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allrite
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A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Wed Mar 25, 2015 3:00 am

Another Sydney - Canberra trip report, just because I wrote it up on the blog. But also so you can enjoy an alternative to the flight - the train!

A week after my flights to Melbourne and I am back in the air again. Not through choice mind you, but when the boss says "Come with me to a team meeting in Canberra" what am I to do?

There's one flight to Canberra that I'm interested in doing and that's on a Qantas 717, simply because I have only flown that aircraft once and that was before it was refurbished. But no, the cheapest options are the Virgin Australia ATR72 turboprops and so that is what I have to book. Just like last time.

As I have said many times before, the short flight between Sydney and Canberra sure manages to pack a lot in. Sometimes that means beautiful scenery and fireballs in the sky. Other times storms, winds and turbulence.

Checking the weather at booking and things looked okay for Tuesday. A few days later and it is the worst day of the week to fly with 90% chance of rain and storms. The weather gods hate me, that is obvious (expecting a cyclone en route to Japan in a few weeks' time).

I was woken before 5.30 am by Alex who wanted to go to the toilet. At least we all had a snuggle for a while afterwards. As I walked to the bus stop the first hints of the morning light were visible in the East. By the time I reached Padstow train station it was now a fire in the sky, an orange glow in the clouds above. A double rainbow was visible as a few drops of rain spattered on to the asphalt of the station platform.

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At the bus stop
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Padstow Station
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Rainbow
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Another Virgin Australia ATR72 flies through an orange sky


With my special government fare booking I was unable to check in online, so I used a kiosk at the airport to print out my boarding passes, then quickly through security and off to the gate, where I met my boss.

My turboprop, Christies Beach, an ATR72-600, lay waiting on the tarmac. We had to walk across the tarmac to board through the rear stairs. I took my place at 10A and attached my action camera to the wall. Unfortunately, with everything set to flight mode, I was unable to check the alignment and the recorded video was quite poor.

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VH-FVQ - Christies Beach

As before, we were told that Virgin were still seeking permission to allow the use of handheld electronic devices for the entire flight. Pity, because I could have done with some music to calm the nerves. Actually the restriction was only supposed to be enforced once the doors were closed, so I did have a chance to check the action camera alignment, except it was already switched to flight mode and I couldn't be bothered.

Captain Ivana Kazimirova, with her strong Eastern European accent, an unexpected sound, welcomed us aboard and warned us that there would be some "light turbulence" along the way. Okay, I was determined to cope, was confident that I could.

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Inside the cabin


After the safety demonstration, we taxied to the main runway for a take-off towards the South. After a fairly long roll we rotated into the sky, then turned right so that we crossed Botany Bay and the Western extent of the Kurnell Peninsula, the devastation of sand mining so apparent from the air. We continued West of Cronulla and across the Royal National Park and past Wollongong, before making another right hand turn to head inland.

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Some Virgin owned pussy
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The Third Runway and Port Botany
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Across Botany Bay
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Kurnell wetlands and North Cronulla
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Cronulla and the Hacking River
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Wollongong


There had been a few bumps as we rose, but finally the electronic devices light was switched off and the crew started serving the refreshments. One pushed a cart carrying biscuits, juice and water and behind her the other attendant served tea or coffee. I just had a juice and that was my sole breakfast.

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No screw top bottles like Qantas usually serves
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Service


We were above the cloud for a short while, but soon entered more cloud. The seatbelt light was switched on again, things got bumpier and the view outside was almost entirely white cloud. About half way into the journey and as I think we began a slow descent there were some gaps in the cloud, but then we hit more cloud. Suddenly the seatbelt warnings became more strident and we really started bumping around, rising up, then dropping down. This was beyond light turbulence, at least moderate if not bordering on severe according to the definitions of the Australian authorities. Certainly there was some momentary loss of control by the pilots.

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Entering a cloud
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Descending
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Almost there


After what felt like an eternity we passed through the cloud and the ground was visible between the scattered low cloud. Finally we lined up to land and made it on to the ground. It was raining lightly as we walked across the tarmac between the aircraft and the terminal. I was glad to be off the aircraft, but I think I handled the turbulence pretty well, though I was not eager for more.

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Seats inside the cabin
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On the tarmac in Canberra
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allrite
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Wed Mar 25, 2015 3:02 am

We caught the taxi to our meeting, where I kept a close eye on the weather radar. However, it was not until we were at the airport for our return flight that I decided to cancel my return booking. A rain and storm front was passing through from Canberra to Sydney. Though the clouds over Canberra didn't look very thick I thought about the journey. Aircraft were taking the long way into Sydney Airport, looping around to approach from the north. It might be rough, would probably be rough, without much of a view. I could cope, but would it be the trigger that set me fearing flying again?  I'd get home faster, but no, I didn't want to spoil my upcoming holiday again, at least not if I could help it.

I'm just not a thrillseeker. I like quiet and boring. My favourite part of a flight is not the excitement of take-off and landing but the long quiet stretches cruising high over a desert landscape or a carpet of cloud. That's the problem with Canberra flights, they are so short that it can be all pain no gain. In the turboprop we'd probably never get above the clouds, not even five minutes of cruise.

Instead I decided to do something I'd wanted to do for a while - catch the train.

Canberra train station is not grand. Indeed it may be one of the least inspiring stations on the line. None of this ornate brickwork, just a semi-modern building. Few other passengers were there. A young Asian couple, another older couple from the Subcontinent and a man who looked a lot like a homeless bum. The type that usually sits next to me on an Australian train. Great.

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Canberra Station


I walked out to the platform, spotted a few kangaroos nearby a yellow flowered wattle tree. Now that is the capital of Australia for you!

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Wattle and 'roos
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The greys are watching me


Eventually the train from Sydney pulled up and disgorged its passengers, many who waited for the coach to Eden. The waiting room filled up with more passengers now.

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Xplorer
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Xplorer with Canberra Tower to the right


Our train was a three car Xplorer diesel set. The same train that had carried me so many times between Sydney and Canberra as a student. The interior at least looked like it had been refurbished, with seat covers a lot like those often seen on Sydney suburban services, only on more comfortable chairs. Well padded, with a metre of seat pitch, decent width and 28 degrees of recline this was more comfortable than flying!

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The cabin
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Rear view


Just like in the morning, a rainbow glowed in the sky while the land lit up with the passing of the clouds. I put Michael Kamen's soundtrack to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on my phone, just like when I was a student heading off on the first leg of my long journey to back to Rockhampton. Then off we set.

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The abandoned line south to Michelago and Cooma. More kangaroos


What stunning scenery! The golden late afternoon light gave the rolling hills a beautiful glow. This was rural Australia at its best, open stretches of grassland punctuated by isolated tree, mobs of kangaroos, flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, and apparently some alpacas as well. Then bushland of gnarled gum trees. Small Southern Highlands towns with historic buildings and English trees starting to yellow with Autumn.

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Graffitied Hitachi suburban train from Melbourne, at Queanbeyan
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The Imelda Marcos of power sneakers
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Queanbeyan River


We worked our way up along Molonglo Gorge, stony river scenery below, past the plains and hills around Lake George, ridges lined with spinning electricity generating windmills. On the other side, signs protesting windfarms, undoubtedly the product of hypochondriacs or more likely by those surreptitiously sponsored by the fossil fuel lobby.

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Winding around Molonglo Gorge
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The Molonglo River is below
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Pine plantations by the river
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The back of the front
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Bugendore

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Sheep grazing
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Wind farm in the distance
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Dam and windfarm
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Kangaroos
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Cultivated fields
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Goulburn River


The sun was setting as we reached Goulburn, home of so many varieties of diesel locomotives on heritage rollingstock, casting the land in a bright red glow. As darkness fell I relaxed, worked a bit on the computer. I could have read or watched a video on my phone, but I was content just to dream.
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Goulburn Station
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Sunset


Near Wingello the towns and surrounding bushland were permeated by fog, trees silhouetted against the grey, lending an air of mystery to the landscape.

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Bundanoon

I was on the night train once more, chugging past timeless towns with lights glowing from restaurants serving hot soups and station waiting rooms where passengers warmed themselves against the cool and damp outside.

I got off at Campbelltown, for though the Xplorer passed through my regular station it didn't stop there. Then I caught a suburban train to Padstow and was lucky to spot a passing taxi for a ride home.

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Campbelltown Station


So I arrived home much later than on the flight, but unlike last time I didn't feel a sense of failure at not challenging myself in the air. Instead I felt satisfied, fortunate that I had experienced the train ride as I had. With the constant lengthening and quickening of daylight, the ever changing weather, what I saw was unique and beautiful. It may be the slow path to take, but sometimes that's the best way.
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777Jet
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Fri Mar 27, 2015 12:03 am

Great trip report as usual and beautiful pics!

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
Sydney - Canberra

On that route there is only one type that I am interested in flying on:

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
There's one flight to Canberra that I'm interested in doing and that's on a Qantas 717

Yes, the 717!  

I really want to log another 717 flight - and this time get pics of it including the reg # which I missed last time...

All the best mate!
DC10-10/30,MD82/88/90, 717,727,732/3/4/5/7/8/9ER,742/4,752/3,763/ER,772/E/L/3/W,788/9, 306,320,321,332/3,346,359,388
 
CdnCactus
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Sun Mar 29, 2015 12:38 am

I wouldn't call it fail (love the title by the way)...I love me some train rides. Something about watching the world go by outside the window while lumbering towards the destination really appeals to me. I took Amtrak few years ago from Vancouver to Portland, Oregon, just so I can enjoy a long train ride. Took 8 hours instead of an hour by flying (and perhaps 4 to 6 hours if by car, depending on if one wishes to break various motor vehicle laws or not.)

It was telling though that my traveling companions all busied themselves with their laptops and tablets, watching movies and whatnot. I was the only one staring outside the whole time.

Thanks for the report, and hope you're doing better with flying.
 
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:01 am

Hi Allrite, I absolutely loved this trip report. I am writing this right now on my phone, sitting on a Murrays bus from Sydney back down to Canberra, so I had to laugh at reading about someone else doing the same trip! You have definitely inspired me to go by train next time I'm in Sydney. I've never caught the train before as it is slower and more expensive than the bus, but the country side looks lovely and it will be nice to get a change of scenery. Chugging along through tiny remote stations seems so much more alluring than zipping down the Hume Highway at 120km/h, and I now feel a little silly for never considering it before!

It's good to hear that you were able to deal with the turbulence. As you said, you don't seem to have the best luck with that but at least you are still up for your Japan trip. As ever, I very much look forward to reading about it. I love your Japan trip reports more than just about anything else on this website!
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allrite
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:59 am

Quoting CdnCactus (Reply 3):
I wouldn't call it fail (love the title by the way)...I love me some train rides. Something about watching the world go by outside the window while lumbering towards the destination really appeals to me. I took Amtrak few years ago from Vancouver to Portland, Oregon, just so I can enjoy a long train ride. Took 8 hours instead of an hour by flying (and perhaps 4 to 6 hours if by car, depending on if one wishes to break various motor vehicle laws or not.)

Dangerous though it is to admit this here, my first love of travel is on trains. Though I could be indirectly related to the Wright brothers, which whom I share a surname, trains are in my blood. But back when I used to take the Canberra - Sydney train more regularly, as a student, this was often just the first part of an almost 36 hours journey by rail back to Central Queensland and I often wished that the study assistance would fund a flight instead (36 hours was the cut-off).

In order to cut down on the number of countries to visit I have decided to have a rule that says that I have to catch a train at least once in any country I visit. This leads to crazy journeys like this.  
Quoting RyanairGuru (Reply 4):
I've never caught the train before as it is slower and more expensive than the bus, but the country side looks lovely and it will be nice to get a change of scenery. Chugging along through tiny remote stations seems so much more alluring than zipping down the Hume Highway at 120km/h, and I now feel a little silly for never considering it before!

It's certainly less convenient than the plane or coach, but at least you can buy food on board and have time to eat it! Just don't plan on working online the whole trip as there are a number of phone black spots.
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ElanusNotatus
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:28 am

Hi allrite,

Shame that the flight wasn't as pleasant as you might have wished, and worse, you don't get to choose your preferrred 717.

The train journey passes through some beautiful scenery that your photos have captured well.

Thanks for sharing and providing a good read.

EN
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dirktraveller
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:59 pm

Hi Allrite,

Nice to see another report of yours. It was an interesting read and I must say I enjoyed all the pictures, both in-flight and the train ride as well. Lots of scenic views that was well captured by you!     .

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
As before, we were told that Virgin were still seeking permission to allow the use of handheld electronic devices for the entire flight.

Wow I didn't know that Virgin have yet been approved for usage of gate-to-gate handheld entertainment devices. That must have been quite a drawback for their wireless based IFE system. Anyways, I was wondering, did you have any problems taking pictures on a VA flight?

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
with her strong Eastern European accent, an unexpected sound, welcomed us aboard

Nice info.. I didn't know that VA employs foreign pilots.

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
Suddenly the seatbelt warnings became more strident and we really started bumping around, rising up, then dropping down.
Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
I was glad to be off the aircraft, but I think I handled the turbulence pretty well,

Having gone through several flights with quite a rough weather lately (very similar to the experience you described above), I am glad to hear you handled the turbulence well!

Many thanks for this report!

Best Regards,
Dirktraveller
 
luv2fly
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Tue Apr 07, 2015 3:53 pm

I always enjoy reading your adventures! The train looks like a fun time. Keep them coming.
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VapourTrails
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:32 am

Hi allrite

Thanks for writing up this trip report here. It was an enjoyable read. The photos of the train journey are wonderful, those colours! I have done part of this journey, but not at that time of the day. Gotto love those kangaroos!

With regard to the ATR72-600 flight(s) between CBR & SYD, I have now done these as well, and well, I must have been very lucky... because turbulence was very slight, hardly a bump, on my flights!  

I didn't like the no electronic devices until we tell you you can use them arrangement, which was strictly only during cruise they said. For my trip report, or just because I am snap-happy, I took photos on the tarmac and when boarding.

On the last flight I was told to close the device (iPad) up, aka stop using it to take photos, before I even got to the stairs. He was very nice about it, but I find it very restrictive on the ATR72 when you are so used to using devices any other time when liked anywhere else on flights, that I've been on anyway. It is good you got the photos you did.   

I got a few in the cruise as well, enough to acknowledge the short flight.  

I really hope you get another flight on the 717.  Smile

[Edited 2015-04-11 02:38:05]
 
TN486
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Wed Apr 15, 2015 12:26 pm

Thanks mate, loved the photos. Typical Aussie scenes, and those kangas are inquisitive arnt they? Any aviation nut (me included) has to love trains. Next time you are in Melbourne (great Hitachi photo by the way) a must have trip is Puffing Billy thru the Dandenongs. Been there and done that heaps of times, and still go back for more. Question. How long (time wise) was the trip from Canberra to Campbelltown? Thanks again for a great and novel report.
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allrite
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RE: A Whiter Shade Of Fail: SYD-CBR VA ATR72 And Train

Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:07 pm

Been busy travelling in Japan and just got back today - will write up as soon as I can. Had some issues with video.

Quoting ElanusNotatus (Reply 6):
Thanks for sharing and providing a good read.
Quoting luv2fly (Reply 8):
I always enjoy reading your adventures!

Thank you and you're welcome.

Quoting dirktraveller (Reply 7):
Wow I didn't know that Virgin have yet been approved for usage of gate-to-gate handheld entertainment devices. That must have been quite a drawback for their wireless based IFE system.

The general ruling from the authorities quite recently is that small electronic devices (eg mobile phones, iPads, but not laptops) may be used throughout the flight so long as they are in flight mode. Not sure if turboprops are an exception generally.


Quoting dirktraveller (Reply 7):
Anyways, I was wondering, did you have any problems taking pictures on a VA flight?

No problems on the last two trips on the ATR72 with Virgin. Don't tend to fly them much.

Quoting VapourTrails (Reply 9):
With regard to the ATR72-600 flight(s) between CBR & SYD, I have now done these as well, and well, I must have been very lucky... because turbulence was very slight, hardly a bump, on my flights!

Sometimes they can be very smooth. Usually the descent into Canberra is a bit bumpy due to the airflow over the hills, but it's not too bad.

Quoting VapourTrails (Reply 9):
didn't like the no electronic devices until we tell you you can use them arrangement, which was strictly only during cruise they said. For my trip report, or just because I am snap-happy, I took photos on the tarmac and when boarding.

On the last flight I was told to close the device (iPad) up, aka stop using it to take photos, before I even got to the stairs.

I think it's the use of the iPad rather than the camera. I only rarely have issues when using a camera, but they will ask you to turn phones or tablets off, although you can probably get away with it on the jets.

Quoting TN486 (Reply 10):
Next time you are in Melbourne (great Hitachi photo by the way) a must have trip is Puffing Billy thru the Dandenongs. Been there and done that heaps of times, and still go back for more.

I was born in Melbourne and have been on Puffing Billy many times. I remember going on an excursion on it in primary school and we were told to wear swimming goggles to keep the soot out. That must have quite a site!

Quoting TN486 (Reply 10):
Question. How long (time wise) was the trip from Canberra to Campbelltown?

3.5 hours.
I like artificial banana essence!

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