As a nipper I remember sitting on my mum's lap watching telegraph poles amble by as we made the four-hour trip between Launceston and Hobart in our family Hillman sedan.
It was like a Marco Polo adventure, on a narrow grey ribbon stretching out ahead through villages, hamlets and towns.
And then, in the name of progress successive state governments spent billions of dollars bypassing these wonderful little settlements.
At a guess I make it 14 towns of various sizes, condemned to mediocrity, with trendy bypass highways that scour them from the map.
I saw the latest recently when I became startled with the spectacle of the grandiose Perth bypass, leaving a town to vanish with time.
You may think I'm bonkers to rattle on about these obsolete watering holes that once refreshed horses and coaches.
I'll make one exception with Ross; that would never cope with flashy trucks and road trains, all lit up brightly and pounding through this heritage village like wheeled transformers.
True, but I'm still stuck in the 1950s and I like it that way, for very good reason.
There's not an ounce of tourism in a bypass. Not even a gram.
On my count, the cities, towns or hamlets of Burnie, Devonport,
Ulverstone, Deloraine, Westbury, Hagley, Carrick, Perth, Ross, Oatlands, Kempton, Bagdad, Pontville and Bridgewater have been bypassed in the name of progress.
It takes almost four hours to drive from Hobart to Burnie, for about 300 kilometres.
It takes eight hours between Melbourne and Canberra, nine hours between Melbourne and Sydney, 28 hours between Adelaide and Perth WA, 16 hours between Alice Springs and Darwin and 10 hours between Sydney and Brisbane.
The point is, on the mainland of course you need to bypass towns, otherwise it would take forever to drive the endless distances between the major cities.
But in little Tassie the whole island is only 364km long by 306km wide.
Adelaide to Perth by road is 2699km. Alice Springs to Darwin is 1500km. Brisbane to Cairns is 1688km.
Did we really need to create speedways between the far North-West and Hobart to make a buck? It's a very ... small ... island.
I get it that they had to bypass Ross. It's a heritage nirvana. But, Oatlands? What's the difference between Oatlands and Campbell Town? One bypassed, the other left alone?
The population of Oatlands in 1976 was 2,151. In 2011 it was down to 862 and in the last Census it was 683.
For years after the bypass the only growth in Oatlands was the boarded up ghosts of shops from a bygone and bypassed era.
Let's say we spent $3 billion in today's values bypassing those 14 towns.
We hardly spent a cent modernising Launceston and Hobart to handle growth in urban population sprawl, and now that Tassie has suddenly become a popular place for mainlanders and overseas immigrants to settle, the state government has no idea how to cope with traffic congestion at either end of the island.
Traffic gridlock is upon us, so we bypassed towns and built highways to link up with traffic jams.
Meanwhile we closed the last trans-state passenger train, the Tasman Limited, in 1978.
We closed down energy efficient trolley buses in Launceston in 1968 and closed down Hobart's light rail service between Brighton and Hobart CBD in 1974.
They sold off the railway station in Hobart and built the ABC headquarters on the site.
Hobart is looking into a proposal for light rail from the northern suburbs to the city, like it's a stunning 21st Century innovation.
The old light rail track is now the Hobart bicycle and walking track.
We closed down trams in Launceston in 1952 and in Hobart in 1960.
Meanwhile trains are a major people-mover in Victoria and NSW.
Greater Melbourne has an abundance of ... trams.
Our trains are museum relics in Margate, apart from the odd tourist steam train in the Derwent Valley, Ida Bay and the West Coast.
A tram relic doubles as a wine bar diner in Launceston and another relic is occasionally wheeled out at Inveresk, where the old railway station and workshops used to be.
Like the Bridgewater Bridge replacement, the decades old bypass proposal, to link up Channel and Huon traffic with the Brooker Highway to ease congestion in Hobart, is wheeled out by politicians whenever they get stuck trying to explain Hobart's traffic jams.
So I understand that bypassing towns along our highways is a salutation to the gods of progress.
But somewhere along the way our politicians and aldermen dropped the ball.
We took notice of all the clean, green, progressive transport reforms of Sydney and Melbourne and did the exact opposite.
We built these huge bypass behemoths between major centres in our tiny island, as a tarmac for a few dozen transformer-monsters, because that's what you do, when you haven't got a clue.
- Barry Prismall is a former The Examiner deputy editor and Liberal adviser.
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