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Goods Train to Whitfield The Memories of a Victorian Railways Guard
Hello everyone from the wilds of Central Burma!
We would sign on at 2am at Wangaratta to run the Tuesday Whitfield Goods. The engine would also come off the pet at 2am to do the shunt and the van and carriage would be pushed down to the buffer stop. Here they were charged with Pintich gas for their lighting, and the gas point serving both the broad and narrow gauge. Then the engine would run round and push them back on to the van. The driver would check the brakes and by this time it was 3am- the Whitfield Goods was due out.
We set off in the dark and on some frosty mornings the engine would be slipping and sliding for miles out, and other mornings it would be so hot that one was perspiring. About six miles out from Wangaratta, the train would arrive at Oxley and as we usually had three louvre vans loaded for all stations, we would have to unload van goods and probably do a shunt in pitch dark - no electric lights.
Then we would move on to Docker and have to do the same thing there. Sometimes we had to unload NQ trucks into the van shed so that they would be ready to be picked up empty on the return journey. If it was frosty, we would roll out any truck covers so that they would be dried by the sun by the time we got back. On occasions we had to pick up trucks that had been part loaded at Docker and elsewhere; Docker and Moyhu were the two stations they used mainly.
At Moyhu, sixteen and a quarter miles from Wangaratta, we would have quite a lot of shunting to do, placing the part loaded trucks in the siding and leaving the louvre vans on the butter factory spur siding for loading.
Edi was the only place a train could take water between Wangaratta and Whitfield, by which time the engine’s tanks were very low. Many a time we would get between Moyhu and Edi and the train would stop, I’d look out and the engine would be gone. The driver would uncouple and go full pelt up to Edi, get half a tank of water then come back to get us. That would allow the bore at Edi to recover so the tanks could be topped up later. There were four 600 gallon tanks at Edi and it normally was the ganger’s job to fill the tanks as much as he could but during the summer months the repairers could pump for only half an hour before the water would cut out and have to be left to build up again. It was seepage from the river actually and the bore was below river level. When the bore got low, the van men had to pump water till it ran out, otherwise we wouldn’t have enough to get back to Wangaratta. It was a big hand pump, and in winding the handle, like a big chaffcutter, there was a lot of hard work involved.
We usually had to shunt at Edi and as well as taking water the driver would do his fire before moving into the King Valley. We did quite a lot of shunting there and they loaded linseed, broom millet and produce.
Our arrival at Whitfield would be approximately 7.30am and we would be greeted by Mrs Forge, the ganger’s wife and station caretaker. It was meal time for everybody and she would have a billy of tea and toast for the crew.
When the train arrived, horses, carts and wagons would come from everywhere to load perishables. There were timber mills in the hilly country behind Whitfield and usually there were three or four trucks loaded with their timber.
The engine would go over the pit and the fire was done along with other engine requirements. The water at Whitfield gravitated from a gully up in the hills, which made it easy for the crew. They would take the engine on to the turntable and sometimes we had to give them a push if the engine was out of balance.
The train was stopped in Whitfield with the guard’s van opposite the van shed. We did van goods while the engine was over the pit and unloaded all the louvre van goods so we could use the empty van on the return journey.
Departure for the return trip to Wangaratta was about 9 or 9.30am and quite often we had three or four men with a couple of dogs from the stock and station agents travelling in the carriage. At practically every level crossing as far as Edi or Moyhu, the locals would load pigs. The NM livestock vans were usually on the front of the train so that the driver could stop them within half an inch of where required. The carts would back up against the side of the train and the pigs were herded straight into the vans. Occasionally the pigs would get away but usually things went nicely. Cans of cream, bales of broom millet, linseed, crates of fowls, vealers - killed and in bags - were also loaded at the road crossings.
The van men had to work really hard, loading van goods all the way and consigning goods route between stations. Each station on the line had its own stamp and number which had to appear on the waybills.
At Edi the engine always took water just before leaving otherwise we wouldn’t make the distance to Wangaratta. There was shunting at most stations, the secret being to get as many empty trucks as possible back to Wangaratta, otherwise there would not be enough for the loading to go down on the next train.
The butter was loaded straight out of the cooler into the NU vans at Moyhu, but they didn’t start loading until they saw the smoke of the approaching train and would just be finishing as we arrived. We would unload the cans of cream for the butter factory and sometimes pick up cans of cream for the Wangaratta butter factory.
When we reached what is now the Hume Highway at Wangaratta, we often had up to four NM’s loaded with pigs. We had to unload them onto the road and chase them down to the market yard about 200 yards beyond the One Mile Creek. On a hot day they would all dive into the water and we had trouble getting them out.
It was a heavy pull from there round to the station for arrival between 12 noon and 1pm. The trucks were shunted into the right roads, those with goods for Melbourne were put on the transfer road and the Moyhu butter was loaded into iced T vans straight away. After the shunting, the engine would go over the pit to await its next turn of duty on the Whitfield Goods the following Tuesday.
‘Victorian Railway Newsletter"
Mr Harold Lindsay
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