A Dash 8, 100 series plane, built in 1987, took us from Mt Isa to Normanton. Although only 380km, a relatively short distance for these parts of outback Queensland, it took us four hours to reach our destination. We landed at three other places before arriving in Normanton as we were on the twice weekly ‘milk run’.
Firstly we landed at Doomadgee, an aboriginal settlement, then Burketown before flying across the north coast and over the Gulf of Carpentaria for a short distance to Mornington Island and its main centre of Gununa. Apart from exchanging a few passengers and some AustPost mailbags, not a lot happened at these stops. As the flight was booked many months ago, our tour company requested window seats for us all. Skytrans obliged so we all had wonderful views of the everchanging patterns and colours below.
We were running 50 minutes behind time so were only allowed off the aircraft in Burketown. Wandering around the outside of the terminal (a small tin shed) we did see some black-faced wood swallows, zebra finches, a couple of brolga who obligingly took off to join some black kites already soaring on the wind currents.
Burketown is an acknowledged centre for burramundi fishing.
Flying in this area of Australia presents some wonderful patterns on the ground. The flight bookings had been made many months ago with window seats being requested for us all. This request was met so everybody had a good view.
We eventually arrived in Normanton where we had a late lunch at the Albion Hotel. Our tour leader generally had the lunch menu so we made our choice from this before he phoned ahead. This gave the limited staff at these places a chance of serving us in a reasonable time. The menu generally had things like pies, sandwiches and wraps to choose from. This pub was built in the late 1880’s in Croydon and relocated to its present location in Normanton during the early 1900’s.
After lunch we boarded our specially chartered Rail Motor (RM 60) for the four mile run to the first turning triangle out of Normanton. This length of track is all part of the Normanton yards, if we had wanted to go any further east, we would have had to get permission from ‘Control’ in Townsville. The driver could loose his job without this approval.
RM 60 is a unique vehicle. It is powered by a 45hp AEC motor and was built in the Ipswich Railway Workshops in 1931.
It’s a rough ride over rough lightly constructed track, but a thoroughly enjoyable experience.