About this Research Site

Introduction by Brian Dunnett

This online research site related to folklore Australian railway has its origins in a project created by workers in the Chullora Railway Workshops in NSW in 1984. At the time these workshops along with many other railway workshops and depots that had operated during Australia’s steam railway era for 130 years were about to be closed and the great railway family of tens of thousands of workers who helped establish Australian Industrial heritage were to be reduced to a small proportion of their former numbers.

In the midst of massive downsizing and privatisation sell offs of this Australian Industrial Wealth, these workers and other like the Trade Union members understood the necessity to collect and record the history of this 130 years and equally important the folklore of Australian Railways the songs the poems the stories that had been passed on both in an oral way and in print by those who worked in the massive railway network and the community which used their services.

The bringing together material that would tell the wider experience of railways, focussing on how workers had encountered and seen the many social changes that had occurred over this long period. Work began immediately on the Trains of Treasure Exhibition that is discussed in detail throughout this website. Many other successful projects in line with the objectives of the Chullora Railway Workers followed.

The project continues today after more than 30 years of ongoing activity. Efforts to bring together heritage related material continues alongside projects includes contemporary railway song and poem competition funded by the Rail Tram and Bus Union. The recording of Australian Railway include events conceived by songwriters, poets, storytellers, filmmakers and other artists. A number of local cultural groups like the Bush Poets and Bush Music Club are publishing railway songs and poems that also document local events.

Another step in this project is directed towards the 100 or more Australian heritage railway sites scatted across the nation. In a short time we will be contacting these local rail heritage groups that took up the local challenge to collect and preserve their local railway history and folklore. They will be encouraged to make an extra effort in conjunction with local sources like the town library, museums, local historians and folklore people to make a search for the local railway songs poems and stories that we all believe are in such sources or still with local railway workers and their families.

You will find in this site an eighteen chapter guide to Australian Railway Songs and Poems that cover the Australian Railway ongoing history with a range of examples. Research to-date indicates that much important vernacular lyrical material is often found in historic episodes like the two great wars,  the anti- conscription and peace movements, the 1917 general strike, and the 1930’s depression or in journals and magazines published by various trade union branches.

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