AUSTRALIAN RAILWAY STORY

Trains of Treasure CD: THE SANDY HOLLOW LINE

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A poem by Duke Tritton (1937) 
Set to Music and performed by John Dengate

The sun was blazing in the sky and waves of shimmering heat,
Glared down on the railway cutting, we were half dead on our feet,
And the ganger stood on the bank of the cut and he snarled at the men below,
"You'd better keep them shovels full or all you cows 'll go."

I never saw such a useless mob, you'd make a feller sick,
As shovel men you're hopeless, and you're no good with the pick."
There were men in the gang who could belt him with a hand tied at the back
But he had power behind him and we dare not risk the sack.

So we took it all in silence, for this was the period when
We lived in the great depression and nothing was cheaper than men.
And we drove the shovels and swung the picks and cursed the choking dust;
We'd wives and hungry kids to feed so toil in the heat we must.

And as the sun rose higher the heat grew more intense,
The flies were in their millions, the air was thick and dense,
We found it very hard to breathe, our lungs were hot and tight
With the stink of sweating horses and the fumes of gelignite.

But still the ganger drove us on, we couldn't take much more;
We prayed for the day we'd get the chance to even up the score.
A man collapsed in the heat and dust, he was carried away to the side,
It didn't seem to matter if the poor chap lived or died.

"He's only a loafer," the ganger said. "A lazy, useless cow.
I was going to sack him anyway, he's saved me the trouble now."
He had no thoughts of the hungry kids, no thought of a woman's tears,
As she struggled and fought to feed her brood all down the weary years.

But one of the government horses fell and died there in the dray,
They hitched two horses to him and they dragged the corpse away.
The ganger was a worried man and he said with a heavy sigh:
"It is a bloody terrible thing to see a good horse die."

"You chaps get back now to your work, don't stand loafing there,
Get in and trim the batter down, I'll get the Engineer."
The Engineer came and looked around and he said as he scratched his head,
"No horse could work in this dreadful heat or all of them will be dead."

"There much too valuable to lose, they cost us quite a lot
And I think it is a wicked shame to work them while it's hot.
So we will take them to the creek and spell them in the shade,
You men must all knock off at once. Of course you won't be paid."

And so we plodded to our camps and it seemed to our weary brains,
We were no better than convicts, though we didn't wear the chains,
And in those drear depression days, we were unwanted men,
But we knew that when a war broke out, we'd all be heroes then.

And we'd be handed a rifle and forced to fight for the swine,
Who tortured us and starved us, on the Sandy Hollow Line.

Notes

First printed by the Sydney Bush Music Club.

Trains of Treasure a CD of Australian railway songs and poems