One Hundred and Ninety Six museums to Go!

One Hundred and Ninety Six Australian Railway Museums to Go!
The Blue Mountains Railway Music Trip July 2010 (Brian Dunnett  2010)

This is a brief over view of a short musical/poetry tour arranged by members of the Sydney based Bush Music Club (BMC) that took them to 2 Folk Clubs and 2 Railway Heritage Museums in the Blue Mountains of NSW on a very cold July weekend this year.

It was an interesting weekend and the details are presented for the benefit for those in “folk” who are looking for opportunities to present their songs and poems to a different audience, contribute to the collecting of Australia’s Folklore or just have a good time.

Photo courtesy Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum
Our journey with 12 BMC members took us to the Springwood Neighbourhood Acoustic Club on the first night where a come-all- yea session of local singers and poets lasted for 3 hours and saw two new local railway songs added to the BMC collection for it Railway Song Book.

Early the next morning most of the BMC party joined a NSW interurban rail service that put us of at the ZiG Zag Railway terminal on the Lithgow side of the Mountains, too play on the 3 regular steam railway journeys that run each day at this museum. A slight hic up to the early part of the day as the steam loco had some problems and we had to take the alternative service through the famous Zig Zag loops that allowed the first trains over the Blue Mountains to operate on a 1 and 42 grade with several Zig Zag bites that took them from the bottom to the top of the mountains.

We were there to sing and recite songs and poems about the trains in this area, now and in the past and leave behind some music items for the Lithgow City Brass Band. We did have to worry too much about a program for the occasion as the alternative transport just happen to be a 2 car Railmotor brought by the non profit Zig Zag Railway Trust from Queensland Rail (QR) when they were taken out of service in that state. So we greeted the crowd of heritage railway travellers with On the Queensland Railway Lines and it great chorus of Queensland Railway stations.

Bogantuhngan, Rollingstone
Mungar, Murgan, Marathon
Guthalungra, Pinkenba
Wanko, Yaamba; ha,ha,ha

and went on our merry-way.

Over the day on the ZIG Zag we came across a few more QR items and was not surprised to find when they got their steam locomotive going it was engine number 934 a C17 class Queensland loco. This was one of the replacement type of locomotives after that famous trip that “Billy Sheehan” made on his C-16 when he tried to beat the Sprit of P (progress) some years ago.

In the song the C16 was going OK until “The boiler then exploded, blew them both in the air.”

Then like true punters:

Said Billy to the fireman as they left the wreck,
“I don’t know where we’re going but we’re neck and neck
The fireman then said, Billy I’ll tell you what I’ll do
“I’ll bet another fifty I go higher than you!”

Our journey on the C17 was not as dramatic as Billy’s journey and the songs and poem about about this rail museum and its heritage flowed fast. Passing the nearby Newnes’ Railway Junction, the “Wolgan Valley Ghost Train” written about by CJ Sullivan and put to music by Vonnie Clearsky was popular with some passengers who claimed they could hear the ghostly whistle described in the song.

“{But} still on clear, cold night, when the moon is bright, they say,
You can hear her whistle for the lights, just a lonely ghostly shay”

Photo courtesy Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum
The Lithgow City Brass Band joined in the fun on Clarence Railway Station for a musical workshop too learn some of the songs from the Bush Music Clubs Australian Railway Songs work book. These songs from the folk tradition will now find their way into Lithgow and the Lithgow Folk Club to be heard more often on the Zig Zag railway in the future

Back on their way again the BMC group moved to a big Saturday night with the Blackheath Folk Club back in the mountains. What a night this was, a night that will be talked about in the pub for some-time to come. Here we were joined by a number of talented local performers, songwriters and poets including Pat Drummond. All up 6 or so new railway songs and poems railway songs where collected from this group. More about steam engines of course but one or two items concerning contemporary railway issues including the battle for the home of 3801 a major heritage issue currently in the Sydney Eveleigh area.

A tired BMC group made it to the Valley Heights Railway Heritage Museum on Sunday on the way back home for another program associated with the steam equipment held in this Railway museum. The most famous item of all in their collection was the NSW locomotive 1174 a steam locomotive driver’s nightmare but a songwriters dream. Even re-numbering this locomotive to 5461 did stop the stories, poems and songs of the bad experiences that locomotive crews had with this locomotive. At this museum we were joined by the Springwood Historical Society who was interested in our visit and had news of a collection of railway poems held by the local council library a source often over looked by those collecting songs and poems.

This weekend trip is an indication of the effort being made to collect railway folklore and the fact that there are a lot more gems to be identified. The Bush Music Club Concert Party would like to present its workshop program at the entire 198 Australian heritage railway sites too add to its workbook and the railway song website ( see but this is a little in the too hard basket. So we are asking for a bit of a hand. We have plans that might just interest you or a folk group in your state or local area.

Quite simple we are prepared to help you set up a “Railway Folklore” concert party in your state or town. We can help with our songbook and even run a few music workshops and provide details of the railway heritage sites in your area. Interested then contact. Bush Music Club INC, GPO Box 433 Sydney 2001 for further details

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