Stories from my father – the railway

Saddleworth railway station

Saddleworth Railway Station

My father is 90 years old, and has heaps of stories to tell about his early life. He has always lived in the country, and those small communities have much to tell us about how community does and sometimes doesn’t work. The following piece was written after he was asked to contribute to the local church’s ‘heritage service’ last year, on the theme of railways in the district. So, over to dadda now!

I had two main areas of contact with the railways in my life. The first was going to High School from Saddleworth to Riverton on the train in 1936, the second was as a recipient of goods for the shop [he was a storekeeper in Auburn for 50 years] on freight trains from 1955 – 1983.

Before all that though, as a kid at Saddleworth, aged around 10 – 12, Cec Haydon and I used to go up to the station in the evening when they were shunting. We got friendly with the drivers and occasionally they offered us a ride in the engine, which we thought was pretty good, though of course it was against the rules. They even had a crane at the station to lift heavy machinery (eg headers and other agricultural equipment) that had been delivered by train.

Another railway related memory concerns the Saddleworth Beach Picnic. These town Picnics were held once a year about 4 times that I remember when I was in primary school – so in the very early 1930’s. The three towns of Manoora, Saddleworth and Riverton booked out a train and took everyone who wanted to go to Semaphore beach for the day, and then returned everyone home again that night. Fritz Warneke the chemist was one of the key organisers for Saddleworth.

It was a very early start, with the train calling at each town in turn, and going on via Dry Creek down to Semaphore, arriving around 10 am. It was a great day that everyone would look forward to. There was the beach itself of course, but there were entertainments at that time at Semaphore too, things like a hurdy gurdy, fairy floss, camel rides, a slippery dip (penny a go) and more. I think I had about 2 shillings spending money saved up, and that would have lasted about an hour! Of course we had lots of our pals with us and knew most people from the other towns too. No one had cars then, or hardly anyone, so it was a way of getting to the seaside and having fun – we all looked forward to it a lot.

Semaphore 1925

Semaphore Beach c.1925 (double click on the picture above and you will see an enlarged version of it)

We left to come home as late as possible, arriving really tired out after a wonderful day, at about 10 pm.

Saddleworth – Riverton train 1936

The morning train (which was the Adelaide train) left each day at 7.40. About 6 of us went to school this way. Coming home was different though. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we came home at 8.30 pm on the Broken Hill express. We would do our homework after school while waiting for the train. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we came home at around 3 pm, before school finished for the day, on the Adelaide – Terowie produce train – ‘The Cabbagey’. We sat in the guard’s van. 

One memorable occasion concerned Mr Magor’s turkeys. He had a farm about 2 miles from Riverton, and one day about 14 of his turkeys flew into the path of the train. At least 5 or 6 of them were hit and killed, with feathers flying everywhere. 

Goods’ train to Auburn

I started the shop in 1955. Mr Maddern had the bulk of the trade at that time, and both he and I got goods through a monthly account with the Railways. The station master would come with the account at the end of the month and was paid the same day. Freight was very cheap, and the service was greatly missed when it came to an end.

To start with, goods for Mr Maddern and I were left in the goods shed in two separate piles. Maddern’s were delivered to him on Arthur Garrard’s horse and trolley. I picked mine up with the Ute.

Goods’ day was originally Wednesday, then Thursday. I continued to pick up my goods after Mr Maddern retired – sharing the shed with bottled beer for the pub. The children used to love to go with me to collect the goods on Thursday mornings in school holidays. Arnott’s biscuit deliveries were made separately. They were left over where the restaurant is now, on the seat where passengers waited. On one occasion, after the Station Master’s position had gone, a carton of peppermint creams was found to be missing from the order. Enquiries revealed the empty carton along with biscuit wrappers under the goods shed, which had been enclosed in a sort of cubby house!

To begin with, the railway station was staffed by a Station Master and a Porter. Soon after I started the porter was dispensed with and the Station Master did it all. There was also a gang of about 4 men to service the line, including Mick Smith, who was the boss, Mr Michaelanny (I always called him Mister Michaelanny, and don’t remember his first name), and Bob Anderson. Eventually the station master went too, and finally the whole service came to an end. The bushfires in 1983 burnt some of the track, which meant the train couldn’t get through. To begin with after that, we would go to Saddleworth to pick up goods from the train there (the Broken Hill train went through Saddleworth), but it wasn’t too long before that finished too. It was a very good and valued service – we have had difficulties getting goods ever since.

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