Clever Ruse Gets Unemployed to Port Augusta

Mirror Saturday 15 November 1930 p. 16. 

Men Strike Many Troubles on the Way 
But a Clever Ruse Gets Them a Ride to Port Augusta 
Some Impressions of the Journey 

 Over two months ago a party of unemployed set off from Perth Esplanade on what they termed a hunger march to Canberra. In a recent issue "The Mirror" published a story of the march as far as Zanthus, on, the Trans-line. We have now received from one of the men the story of how they reached Port Augusta. Hereunder he tells it in his own words.

Having read, a little in your columns previously I thought I would tell you a little more of our travels from Zanthus onwards. We went up to the East bound train during the night of September 28, but again found police aboard, and rather than cause trouble we made no attempt to "jump it." That night we saw the train out before turning in. About noon the tea and sugar train, westward bound, pulled up at Zanthus and the local grocer and butcher gave us a supply of food which we figured would last a couple of days.

The train was held up for 31 hours while the police decided on what action they would take, but eventually it was agreed that they would return by the train to Kalgoorlie. That night turned out to be very cold, but the men who had suffered terrible agony previously with sore feet, found that the rest had done them good and had a good night's sleep. Having breakfasted the following morning we went down to meet the express bound for Perth and were surprised to see there 8 men in the same plight as ourselves who evidently had, arrived during the night. The passengers


as far as smokes were concerned. That night we went to Zanthus station and were informed that the relief | crew had gone out on the section car—8 miles west—and that the mail would he picked up there. This meant that the Eastern train would not pass through Zanthus which was of no con cern to us however, for we would have made no attempt to board it, as a supply of groceries was coming for us the next day. Apparently the Federal Government was determined that we should not get any east bound train and even went to the trouble of having the time table altered, and also of paying the police overtime to prevent our getting aboard.

The following day we spent quietly. The station master came up and show ed us a copy of a coded wire which offered us


by the following day's express, but we declined the offer and at 5 o'clock that afternoon set out for the condensers, which are 13 miles from Zanthus. After spending the night there we moved off for the 894 mile camp and passed the express at the 903 mile peg. We arrived at the 870 mile camp two days later, had tea there, and later set off for the lime Kilns, which We reached by midnight. One of our cobbers, whose feet had been terribly sore, boarded the train at Zanthus and was to have picked us up at the camp. His fare had been paid by a friend, but the officials refused to drop him and allow him to pick up the rest of the party as they thought the friend was only there as a 'blind' so that the train would, stop and we would be able to "jump it." He was carried on to Rawlinna.

On October 6 the men were pretty tired so they did not get op till late. After breakfast we had a talk with the residents, who informed us that on no condition would any east bound train stop within ten miles of where we were camped. Our food being light at this stage we had now to be content with one meal only. Moreover the men were foot-sore and could not get a good bath to refresh them. After tea we went down, to the East bound express and were not disappointed when it rattled through at top speed. Feeling fit after a good, night's, rest we went down to the T. and S. early in the morning for our supply of meat, which the butcher gave us, twice a week.

The fettlers' wives told us we were well behaved and advised, us to carry on in the same manner. In the afternoon we packed our swags and set off for Rawlinna, which we intended to make in easy stages. After a few hours' walk ing we arrived at Newman's Wind- mill, which supplied a cattle station with water. The country was getting more And more desolate and with only spinifex to be seen now it was impossible to take shelter from the boiling sun. Rawlinna being a big railway centre we did not hesitate to ask the Commonwealth Store for a donation. We were given vegetables. During the afternoon we washed our clothes and had a bath.

After tea we held a meeting and decided to jump the express that would be going east that night. We saw, an engine steaming up and when it connected a water gin and put bread on top we knew that they were trying to "put a swifty across us". Now we knew Rawlinna was the watering station and that the train boarded the water gin which was stationary with the engine in the shed. The Rawlinna station-master warned us that we would be arrested and even went so far as to say that the engine was not going.

But we knew different. We then saw the light of an approaching engine and dashed towards it only to find that it was an engine without any carriages attached, and that these had been parked about 8 miles west. Meanwhile the engine that we had left started to move and the only chance that the 14 of us had of getting aboard was


This was done, and although the officials tried to put us off they could do nothing with us and so the engine moved off to pick up the carriages which the other engine had left. When the carriages were hooked on, the train did not move off for nearly an hour and a half in the hope that we would get off. It was terribly cold and we were lying in water, but nevertheless decided to stick. We went to sleep and when we woke the train was crossing the border where a monument is erected. After a few miles on the Nullabor Plain with nothing to gaze at but salt and blue bush, we reached Forrest. Here a loco inspector sat up on top of the water gin and asked us to get off, but we refused. Seeing it was fruitless asking us he asked the guard to throw us off but the latter said that it was useless as if force were were used there would probably be a disturbance and the passengers would be awakened.

When we arrived at Cook we saw a big crowd who had evidently heard about us. When the train stopped, it was unlinked and ii of us managed to set off, while three of us were carried 8 mites up the line. When the inspector saw we had tricked him he gave up hopes of trying to get rid of us. The new engine and water tank then came up and we scrambled aboard. In the meantime the engine that we had previously ridden on pass- ed by, and as it did not check any of its speed the three aboard stopped it by jambing on the air brake and then got off and joined our engine.

We passed several stations and eventually arrived at Immarna where there were two policemen, a train crew and 50 fettlers waiting to throw us off. The police


and we obeyed and stood beside the line waiting further proceedings. Immarna being the junction where the two trains meet, the East bound pulled straight out. The passengers on the West bound took up a collection for us, which was gratefully received. After this the police came up to us and advised us to go quiet and walk the other 400 miles to Port Augusta. From Rawlinna to Immarna, a distance of 409 miles, we had ridden free of charge. When we boarded the train at Rawlinna we had between 14 of us only two loaves of bread and this was the only food we had for 36 hours. When put off at Immarna we had to walk 30 miles on empty stomachs, and to make things worse the heavy rain and the blinding sand storm made travel difficult. We set out from Immarna for an old construction camp, a distance of it or 13 miles—and we reached the camp by bedtime, having been drench ed through with the rain. Everyone was tired out and we all slept well.

We got up at 9 o'clock and set out for Barton. The weather was muggy and drizzling rain was falling. We walked for 8 hours and when we arrived in Barton were very hungry. The fettlers gave us a feed. The sun rose so early next morning that we were forced to get up at 6.30. While we were cooking breakfast


but got little satisfaction from the men. That afternoon we spent in washing our clothes. The next day (Sunday) all the men set out for the 360 mile camp, which was reached by mid-day. We retired early but were only in bed a few hours when we got up and started off again. We walked 10 miles and rested around a fire until daybreak when we continued on the track. We arrived at the 240 mile camp at 10 o'clock and waited until the T. and S. train brought us flour. About three miles west of Wynbring, our next objective, we passed the West bound train, and we went and hid in the bush, for we knew that if any of the officials on the train saw us they would send word along to run the Eastern express due at Wynbring that night right through. As the train passed, the people had their heads out evidently expecting to see us, but they were disappointed.

We eventually reached our destination about 1.30 p.m. and waited with all preparations made for jumping that evening's ex- press. When the train came in sight it was plain to see it was not stopping, thus slipping us up again. We then held a meeting and every man knowing how short of food and footsore we were decided that the best way out of things was to break all the windows in the station and be taken by the police to Port Augusta. When the road ganger came out we approached him and told him of our intentions and asked him to 'phone and tell the police. We all joined in smash- ing the windows, which was the least damage we could do to attain our purpose. When the ganger informed the police we were given this answer. "You will never get on a train travel ling east."

After this a fettler, who had a lame goat, gave it to us, and after killing it and giving him back the skin we turned in for the night. We were up early next morning and breakfast for 12 came from chops off the goat. After lunch a policeman came to Wynbring by section car, a distance of 64 miles, and after questioning us, told us to


and to await developments. He gave us 50lb. of flour and a little tea and sugar and later we went to bed. Next morning we were up early and went down to meet the West bound express. Another policeman got off the train - and the passengers obliged us with cigarettes. After lunch the two policemen came and told us to pack our swags as we could go on that evening's express to Port Augusta. We waited under water tanks until the train arrived and one man had to be carried to the station as he had sprain- ed his ankle the previous day.

We travelled on a grimy van on the express and at Tarcoola were given four loaves of bread and two tins of jam by the police. We arrived in Port Augusta about 6 o'clock and walked down to the police station, where the 12 of us were locked up until 10.30 in the morning when we were tried. The two J's P. were in sympathy with as and the Commissioner of Police entered a plea on our behalf. We presented a very grubby appearance in the Court and one of the marchers was with out shoes.

The Commissioner asked the men on the Bench to give us 7 days in Green bushes prison, where we could get well fed and also give our feet a chance to heal. Five of the men were taken the 3 miles in a car but the other seven of us walked. The charge on which we had been convicted was that we maliciously did damage to the seven windows of the Wynbring station to the extent of £3 and that we all broke the windows. From Friday until the following Thursday we were in prison. We feel in a pretty bad way but are neither down hearted nor disgraced and we intend to leave for Adelaide. In Port Augusta we were all given 11/ worth of rations. Unemployment is bad here as there is 50 per cent, of the population out of work.

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