Friday, 9 January 2015

Railways - some interesting resources

I have written about railways quite a few times in this blog  - my interest doesn't lie in  rolling stock, signalling or railway memorabilia,  I am interested in the social history of railways,  the influence of railways in the development of settlement patterns (you can read about the influence of the railways in the Casey Cardinia area here) and the Victorian Railways (VR) as a government department or institution.

This paragraph, taken from the Victorian Museum website tells you the extent of the railways in Victoria - The construction of Victoria's railway system has required one of the State's largest and most sustained investments in public infrastructure. Flushed with the tremendous wealth generated by the goldfields, the Victorian government invested £9 million over the first decade of railway development between 1854 and 1864 to build just 254 miles (409 km) of railway, while private railway companies invested another £1.8 million. Over the next sixty years the railway system continued to expand rapidly reaching 2,900 route miles (4,670 km) by 1891 and 4,700 miles (7,565 km) in 1931, representing a total investment of almost £50 million. By this time, every town in Victoria with a population of over 500 boasted its own railway station.  

The number of people that were employed by the Railways was huge - and it is no wonder that they built such a grand headquarters in Spencer Street  in 1893 (shown in the photograph* left) and later, in 1909, the equally wonderful Flinders Street Station.  However, Railway Station staff and other rail workers were employed all throughout Victoria and these people played a real role in the life of the towns that they were appointed to.

If you haven't read Patsy Adam Smith's book Hear the train blow then you should borrow it from your local library! Her mother was the Station Mistress and Post Mistress at various stations, including Monomeith where they lived in the station house, and her father was a fettler. There are no signs of the railway buildings at Monomeith anymore, but Patsy makes the small town and the other towns she lived in, come alive.

I have done some research on the 29 men listed on the Narre Warren War Memorial and seven of them had lived in Narre Warren as their fathers were railway employees. Only one of the seven were living in the area when they enlisted as their dads had been appointed to other towns and yet they were all remembered fondly enough by the Narre Warren Community that they were honoured by having their name on the War Memorial.

Interesting Railway websites
One of the interesting Railway websites is Victorian Railway Resources website -  It has a history of some Railway Stations (the only two from this area are Pakenham and Nar Nar Goon) and it has a great section on Victorian Railway maps from 1860 to 2000 - there is a map every decade showing the extent of railways in Victoria. It's  a great resource

This is part of the 1930 map - showing the railway lines and stations in this area and further on to Gippsland and The Dandenongs.
Source: Victorian Railway resources website

Another interesting railway website is This has lots of current railway information and it also includes a very short history of Railway Stations (Under Infrastructure, then locations) So if we look up Pakenham we find that it opened on October 8, 1877, the line was electrified on July 21, 1954 and duplicated on February 25, 1955; there is also information about signals.

This is the Pakenham Railway Station in 1912
Photograph: North of the line: a pictorial record

A great website showing photographs of Railway Stations is When there were Stations  As the website says This site is about the way railways were – more or less after steam, but during the next phase of railway ‘development’ – the rationalisation. Lots of great photos of Stations and other infrastructure.

Another website that has great photos of trains, stations and an abundance of other railway information is Mark Bau's VR website: preserving the memory of Victorian  It's  a fabulous site.

Also well worth a look is Weston Langford Railway Photography: Documenting railways and related infrastructure since 1960  Weston Langford (1941 - 2014) was a railway enthusiast who worked professionally in railways and transport and as a volunteer on Puffing Billy. Mr Weston took many photos and we are lucky that he and his family are happy to share them with us. 

The Victorian Museum website also has a section on railways. It looks at the tracks, the stations, staff,  rolling stock and disasters. It also has photographs.

Photograph sources
As well as the Victoria Museum website (mentioned above) another good source of railway photographs is the Public Records Office of Victoria -  Photographic Collection of Railway Negatives. It is available on the Public Records Office of Victoria website Click here to search this collection. You can see some of local photographs here.
The State Library of Victoria also has an extensive photograph collection  and has many railway related photographs.

I must tell you that apart from travelling on trains, my only personal connection to the Victorian Railways was that my grandma had the same initials, VR and she was always thrilled, as a girl, that every train and carriage had her initials on the side!

*  The Photograph of the Spencer Street Railway building is from the State Library of Victoria,   Image H29753/71.