WW1 Journeys and the NSW South Coast Railway

Under Construction – Draft for Discussion & Comment

The Black Diamond Heritage Centre Museum, which operates within the State Heritage listed 1887  Bulli Railway Station Eastern Building, proposes to develop an exhibition series whose aim is to share stories on the NSW South Coast Railway and WW1 – and to produce an associated book. A grant under the Federal DVA ANZAC programme is to be sought for the preparation of both display materials and book. The book would be supplied to local schools and public libraries in the northern Wollongong LGA, as well as to bodies such as RSL Sub-branches, War Widows Guild, the Illawarra Family History Group etc.

Possible concepts and themes are as follows :

Concept for Grant Application WW1 Journeys and the NSW South Coast Railway – Heritage Festival Event & associated book

We often hear of  the Waratah’s and the Coo-ee Marches of Volunteers walking to Sydney to enlist in WW1, and picking up other volunteers along the way. But that was not the only way men made their way to the WW1 Camp before departing overseas, especially in the early period, and later stages, of the WW1 conflict. That many men also travelled to the WW1 Camp on our South Coast Trains, has to a degree, slipped “under the broader public Radar”. And also that the Service Personnel did not always travel to or from Sydney in large groups, but sometimes in smaller groups or individually.  The NSW Railway was of course integral to logistics in moving armed forces and their required resources around in WW1 – viz including the local coal mining industry.

The Black Diamond Heritage Centre plans to collect stories and photos of WW1 Railway Journeys of NSW South Coast Service personnel, especially from the area inside current boundaries of the Federal Electorate of Cunningham – but noting that some of Cunningham’s area has also been part of the former boundaries of Werriwa and Hughes Electorates in the past. The project would share these via web, social media, Heritage Festival exhibitions featuring displays and posters, and compiled into a book.

The display would show photos of NSW WW1 Service personnel on the trains, and NSW horses being loaded onto trains – with a specific focus on Service Personnel with a connection to the NSW South Coast especially the Cunningham area.

Included would be the impacts of WW1 on the development, construction and operation of the NSW South Coast Railway.

The role of the NSW South Coast Railway in facilitating participation of local former Service Personnel in major WW1 commemorative events would also be covered.

Possible concepts proposed to be included :

  • WW1 era photograph of  a local Railway Station, a photo of the same town’s WW1 memorial, newspaper stories of individual Service Personnel being farewelled or welcomed home at that railway station – together with a photo of the particular Service Personnel in uniform, photos and/or stories from their lives before, during and/or after WW1. It is intended that there would be photos & stories of Service Personnel, including culturally appropriate material on any with Aboriginal heritage and, also of any WW1 Nurses from the NSW South Coast included as well, if available. It would include those who were POW’s and those who had to have medical treatment and re-training in England before coming home to Australia. This would be repeated for other Railway Stations on the NSW South Coast
    • eg Harry Hicks and Tom Gibson of Thirroul – – include details of regiment/battalion and where they served
  • A project focus would also be those Service Personnel in the WW1 Armed Forces who were employed in the NSW Railways before and/or after the war – illustrating how various levels of government were encouraged to provide employment for Service Personnel post WW1.
    • eg Ken Joy
  • Also aim to locate stories of Sherbrooke descendants in WW1 – this will also be added to the Sherbrooke One Place Study Project, being conducted by the Sherbrooke Sisters in conjunction with the Black Diamond Heritage Centre. Note – the Sherbrooke themed National Trust NSW 2014 Annual Heritage Festival events by the Sherbrooke Sisters at the Black Diamond Heritage Centre attracted strong community interest.
    • eg photo of Sherbrooke Spinks descendant A E B Jones as a young child outside the family home on main road Bulli, in the Reserve Rifles Pre WW1, in WW1 uniform and then after the war driving – with details of regiment/battalion and where they served
  • The proposed Black Diamond Heritage Centre project team would seek to work with, and leverage off other groups, including
    • those utilising contemporary social media approaches to engage with wider audiences eg Lost Wollongong, Back in Time – Photos from the Illawarra etc  
    • and also with more traditional groups – RSL Sub Branches
    • as well as supporting the Illawarra Family History Group’s Illawarra Remembers project,  being done in conjunction with Wollongong City Library.  
  • During WW1, Service Personnel could often travel for free on the Railway eg to attend a March on April 24 1915
  • The Railway contributed directly and indirectly in other ways during the WW1 era
    • eg care packages were prepared by many volunteers and the Railways often freighted these for free.
    • and when war time shortages of products like butter occurred back  and people travelled by train to more major centres to seek to buy the scarce items
  • The project would include the stories of the NSW South Coast Railway itself in WW1 – viz its development, construction, operations, and of how it was impacted by WW1 times eg 
    • The challenging times at the outbreak of WW1 with unemployment issues which led to some enlisting in WW1
    • Employment was provided on projects like the NSW South Coast Railway construction – and initially the impact of WW1 seemed less severe, perhaps as it was generally felt that the war would not last too long, certainly not as long as four years. So construction continued to some degree – for duplication of NSW South Coast Railway, with associated railway overpass bridges, North Wollongong Railway station was opened, Thirroul Railway Institute initiated, construction of the spur line to the emerging Port Kembla industrial area.
    • Later the NSW Railway Commissioners began deferring projects, including on the NSW South Coast Railway, because of the increasing budgetary demands for the war effort
  • The post WW1 era, eg 
    • Major welcome home marches,  and the growth of the commemorative ANZAC Day Marches from the interwar years until today – where transport on the NSW South Coast Railway facilitated participation of ex Service Personnel and their families, including War Widows, from the Cunningham Electorate area in such commemoration events. 

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