Monday, May 26, 2014

Trove Tuesday: In which George labours on the line

Part five. The diary of George Smith continues. It's May 1889 and George is still working as a labourer on the Great Southern Railway that was being constructed between Albany and Beverley in Western Australia.

Men using timber sleepers to construct the 

Uralla Railway Line west of Roma, ca. 1918 [QldPics,]

1/5 Weather very showery, cold at nights with inclination to freeze. Very much amused at my mate giving me some reminiscences of old Ireland and some ballads.
2/5 Plate layers in camp fixing line and lifting siding to ballast pit.
3/5 Dressing & trimming formation. Visited by inspector of repairs.
4/5 One month on repairs 8-6-0 due. Beautiful day. Went to next camp for mutton. Weight of sheep 28 lbs. Longing to see a Christian.
5/5 Usual routine, usual work.
7/5 Loaf of bread stole from Ned McGuinnes's tent attributed to two travelling hawkers.
9/5 Usual work. Michael Courtney's tent robbed, loaf of bread stone. My tent robbed, piece of bacon & some mutton stolen.
10/5 Jack McCarthy put on. Went to Taylors in the afternoon.
11/5 Ten pound of pork stole from McCarthy's tent, suspicions on Bobby Hunter.
12/5 Shifted two tents & erected two chimneys.
13/5 Lifting and pulling the line.
14/5 Burning off scrub.
15/5 Pay day. Paid 8-6-6 twenty two and a half days. Loading rails and crossings with the next gang.
16/5 Went to Narrogin with McCarthy on the trolley, distance 16 miles, for stores. Could get no fresh meat so have to do without it. Wrote home.
17/5 Cleaning drains
18/5 Heavy showers. Miller went along the line inspecting.
19/5 Lang ramble into the bush, reading etc.
20/5 Working on the line. Evening listening to ballads and ghost stories.
21/5 Got word from Inspector Reardon that we would have to shift in a day or two on account of the length being made longer a mile being put on to each of them.
22/5 Thinking of leaving the repairs and going to Glentromie. The line has to be opened on June 1st and intend then to go down to Albany and see about it.
23/5 Shifting camp six miles near Beverley. Made two trips of it, shifting three frame tents. Pushing them up on a one in sixty grade on the trolley hard work.
24/5 Morning fixing up camp, afternoon went to Taylors with trolley 12 miles for meat, got half sheep 11 lb. First saw the notorious Fanny Flay.
25/5 Working close to next gang. One of them had his bed clothes pulled off him and took outside, the door of his tent being closed. Rainy day washing, baking the food, fixing tent. Living with Ned in a twelve by two.
27/5 Dispute between the ganger and Ned McGuinness. hasty words. the dispute arose out of which of the two owned a certain kerosene tine bucket. Ned stopped in all day, went out next day.
28/5 Saw a regular overland troop going east, six niggers and a gin all mounted on three pack horses & a white man. Rather a drool looking lot.
29/5 The inspector came along and altered our length us to shift a second time to our annoyance. Ganger received news from his wife. She said she was coming over.
30/5 Up at daybreak packing up. Shifted to the 66 and a half. At it all day. I vexed the ganger very much in wanting to let the trolley run down a steep grade.
31/5 Went to Taylors got 12 lb pork, half pound of tea, 6 sugar.
1/6 On clay banks the line sinking working hard. Afternoon fetched a load of boxes on trolley from the old camp.
2/6 Putting floor in tent.
3/6 Lifting the rails on each of the bridges one inch high. Three hours rain, stopped in tent. Line opened from the ninety to Beverley, a train through & back once each day.

West Australian, 31 May 1889
4/6 The boss and old Ned at it again about packing the sleepers. Sam Diver with us for a night. He had been on a spree for a fortnight and was in the horrors.
5/6 Climies Cart came with the stores. Fetched letters and newspapers. Was glad to hear that all was well at home.
6/6 Bought 16 shillings worth of Ned's stores. He left with the cart down to the one hundred and nineteen. He left the tent. While we were away took six lb onions from my tent & dish and some bags from Courtney.
7/6 Visited by the inspector of repairs. Was told the length we left was very bad in parts. Gave letter to him to post.
10/6 Rainy day. Pay train came at eight o'clock at night. Grand 20 chain chase after it. Received 24 days pay 8-18-0. Ganger one pound short in his pay.
11/6 Began a six chain general lift and decided to go to Narrogin on the morrow for stores.
12/6 Road too bad. Put off the trip to Narrogin. In rainy weather the banks get soft and the weight of the train puts the rail down in places and if they was not lifted and packed they would put the train off.
13/6 to 19/6 Diary pages missing

Railway gang [Image H2002.106/266 SLV]
20/6 Another hand put on, W Geary a Colonial, but as usual a swearing cursing navvy. Inspector passed up and found fault with the length. Said it was very crooked.
21/6 Full handed again but McCarthy said he would not come out again if he had to work such a heavy lever.
22/6 McCarthy stopped in having a very bad cold the result of the booze.
23/6 Went to Blakes camp and fetched back Diver to fill Jack's spot.
24/6 The Diver and I batched together. He is a sailor cove with plenty of funny yarns but abominably smutty.
25/6 Playing cards all evening and did not feel right, neglecting praying & spiritually uneasy.
26/6 Thought of leaving & going to Perth. Bad company has an awful influence.
27/7 Another man put on, Black Peter by name. The usual character. Cards again. Told Courtney that I would leave. Sorrow all round. Got my time and gave stores to Diver.
28/6 Started for Albany from the Arthur River siding.

Albany Railway Station, Western Australia. It was constructed  in 1889
the same year that the Great Southern Railway was opened. [Postcard]
To be continued. In the next installment George goes to Perth.


  1. Continuing to enjoy George's diary - he writes well and to the point. I wonder who or what the "notorious Fanny Flay" was from 24 May.

    1. LOL. I wondered about Fanny too and did a Google search but failed to find anything. George wad probably shocked to the core.

  2. The diary is fascinating, and the pictures too.


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