Maryborough – The Railway Station With the Town Attached

A freight town near Maryborough

The American author Mark Twain apparently caught a train through the Victorian township of Maryborough, and was reputed to have described it as ‘the railway station with the town attached’. The railway station seems out of all proportion to the size of the town, and even the number of trains departing the station even during it’s peak period of operation. One tall-tale about how this came to be is that around the 1880’s two Victorian politicians were traveling together and they got to comparing plans of Spencer St station’s platform 1 and the plan for Maryborough. The story goes that one of the politicians, whose electorate was Maryborough convinced his traveling companion to swap plans. The Maryborough station was opened in 1890, but apparently there was no foundation stone because the the government that the station was built under was defeated, and the new government possibly didn’t want to ‘take the credit’ for having such a huge station in a township such as Maryborough.

There may be some truth to this story, as the Maryborough station has 4 huge ticket windows, carved in oak, and the size of the windows would suggest they were meant for a much more frequented station. In the 1980’s only one of these windows was used, and there was only one passenger train each day – the Vinelander, which ran between Mildura and Melbourne. At that time, the Vinelander would arrive at about 1am (who would care about the exact time at that time of morning) when bound for Mildura, and about 4am (again who cares about the exact time) when going to Melbourne. At it’s peak period of activity it had 3 lines connecting at it and there were daily passenger and / or freight trains traveling those lines – The Melbourne – Ballarat – Mildura line, the Maryborough – Ararat line, and the Maryborough – Castlemaine line. But even still, there would seem little reason to have such a huge station and booking office area for a region even with the amount of passenger trains departing then.

Some Good Advice

On a poster depicting a car and a train meeting at a level crossing, the following was written:

Stop and let the train go by It hardly takes a minute Your car starts out again in tact And better still, you’re in it!

Whose Is It Anyway?

Back in the ‘good ol days’ of railway lore, every train had a guard, and the guard had a red and a green flag. Two guards were arguing about a green flag. They both claimed it belonged to them. After a while, one grabbed the flag, tore it up into numerous bits, and remarked to the other ‘Try waving that then!’. The poor train driver had to look really hard to see the small patch of green flag being waved by his guard, until he got a new green flag!

Watch That Bridge

Back around the 1920’s or 30’s there was a railway line from Kooweerup to Strezlecki in the Strezlecki mountain ranges (between Warragul, and Korumburra). The line was fairly lightly laid, but one bridge in particular was reason for concern. The trestle bridge foundations were not that sturdy, and after a few years of operation, the bridge started to ‘sway’ as trains crossed it. It got to the point where the driver and fireman would stop the train before the bridge, set the loco throttle so that it was just moving, jump out, and scramble over the creek to the other side of the bridge, and when the loco had cleared the bridge they would jump back on and continue on to the next station. Somehow I don’t think that was ‘regulation’ behaviour! The bridge was located just before the railhead, and so rather than try and fix the problem, the railways simply closed the line past the bridge altogether.

The Hillbillies

Back before I got married, I used to commute from the Gippsland area into Melbourne every day for work. This involved catching a diesel loco hauled country train, then getting off the train at Dandenong, which was the nearest suburban station to where I worked that country trains stopped at. Some mornings at the station I got on at, as the Melbourne-bound country train would pull in, a recording of the theme of the Beverley Hillbillies television series could be heard through the station loud speaker system. I never found out why it was done, but it certainly brought a smile to my face!

World’s OLDEST Hobby?

Model Railroading has been called the Worlds Greatest Hobby, and rightly so. But could it be a descendant of the worlds oldest hobby? About 500BC the emperor of the Q’in (pronounced ‘Chin’. Chin is where the name China came from) dynasty wanted to view all the different regions of his empire. But of course it was impossible for him to be in all the regions of his empire at once. So he commissioned some artists in his empire to visit each region and make models of each region, so that he could view them all from inside his palace in the forbidden city. Once each diorama was completed, it was placed on a map the empire that was carved into the floor in part of his palace. And so each day he would travel through his whole empire, admiring the beauty of his kingdom. The dioramas were called ‘penjing’. China in 500BC didn’t have the benefit of Woodland Scenics scatter and trees, or similar materials, and so the dioramas were made from real dirt and rocks, and small trees that were alive. The art of Bonsai owes it’s existence to these penjings, and it would seem that maybe the ‘art’ of Model Railroading does too! (Information Source: Better Homes and Gardens, July 2004 issue)

Unluckiest Railroad!

Walhalla Goldfields Railway, 2000s

If railways are considered lucky or unlucky, maybe this example would fit the description of the unluckiest. In the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia, there was a gold mining town called Walhalla. Around the 1890’s the citizens were lobbying for a branch line from the mainline some 40 miles away so their town could continue to be prosperous. The gold mines were going well, and many in the town beleived a railway connection might guarantee prosperity for the town. The lobbying went on for quite a few years, and eventually the railroad was built, the first train arriving in March, 1910. A week or so before the railway was officially opened one of the major gold mines in the town closed down, and this was followed by many others. Because there weren’t any other prospects for employment in the town because of it’s isolation, many people left town, and ironically they left town on the train! The very thing that many thought would keep people in the town actually carried them and their houses away! The town slowly died away, but the railroad soldiered on for about another 40 years, and was eventually closed around the mid 1950’s. According to a number of books on the subject, the railroad had very few years where it actually made a profit.

Railway Related Quotes

“A railroad is like a lie. You have to keep building it to make it stand.” –Mark Twain

“A helping word to one in trouble is often like a switch on a railroad track… an inch between wreck and smooth, rolling prosperity.” — Henry Ward Beecher (Liberal US Congregational minister, 1813-1887)

“The human brain is like a railroad freight car — guaranteed to have a certain capacity but often running empty.” –Anon

“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” –Theodore Roosevelt

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that both engines have failed, and we will be stuck here for some time. The good news is that you decided to take the train and not fly.” –Engineer of a broken down train.

“A critic is a gong at a railroad crossing clanging loudly and vainly as the train goes by.” –Christopher Morley

“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.” –Mary H. Jones

“God made the world in 4004 B.C. and it was reorganized in 1901 by J.P. Morgan.” –Wall Street Journal, about J.P Morgan, well known Railroad Entreprenuer.

Strange but True

During Railroad Conductor classes on at least some American railroads, the instructor may indicate that a cars rock the most between about 15 and 20 mph. Engineers may be told to avoid coasting within that speed range. But why? The story is told of a railroad employee on a train that hit a rough area of track, and the employee had to hold on to his seat to avoid being thrown around in the loco cab, the rocking got that bad. He looked back at the train and he could see cars rocking from side to side violently to the point where he was concerned about the safety of the train. He checked what the speed was, and it was 18mph. After a while, the engineer put the loco up a couple of notches, the speed of the train increased and the rocking abated. Similar stories could probably be told by countless railroad employees on countless railroads.

This phenomenon is called harmonic rocking, which is caused by the spacing of the rail joints, and the wheelbase of the loco or cars. When the wheel base of the car is about the same as the space between rail joints, and the trackbed is below standard, the car will start rocking at certain speeds.

So on a railroad with jointed rail, it could be more dangerous to run the train at, say, 15 mph, than at 40 mph.

Strange, but true!