Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Australia's grain train

The GPS tracker today shows Mark heading north from the town of Esperance on the south coast. The main road (1) heading east does a short 200km dog leg inland to the settlement of Norseman (of which more tomorrow) before becoming the Eyre Highway and resuming its long 'march' east.
The high res imagery along Mark's route today has produced a wonderful snapshot of a little settlement called Grass Patch where it looks as if he has stopped for the night. With fields in all directions, it is not difficult to work out the main function of this quaintly named settlement... Situated right in the midst of Western Australia's wheat belt, Grass Patch's raison d'etre is clearly a railhead where grain is brought in from the agricultural hinterland before being loaded onto rail wagons for onward transport. Wheat in this part of Australia is a winter crop being grown during that time of year when rain is sufficient, if nor abundant and when temperatures are not dissimilar to what we might experience in an average summer here in the UK! The grain fields therefore lie fallow during the summer months, the clay lined water reservoir dries up and the grain silos and railway side storage areas (covered in blue and white tarpaulins) fill up with grain delivered from surrounding farms. Zooming in close on Google Earth produced this wonderful view of the 'action' at the station. A very long 'grain train' is being filled, three wagons at a time, via a conveyor system from the grain storage area. Presumeably, as three wagons are filled, the train moves forward for the next three.

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