The town had two prison cells for a population of 100, one per 50 people - does this indicate the rate of criminality in former times?
Being locked up in these tin huts must be like being imprisoned in a cooking pot.
In front of the cells you can see the "Gaol House Rock"...
Cook is to 98% a ghost town. Stroll around and enjoy the empty houses in various stages of decay. Everything is within easy walking distance from the train station.
Cook is a stop along the route of the Indian Pacific, Australia's longest train route which runs from Sydney to Perth and back twice a week. The full journey, all in all 4352 kilometres, takes three nights and two days.
All details about classes, fares, timetables, route, service etc. etc. etc. can be found on the website of Great Southern Railways so there is no need to repeat everything here.
We chose travelling Gold Kangaroo Class, the most expensive way but it was worth it. We had a two-bed compartment with ensuite shower and toilet to ourselves. First thing in the morning the conductor brought coffee or tea according to our wishes ("A weak tea with a drop of milk") to our compartment. Meals were served in the neo-Victorian restaurant car. Food was abundant and excellent.
The meals are taken in two shifts. You have the choice, the conductor will ask after departure and you'll be in either first or second shift during the whole journes. They have some fancier names for the two shifts but I forgot. The shifts will be called for meals over the loudspeaker. *Whispers:* Take the second shift if there are still openings. The first shift has to get up for breakfast very early and will have to leave the dining car immediately after finishing their meals while the second shift can take their time.
If we wanted company there was the lounge car with bar at our disposition, if we wanted quiet we had our compartment. The friendly staff also did some entertainment for the passengers in the lounge, including a quiz about the route and the places along which I did together with three Australians who were sitting at the same table. It was fun but we did not win...
Don't expect the trains to be very modern, this is more a nostalgic journey. Maximum speed is about 100-110 kph.
I have to admit, though, that we (40 and 53) were by far the youngest passengers in Gold Kangaroo Class...
Bill Bryson has, by the way, given a wonderful entertaining description of the Indian Pacific in "In A Sunburned Country".
Cook is situated along the longest straight stretch of train tracks in the world: 478 kilometres without even the slightest curve.
A figure to remember for the quiz they do for the passengers on board the Indian Pacific.
Luggage and bags:
Luggage up to 20 kgs can be checked at the station before departure, but this is not obligatory. It is technically possible to store two big suitcases in a sleeper compartment underneath the lower berth, sacrificing some leg room (we did it but lesson learned). As these compartments are narrow, my recommendation for two people travelling together is this: pack everything both of you will need for the journey into one bag/suitcase and check the second suitcase, you'll be more comfortable.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Have a sweater or cardigan and (ladies) a cotton or silk scarf at hand. The air condition especially in the lounge and restaurant car is notoriously set at too low a temperature and there is an unpleasant chilly draught from the ceiling.
Have a sun hat for the stop in Cook.
Dress code: there is not really a dress code, you don't have to bring your Sunday Best, but I'd recommend not to wear your Weekday Worst either.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Passengers in Gold Kangaroo Class receive a complementary tolietries bag which contains a toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, moisturizer, re-hydration spray, a washcloth, a sewing kit, a shower cap, and shoe polish. So these items do not have to be carried. Towels, bedding and sheets are provided.
Photo Equipment: Yes you will want to have a camera.
Miscellaneous: No need to carry any food, you will be fed until you almost burst. A bottle of water or two to have in your compartment will be useful, maybe a few sweets or fruit if you must.
Note that interstate quarantine restrictions on fruit, honey etc. apply. There will be a control on the train before arrival in a new state, so finish all your apples or whatever in time.
Footnote: These tips apply to Gold Kangaroo Class, i.e. first class sleeper, only. People who travel in Red Kangaroo or even daynight seater will have to pack differently.
If you keep your eyes open you can, with a bit of luck, spot wildlife from the train. The plain does not look inviting, nevertheless it is inhabited by a variety of animals.
Wedge-tailed Eagles are frequent in the sky above the wide plain, although I saw only one. This bird has been chosen as the symbol of the Indian Pacific.
In one place where a side railway turns to a distant farm, some empty cattle wagons were standing on the track. They created the only shady spot for hundreds of kilometres. The kangaroos know. A bunch of Grey Kangaroos were resting underneath the wagons.
I also saw some unwelcome intruders from the old world: a feral cat and two foxes.
Sorry no photos, it all went too quickly. The photo of the eagle has been taken at Caversham Wildlife Park in Perth.
Even many Aussies think the name "Nullarbor" derives from a local Aboriginal language. It does not.
The plain was named by European explorers. The name is Latin, from "nullus arbor" which means "no tree".
Remember this when travelling on the Indian Pacific because this question is part of the quiz they do for the passengers.