Inspiration for The Min-Min

Railway Siding

One unidentified railway siding clearly made a significant impact on Mavis Thorpe Clark who described it as follows:

"The Stuart Highway ... was edged with the washed-green of the paddymelon that creeps along the ground like frilled strands of emerald lace. At one of the railway sidings roughly 100 miles from Port Augusta, the Library Man had some customers, the children...

The siding was composed of six houses and a school. The railway houses were square and had roofs like square Chinese hats, and a verandah across the front. They sat on a hill of stones, looking down from this eminence on the railway line. The six toilets sat further up the hill in grand raised isolation, their backs decorously to the road, their doors, like the front doors of the houses, offering a grandstand view of the line. The wind blows strongly and almost constantly across the flat here, and the toilets were held down with guy ropes attached to strong stakes. Broken things were scattered about: toys, a car or two, smashed bottles strewn plentifully through the stones, the glass glittering.

As the library van eased to a stop, the children came running. There were 14 children in the six houses. One house had eight, one for each of the last eight years...

The children were dirty and unkempt with sore eyes that told a sad story. Most were barefoot, yet they came running over the stones and broken glass."

- Trust the Dream (1999) pages 134-135.

At midnight, Sylvie goes to meet the weekly "Tea and Sugar" from Port Headland; it's a mixed goods train which supplies the families of the railway sidings with their provisions:

"She stepped on to the verandah that ran the width of the house, the fly-wire door squeaking on its hinges behind her. There was no moon yet, and the stars were white and high. The earth was dark, except for a few separated lights down the line. It was a smooth darkness, broken only by the darker shapes of the ten square houses. There were no trees or bushes on the slopes of this shallow basin to add extra shadows. From each house a narrow oblong of light escaped through the fly-wire doors, none of which fitted snugly, due to constant banging."

- The Min-Min (1966) page 3.

See also The Min-Min

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Photograph of railway line disappearing into the distance.

Outback railway line and telegraph poles, 1963.

The old tea and sugar train.

The old "Tea and Sugar" train at a railway siding somewhere in north-west South Australia, 1960s.

Weatherboard houses side-by-side in the desert.

Houses - isolated railway siding, 1963.