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In Japan, if you want to travel between cities you head to the train station and board the ever-efficient Shinkansen bullet train.

In New South Wales, if you want to travel between the state’s two biggest cities – Sydney and Newcastle – you head to the train station and board the not-quite-as-efficient Central Coast and Newcastle intercity train service, affectionately known as the Shitkansen.


A single trip on the Shitkansen is priced at $8.10 and takes approximate two and three-quarter hours if you travel the full distance.

Cheap travel for boomers? As long as it's a one-way ticket to the camps.

Cheap travel for boomers? As long as it’s a one-way ticket to the camps.

If you have an Opal card and leave before 6.00am, after 6.30pm or between 7.30am and 4.00pm the trip is priced at $5.67. It’s a nice discount if you are willing to live with a less convenient travel time.

The other bonus for Opal card holders is that if you catch it – or another train – more than eight times, the ninth trip and onwards is free. And free is good.


The original Shitkansen were designated as ‘V’ sets. The V stands for ‘vacuum toilet’; they were the first rolling stock on the state rail network to carry such a luxury.

The distinctive silver box design of the Shitkansen sits in stark contrast to the sleek, aerodynamic shapes of similar trains on overseas networks. Japan’s Shinkansen sports is famous ‘duck-billed platypus’ nose on the front car, and Europe’s TGV/Eurostar trains also have unique shapes to them that give off an aura of speed and modernity.

The external and internal design of the Shitkansen train dates back to the 1970s, when the trains first debuted on the NSW rail network. In fact the exterior has undergone precisely no changes since the first-generation Shitkansen hit the rails.

A V-Set Shitkansen arrives at Broadmeadow early on a Monday morning

A V-Set Shitkansen arrives at Broadmeadow early on a Monday morning

Internally, the typical-of-the-time Institution Green and Biege colour scheme was kept in place until late 2013 when a refresh of the range saw the introduction of “Bush Plum” purple vinyl seats and carpets in a number of carriages. The new fitout gives the feeling you’re travelling inside a Cadbury chocolate bar, or perhaps the CarsGuide office. It’s different, but not necessarily an improvement.

The Shitkansen is available in either an eight or four car variant, depending on what time you travel.


Sitting down on the Shitkansen is dangerous

Sitting down on the Shitkansen is dangerous

The Spartans were known for making do with very little. It’s a quality they undoubtedly picked up from NSW TrainLink.

There’s no club car, no trolly service, no onboard entertainment system, (other passengers excepted) and no electricity – despite it being the train’s propellant of choice.

What you do get is a functional but not overly pleasant seat; the sort you would be ill-advised to subject to inspection under an ultra-violet light.

The seat in front of you provides a retractable foot-rest, although finding a comfortable seating position is a challenge whether it is used or not.

The numerous windows adorning either side of the carriage allow the passage of natural light, albeit filtered through a decent film of grime or any number of unique etchings installed by the train’s artistic community.

In the words of Mr Squiggle: Upside down, upside down

In the words of Mr Squiggle: Upside down, upside down


The Shitkansen is an electric train.

Each four car set comprises two driving cars and two trailer cars. This allocation is obviously doubled when doubled into an eight-car train.

Exact power figures are unknown, but given how the Shitkansen drives, power output is likely to be a modest figure.

The ’sprint’ from 0-100km/h is best described as…not quick. We would go as far to suggest that it is more likely the heat death of the universe would occur before a Shitkansen’s velocity broke into the triple digits.

As is true with most machines, the Shitkansen today are slower today compared to when they first entered service. Even the more modern ‘OSCAR’ versions of the Shitkansen are slower than previous services. Make of that what you will.


The most obvious safety feature of the Shitkansen is the regularity at which it stops operating normally in adverse weather conditions. A hint of rain at the Shitkansen often finds itself grinding to a halt.

Think of it like an aeroplane – take offs are optional, landing is compulsory. The best way to avoid an accident in less than optimal conditions is to simply not operate in those conditions.

Locked off emergency brakes.

Locked off emergency brakes.

Other than that, for passengers there are no airbags and no seat belts. In the event of the train departing the tracks, there is not a lot to stop you getting thrown around the carriage.

There is an emergency brake switch located in each carriage, however on our train we noticed it was bolted closed – making its operation in an emergency problematic.

The other safety-related aspect of the Shitkansen trip are the other passengers.

There are jokes about the demographics and socio-economic status of the passengers often found onboard this particular train we could make. However, we are going to just simply say if you are wanting to see a demonstration of the effects assorted mind-altering substances can have on people, the Shitkansen is a cost-effective way to do it.


Straight up: this is not the most comfortable form of transport you will ever come across.

Cleanliness is far from Shitkanseness

Cleanliness is far from Shitkanseness

The experience of the Shitkansen trip between Newcastle and Sydney is best described as sitting somewhere between a long-haul international flight in cattle-class and crowding into an all-too-small car with the entire family for a trip up the coast.

There is never enough leg room and you cannot recline the seats. Standing up to alight the train at the end of the journey is a glorious experience.

The train itself, thankfully, sticks to the rails quite well. Some jostling can occur at higher speeds which bring to mind feelings of being on a boat in choppy seas, but overall things are quite smooth.

It is entirely possible to nap through the entire trip, which makes the nearly 180-minute travel time more bearable. That said, you neck may not appreciate that as much as the rest of you, so bring a pillow to ease the pain.


Overall, the Sydney to Newcastle train is a triumph of function over form, with a healthy dose of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ added in.

For a single person travelling between either city, it is cost-effective and, to a certain extent, relatively timely. However, once your trip involved a second or third person, take the car. It’s just generally nicer.

Three stars.

I pay money, where is train?

I pay money, where is train?

UPDATE: Noble Patriot @rpy has advised my notations about off-peak Opal fares were slightly incorrect. He is a massive prick.

I know, I know.

It’s been a very long time – quite some months – since I put anything up on here.

There is a reason for that, and one that isn’t laziness…mostly.

The start of this year brought with it my final semester of tertiary study. After making the jump in 2011 to go to university on a full time basis I finally finished.

My graduation was not all that long ago, actually; just at the start of October.

Shockingly – quite shockingly – I actually did work this semester. It’s amazing what happens when you actually apply yourself to what you’re doing, and don’t just skim through with the notion that you’re actually pretty clever and don’t need to work.

That got me pass marks, and a couple of credits. My final semester was all HDs. I do’nt mean to gloat, but I was pretty stoked with that. Actual application of brain yields results. If only that lesson had sunk in sooner, eh?

Anyway there was that. What followed was the post-university job hunt. That desperate quest to prove to yourself that what you’ve spent the last few years doing was not in vein and will set you on the path to doing the things you want to be doing.

Job hunting is a depressingly unpleasant experience.

“Hello there faceless HR person, I’m a smart chap with a sparkling personality not a single character flaw to be seen that would think it ever so sporting if you would allow me to throw myself on my knees in front of you and beg for the opportunity to work long hours doing menial tasks and be paid in something that might have once resembled Australian dollars. What do you say?”

Often the answer would be a polite “no, thanks”. The majority of the time there wouldn’t even be an answer.

You’re left to wonder if anyone actually bothered to read your grammatically immaculate grovelling or if it was printed out then run straight through the shredder. I imagine the latter. HR people seem like the type to have a machine with that function.

So that wasn’t fun.

Then there was dealing with Centrelink. Holy moly.

I will say however, that every time I got to deal with an actual person, they were lovely and helpful and sorted me out. The system it self, on the other hand, makes you want to get intimately acquainted with the business end of a semi-automatic weapon.

I filled out approximately a novella’s worth of forms just to transfer from my student payment to The Dole. I haven’t experienced it, but I’m sure getting a catheda run up my urethra would have been more enjoyable.

Declare this! Do you have one of these? Sorry, you’re a what? You live where? How many shirts do you own?

You can fill out this form online, except this one section which must be chiseled into a stone tablet and handed to the high priest on the second Tuesday before Lent when the sun is just between the two trees on the eastern side of Crete.

Thankfully, this experience was short lived.

I finished my coursework in June and at the end of August the stars aligned. All those writing all those job applications that were instantly shredded paid dividends because someone eventually read one, liked it, and decided to offer me a job.

So all day now I sub-edit the words of other people – and sometimes write my own – crop photos so they fit the odd confines of our CMS, and sit around waiting for videos to encode amongst other things.

The job is good – I’m really enjoying it. The only downside is that it’s in Sydney while I and still living in Newcastle.

So I have become intimately equated with the Newcastle to Sydney train, affectionately known as the Shitkansen. Come the new year, I will be reevaluating my living arrangements, that’s for sure.

So that’s where I’ve been. Fun, eh?

Our company is a leading media marketing company known for developing high-calibre professionals for an engaged social world. We’ve been around for since the time of Methuselah, hosting all manner of events from webinars to blogosphere summits to inspirational talks. Our culture is that of what you would typically see in a start-up. We’re fun, but serious; casual, but don’t muck around.

Because our company has been such an astounding success, we’ve been able to carefully craft out a junior professional internship position that we think you would be absolutely perfect for.

Coming into the office 4 days a week between 8am and 6pm, you’ll be responsible for ensuring that our company is making all our clients happy. In a typical day you’ll answer phones, write emails, update our social media presence, meet with clients, pitch brand strategy, collaborate with external contractors, create marketing campaigns, write engaging content for our awesome company blog, field media inquiries, have a hand in creating amazing posters and videos, make coffee runs (our nearby coffee shop is DA BOMB), source new clients, manage financial projections and, most importantly, learn heaps.

In order to really stand out in what is sure to be an ultra- competitive field of candidates, you’ll need to make sure you meet the following criteria:

  • At least 15 years experience working in media, preferably at an agency but also places like Fairfax or News.
  • Be super-familiar with the custom-built software our office runs on.
  • Have been listed in the credits for at least 4 Academy Award nominated films.
  • Be a close, personal friend of the company director.
  • Be outgoing and fun to be around.
  • Be a chartered accountant.
  • Have a comprehensive show reel of your work to date (Flash video only, 2Mb maximum file size. Thanks!).
  • Be a self-starter.
  • Have already been told by us that you have the job.
  • Have a sense of humour!
  • Close attention to detail.
  • Have worked in small teams, large teams and individually on all manner of projects ranging from the chook shed at your parents’ to multi-million dollar government infrastructure projects.

If you think you meet all this, and are in the position to be able to work 10-hour days without compensation (I know, it sucks but there is a possibility that we might give you a little money if you hang around and really impress us) then please send through a charming email, intriguing cover letter, your current CV and a working draft of the next Great Australian Novel to

This piece was originally published on the previous version of this site, which is more than likely lost to the annals of history because I have absolutely no idea how to internet properly. It was originally published in November 2013 and is republished now because I thought it was funny.

The digital age is well and truly upon us, and there are thousands of businesses and individuals out there who have yet to grasp the power that is sitting at their fingertips.

The rise of social media in a connected society offers everyone on the planet a chance to expand their community beyond what they currently know and gives them the opportunity to pivot their local knowledge into a massive online village the like of which no one has ever had the ability to fully comprehend.

So how do you get some of that action?  How do you leverage your business into a social cloud in order to tap a potential market of billions of engaged consumers?

Well, I am here to help.

Hi there.  My name is Bernie and I am going to show you how you can create for yourself an engaged audience that will, just by its very existence, boost your SEO rankings in such a way that they will be immune to any changes in Google’s rankings algorithm.  All you need to do is sign up for my online course.

For the almost criminally cheap price of 4x $600 instalments (paid in one lump sum), I will give you the tools you need to unlock the social cloud and make yourself an online engagement star.

How does it work?

Generating engagement in the social cloud, which then leads back to networked consumers visiting your website, is all about surfacing content.

Once you learn the secrets to surfacing the right content, you will soon find yourself on a hyperfast path to becoming a leading thinkfluencer within your now global community of consumers, who are hanging on your every engaging communication.

What is a “thinkfluencer? It sounds like something you just made up!

Firstly, stop the prescriptivism.  English is an ever-evolving language and it is only natural that you will come across some new words that may, at first glance, frighten you with their unbridled potential and raw power.

Power on the social web is derived from two separate yet equally important things.  Being considered a “thought-leader” and your ability to “influence” those around you.  Combining them effectively is considered by every expert in this field to be the holy grail of effective, leveraged engagement.

So what do you become if you bring the power of thought leadership and influence to your social conversations online? A thinkfluencer; a person that no one can ignore.

In essence, you become the conversation.  And that, my friends, is the ultimate networked power.

OK. So what will your course cover?

So, so much.  The variety of topics covered in my course will blow you away.  This is reason why I should probably be thrown in gaol for offering it at the ridiculously cheap price I am.  Here’s just a taste of what you will learn on your way to becoming a global thinkfluencer with my course:

  • ROI: Real Online Interactivity – these are the secrets to creating truly memorable content.
  • Press Releases – How to pivot your newfound social cloud power back into the traditional media for additional traction.
  • Auditing – Making sure you continue to smash those KPIs.
  • Monitoring – You can’t spell analytics without anal and that’s what you’ll become once we show you how to look at a variety of numbers designed specifically to measure the effectiveness of your conversations.
  • SEO/SMO – Social Engagement Orifices and Social Management Organisations. Knowing when and how to deploy these tools is a fundamental skill of the cloud paradigm.
  •  Strategies to ensure that month after month you maintain your position as a key thinkfluencer within your global community or local industry.
  • Revenue models for the digital conversation matrix.
  • Measurement of your influence circle against industry standard metrics.  This ensures not know that your strategies are actioning their objectives, but also works as a check to ensure the accuracy of your analytics as part of the open and transparent auditing process.

There’s many, many more, but I don’t want to be giving it all away just now.

Also, if you sign up for our postgraduate, ongoing consultation service (a pathetic $200/hr for a weekly 4 hour catch up, billed annually), you’ll receive a special set of courses targeted at specific social conversation platforms. Including:

  • Reddit – It Can Solve Crimes, Imagine What It Can Do For Your Business
  • Advanced Bitstrips – Captivating Cartoons Convert Conversations To Cash
  • Hashtag Games – Replace A Word In a Book Title, Replace A Lose With A Win
  • And many, many more.

And what are your credentials, exactly?

I have been involved in the Internet and engagement with global audiences for over half my life.  In that time I have amassed an impressive collection of social media accounts and online personas.

Since 2008, when I first started analysing the power of thinkfluencing and devising this life-changing course, the size of my conversation audience has expanded in a way that would boggle most mathematicians.

The important thing is, getting the wrong advice in social cloud engagement could cost you your life.

Do it once. Do it right. Do it with me.

Get in contact and soon you will be on your way to becoming the next big thinkfluencer.

This piece was originally published on the previous version of this site, which is more than likely lost to the annals of history because I have absolutely no idea how to internet properly. It was written in January 2012 and published in March of that same year. The reason I’m republishing it now is that it was one of the more popular things I wrote and my memory was jogged by Tim Connell’s Topics in today’s Newcastle Herald. So here it is.

I grew up loving Thomas the Tank Engine.  I am pretty much the embodiment of a person who, as a child, bought – hook, line and sinker – into the romantic notions of train travel.

I would much rather catch a train than sit in cattle class on a commercial airliner for any extended period of time.

I love the clickety-clack of the wheels, the gentle swaying, and the being able to enjoy the rolling countryside as wind your way around hills and valleys towards your destination.  To me, that is a most blissful experience.

Running counter to all this, however, is the train that links Newcastle to the bustling state capital of Sydney some 120-odd kilometres to our south.

The Shitkansen (A term, I believe, coined by Melbourne-based, Newcastle ex-pat Marcus Westbury), named after the famed Japanese Shinkansen bullet trains, is more or less a perfect example of everything that a train trip shouldn’t be.

It is appallingly slow; the passengers are not the type of people you would want to be spend any time in a confined space with and it takes you (for the most part, there is one fantastic exception. More later) not through the scenic parts of the Australian bush, but through some of the greatest examples of suburban hell that you will ever see.

Come, let me take you though a trip on the Shitkansen and point out some of the high (and low) lights of the slow trundle between Newcastle and Sydney.

Newcastle is the northern terminus of the Shitkansen.  It is from here your journey begins.  As you enter the station, you will immediately see, glistening in the sun, your noble, steel steed that will whisk you to your destination at the speed of what it takes to get from Newcastle to Sydney in accordance with the timetable.  Tread carefully, while at Newcastle station you are on sacred ground.

Civic is located between an area populated by those that think they’re classy (Honeysuckle) and an area populated by those that actually are (Civic Theatre).  Newcastle City Council’s chambers and administration buildings can also be found not too far from Civic, though I’m sure many Newcastle ratepayers would enjoy seeing the Shitkansen run into these buildings, rather than just near them.  But you can’t have everything.

Wickham station is located behind The Store.  I have never alighted a train here, so I can only hope you don’t actually have to walk through there to exit the station.  Heaven help you if you can’t avoid it.

Hamilton station has a pub either side of it.  Given you’re in Hamilton that can only be a good thing.  I’ve often found that a strong drink, or several, is a requirement for dealing with Beaumont-Wanting-So-Desperately-To-Be-Darby Street. Like Broadmeadow, you can also catch trains from here to other exotic locales.  Like Warrabrook.

Broadmeadow is the home station for the Newcastle Knights.  From here it’s a short walk to International Sports Centre, Newcastle Harness Racing Club and Broadmeadow McDonalds.  You can also catch trains to the farther reaches of NSW from here if the Shitkansen isn’t really to your fancy.

Cardiff is not that exciting.  I did, however, see one of the worst pub bands I’ve ever seen in my life at the Iron Horse down the road from the station.  So that’s something…I guess.  This station also has many, many steps.  If you hate moving, this isn’t the station for you.

Cockle Creek is one of the highlights on the Shitkansen trip.  On Twitter, it is the only aspect of the trip, aside from the Shitkansen itself, that has its own hashtag – #CockleCreek.  There used to be a sulphide smelter near here.  Now they’re building houses on the site. That should end well. Yeah, nah.

Booragul contains a church, a high school and a retirement home.  Most trains don’t even bother stopping here.  The one I’m on is clearly special.

Fassifern is where you used to be able to catch a train out to Toronto (T’ronno Toronto.  Not Toronto in Canada.  There is no train to Canada).  These days it’s a bike path. This gives me a sad.  I never got to catch the train to Toronto before they ripped up the line.  Maybe, when they build trams in Newcastle (cough As if cough), they can bring the Toronto train back in because trains are far more awesome than bikes.

Awaba is an aboriginal name that translates to English as “you are almost back into civilised society” or “you have just left the last of civilised society for quite some time” depending on which direction you’re travelling.  Languages are fascinating like that; how it has a different meaning depending on which way you approach it from.

  • Your definition of civilised society may vary.  For the sake of the story, let’s just define civilised as places where there are sealed roads.

Dora Creek is named after Dora the Explorer.  Yeah, this side of Lake Macquarie is a little odd.

Morisset is the home of the Mega Market and also a hospital for people who are not of sound mind.  Now, I’m not saying for certain that the two are related, but…

Wyee. This station is met with the questions of “whyyyyeeee indeed?”  I have no idea why Wyee exists.  In fact, I’m not convinced that it does.  It’s just a random train platform with a silly name on it put in by City Rail to make the trip last longer.  They’re bastards like that.

Warnervale is named after Australian test opening batsman David Warner.  I don’t wish to be a Debbie-downer, but I think they may have been a little premature in doing that.  Sure he can be nifty when wielding the willow, but to the point of being worthy of having a town named after him? I think that’s unlikely.  There’s also a “Warnie’s Vale Café” near the station.  Typical Warnie, always having to get involved in stuff that he has no business doing so.

Wyong is…. Wyong?  I once got stuck here for a number of hours when I was younger, following a mechanical failure of the Shitkansen.  It was 8pm on Sunday evening.  As a result, I’ve never been endeared to Wyong, but honestly I have absolutely no idea what’s here. All I can see out the window is the Wyong Racing Club – and the cash-masturbation “sport” of horse racing is something who’s mere existence still puzzles me.

Tuggerah was welcomed by one passenger on my trip with a loud, witty “TUG HER, AYE?” pun.  I’m sure there are parts of Tuggerah that are lovely, but all I’ve ever seen of it is the clutter-filled homemaker’s centre.  And not being a middle-aged housewife, there is no reason why I would ever want to go there.  Avoid.

Ourimbah is where you alight if you’re making your way towards the University of Newcastle’s Central Coast campus.  When ever referring to Ourimbah, it must always be said in your best Speedy Gonzales impersonation.  Bonus points are awarded for running around quickly while doing so.

Gosford is the halfway point of the trip.  When travelling south, this is where your Shitkansen will fill to capacity.  When travelling north, the Shitkansen will usually empty itself of the most entertaining passengers.  This is probably an indication that you never, ever, want to spend time in Gosford.  Best just move on.

Woy Woy is named twice. I haven’t got a solid reason as to why, but I believe it’s a subtle hint that you should probably depart this area at double-time.  You may also hear this area referred to as The (Motherf**king) Woy. The local population believes the replacement of a “Woy” with the definite article gives the region a more upper-class feel.  They are the only ones that think so.

Remember that exception I mentioned at the start? Well here it is.

The run between The (Motherf**king) Woy and Hornsby is, if nothing else, quite picturesque.  The Shitkansen snakes its way along the edge of Brisbane Waters, through some nice bush, across the Hawkesbury River, back into bush and up the hill towards the civilisation of the Big Smoke.  It is really worth just sitting back, have a good look out the window (make sure you sit on the eastern side of the train) and just take it in.  This is, on its own, a really lovely stretch of the trip and a beautiful example of magnificent Australian bushland.

The down side is that if you’re in a carriage with a few…interesting characters, you are stuck knowing that there is no chance that they’re going to be alighting any time soon.

As I write this, I currently have a family of rather loud, very red-faced Bogan-Australians who are taking great joy in arguing with each other using words that you would only hear on TV after the watershed.  The mother (I guess) has also chastised her son (I assume) for losing the hat that came as a free gift in one of the Sunday newspapers earlier this week.  Apparently her having to walk two blocks to the newsagent means the hat had a certain amount of sentimental value to her.  The children in the group are also taking turns at playing some truly horrendous noises (that I believe may be classified as the bastard child of dubstep and R&B music) from their phones as loudly as possible.  Sans headphones.  Urgh.

By and large they are a lesson in what not to do while travelling on public transport.  I’m sure Newcastle’s doyen of transit, The 100 Bus, will agree with me.

Also on this carriage are some young people who have attended today’s Big Day Out at Homebush.  What they’re doing on a train heading back to Newcastle at 7pm is beyond me.  I’m not exactly a “party animal”, but even by my standards, bailing from a one-day music festival before it even gets dark is a pretty poor effort.  I weep for the future.

Hornsby is the first port of call within the bounds of the Big Smoke. Other than that, there’s really no reason why this place should even exist. When heading north, this is the last bit of civilisation you will see for well over an hour.

Epping is next has you begin the crawl through Sydney’s outer suburbs.  I only recently learned that there is more to Epping than a train station and a bus stop, though a quick look around suggests that there really isn’t that much more.  Alight here if you want to catch the train to Macquarie University.

Eastwood gives me the irrits.  I have no idea what Eastwood is actually east of given it’s generally in the same area as the western suburbs – though not as west as the exciting suburbs of Penrith and Parramatta.  One person did suggest that it is, in fact, east of Perth.  It’s probably for the best that person doesn’t engage in procreation.

The penultimate stop on the Shitkansen adventure is Strathfield.  In recent weeks I’ve spent more time at Strathfield than is considered healthy for an individual.  Strathfield is the best place to alight the Shitkansen if you’re planning on heading way out west (towards Penriff [note; not Penrith. I spoke to locals to confirm the spelling.  It’s similar to how we Novocastrians pronounce Toronto as “T’ronno”] and up into the Blue Mountains).

Finally, after what seems like a lifetime or several, you arrive at Central. It is here where your Shitkansen journey comes to an end.  Central is a grand old station, built long ago, probably before trains even existed.  It is here where us folk from the laid-back north collide head on with the hustle and bustle crowd of Sydney’s CBD.  Be warned: pissing these people off is not recommended.  Consider it a bit like a zoo and please do not feed the animals.

So sure, the Shitkansen ruins everything that you could possibly love about train travel, but that in itself makes it something unique that you should at least experience once in your life.

Just, you know, be careful and avoid eye contact with everyone.