About the South Coast Railway in WW1

This is the Black Diamond Heritage Centre’s project site for developing the 2015 exhibition event and book around the theme of the South Coast Railway in WW1 . Often, but not always, train engine drivers would blow “cock a doodle do” on the engine whistle to let local townspeople that a returned soldier was on the train.

Bulli Railway Station

Bulli Railway Station

We aim to cover the following areas :

  • capturing the stories, reported during the WW1 years, of soldiers, sailors and nurses being farewelled and welcomed home at South Coast  Railway Stations south of Waterfall – often with Brass Bands and Singing – drawing heavily from the Illawarra Mercury, South Coast Times & Wollongong Argus and the Kiama – these may include Aboriginal service personnel who were officially accepted for enlistment from May 1917 ……. there will be both sad and happy tales
  • capture stories of South Coast Railway employees and their families who served in WW1
  • locate other South Coast Railway stories of WW1 eg collection & transport of Care packages for WW1 service personnel at the Front
  • collect photographs of all of the South Coast Railway stations taken during the WW1 years
  • collect photographs and additional stories of selected service personnel and nurses for most of the South Coast railway stations
  • collect suitable stories of the overseas Railways in WW1, eg in England and France, which may be relevant to South Coast WW1 Service personnel – Hospital Trains 
  • explore the on-going development of the South Coast Railway during the WW1 years in the context of the unfolding political and industrial relations events
  • how the South Coast Railway has facilitated commemoration of WW1, and later conflicts – including ANZAC Day marches and War Widows annual Widows Walk and Rembrance field events

Note – not all farewell and welcome events were reported in the newspapers during the WW1 years. However, information on all people who served in WW1 can be found via the DVA’s Nominal Roll site  & National Archives of Australia search page. And for those with a connection to the Illawarra, additional information can be found at the Illawarra Remembers website – launched on September 12 2014. See also the NSW Government’s WWI Centenary Commemoration Events website.

Can you help us?

We have identified stories and names of service personnel being farewelled or welcomed home at railway stations – are there any more ? Or perhaps you have some photographs or memorabilia of service personnel or the stations from the WW1 years ?

 If so, then if you’d like to help us – please email details to bdhcbulli@gmail.com or phone 02 – 42 671488.


Of course, when undertaking a project like this, you find yourself asking many questions :

      • WW1 started on August 4 1914 – but why is June 1914 sometimes mentioned as the start ?
      • When did the South Coast service personnel and nurses start enlisting – where did they enlist ?
      • Where did they do their training ? Did they get any leave during their training period ? Could they get home during their leave ?
      • How soon did the first soldiers leave the Illawarra ? How were they farewelled ?
      • What is the difference between an ANZAC and “an original ANZAC” ?
      • How were all these farewells and welcome home’s at the South Coast Railway Stations from 1914 to 1921 organised ? Who participated ?
      • What units or ships did the soldiers and sailors serve in ?
      • What was the 1st Railway Section of the AIF in WW1 ?
      • How did all (or most) of the letters cards sent to and from the Front get delivered ?
      • Was there any compulsory military training or service before, during or after WW1 ?
      • How was Repatriation of soldiers managed at the end of WW1 ?
      • Why did it take over a year for all South Coast WW1 service personnel to return home after the war ended on November 11 1918 ? What did they do before getting home ?
      • Did we have Hospital Trains for returning soldiers who were wounded – like in England? What info is there on nurses in WW1 ? (1)
  • When did the last Thirroul soldier come home ?  – it was Thomas Gibson of Thirroul in 1921

And did you know that sometimes there were Free or Discount Tickets for WW1 Soldiers & their families ?

  • April 20 1915 & April 23 1915 – April 23 1915– Illawarra Mercury – discount tickets for soldiers attending the March of Expeditionary Force through Sydney on April 24 1915 6am train leaving Wollongong; April 23 1915 – South Coast Times & Wollongong Argus –  special trains leaving from Wollongong at 6am and 7am  for families to farewell the soldiers
  • January 1 1916 – Shoalhaven News & South Coast  Districts Advertiser – Call for free railway tickets for soldiers like they get in the Mother Country, England
  • March 31 1916 – Illawarra Mercury – free tickets for wounded soldiers for one month on their return home and free rail passes for country soldiers to take final leave of their families
  • October 24 1916  & October 27 1916 – Illawarra Mercury – soldiers who had previously engage in seasonal occupations ie growing cereals, fruit and sugar cane to be allowed to return to their former employment to be given military leave of absence to work in these activities while they are needed and given a free railway warrant to travel to work – similar to that granted those involved in sheep shearing and sugar cane crushing
  • December 16 1916 – Kiama Independent & Shoalhaven Advertiser – Mr Lang, in the NSW Parliament, called for free rail and tram travel for life all blind returned soldiers
  • September 20 1918 – Illawarra Mercury – concession allowed for returning soldiers to view farms and hospitals etc
  • November 8 1918 – Illawarra Mercury – “original ANZAC”s’ relatives granted free first class rail tickets from Country Stations and return to meet their “original ANZAC” relative when they arrive for their long service leave
  • November 13 1918 – Kiama Independent & Shoalhaven Advertiser – “original ANZAC”s’ relatives granted free first class rail tickets from Country Stations and return to meet their “original ANZAC” relative when they arrive for their long service leave
  • June 7 1919 – Kiama Independent & Shoalhaven Advertiser – NSW Premier announces free rail tickets for disabled returned soldiers to travel to and from work
  • September 26 1919 – Illawarra Mercury – soldiers’ brides from overseas offered free 3rd class shipping passage and free rail to travel to their new homes in Australia – there were English, Scottish, French, Greek, Italian and one Egyptian brides had arrived but no German brides

(Written by a home-sick Bulli boy onboard a troopship crossing the Bight.)

Half way up the Bulli mountain, .

 If you ever pass that way,

There’s a tiny little fountain –

Thro” the bracken threads its way

Gurgling , o’er the pebbles gushing,

Till adown the cliff edge rushing

In the depths to disappear.

Oh! waste of waters weary,

Never ending, never still,

Desolation dark and dreary

Seems my very heart to chill.

Oft I find myself day-dreaming,

And my soul within me yearns

For that tiny fountain streaming

Thro’ the tender-fronded ferns. *

I forget these rolling billows,

With their fearsome, endless sweep,

And neath the wattle trees and willows

Lay me gently down to sleep.

Ah, ’tis bitter sweet to ponder

And to let my fancies roam

To the Bulli hills out yonder,

Where is love and peace and home.

— G.C.F.

South Coast Times & Wollongong Argus September 15 1916  


 Contact us : bdhc@gmail.com

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One Response to About the South Coast Railway in WW1

  1. Pingback: National Family History Month Geneameme | A Steely Genes Journey

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