Memories of the railway

A story about a postmaster based in the outback Queensland town of Cheepie caught his attention.

Mr Marxsen had worked for the railways around Western Queensland back in the 1960s.

He was a carpenter at the time, and was responsible for maintaining the railway buildings.

His job was based in Roma, but took him everywhere from Mitchell, to Charleville, to Cheepie and Quilpie.

As Mr Marxsen watched the news report, the memories came flooding back.

He called the ABC to share some of his stories.

“If you go out on those western lines and a willy willy comes up and it hits you, it sort of drives the dirt and sand and everything into you,” he says.

“You can’t dodge them or get out of the way or anything, you just have to stand there and cop it.

“You’d see them in the distance and there’d be a willy willy, and then another one.”

He remembers a sandstorm in Quilpie that, even inside a railway building, he couldn’t escape.

“This storm hit and it was a sandstorm and I made sure the loovers were closed,” he says.

“But the sand used to get up in the glass, it could still get in”.

One of his strongest recollections was of the water, which was made piping hot by the sun.

“The water there was just about a degree off boiling, you couldn’t sell hot water systems out there.

They used to put up tanks to fill up with water to cool it- water cooling systems I suppose- the water was so hot you couldn’t put it in the shower and use it, it would scold you,” he says.

And even now, decades later, the thought of the lizards on the railway line still gives him a chuckle.

“I thought they were really funny… they used the hot (railway) line to warm them,” he says.

“They’d get up on the hot line with their bodies and that’s where they’d stay to keep themselves nice and warm.

“When a vehicle or train comes they’d have to have the brains to get out of the way or in no time at all there’d be no lizards left.

“But these lizards survived a long time so a little thing like that was no worry for them”.

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