Monday, 17 October 2011

Better Farming Train comes to Casey Cardinia

The Better Farming Train was established in 1924 by the Victorian Railways and the Departments of Agriculture, Education and Public Health. The train travelled around Victoria, stopping for a day at various country railway stations, and provided lectures and demonstrations to farmers to improve farming techniques and therefore raise agriculture production. If agriculture production was raised then the Railways would also benefit as nearly all produce was moved by rail. The train made 39 tours of country Victoria between 1924 and 1935 and stopped at over 390 towns. Over 250,000 people attended these lectures.

The train consisted of around 15 carriages and once the train arrived at the Station the various displays were set up. Each carriage contained information and exhibits about different areas of agriculture such as potatoes, dairy, bee keeping, poultry. The train actually carried livestock, cattle and pigs, enabling a hands-on approach to the subject. There was also a pasture carriage, which had various plant varieties growing. The train had expert lecturers in each subject to provide information and demonstrate new techniques.

Dr. A. E. V. Richardson, Sup't. of Agriculture (Delivering Inaugural Address on "Better Farming" Train at Bunyip).  Victorian Railways photographer.
State Library of Victoria Image H31183/4

The inaugural stop was at Bunyip, where it arrived at 9.20am on Monday October 13, 1924. It was met by the Berwick Shire President, Cr J. Dore and other members of the Council. Also present was the Prime Minister, Mr Stanley Melbourne Bruce, and the Railways Commissioner, Mr Harold Clapp. The Argus reports that they (the Prime Minister and Mr Clapp) were delighted with the success of the experiment. One thousand people inspected the train that afternoon and listened to the following lectures - Horse Breeding Act, Examination of stallions; Jersey and Red poll cattle; Friesian and Ayrshire cattle; Grading cows; Pigs; Herd testing; Milk grading; Grasses and top dressing; Feeding cattle; Bees and honey; Feeding pigs and Potatoes. For the women, there were demonstrations in needlework and lectures on mothercraft and child welfare. In the evening, Amalgamated Wireless Limited had a set attached to the train and district residents had the opportunity of hearing Dame Nellie Melba in Grand Opera.

The train was at Pakenham on Friday, October 21 1927. The Pakenham Gazette of October 28 reported that the dairyman and grazier found much to interest them in the prize sheep and cattle, the fodder, samples of wool, models of helpful devices, specimens of disease affected organs and tissues and suggested remedies, and the stock demonstrations. There were also lectures on calf rearing, pig breeding, potato culture, and for the orchardists a lecture on fruit culture. Once again the women were entertained by cookery demonstrations, needle work, home nursing lectures amongst other activities. The Gazette ended the report by saying the visit of the train was a success and much benefit should be derived from it.

The Better Farming Train was at Koo-Wee-Rup on November 15, 1927. This was reported in The Argus newspaper. The main topics of agriculture discussed were potato growing and dairying. As the article pointed out, the Koo-Wee-Rup region produced one fifth of Victoria’s total potato production with Carmen being the principal variety grown with yields of five tons to the acre. The potato lectures covered seed selection, storage, cultivation, manure application and disease control. The other focus of the visit was dairying and The Argus reported that 600 cans of milk were sent daily from Koo-Wee-Rup.

Better Farming Train, the Potato Section. Victorian Railways Photographer.
State Library of Victoria Image H28737/5

At Koo-Wee-Rup, over 100 women attended the Better Farming Train demonstration on cookery and needlework, clothing design and an infant welfare nurse was also available to examine babies In fact, so popular was this service that the ‘womens section’ or ‘domestic section’ of the train toured separately from the rest of the train from as early as 1925 and had also visited Koo-Wee-Rup on February 8, 1926.

Other visits to the Casey Cardinia region included - Lang Lang on November 10 1924 on way to South Gippsland and Cranbourne on Saturday 15 November 1924 on the return journey. It went to Berwick on Friday July 3 1930 and the train stopped at Clyde on Tuesday 21 July 1930 and the next day at Yannathan. There may well have been other visits to our region, I was going through reports on the train in The Argus trying to pick up any mentions of the tours, and that reminded me just how extensive the Rail network was in the 1920s and 1930s and so how many small towns could have been visited by the train. There is a great website with maps that show the rise and fall of the Victorian Railways

This is an interesting aspect of our history and reflects the importance of the railway in people’s life at a time when most people didn’t have a car and, until the 1960s, nearly all the farming produce (milk, potatoes other vegetables, cattle) from the area was dispatched by train to market.

Better Farming Train, a lecture on Child Welfare. Victorian Railways Photographer.
State Library of Victoria Image H28737/18

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