On track for a Kokoda train
Years ago in a forgotten war I did a bit of deep junglebashing, with rifle, ammunition, backpack, six other frightened Nashos and a subaltern with acne and a tendency to panic. What follows might be considered the outcome of that traveller’s tale.
Kokoda creates its own awe and many of us consider it as near-holy ground because, back in 1942, a Japanese invasion of the Australian mainland seemed inevitable. Now it has me thinking. PNG has an unenviable air safety record and this, combined with the growing number of Australian trekkers who fall by the wayside, made me wonder whether a light railway might not be constructed alongside the Kokoda Trail? It’s only 100 klicks, of which more than half is more or less straight, the sort of thing trains like. There is a bit of up and down but modern engineering should easily cope.
I visualise air-conditioned carriages slowly making their way inland, allowing pilgrims to witness, then ponder, the sort of impossible conditions in which our young Diggers fought so gallantly. There is no disrespect here, only an acknowledgment that the route wends its way through climate and terrain extremely unfriendly to older Australians.
Precedent exists in government funding for the growing number of Australians visiting Gallipoli and the Western Front. Plus, I reckon the train could provide much-needed work opportunities for the people of PNG. And not only in construction. Consider the jobs in tourist hotels that would spring up adjacent to the railway, maybe at Isurava, Efogi and Templeton’s Crossing. These possibilities are worth serious consideration by an Australian government that would, I’m sure, be delighted to be seen as contributing in a meaningful way to the welfare of our northern neighbour.
Perhaps the contract might be offered to Japan, a country that has a well-known history of project-managing the construction of railways in particularly confronting circumstances (you’ll appreciate my irony, I’m sure). It’s not beyond the wit of the Department of Defence to achieve some sort of quid pro quo in relation to any contract to build those new submarines.
My plans are made and should it happen in my lifetime, I’ll be on the first train. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: email@example.com. Columnists receive Nourishing Geranium and Lavender Hand Cream from Sodashi, enriched with avocado oil, shea butter and rosehip; in a 50ml tube ($85.50). More: sodashi.com.