Australian Railway Story: An Ongoing Saga, the Project From 2001

Following the announcement that the Alice Springs Darwin Railway link would finally be constructed; the Trains of Treasure Exhibition was tour in major Northern Territory centres in 2001. This tour drew attention to the long standing tradition of recording Australian Railway themes in song and poetry and several proposals for a project followed.

A Book of Railway Songs and Poems

By June 2002 an objective to expand the Trains of Treasure collection by way of a book was being discussed with a number of interested organisations and individuals. The Australian Railway Historical Society, the Bush Music Club, the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the Australian Bush Poets Association were among those who supported this objective.

With their assistance the aim to document as many Australian Railway Songs and poems and publish a book of 50 significant Australian Railway songs, poems and stories that would reflect on the contribution railways have made to the social history of Australia was taken to another stage.

The Alice Springs Darwin Railway

It was hoped that a book would be published to coincide with the opening of the Alice Springs Darwin Railway Line that was expected to open in late 2004.

This railway line was to be first major railway line to be constructed in Australia in over eighty years and was seen as the opening another chapter in the rich history of Australian Railways story that began with convict railways in the early 1800s.

It was felt at the time that a book of Australian Railway songs, poems and stories would have a wide appeal to both Australian and overseas readers and help tell the Australian Railway Story as seen and experienced by a wide numbers of Australian. An appeal for material for the book and funding was conducted during the period leading up to the opening of the new railway in January

A National Approach

The formation of the Commonwealth in 1901 was partly due to the need to ending the many problems associated with 6 States development of Australian Railways in isolation from each other that feature many different railway gauges. Since that time very little has change More standard gauge tracks have appeared but still no National approach to Australian railway development as a whole exists. The national railway heritage as a result is also scatted from one end of the continent to the other and lacks a national approach to its preservation. One aspect of this is that no common agreement on what is Australian Railway Heritage. exists amongst the many organisation who are active.

Steam locomotives and general rollingstock have received the most attention. Activities that that could bring together the wider social aspects of Australian railway influences such as economics engineering, labour history, music, folklore and railway documentation receive only minor attention.

This need for a national approach to Australian Railway was taken into account. As a result, the appeal was conducted with the support of interested organizations Australia wide and at several levels.2004. Material was received from arrange of sources over an 18 months period. Many historical and contemporary songs and poems were submitted that has helped provided a good overview of Australian railways and the people who help to built, operate and used them over 150th Years. Material on present and future railway concerns was also encouraged and several new songs and poems have been written.

Shaping of a Book and a Story

Over 300 references and items were collected through this appeal. These have been now been sorted into 15 draft topic for the bases of the book and a reference document.

These draft topics provide ideas for further research areas and may not be the ones used as the work progresses.

No doubt many more topic divisions can be made to some of the chapter like “ Trains Trains Trains” these will be done as the research progresses.

Some headway towards the publication of the envisaged book was made with the assistance of the University of New England and the Railway Trade Unions during the National Railway Heritage Conference with the publication of a 40 page booklet of songs and poems for conference delegates that was based on the collection. See link to UNE Heritage Future Web Site for details of booklet. This smaller publication and other events like a possible DVD are keeping the ongoing project alive.

People interested in contributing to the research, writing or collecting of further Australian Railway songs and poems can do so by contacting us on this website for an opportunity refer to this draft material
We would like any feed back on that will help correct mistakes in the reference section in particular and any additional details of songs and poems not mentioned to-date.

A Song and Poem Competition

A significant contribution to the project was made by a song and poem competition that was sponsored by the Railway Tram and Bus Union with the support of a number of Northern Territory Community Arts organisations including the Top End Folk Music Club.

This popular competition resulted in a number of good contemporary observations of the new railway being written, including the winning song "The Hundred Year Old Dream" by songwriter Doug Fudge now available on CD

A Special Souvenir Publication

Despite varies approaches to government and other funding bodies for funds to help publish a book of Australian Railway songs and poems for the opening of the Alice Springs Darwin Railway this was not to be so.

As an interim measure towards a book of Australian Railway Songs and Poems, the Rail Tram and bus Union publish a special souvenir of the Rail Tram and Bus Worker in December 2003 Summer addition . This can be found on

The Project 2004 to 2006
150th Year of Steam Railways in Australia

A range of railway events are planned to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Steam Railways in Australia over several years from late 2004. These programs will continue to provide an opportunity for cultural projects around on going saga of Australian Railways and it past.

During this period the Australian Railway Story Project will continue to:

• Collect songs and poems that can build on the Trains of Treasure Exhibition

• Progress our reference list of historical and contemporary railway songs and poems that will be available to those planing further cultural railway events publications and recording. Please see the following web sites as to how this referencing might develop or be used in the future.

• Work towards the publication of a book Australian Railway Songs and poems

Performers, Collectors and Researchers

If you are a performer, collector, or a researcher of Australian Railway songs, poems and stories and interested in having your material considered for the book or referenced in the collection, we are asking that you provide us with a brief description of the material that you have or know about. A copy of the text of any song or poem and a music score or any song would be welcome. These will be used for research purposes only and note for publication without the permission on the copyright owner.

This description should included the titles of the particular song or poem that you want us to consider and it’s source if known.

A standard social history reference approach should be used that includes the name of the writer ( if known) date of publication the title of the item, publication sources ( if any) publisher address page etc. If not previously published contact details of the author and permission to use the item. Recorded items should be referred to in a similar way giving details of who recorded and wrote particular items.

While your list of songs and poems may not be used in the items that are finally chosen, we feel that a reference section of authors and titles of all known Australian Railway songs poems and stories would be useful for those interested in Australian Railway history.

If money for the project is enough to publish this information it will be included in the book. Should we be unable to included this extended references list, the complete details will be lodge with a national Australian railway social history research network that is expected to be formed during the 150th Anniversary activities.

Copies of the material you wish to submit can be placed on the Australian Railway Songs Blog or phone Brian Dunnett 0296689051