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Hello everyone from the wilds of Central Burma!
Train buffs will love this return to a former era,
writes Erin O'Dwyer.
Elegance: Gleaming timber panelling, polished brass fittings and
turn-of-the-century light fittings in the State Car.
I never knew my paternal grandfather but I do know he worked on
the railways. As children, my sisters and I went to almost every
train museum in Australia - dragged along by my train-buff
These days, secretly, I love trains too.
And so it was with some excitement that I accepted a weekend
away at Ruwenzori - named after a remote mountainous area on the
Uganda-Zaire border - a bushland retreat near Mudgee offering
accommodation in converted antique railway carriages.
It was late on Sunday when we finally arrived in the wine
country 31/2 hours north-west of Sydney.
As we navigated the steep access track onto the property, my
companion - a recovering trainspotter - began pointing out the
historic railway signage, double-armed timber signals and piles of
But not until we reached the ridge top did we realise how truly
extraordinary Ruwenzori is.
Three carriages stood stationary. We wandered around
open-mouthed, taking in every detail. Gleaming timber panelling,
polished brass fittings and turn-of-the-century light fittings.
Wire luggage racks, stencilled seat numbers and signs warning
passengers not to spit. And, in the kitchen, a sterling silver
teapot, hand engraved to commemorate a worker's retirement.
Ruwenzori is the labour of love of TV personality and rail
enthusiast Scott McGregor (Room for Improvement, The World Around
Us). McGregor bought the 25-hectare property in 1979 while still a
struggling actor. Looking for cheap weekend accommodation, he took
advantage of the NSW Government's fire sale of rolling stock.
But as his star rose, his passion for Ruwenzori deepened.
In January 1982, the first carriage arrived. Now the Dining Car
- with kitchen, cosy lounge and antique dining table - it was
originally a first-class sitting car built from teak and cedar in
the late 1880s.
In 1984, the TAM Sleeping Car was craned in. The plush 1920s
carriage once featured 20 sleeping births, cedar panelling and
decorative fittings. The luxury remains but the remodelled State
Car now has two bedrooms, a living area and marble bathroom. In
1990, an 1899 Pullman car arrived.
For years, Ruwenzori was McGregor's hideaway. Now, it is open to
paying guests on a single hire basis. It sleeps up to 12 and it is
ideal for two families or a group of friends.
We divided our time between the State Car and Dining Car. We
loved the pressed metal ceilings, original silver pull-out hand
basin and louvred windows with views to the horizon.
For a unique getaway with a historic twist, Ruwenzori is almost
But it desperately needs a good cull and a good clean. In the
kitchen were dirty mugs and the espresso machine's water reservoir
smelled like a stagnant pond. Fortunately, it was warm enough to
enjoy the outdoors. The first night we watched a lightning storm
from the veranda, and on our second, indulged in local wine and
cheese, while soaking up the pink-blue sunset.
In the daytime, we went wine tasting around Mudgee.
The writer was the guest of Ruwenzori Retreat.
Address: Ruwenzori is 32 kilometres (20 minutes) north of
Mudgee, just off the Cassillis Road.
Bookings: Phone 9337 2444.
Rates: Weekends $360 a night, up to four people.
Weeknights $180 a night, up to two people. Breakfast basket $15 a
Unique historical experience with unbeatable views.
Why you'd go: Experience the romance of the
Why you wouldn't: History gathers dust.
FIND TIME TO
* Try Ruwenzori's walking tracks.
* Go wine-tasting or sample local produce on the growing
fine-dining scene (see http://www.mudgeewine.com and http://www.mudgee.org).
* Visit historic 1884 Mudgee Station (fully operational until 1985
and now under renovation for art galleries and cafes).
* Ride steam trains on the Great Zig Zag Railway near Lithgow:
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