Wow…who remembers Steam Locomotives or has even seen one running ? Gee I remember them from growing up in Brisbane, Australia in the 60’s. We used to catch the train from Darra to Brisbane Central which was about a 40 minute journey after stopping at a bunch of railway stations. Steam Locomotives were phased out in the mid to late 60’s in Brisbane and replaced by shiny Diesel Locomotives. So we said goodbye to the Choo Choo Train forever !
Fast forward to a few years ago and our next door neighbor & good friend suggested to us that we should all get together and fly to Melbourne to take a trip on something called The Blues Train. Our friend explained it was a steam train that ran on a track maintained by heritage enthusiasts and pretty decent blues musicians entertained the train passengers for the duration of the journey. My wife and I loved the sound of The Blues Train and we love a good time so we said let’s do it.
Now Melbourne, Victoria is 1100 miles from Brisbane, Queensland so we needed to catch a plane. The Blues Train experience is at Queenscliff….a cute little coastal town about 60 miles out of Melbourne so we had to rent a car. Another 2 married couples from Melbourne were joining us for this adventure. Our group of 8 all stayed at the same hotel when we arrived in Queenscliff and hit the Queenscliff Railway Station about 6.30pm to have dinner ( included in the price ). We boarded the train an hour later.
There were about 200 other crazy adventurers like us and our group was assigned the same random order sequence to change carriages. Each station we stopped at we changed carriages so we could see a different blues act in the order assigned to us. There were 4 carriages for the guests and another carriage which was the bar. We could use the bathrooms on the stations at each stop and stock up on more booze from the bar carriage. The Blues Train was packed out !
We all had a few cold beers and whatever while enjoying pretty good blues based music laid on by a variety of talented artists. Everything went very smoothly and we arrived back at Queenscliff railway station about 11pm. Everybody had a fabulous time ! Our group loved it so much we decided to do it all over again the next year but this time we ramped it up quite a bit. For a start another 5 couples ( some of our local QLD friends plus friends of friends from all over Australia…even Western Australia ).
Our friend next door thought it would be great if all wore matching black T-Shirts, black Fedoras and The Blues Brothers style sunglasses. We came up with the name Booze and Blues 2006 for the front of T-Shirt logo and on the back listed the names of the 9 couples doing the trip. The plan was for most of us to meet in Melbourne where we would board a large Mercedes Bus to transport us to Queenscliff.
One of our group was celebrating her 50th birthday so we decked the bus out appropriately. After stocking up on plenty of booze ( I bought a bottle of Jack Daniels ) at a Dan Murphy’s Liquor store we were on our way. It was a fun drive too. We arrived in Queenscliff late in the afternoon ( behind schedule ) and met up with the rest of our group ( who weren’t on the bus) at the very old & historic Vue Grand Hotel where we were all spending the night. First up after checking quickly into our rooms we had a group lunch in a huge dining room. Just enough time for a quick group photo on the tall hotel staircase and it was time to walk down to the Queenscliff Railway Station. It wasn’t very far and we arrived at the train station around 6.30pm.
There were hundreds of people milling about on the platform as organizers started dishing out dinner and people were buying beers & wines from the booze carriage. Again our large group of 18 was given the same random order sequence to change carriages at each stop along the way. It was time to board around 8pm and our group all jumped inside one of the carriages. Live music starting playing virtually as The Blues Train shunted slowly out of Queenscliff Station.
Wow this is gonna be great I thought ! I might add a few of us were already pretty tanked when we boarded the train. We all hung out together as most of us knew each other and of course we all looked so cool in our matching black T-Shirts, black Fedoras and Blues Brothers sunnies. The train traveled no more than 30 mph for the whole trip and the scenery was fantastic when we chose to look. Lots of music and lots of drinking of alcohol certainly made for lots of fun times. The musical highlight was the talented guitarist / vocalist Jimi Hocking on the return journey back to Queenscliff. Everybody had a fabulous time and I even bought a cd of the various artists on the train that night. After exiting our carriage we all tramped up the hill to our hotel. What a great adventure !