National Geographic : 1986 Jun
removing the old timber sleepers and install ing the new concrete version (one and a half miles, or an average of about 3,000 individ ual sleepers, every five days), I was thirsty for a couple of "stubbies" myself. We have slowed to a creep now, clattering over tracks still untamped and unaligned after the recent surgery. The country has returned to its senses. The right-of-way is lined with crimson wild hops and at last an abundance of trees, mostly blackbutt, gim let, and white gum, with its polished silver flanks and myriad slender branches topped with glittering bunches of leaves. Sandal wood is also harvested around here by a few hardy entrepreneurs. We will reach Parkeston, the railway ter minus outside Kalgoorlie, by noon. The tired crews will book off, glad to see the end of the run with its constant starts and stops. "When I get off a Tea and Sugar run, I'm just shattered," says David Oates, a young guard. "I had to get up at 4 a.m. yesterday morning to shunt. It takes me 24 hours to recover-the whole thing really throws your system out of whack." We can all go home content, though; there was a surprise happy ending to the Zanthus wedding saga. The cautiously pleased padre told me later that the couple calmed down shortly after the train had departed, drove into Kalgoorlie to the registry office, discov ered the fee had risen beyond their means, and so, properly penitent, intercepted him on his return via another train. It is possible that they are, even now, still married.  races over the NullarborPlain. The trainand the desolate land it traverses can evoke grudgingadmiration.Said one resident: "There is some aura of the outback-of the unknown, of the remarkable-thereon the Tea and Sugar."