with you as well.
    Take care, sometimes the chatter in the mind has to run its course.
    Still praying for God’s peace to be with you…perhaps allowing some sleep.

  2. MadDog Says:

    Thanks for that, Kristy. I don’t even want to think about what kind of situation that I would be in now if it were not for the support of my friends. I hope the chatter does die down soon so I can sleep, because I’m running on empty.

  3. Carolyn Says:

    GDay Jan,

    Well I hope you are back and soon. I really look forward to your posts, the sombre and the not so sombre. You are helping many including me by helping us grieve for lost loved ones. It is selfish I know but I so hope you keep blogging. Heading to PNG next week and will be thinking of you of course.

    all the best

  4. MadDog Says:

    Carolyn, I wish I had less fear about returning to my home. It’s a minefield of memories that threatens to blow me up at any moment. With my own hands I built the bed that we slept in for nearly thirty years. How do I cope with that? That’s just one example off the top of my mind.

    I don’t find it in the least selfish that others reading my words now might find help through the grieveing process.

    I’ll keep my journal going because I need stable, important things in my life to start filling in the void.

  5. fran Says:

    ..Jan…….i know when my mom passed…the chatter in my brain was incessant…the one thing that has always put me back on the balance …has been the knowledge

    not my order, not my wishes…but the divine order, and that gives great comfort. You are amazing….
    I always feel that people that pass on had completed their work here….still sucks that we cant have them here longer..
    there is a good book…Talking with Heaven..I found it comforting sending heaps of aloha always …fran

  6. MadDog Says:

    Fran, I do appreciate your comment, because my attitude is very similar to yours. I’ve felt no anger at God for taking Eunie so soon and I don’t ask why. I learned this when I looked at my own death for months in 1990 when I was diagnosed with colon cancer. With all the whoop-tee-doo, it turned out to be a gigantic, leaking appendix. What allowed me have peace when I faced my demise was that I began to see it all as a natural order of things. I’m a part of the big mystery that only God comprehends. Being born, living and dying are events along the continuous way. Keeping this in mind is beginning to help be to climb out of the abyss. Sweet aloha to you also, dear.

  7. Bobbi Says:

    Hi Jan — I have enjoyed your journal immensely. Val took me on the Rattler also — a lovely trip. The thing I remembered more than anything was the “people” — on the train, at each stop, old and young — even the children — their willingness to give of themselves volunteering to give us pleasure. Pride in their surroundings and heritage. Smiles. Somehow smiles are contagious. I will cherish the laughter and smiles that I shared with Eunice in Madang, Karkar, here in Texas, and in Hamilton.
    My memories are good! Thanks for sharing Eunie with all.

  8. Susie Messersmith Says:

    You are doing great Jan, one step at a time. I was lucky when Randy passed. Ian, Isaac and I had to leave the appt within a week after his death. So. all of our “stuff” was either in storage or in different surroundings at Brandi’s house. It is going to be hard , but you will muddle thru it and eventually your eyes will brighten. God and all of us love you.

  9. kristy Says:

    Safe Journey!

  10. CarolBeth Says:

    You know I know. A couple of bits of things I know: First, you will only deal with what you CAN deal with. Shock is a good helper that way. Next, allow whatever feelings you have without guilt. They are necessary, and will crop up as you are able to deal with them. You will think you’ve “been there, done that” but it will come around again. This is normal, give yourself grace. Next, the following exercise has helped me with sleep. It deals with the…er…I forget…amygdalia or something like that….lizard brain. I dunno. Simple, but it works, by disassociating your mind from the hampster wheel in there. First, notice 5 things you see. Lamp. Chair. Wall. Arm. Window. Next, 5 things you hear: Frogs. Traffic. Blood rushing through ears. Clicking computer. Dog breathing. Next, 5 things you feel. Pressure of arm on desk. Itch on neck. Pressure of eyelids on eyes. Rough spot on carpet. Lips pressed together. Now 3 things, see, hear, feel. Then one thing, see, hear, feel. It gets hard, especially at 3am when it is dark and all I can see is…3. 1. 4. (alarm clock numbers!) but it does seem to help. I hope it helps you, too. {{{hug}}}

  11. MadDog Says:

    Bobbi, we all did have some good times together. A lot of good people are missing Eunie now and will for a long time. The Rattler trip was a great diversion.

  12. MadDog Says:

    Susie, that must have been horrible. I haven’t touched any of Eunie’s things yet and I don’t know when I will be able to. I’m determined to feel better a year from now. I’m afraid to set any higher goal.

  13. MadDog Says:

    Kristy, I made it back, no thanks to Air Niugini.

  14. Mick Says:

    Hey Jan, sorry but I have only just seen this. I have very fond memories of good times and your and Eunice’s hospitality when I was a frequent visitor to Madang from 2001 to 2005. I think Eunice was one of those rare people who was such that everyone who met her would have gained something positive from the meeting. My thoughts are with you at this time.

  15. MadDog Says:

    CarolBeth, I am going to find out if it works – tonight. You have REALLY BeenThereDoneThat, so I know that YOU know what you are talking about. Thank you, dear CB for thinking of me and sending me a helping hand.

  16. MadDog Says:

    Yes, Mick I remember those times well. Maybe I just never paid attention, but I can’t remember anyone who didn’t like Eunie. You would really have to work at it. Thanks for the good vibes.

  17. CarolBeth Says:

    I hope it helps. It may not work very well right off the bat. The roughness is expected. Endure. Things WILL get better. {{{hug}}}