The Northern Links

Trains of Treasure by Denis Kevans (1984)
recited by Denis Kevans, Mike Atherton Instrumentals

They are leaving Trains of Treasure
Without measure everyday
Trains of corn and coal and ore
For the countries far away
Treasure trains and treasure troves,
Leaving for the ports and coves
Taking loads of gleaming treasure
To the countries far away.
Narration: Denis Kevans

Coal was the main reason for the construction for the Great Northern Line. Work on the first section between Waratah in Newcastle and Maitland began in 1855. The line reached the Queensland border in 1888, and when the Hawkesberry Bridge was completed in 1889, there was virtually a continuous line between Brisbane and Adelaide.

Dennis Rowe Archivist, Newcastle University Library

The first major workforce on the line were in fact ... were about 500 British Navvies who'd been imported from Britain, in 1854 and 1855. After those British Navvies arrived, the NSW Government sought to, saw to it for various reasons that no more British labourers were imported. The main reason was that after the goldrush, there was an oversupply of labour in the colonies, a vast number of navvies, or miners moved northwards from Victoria, up into NSW, and for many, many years afterwards, those Victorian miners, in fact formed the backbone of the labour force on the construction. The construction of the Lismore-Tweed Line followed on from the completion of the Great Northern Railway in 1889. I think the Tweed- Lismore dates between round about 1890 to about 1893. One of its main functions was to draw the export trade of North Eastern NSW down to the port of Byron Bay.

Song: Tweed and Lismore by Ned McEllisot (1893)
Sung by Jacko Kevans.

I am a navvy that's worked everywhere,
East, west, north and south I vow and declare,
Such terrible misfortune I ne'er had before,
As we had on that railway, the Tweed and Lismore.
Laddie, Fol the diddle eril Ol eril ol aye

Dennis Rowe

There was always intense rivalry between the colonies, and I surmise that one of the main reasons for the construction of the line was to ensure that the trade of Northern NSW went to Byron Bay and to Sydney, rather than across the Queensland border towards Brisbane.

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