Thursday, November 22, 2012

Talee Railway Station

For me there is a kind of silence that reigns in places that were once full of sound, activity and human presence. Talee railway station is a place that evokes a silence that is profound.

I find a way down to the old station yard soon after entering the town and crossing the level crossing. I imagine it's been some time since the bells and lights announced the arrival of a train collecting grain or even the kind of hybrid utility that inspects the rails with special wheels fore and aft to grip the track. The weeds suggest a forgotten line.

There is a brick built station, several lines that weave through the grass like tired serpents sleeping in the sun and an old covered goods shed. There are distant sounds, cars in the distance, grain trucks sounding their air brakes and a child crying some way off. Here is an oasis of abandonment, a frozen moment as I explore first the old shed with the sound of welcome swallows crying to each other, the coo of feral pigeons and the harsh cry of a passing galah.

Once this was the main line carrying freight and passengers across the continent or during the second war troops up the line to Terowie where they would snatch a meal before boarding the narrow gauge train to the north. This is a well built station with loops to allow trains to pass each other. Once there were tall steam express trains with streamlined bodies pausing here to take water or cross the local passenger rail car from Clare or trucks full of grain for the Adelaide wharfs. I explore through an open door the stationmasters office full of rubbish and then the porters office and the ladies waiting room. Who waited here for the train to take her into town to college or for shopping in Gawler? Did the stationmaster live in the large house nearby which is still occupied with a beautiful garden full of flowers? The canopy over the platform has intricate ironwork now misted with rust.

The railway lines rest on old wooden sleepers and all is grass gown lit by late afternoon sun as I contemplate what I might do next. I wonder if I should take some photographs but decide against the idea since this might take away some of the experience.

Over this once busy station, the pride of the town silence hold the place as it sinks into decay, moving from the solidity and permanence of its Victorian founding to waiting on the decisions of others. With grass grown tracks stretching into the distance it also holds a promise. Could a train traverse this line still on the broad gauge and travel north to Burra the extent of the track work? Listening to the singing of the birds at their work I strain to hear long departed sounds of people and activity, of trucks being loaded under the covered roof of the goods shed.