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30 Days on Australia's Railways

245 x 167 mm, 172 pp, 100 colour plates

9781925078398, $14.99, Paperback

David Burke illustrated by Phil Belbin

Available: Now

A September Journey Across Australia

Our diary of September journeys explores moments in the history of Australia’s biggest railway and, beyond State borders, tells of its influence on tracks, trains and travel. Standard gauge figures as the common thread. Starting with Federation’s great achievement, the gauge of New South Wales is chosen for the Trans-Australian Railway, while NSWGR designs are adopted for its first locomotives.

A hesitant beginning to the unification plan later allows the Brisbane Express to travel on the same set of wheels from Sydney into south-east Queensland where, ironically, many years before New South Wales politicians had resisted having their railway cross the border at Tweed Heads.

Bill Wentworth’s plan for a national standard gauge network finally unlocks Federal money to permit freight and passenger trains from Sydney and beyond to reach Melbourne, Adelaide and beyond – eventually to Perth and Darwin. As if to remind observers of the big railway’s long arm of influence, the magnificent 3801, a product of New South Wales workshops, steams across the continent.

All these events have a connection with the days of September, the month when railway history seems to happen. Read of Ben Chifley, the locomotive driver who became Prime Minister of Australia, of Dr John Job Crew Bradfield, the visionary engineer responsible for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and trains to the city underground; of James Fraser, the first Australian-born Chief Commissioner who presided over a remaking of the New South Wales railway system and harsh confrontation in the 1917 strike; of Harold Young, the man from Scotland who designed big engines, especially the C38 and also the sleek Silver City Comet; of William Randle, builder of the 1855 line to Parramatta, who ran the colony’s first trains; of Orlando Brain and a youthful ADJ Forster, assistant commissioner engineers in an exciting age of railway electrification and sharp political knives; of the forgotten Northern Line guard whose failure to find a simple metal pin led to a night of death and destruction at Murulla. Their names reside in those 30 eventful days when railways and history intertwine.

Yes, September's to remember along the iron way.