Sunday, 18 February 2018

Lineside Liaisons #19 Dunbible

Abandoned railway bridge on the Murwillumbah railway line at Dunbible.

This photo of Dunbible Creek Railway Bridge on the old Murwillumbah Line is just one of the double page portraits featured in my latest book Last Train to Grafton. The 1894 Murwillumbah railway line on the North Coast of New South Wales remains somewhat of an enigma to railfans Down Under. Closed in May 2004, the line has generated a lot of conjecture over whether it should or shouldn't have been closed. The photos that I had taken over the 10 years that followed the closure of this line inspired the railway bush poetry that is featured within Last Train to Grafton, such as the poem Letters From Stokers Siding which was a former railway station located only a short distance south of the attractive old wrought iron bridge over Dunbible Creek.

See also; Dunbible Creek Railway Bridge and Stokers Siding: A little railway art

Friday, 9 February 2018

Lineside Liaisons #18 The Risk

The Risk, the riskiest train watching location in New South Wales.

Believe it or not, this was once a station. In fact, this was once a small village located off the Summerland Way in the far north of New South Wales known as The Risk. Google Maps still has it marked as a locality. In fact, Google Maps still has the Old Risk Road marked as a road. Another fact; it isn't! It's a muddied two-tyre cow track that crosses an electric cattle grid on its way to a solitary farmhouse. I almost got our sedan bogged while taking this photo, and our party of four stranded more than 6 km from the nearest town of Wiangaree, and we won't mention the wheel alignment our car needed after crossing the old timber bridge that was missing a plank after recent flooding. Ah, the places writers find themselves stuck in search of inspiration. It turned out the drive was all the inspiration I needed for the Australian bush poem The Old Risk Road that accompanies the above photo in my book Last Train to Grafton. I do hope you at least enjoy the photo. Its gone down as the most expensive photo I have ever taken!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Lineside Liaisons #17 Glenapp

Paradise in Border Country. Glenapp, Queensland.

Tucked away in the hills of Queensland's and New South Wales's Border Country, is the tiny signal hut located at Glenapp. Just off the Lions Tourist Road that cuts from Rathdowney on the Queensland side of the border, over the hills and past the Cougal Spiral to the New South Wales town of Wiangaree on the Summerland Way, stands this little signal hut that dates back to 1930. The year of course was when the South Brisbane Interstate Line opened north of Kyogle. Today, the line is simply known as the North Coast Line, and is the only railway line in use between Sydney and Brisbane. When word got around that the decommissioned hut was to be bulldozed, brothers Dennis and Rob Sibson sought permission to restore this little beauty to the attractive state that can be seen above. The Boys From Glenapp is not only one of the poems featured in my latest offering Last Train to Grafton, but the Glenapp Boys also have their own following on Facebook,

Monday, 29 January 2018

Is blogging still relevant?

Spare a quick moment to think about every word that has ever been written on the internet. The internet has been going for how long now? Just twenty-six years. It's really not that long in the grand history of human civilisation. Yet ever since Tim Berners-Lee created the world's first shared hypertext database on the 6th August 1991, people have been adding and sharing words and links on the World Wide Web ever since. So for a writer who is responsible for two blogs on the internet, where do all the words and pictures go once the hits subside and people stop reading your blog post from 2011?

The answer is; they don't really go anywhere. Articles no longer accessed on a frequent level are simply compressed to take up less room on the giant servers that host them. Blogger users especially, are at the mercy of Google, whose giant search engines compress and then re-compress old files in much the same way as Aunty May shoves all the stuff she doesn't need to the back of her closet. Google keeps itself relevant to internet users by showing the most recent results for news, sports and weather. Google the weather and you'll get today's top temperature and tomorrow's expected forecast, not a random Thursday report from 2008. Its a prime example of why the blog post you wrote about the Sydney Olympics back in 2000 isn't receiving all that many hits this week.

Recently however, Google changed their search algorithms for the second time in 12 months. And like me, you may have experienced a noticeable drop-off in the number of visitors to your blog or website. In many instances, the top search results now being returned feature paid advertisements. There's nothing much the average blogger can do about this. After all, Google does provide us with a free platform to blog about our interests. However, after limiting the number of keywords that Bloggers can use to make their posts searchable, it seems less and less blogs are turning up on the first page of Google's search results, no matter how recently they were written. It's led me to ask the question is blogging still relevant?

I really don't have the answer to that question yet. From my perspective, since June 2017 I've watched the number of visitors to my model train blog at crash from a regular 500 to 600 visitors per day, to just 30 to 50 visitors a day. This blog has fared even worse, falling from 50 to 80 visitors per day to sometimes just 15.

"As a writer, those are alarming figures when you consider that is a huge drop in the number of potential customers that are able to view my books."

To be perfectly honest, we all should have seen this coming. Nothing on the internet is permanent, not even Tim Brenners-Lee's original alt.hypertextnewsgroup that was the world's very first version of the internet. Type it in and you'll only find an Internal Server 500 Error page. If that's what the wide wide world of web thought of such a historical document, then this post will not fare any better in about a month's time.

"Blogging, just like the internet, is fluid media, meaning its like trying to hold water in your hands."

Fast forward to 2018, and we have Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, GooglePlus, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and a host of other media platforms that have all jumped miles ahead of blogging. Blogging means reading, and reading takes time. More and more, consumers just want to get the general gist of what's going on in the world or with their friends, and to get that you just download an app. What you blog about today is soon forgotten, and what you've blogged about in the past is becoming increasingly harder to find.

"Blogging in the future will attract less views than in the past, simply because as a media sharing platform it continues to be diluted by so many other apps."

Looking forward, perhaps a blog's audience in the future will be better measured by having a more loyal and close-knit following compared to a simple spike in viewer numbers after each new posting. So what does that mean for lone bloggers such as I? Well, it is possible to better prepare your blog to still remain relevant to search engines such as I outlined in my Big Blog Refresh post over on Philden Model Railway, but to be honest...

"I baulked at paying for an expert SEO report that guaranteed a top 10 search engine result because... well, at the end of the day it's just a blog."

At the end of the day, no matter how obscure the content of your blog is, there is bound to be someone looking for that particular information. Keeping you blog current by removing any outdated, or no longer relevant information makes it easier for readers to circumnavigate your page. Dead-links and missing pictures or graphics spoil a visitors experience and will do nothing to entice them back. If you have a presence of Facebook or Twitter, share the links or badges on your blog. The worst it will do is attract more viewers to your Facebook page.

Most of all, consider what it is you are trying to achieve with your blog. Is it your blog that is no longer relevant? Or is it your message? I've come across plenty of blog sites for model railway shows, clubs or even other authors where the information on their blog is years out-of-date and the emails only bounce back from the server as undelivered. It would've been better if their blog site was simply deleted instead of wasting my time. In that sense, it seems the only way to keep blogging relevant, is for bloggers to keep their blogs relevant. Otherwise our blogs will all be compressed and compressed again, to the point where one day there'll be no proof that it even existed on the internet.

See also; The big blog refresh

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Last Train to Grafton

It's hard to believe that this is the 15th book I have released. I've always thought of myself as a writer who was taking a break from finishing his next novel to dabble in writing some railway articles and indulging in some model railroading. That was four years ago however, and Last Train to Grafton now becomes the 7th railway book I have released since 2013.

The second instalment in my Last Train series follows on from Last Train to Brisbane, only this time heading across the Brisbane Border Ranges and into the hills of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. Once more there are 56 full colour pages of hauntingly beautiful photographs and accompanying poems, thick with nostalgia for both train buffs and those who just like to reflect on the good ol' days. The 8 x 10" premium colour book is again available in either hardback or softcover.

As for the cover? That's the original 1930 Glenapp signal hut that stands approximately 100 km south of Brisbane on the Sydney to Brisbane Interstate Line. The fact that the signal hut is still standing is a testament to the hard work of two terrific blokes that I'm honoured to have met. Rob and Dennis Sibson, more affectionately know as The Glenapp Boys, grew up alongside the railway line when their father Reg was stationed there between 1948 and 1960. Now retired on the Gold Coast, the brothers can be found camping alongside the signal hut on weekends, and tending to the former station's surrounds with ride-on-mowers and brush-cutters. To have sat in the sunshine with them on a Saturday morning while listening to their stories over a cuppa tea was a reminder that the Australia we once knew is still alive and well. Only these days you have to venture a little further off the beaten track to find it.

Some of the places featured in this book will be familiar to those who remember travelling aboard trains such as the Gold Coast Motorail along the now abandoned Murwillumbah Line, others like the mountain line to Dorrigo a little less-so. Or what about a little dot on the map situated north of Kyogle that is simply called The Risk? Thanks to Google Maps, the satellite imagery showed me that something was still standing alongside the mainline. Thanks also to Google Maps, I almost became bogged on what was supposed to be Risk Road. Talk about a road that lived up to its name! Heavy rain had reduced it to nothing more than a two-tyre cow track with deep ruts, flanked on either side by slippery wet grass with nowhere to turn around. It was hardly what my seventy-year-old parents had in mind when I asked them along for a nice drive through the country! Continuing over a single car lane wide timber planked bridge that also happened to be missing a plank, and through a corrugated iron road tunnel beneath the Sydney-Brisbane railway line, I soon found what I came to see. The 1930 steel water tower that is still standing where The Risk Station once belonged, became one of my favourite photos featured in this book. I'm glad that the photo will live on in this collection, because there's no-way I will ever risk driving there again!

From ghostly railway relics, to lively railway stations that have since found a second purpose, Last Train to Grafton is a book I have been planning for the past decade. Taking a poetic romp across the Brisbane Border Ranges, through the hills of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales and onto the mountain town of Dorrigo, all in search of what remains of the towns and places where you could once board a train to Grafton.

After spending the past 6 months writing and producing this book, I am now left with only 6 weeks to research and gather all the information I can before flying to the other side of the country to write the next instalment in the Last Train series. Last Train to Bunbury will see me set off with my wife of 25 years Denise to explore the towns and places in the far south west corner of Western Australia where it was once possible to board a train to Bunbury. We'll be taking The Australind train from Perth to Bunbury before collecting a rental car to explore the far flung back roads and forgotten railway lines of this amazing part of the world. And just in case we encounter any roads similar to Risk Road, you can bet I've taken out extra insurance!


Available now through my Books page

See also; Last Train to Brisbane