1986, Total Running Time 142 Minutes
This fabulous program explores the history of our railways, combining seven classic films on Australian trains: The Rail Way, Shades of Puffing Billy, Journey of a Nation, On Time, Ghan to Alice, All Manner of Trains and the multi-award winning A Steam Train Passes, along with introductory commentaries from various personalities including David Hill, Jack Sparkes and Patsy Adam-Smith. )
The Rail Way (1979, 25 Minutes) A wide-ranging look at Australian railways - from the city underground to the railway of the remote outback. We see the six locomotive coal giants of central Queensland and the picturesque Normanton-Croydon rail car, epic journeys of the transcontinental Indian Pacific and a half-day vintage steam train excursion. The film is introduced and narrated by Patsy Adam-Smith, well known for her many books on Australian railways.
Shades of Puffing Billy (1967, 11 Minutes) The Puffing Billy is a narrow gauge railway that runs between the towns of Belgrave and Emerald in the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria. Supported and operated by volunteer railway enthusiasts, with the assistance of the Victorian Government Railways, the Puffing Billy line has become famous throughout Australia. Shades of Puffing Billy takes a light-hearted look at the problems of operating the railway. People leave their jobs for the day, hanging up doctors’ coats and workmen’s overalls to become conductors, station masters and ticket collectors. Warm and witty, this film is an affectionate salute to the people who keep this little railway running and to locomotive enthusiasts everywhere.
Journey of a Nation (1947, 11 Minutes) Although it was commissioned as government propaganda, master documentary filmmaker John Heyer has transformed this film about the standardisation of rail gauges into a heroic poem to the nation. When it was made, there were no less than five different sizes of rail track between the mainland states. This meant that at each break, all passengers and goods - even elephants - had to be offloaded and change trains. Journey of a Nation puts the case for a uniform gauge throughout the country, emphasising the economic cost in times of peace and the possible threat to security in times of war. The rail would help to connect Australia’s far-flung settlements and break down the isolation of the outback.
On Time (1953, 8 Minutes) The control of passanger and freight trains in and out of Flinder Street Station in Melbourne, on time, is a masterpiece of precision planning.
Ghan to Alice (1978, 27 Minutes) A father and son, both rodeo riders, travel on the Ghan train from Marree in South Australia to the Alice Springs Rodeo. It’s an overnight trip through spectacular country, pausing briefly at towns along the way, as they look forward to their final destination, a bull-riding contest between the best rough-riders in the region.
All Manner of Trains (1962, 36 Minutes) All Manner of Trains provides an overview of Australia’s railways in the early 1960s, before gauges across the country were standardised. The first section takes the form of a travelogue: from Cairns to Brisbane on the Sunlander, to Sydney on the Brisbane Limited then the Daylight Express to the border and the Spirit of Progress to Melbourne. The Overland to Adelaide is followed by the Port Pirie Express and the Transcontinental to Kalgoorlie before boarding the Westland for Perth. The second section looks at other significant lines and services - cross-country, interurban and suburban - and stresses the importance of the rail network to Australia’s rural areas and to the nation’s progress.
A Steam Train Passes (1974, 20 Minutes) Generally regarded as Australia’s finest railway film and winner of many awards the world over, A Steam Train Passes is a nostalgic, imaginative essay on one of the majestic but now retired C38 class steam locomotives. This fine locomotive has been restored at the Newcastle State Dockyard. The documentary was filmed on one of its final journeys from Sydney to a series of country railway stations.
A Film Australia Production. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Segment Producer: Dick Collingridge
Featured People: David Hill, Patsy Adam-Smith, John Heyer, Paul Simpson, Martin Nesbitt, Jim Martin, Ron Preston, Jack Sparkes.
Total Running Time: 141 Minutes
Curriculum Links: English NSW Stage 6 'The Way We Worked' - exploring our past through industrial events in Australia; History, Geography and Human Society and its Environment (HSIE).