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From the outback heat to temperate RailtonScape

Owner operators of the Railton pub Bruce Caterer and Kerstin Boegel . pictured with dogs (L-R)Hachi and Jess.EX-ARMY mechanic Bruce Caterer had already lived in every other state in Australia where he ran pubs and roadhouses — except Tasmania.
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So he bought the Railton Hotel to rectify the situation and “because it was cheap”.

That was three years ago, he was 60, and the country pub had seen some better days.

Bruce and his partner Kerstin Boegel dubbed it “the project”, and a few days before Bruce’s 63rd birthday last week the couple reflected on how much had changed in their lives and the hotel.

Kerstin in particular was keen to swap the stifling heat of the Northern Territory for temperate Tassie, but so was Bruce.

Their arrival injected new life and a lot of laughter into a landmark that’s been a meeting place for locals for more than 100 years.

German-born Kerstin re-introduced the pub meals but it was an act of kindness last year that drew a response on social media that took her by surprise.

In October, thousands of hits were received on the pub’s Facebook page after she posted a piece about how she knew what it was like to go hungry.

“If you (are) hungry but can’t afford to go shopping or (are) unable to go to the shops for any reason, come and see me at the pub. I will make you some food and you can reimburse me later. I know how it is to be hungry and not having any food. Don’t be afraid to talk to me,” was signed Kerstin.

One man wrote about how he smiled when he saw the post and many others remarked there were not many people around like it these days.

Kerstin explains the reason for her post later on, but first comes the tale of how she met her outback bloke and their unlikely love story.

Bruce is a genuine character, a bit old school, he loves a yarn and you get the impression he could charm most people.

What you see is what you get. He is not the politically-correct type.

The affable publican often gets mentioned as the highlight of people’s visits to the pub. Bruce says once you get to the stage you don’t want to be with people it’s time to do something else.

“Take up knitting,” he jokes.

Kerstin arrived in Australia to go backpacking for six months and stayed.

She is 23 years Bruce’s junior and was 29 when they met and fell in love at Tennant Creek, where she worked at the place he came to buy.

“She was on the inventory when I bought the hotel,” Bruce teases.

He’s from Western Australia, but Bruce spent 25 years in the NT where his humour and choice of minimalist clothing were well-suited.

The ubiquitous blue singlet is his signature outfit.

“I’ve worn it for years,” he tells.

“NT people said you won’t need that in Tassie but you do, only you wear it under your shirt.”

Bruce left the army at age 39.

“In those days you got a superannuation pension so people used to stay in for their 20 years to get their pension and shoot through.”

Bruce ended up at the historic Daly Waters pub, one of the original outback pubs.

According to a 2006 media report, when he was publican Bruce used to close the doors and invite in the locals for a Christmas celebration.

It was a tradition he took with him to his next acquisition, the Wauchope Hotel (now the Devils Marble Hotel) just south of Tennant Creek.

Bruce said the Northern Territory offered a good lifestyle and was a place you could “turn over millions of dollars — it’s a different world.”

“It was good when I was young but the heat gets to you up there after a while and the isolation.

“In the NT unless you can drive 300km or 400km on a tank of juice it makes it a bit hard without a wayside inn.”

He chose the Railton Hotel because it was “only 20km from the ocean, central and flat”.

“I was also keen on the Marrawah pub but it was a bit too far for Kerstin so that was the end of that.”

The Railton Hotel was a leasehold for many years and needed work.

Bruce said another chap did up the bar but when there’s rent or a mortgage to pay it can be a struggle to find money to improve a place.

“There’s not much change when you pay the bills,” Bruce said.

“We’re doing fairly well but I don’t have a mortgage.”

When Bruce and Kerstin arrived, the hotel had a motorbike parked in the dining room.

“Things hadn’t moved forward in time very much,” Bruce said.

“The kitchen looked like your grandmother’s. It was just old and a bit of a shame it hadn’t had money spent.

“I guess that’s when the town sort of emptied out on the downside of the Cement Works.”

Bruce said drink-driving laws “knocked the hell out of country pubs around Australia”.

“It’s been a very hard slog for country pubs,” he said.

Railton always had regulars that were loyal but the pub came close to closing because of tough times.

“We’ve got a good bunch of regulars,” Bruce said.

People come in every day for a drink and come back later for a bit of company.

“We’ve just opened up the backyard as a caravan park and Kerstin introduced Airbnb,” Bruce said.

“There were 11 backpackers in an eight-seater van here last night. I had to entertain them until 10.30pm and you’ve got to love it.”

Railton has seen change with the growth in tourism and some new arrivals to a close-knit community that comes together for the good of the town.

“Bluey at the service station and a crew were clipping the town’s topiaries the other day,” Bruce said.

“There’s quite a bit of pride taken in the town . . .”

Before Kerstin backpacked, she worked in a company in Germany that made car parts and she handled the complaints.

“I had people yelling and screaming at me all day so I didn’t really like my job that much,” she said.

She didn’t speak English but the owner of the NT pub asked her to work because he was desperate for someone.

“I worked three months and went to Broome and he called me a few days later and wanted to sponsor me on a visa and I went back.

“When I first arrived in the NT I absolutely loved the climate, then summer came and I regretted my decision a bit.

“It’s 50 degrees all day, every day. You can’t go out with your dog, the ground is too hot, and you can’t even touch anything – you will burn yourself.

“So Tassie suits me fine and Railton is like the big city.

“Where we used to live the population was six, the next neighbour was 114 kilometres away and if I wanted to go to a dentist I had to drive 400 kilometres then jump in a plane to fly to Darwin.”

Kerstin’s attitude is be happy where you are.

“If you think you are going to be happy you are going to be happy,” she said.

“I love it here.”

It was after she offered to cook a meal for someone in need that the pub’s Facebook page was inundated.

Owner operators of the Railton pub Bruce Caterer and Kerstin Boegel .

“It was in response to someone who owed the pub quite a bit of money and was still booking up and slow to pay,” she tells.

He asked for more money and said he was hungry.

Kerstin gave him food instead of money.

“That’s no problem; I’ve always got some left over from the day before and if someone is really hungry I don’t mind doing that,” she said.

When people heard what she did, the response was huge.

“It was awesome. One bloke donated 10kg of potatoes and people dropped in to say what a great thing and support us.

“I didn’t think anything of it and was surprised it had so many likes the next day. For me I didn’t even think twice.”

The likeable couple make a formidable team and see Railton as home. Kerstin said their age difference was not something she noticed.

“The only thing I can say is he watches old black and white movies and I can’t stand them. Other than that he’s the one that says: ‘Come on let’s go’ and I say, ‘let’s stay home’.

“This is a great town.

“Everybody waves and stops to talk to each other, even people who don’t like each other stop for a quick chat.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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