Australian Railway Story: Chapter 11

Chapters: • 1 • 2 • 3 • 4 • 5 • 6 • 7 • 8 • 9 • 10 • 11 • 12 • 13 • 14 • 15 • 16 • 17 • 18 •

The Second World War

The poor image of railways was to continue into the Second World War when Australian troops being prepared to fight the Japanese were moved north on Queensland Railways and the old Ghan and old Darwin railway lines. Country music was taking hold and many of those involved with it like Buddy Williams moved north with the Armed Services as did many volunteer railway employees. Australian Railways were running to their limits, overloaded with tanks and other military equipment. At the same time as Australia was cut off from overseas imports Australian Railway workshops were turned into production units for the building of tanks, guns and aircraft. The men and women in this essential national workforce were left to deal with the stress and strains that the war brought to these workplaces mainly due to the long hours they were required to work.

The Perth To Adelaide Trooper

I've snoozed in every kind of hole
And every type of sleeper,
But cripes the worst one of the lot
Was the Perth to Adelaide Trooper

I've bashed my spine on solid rock,
I've lain my head on sand,
I've wooed the angels, done my block
On feather beds so grand.

I've slept on boards within the quad,
In calaboose and clink,
I've snored with wink an' blink an' nod
When we ran out of drink.

You're tossed from morn 'til noon 'til night,
The engine grunts and squeals
But how the heck can it run smooth,
When running on square wheels.

So give me death or give me life,
Promote me to a Grouper*
But save me from the bumps an' strife
Of the Perth to Adelaide Trooper.

*Group Captain
(by Rocky Marshall, 1943)

The Tait

When I was a boy, it was pleasant to ride
In Taits (with the door closed) and Mother beside,
Though when I could count, I considered it poor
That Tait had two windows, while swing-doors had four.
Taits high vaulted roof and the two sorts of light,
And cords from the top which would swing left and right,
And seats, twos and threes, they were leather and green.
When I was a boy, this was part of my scene.

Not long after starting at High School, I knew
That Box Hill had swing-doors; the Taits went to Kew.
I'd change trains at Hawthorn, and while changing there,
I'd meet that young lady with long, auburn hair.
A notice was there, I ignored what I saw:
‘Don't stand in the doorway or lean against door',
I said to myself ‘anytime that I can,
I'll stand in the doorway- She'll think I'm a man.'

And was I a man, in the year '44,
With uniform blue. and I left for the war
But enemies list'ned: there wasn't a cheer,
While riding the Tait down to Port Melbourne Pier.
In contrast, my family showed their concern
And came to Port Melbourne for my safe return.
We all rode a Tait which was wondrous, because
This first time in ages, they knew where I was.

(Jack McLean) in When We Rode the Rails Patsy – Adam Smith

Rusty, It’s Goodbye

By a lonely railroad station
A dog sits patiently,
And as each train rolls down the track
He watches eagerly.

But the one that he is waitin' for
Does not come off the train,
And when the crowds have gone their way
He drops his head again.

But he doesn't know his master lay
On a battlefield to die,
He didn't hear the soldier say:
'Rusty, it's goodbye.'

(Words by Thel. Carey, music by Slim Dusty)

Currently the Railway Story is in the process of seeking permission to display the full content of this song or poem or to have a copy linked via the web to this research document

Troop Train Returning

From a ringbarked tree, as we go cheering by
A tower and a whirlwind of white birds,
As we speed by
With a whistle for the plains.
On kitbags in the aisle, old terrors doze,
Clumsy as rifles in a peacetime train.

(From Les A. Murray,
The Vernacular Republic
Selected Poems of Les A. Murray, 1969).

Currently the Railway Story is in the process of seeking permission to display the full content of this song or poem or to have a copy linked via the web to this research document

Bridge Over The Mighty Burdekin

Again in nineteen forty gone were nine spans more
By nineteen forty one, Pearl Harbour, and there was talk of war
Between forty and forty five just minor floods had we
Then disaster hit once again, thirty five spans washed out to sea.
(MS Vivienne Teitzel 2000 RBTU Competition )

Currently the Railway Story is in the process of seeking permission to display the full content of this song or poem or to have a copy linked via the web to this research document

The Boys Of The NAR (The Top End Railway Volunteers)

The boys of the NAR
Are scattered near and far,
Like the poems we penned
And neglected to send
The mates who shared our Territory days
Have dissolved themselves in memory's haze:
Some have gone to their dreaming.

We will never forget out Territory life
Our fiendish battles with boiler strife
On the Union and Stapleton banks
For which we received no thanks
Except the triumph of landing the train
Loaded with troops in the tropical rain
To beat the Nips' bold scheming.

Bird Cage and Bull Ring and other strange camps
Watching the gauge glass with hurricane lamps
Injector won't work, boiler split at the seam,
Run out of water, coal and steam.
Slide valve is smashed, come in on one side,
So long since we've eaten, there's nothing inside
But the wheels kept turning.

Remember we dressed in shoes and shorts,
Very often were our thoughts
Far away, from the hot and humid nights,
Bad temper, mosquito nets and fist fights,
No women, smokes or brewery ale,
Only jungle juice that turned men pale,
While the bombs kept falling.

We gambled hard at dice and swy,
Caught fever and felt as though we'd die,
And never see home again
Then, a letter would come bearing our name,
Giving us strength to play out the game,
Watch the Poinciana flaming.

So long old mates of the NA.R.!
Wherever you are,
May your thoughts turn Territory-wise
And cut those drongos down to size,
Who look at your badge with snigger,
And call you a 'DARWIN DIGGER'

(Des Bicknell Adelaide River)

Windy Winsome

Said Windy Winsome to the boss, I wish I was not here:
I don’t know why I left this town to be a volunteer
Old Tojo puts the breeze up me when he puts on a blitz,
I tremble like a falling leaf and get the 'Jimmy Wits’
Last time I got to Darwin town I swore would be my last,
But now I'm heading North again. Ah my lurid past
It rises up before my eyes to mock with fiendish mirth,
A grinning spectre of a mis-spent life upon this earth
I said I wouldn’t go without a mask or lid,
And armour plate both for and aft to make the bullets skid
Ah, hear that silly Cronin jeer, I'll do for him by heck
The greatest please it would give to wring his bally neck
He thinks it is a joke that I should go,
And risk my life with the sons of old Tojo
Ah, send me back to Melbourne Town. Ah send me back do, please,
I'm sick, I'm dying, and I tremble at the knees
See how swollen up they are and I scarce can kneel to prayer
I've got a big wheel in my head and a ‘Spirit’ in my hair
My complex is outside, I measure six by two,
I'm wracked and torn with growing pains, my guts had weakened too
Take me back to Melbourne Town, from Tojo I would run,
I like the bawbies I could take, but for old Tojo's gun
The loungers there will goggle at the yarns I'm going to tell,
And while they make the glasses tinkle, I'll brag for all to hear
I’m Windy Winsome from Melbourne Town, the railway volunteer.
(Darwin Railway Institute: ‘ Line to Nowhere’)

War at Work

Since the war has started, things don't seem just the same.
Some are calling each other very nasty names.
The love of money and a bit of jealousy too,
Has caused a lot of trouble among quite a few

Alfie the foreman seems to have changed quite a lot
A lot of the boys don’t think he’s quite so hot.
The Goose and the Golden egg he found near the bundy clock
Made Alfie the foreman, give some of the boys quite a shock

Tom Calder and the Jew were his white hair boys.
Whenever he was near them, they were overcome with joy.
The Goose from Goulburn that was laying Golden eggs,
Seems he was only just pulling all their legs.

Grandfather Crabb, Lucky Joe, Fuschia and Rosie,
Uncle Brodie as well, didn’t find things so cosy.
The had their little troubles, as well as the rest.
They were glad to get home to their own little nest.

It’s nice to be at war where you find a little piece
No bundy clocks to ring, or stampedes on your feet.
You have not to listen for a starting or knock-off bell.
You don’t get the sack if you tell the boss to go to ---.

Since you left for the war, the watch you gave me has kept ticking.
Proudly I’ll bring it back if I don’t get a licking.
When things return to normal and we’re united once more,
I hope we will see the end of all this bloody war.

Anon The Magnet September 1941

No comments: