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There’s a strange thing on the web. Actually, there’s a lot of strange things on the web.
One of these is the time-warp web. This phenomenon emerges when someone posts a story that they seem to think is new, but was actually written some years ago.
This happened a few days back on the Lost Newcastle Facebook page.
Someone posted a Newcastle Herald story that was written in November 2014.
It was a story about the discovery of old coal rail lines at Nobbys beach.
A big Facebook debate ensued.
It felt like we were being transported in a time machine through Newcastle’s past, all the way back to Indigenous times.
The debate took on all kinds of tangents, with all kinds of personalities.
Things kicked off with this old chestnut: “Save our rail”.
Then this: “There goes more of our history”.
An abrupt response followed: “History is Fort Scratchley. Those are some rusted old train tracks”.
It wasn’t long before one reader proved he was on top of current events.
“This is old news. They dug this up back when the Bathers Way was being constructed,” Neil Smith wrote.
Nigel Dale chipped in with this: “Typical. Uncover part of our rich history then rip it up. Why couldn't the old rail track be retained with interpretive signs detailing their significance”.
David “Wicksy” Wicks returned serve: “Because it is just an old railway line and of no significant interest”.
Daniel Callender disagreed: “It is to a lot of people”.
Mark Rusev backed up Wicksy: “It’s just old hunks of steel and timber. What’s the point”.
The old story had, so far, sparked a fairly calm and orderly debate.
Then it took a different turn.
Michael Srbinovski: “This and every other part of Newcastle’s history must go. We need to watch loud cars driving around in circles for a couple of hours once every year”.
One punter chipped in with: “They’ll have to be ripped up to build the unwanted racing track”.
Uh oh. The Supercars were on the scene.
Jo Pearce tried to restore order.
“The original piece was written in 2014… so this work has nothing to do with the Supercars.”
But it was too late. The genie was out of the bottle.
Several comments followed, with liberal use of the word dickhead.
As the debate continued, we felt a bit like we’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a Groundhog Day dimension in which parallel universes overlap with other parallel universes – a place with no escape.
The comments flowed thick and fast.
“Pick your battles of what’s important to Newcastle! Old rusty rail lines no one cares less about or... the bloody post office that actually is historically important.”
And then this: “I'm pretty sure we're the only city now not running a train to the heart of it. How do we ride around the city from outer suburbs now or take your surfboard to one of our many fabulous beaches?”
There was no mention of fig trees or the price of parking, but we felt these subjects were never far away.
We were drawn to the comments on this story, despite a voice in our head imploring us to retreat.
It took a while, but we did it. We extracted ourselves from the time-warp web. We picked up a newspaper, checked the date and inhaled the sweet smell of print.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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