“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





14 September 2016


The Duke of Edinburgh hauls the Cockle Train into the South Australian River Port of Goolwa, where the Murray River hits the Great Southern Ocean at the foot of the Fleurieu Peninsula. This line, which connects the freshwater paddlewheeler steamboat Goolwa port to the ocean  ports of Port Eliott and Victor Harbor, was Australia's first steel railway. 

Although he died before it was commenced, and never visited Australia, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great British engineer (above), assisted Edward John Peake, South Australia's first Director of Railways design the line, which was completed in 1887.  It pushed through sandhills on beautiful Ngarrindjeri country. Peake died in 1886. That's part of the current line below, with Granite Island, The Bluff and Victor Harbor in the distance.

Peake was a tireless visionary. He founded South Australia's militia, which became its police force. He was the first productive vigneron and winemaker in Clarendon, McLaren Vale, across the Onkaparinga River from today's Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard, photographed below by Maynard James Keenan ... All other colour images by Philip White

Among many other admirable pursuits, Peake was an enthusiastic amateur Gothic revivalist architect who drew the initial plans for St Francis Xavier's cathedral in Victoria Square, Adelaide. Scroll to the bottom of your screen to see the painting, The Buck Show, which his great-grandson, John Peake, made in honour of his protégé, the famous Australian bush painter Pro Hart. The painting on the wall in that image, showing the pit head at Broken Hill Mine, was an early Pro Hart work.

The Duke of Edinburgh is just one of the remarkable collection of historic engines run by SteamRanger, between the Adelaide Hills town of Mount Barker and Victor Harbor.

Goolwa is the only place remaining in Australia where one can alight from a steam train, walk across the tracks to the wharf and board a river steamboat.

Oh yes. There happens to be a small brewery, stillhouse and bar between the two, and the splendid Signal Point art gallery, café and wine-tasting complex is two hundred metres up the tracks. See reports of Signal Point exhibitions here and here.

Issued to traffic on September 7 1936, this grand 69' 8" 140 tonne engine has 5' 6" driving wheels. It was retired in 1969 after running 672,814 miles, mainly in the big state's north. Kind donors have paid for its complete restoration and ongoing maintenance.

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