AUSTRALIAN RAILWAY STORY

Railway Voices CD: 3. THE NAVVIES

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Keith Robinson former engine fitter, Chullora, volunteer on the Zig Zag Railway

In those days it would be very very hard, because most of the work was done by pick and shovel. There were two cuttings that were blasted out of the side of the hill, and this entailed something like 40,000 tons of rock and rubble to be removed.

Poem: The Navvies by Ralph Rogan, recited by Denis Kevans

We are the navvies, unhonoured, unsung,
Men from all the far ends of the earth.
We spanned the wide rivers with girders of steel
But small in reward was our worth.
We blazed the long trail over mountains and plains,
We bridged the wild torrent in flood;
We of the shovel, the pick and the steel,
The horse power, the sweat and the mud.

Pat Crawley nipper, aged 16

We started off at Trida station, there was a big camp there. There was about, roughly about a thousand men, no married quarters, no married women was allowed. Men with their wives wasn't employed, because there was ... everyone had to live like in the army. The last job I did was peg Ivanhoe yards out. There was only a hotel there and a shop and a few houses. When they got over there to this hotel, cause they were all pretty well checked up, you know, they'd worked six months and couldn't spend anything and I remember the publican saying to 'em, "Well, I was goin' to roll a keg out the day that you finished Ivanhoe yards. But seeing you'se over here to-day", he said, "It's on me". And put the keg on the counter and there they were. And a lot of.. none of them went to work again.

Paddy Porter fettler

Now it was very hard work and most gangers were bloody hard with ya. They wouldn't let you get in out of the rain and make you stand up. I remember one particular time, I was travelling in a train and a woman looked out and she said, "The fettlers are singing out paper, paper, they're not doing no work". I said, "Madam, do you want 'em to stand in the bloody four foot and get run over".

Railway Voices a CD of Australian railway workers stories with songs and poems