“Off On A Family Holiday”
Painting by Max Mannix
Family Holiday on the Flying Flea
by Mulga Pete.
I can remember as a young boy, Mum, Dad, Lizzy and me going off to Brisbane to stay with Uncle Bill and Aunty Mavis for our school holiday. They had a house at the beach. We had never seen so much water. Going on holidays was a big deal. Mum would prepare for days, getting excited about the trip and stressing about everything she would forget. Dad didn’t seem to be as affected, he just knew to stay out of Mum’s way while the tornado that was Mum swept through the house.
“We are going to catch the train. The famous Flying Flea to Charleville” Dad would say. “They say that it goes so fast that the only time it’s on the tracks is when it crossed them. She was the fastest timed passenger train in Queensland. The driver would open her up to get ahead of the timetable, so he could have a cuppa tea and biscuits before the next leg.” Dad was very impressed with the “Flying Flea”.
A two hour dusty, dry trip to the train. We knew it was going to take a long time. Dad just hoped the car would make the trip, not like last time. We spent as much time on the side of the road waiting for it to cool down as we did on the road getting to Quilpie. When the steam was going over the bonnet like a mist it was time to pull over and let it cool down. The water would drip from the old radiator. Dad would cover his hand with an old shirt and attack the radiator cap like a gunner about to take the hill. Come in low and reach up with his covered hand. He knew if it was too hot, it would explode like a geyser and boiling water would go everywhere. After 15 minutes to cool down, he would refill the water tank with cool water and we would be back on our way. The water cans took up as much space as the luggage.
We arrived at Quilpie train station around lunch time, I remember it was hot and dusty, not a lot of shade at the station. The train had arrived early and people were getting off, unloading their bags. “keep together” Mum would say. Quilpie station with 30 people was like an invasion. Too many people in one place for Mum’s liking.
The train was full today. Two coaches filled with footy fans excited for the three hour trip to Charleville. Depending on the outcome of the game, and how many drinks they had, the return trip may not have been as exciting. The local Constable at Quilpie was quick to send them home if they mucked up too much.
The tracks head Northeast out of town. I could see some penny’s on the track with two local boys standing back trying to be invisible but determined not to take their eyes off the coins.
We were changing to the western line for Brisbane. Nearly 600miles, but we could get there in one day. Mum had water and snacks for the trip, Mum never left home without snacks. “We’re on holidays!” Mum said excitedly, let the journey begin.