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Chapter Fourteen


The Standing Committee Wound Up

John Woods died on 2nd April 1892, a few weeks after the railway commissioners’ suspension. He had been an active member of the Standing Committee on Railways until a month before his death, which came as his personal fortune was evaporating. His estate had insufficient funds to cover the funeral expenses. Woods had been a confidant and large shareholder of ex-Premier James Munro’s bankrupt Real Estate Bank.[1] Three days after Woods’ death Thomas Bent and William Zeal completed their work on the Standing Committee on Railways and presented their Second General Report.

John Woods MLA before his death in 1892. His interest in railways was lifelong. He was Commissioner of Railways, 1875, 1877-1880. Illustrated Australian News, 2nd May 1892.

The Standing Committee on Railways was wound up a few months later. Over its two-and-a-half-year life, it had held 419 meetings over 245 days, with 17,407 miles travelled by train, coach and steamer to investigate no less than 5,265 miles of proposed railway. These statistics were assiduously compiled by their secretariat, in a specially fitted up and furnished committee room and office at Parliament House which cost £2,957: more than the cost of a new locomotive. The total cost of the Committee’s work was £16,164,[2] which was over five times Speight’s annual salary.

For all their trouble, the lines recommended by the committee included just as many of dubious worth or of political inspiration as those proposed during Speight’s incumbency. One was a line of just 4⅛ miles from St Kilda to Brighton in Bent’s electorate, which was estimated to cost a prodigious £200,000! This was almost twice the cost per mile as the much-criticised Outer Circle, despite running over land that was flat by comparison.[3]

Zeal was soon elected President of the Legislative Council, and was knighted in 1895, but the Depression wounded Bent politically and financially and after struggling on for a couple of years his days in Parliament seemed to have ended with his defeat in the September 1894 election.[4]

The Passing of the Old Guard

Of the other politicians who had helped shape the railways, Francis Longmore was in the political wilderness, farming at Tarwin Lower in South Gippsland,.[5] The old-guard of railwaymen was also passing. For thirty years the railway had been managed by men who joined at the very beginning or soon thereafter, Speight and Allison Smith being the exceptions.

The day the Commissioners were suspended the death was announced of John Lunt, the Engineer for Existing Lines.[6] Robert Watson had also died in harness as Engineer-in-Chief in 1890. George Darbyshire, the current Engineer-in-Chief and Paul Labertouche, the Secretary, were also soon to retire. There were few senior managers left with the breadth of experience necessary to fill the void left with the Commissioners suspension. Until parliament could ratify a settlement the temporary expedient was adopted of appointing deputies.

The Deputy Commissioners

Francis Rennick

Francis Rennick was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland in 1838 and visited America in his youth, settling in Victoria in 1857 where he found work in a private civil engineer’s office. He joined the embryonic Victorian Railways on the 15th July 1858, working as a junior surveyor and draughtsman. By the early 1870’s he had been promoted to Resident Engineer of the middle section of the North Eastern main line, and subsequently the light lines from Beaufort to Ararat and Ararat to Hamilton.

During the discord of the Woods and Bent Ministries after 1877, Rennick led a successful campaign against the Engineer for Construction, R.G. Ford. [7] In 1887 he was promoted to Assistant Engineer of Existing Lines, then Assistant Engineer-in-Chief after the death of Watson in 1891.[8] He was ‘reserved in demeanour’ but a thoroughly competent civil engineer.[9]

Richard Francis

Richard Francis had been Traffic Manager since his promotion in January 1888 by Speight after the Windsor accident. Francis was about 25 years old when he joined the infant Victorian Railways on 1st September 1862. His railway career began as a clerk with the South Devon and Cornwall Railway, and by the time of his emigration in 1862 he was stationmaster at Bodmin. Beginning afresh in the colony as a clerk in the Melbourne goods sheds, he was soon working as a relieving stationmaster. In 1865 he was appointed stationmaster at Woodend, then Kyneton in 1869.

From there he was appointed stationmaster at the terminal stations on the North-Eastern line as it was progressively extended. Maryborough was his next post in 1874, as stationmaster superintending traffic arrangements on the new light lines. In 1877 he was transferred to Echuca, with its heavy transfer traffic from the Murray River paddle steamers. In 1881 he became Traffic Manager of the Eastern District then Assistant General Traffic Manager in July 1883. Speight appointed him head of the Traffic Branch in January 1888.[10] He was ‘kindly and unassuming’ but his knowledge of station and traffic management was unequalled.[11]

William Kibble

Rennick and Francis were the best qualified men available and had been with the Victorian Railways from its earliest days, but neither displayed the determined and unyielding character needed to drive through drastic and unpopular measures. Such a man was William McLeod Kibble. An intense and ambitious character, he had been a former assistant to Francis.[12] He had also been with the Traffic Branch 30 years, joining as a 17 year old native born Australian.[13]

Commencing as a lad clerk, Kibble advanced steadily, becoming stationmaster at Benalla and then a District Traffic Superintendent. He was selected ahead of several colleagues with greater seniority as Assistant Traffic Manager to Francis in 1887.[14] One of the early witnesses to the Standing Committee on Railways, his advocacy of light railway construction put him offside with Speight, and soon after he was granted nine months leave of absence, ostensibly for health reasons, after which he was considering retirement.[15]

He sailed for Europe and during his ships’ stop at Largs Bay in Adelaide, he had a chance meeting Thomas Roberts, then the Locomotive Superintendent of the South Australian Railways. He told Roberts that Speight had chased him out of the service, and that he in turn would leave no stone unturned until the Chairman was replaced. Kibble later hotly denied this, but in the light of subsequent dramas it appears highly likely.[16]

By the time of Kibble’s return from Europe via America, Shiels was actively plotting the removal of Speight. Kibble had asked to resign from 1st January 1892, but Shiels prevaricated.[17] Kibble was a source of information The Age reporters used in their campaign against Speight.[18] He was put forward for some role in the new order of things shortly after his return.[19] Who better to complement Francis and Rennick as the third Deputy Commissioner? Kibble was even touted as Chairman,[20] but given Francis’ seniority and experience, common sense prevailed.

Deputy Commissioners Francis, Rennick and Kibble 1892. The Leader, 26th March 1892, p.36.

James Wheeler’s Poisoned Chalice

The hassle of getting the Railway Act Amendment Bill through parliament in 1891 and dealing with the increasingly antagonistic Commissioners was enough for Shiels. On taking the Premier’s reins in February 1892 he was glad to hand the poisoned chalice of the Railway Ministry to James Wheeler. [21] But faced with ‘the most disagreeable office he had ever performed’, the thought of suspending Speight, Ford and Greene made Wheeler ‘so upset that he really did not know half the time what he was doing – his nerves were completely shattered.’ [22] But even the perceptive Brodzky editorialised in Table Talk that the ‘public so far has been more in sympathy with the Commissioners than with the Ministry, but now there is a general feeling that Mr. Speight is wilfully obstructing reasonable retrenchment.’ [23]

Under Speight’s nurture the Victorian Railways had grown into a splendid tree and he was reluctant to take the pruning shears to it. But pressed by the government, the Commissioners did prepare a plan to reduce the deficit by £250,000. The government lost patience however, and Wheeler was instructed to suspend the Commissioners and appoint Francis, Rennick and Kibble as Deputy Commissioners in their stead, until parliament reconvened and either confirmed the suspension or reinstated them.[24]

James Wheeler MLA. Minister of Transport 1892-93. Photograph courtesy Victorian Parliamentary Library.

Wheeler was soon to discover that managing a big railway network was not easy, and his reforms could not, or perhaps would not be implemented before the upcoming elections.[25] He initially instructed the new deputy commissioners to reduce train services and follow South Australia by replacing level crossing gates with cattle pits. The reduction of train services was achieved quickly, some 800,000 train miles per annum being eliminated.[26] Reducing the staff took much longer.

When the Commissioners were suspended, there were 12,787 employees engaged under the Railway Commissioners Act, but in addition to these there were 827 employed as casuals.[27] No doubt the hapless casuals soon found themselves unwanted, but in the first full year of the ‘reformed’ management, 1892-93, the permanent staff were only diminished by 485 (of whom 94 were salaried). Retirement, resignation and death accounted for 75 percent of the separations. Of only fourteen new recruits during 1892-93, ten were gatekeepers, all but one women.

While critics could not help noticing the gatekeepers, Wheeler’s focus on replacing gates with cattle pits netted little immediate gain. Only 37 gates were replaced in 1892-93, most of them later in the financial year as the necessary trackwork was accomplished.[28] It was hoped vacated gatekeepers cottages would help reduce the number of houses rented by the department for staff.[29]

A gatekeeper and his daughters outside their cottage in 1885. The double track railway is in the Melbourne suburban area has been relaid with flat bottom rails. PROV H3442.

Acting Commissioners Formally Appointed

The Order-in-Council that sealed the Commissioner’s fate and appointed Francis, Rennick and Kibble in their place was made in ignorance of the death of John Lunt, who had died the previous day, aged 60 years. Lunt was Engineer for Existing Lines, and a likely choice to shortly replace Darbyshire as Engineer-in-Chief. Now Rennick was the heir apparent to replace old George, but who would replace Rennick as a Deputy Commissioner? [30]

No appointments could be made while Speight and his colleagues were suspended, but their resignation with compensation the following June enabled Francis, Rennick and Kibble to be formally appointed. They remained Acting Commissioners while the politicians ruminated on if, when and who might be permanently appointed.[31] The new men came cheap. Francis as Acting Chairman received £1,500, just £200 more than his salary as Traffic Manager, and half of Speight’s salary. The others were valued at £1,250 each.[32]

Rennick was only Acting Commissioner for a month before he filled the shoes of George Darbyshire, who had finally retired. Rennick’s replacement as Acting Commissioner was Kynaston Lathrop Murray, whose Telegraph Branch had morphed into the Electrical Branch. He was commonly referred to as the Electrician.[33] As The Williamstown Chronicle reported, the railways would now be managed by ‘two traffic officers and an electrician’. [34] Of the three, it was Kibble who was the driving force for cost cutting.

Paul Labertouche Retires

Also retiring at the end of June 1892 along with a number of other sexagenarians was 65-year-old Paul Labertouche, the Secretary of Railways. After migrating from England he joined the Victorian civil service in 1853 and became Secretary for Roads and Bridges in 1858. That Department merged with the Victorian Railways in 1871 and subsequently he became Chief Clerk.[35] Taking over as Secretary in August 1876 he managed the responsibility literally single handed: while out shooting in 1873 his gun burst and so damaged his left hand that it had to be amputated.[36]

‘Good and faithful servant’ – Mr. P.P. Labertouche (Labby), ex-Secretary to the Railway department, who retired on the 30th alt. Mr Labertouche was one of the most popular officers in any department of the Government service. The Herald, 18 July 1892 p. 1.

He was one of the senior officers marked by Woods for dismissal with Thomas Higinbotham on ‘Black Wednesday’ 1878, but Woods quickly found Labertouche was indispensable and changed his mind. Two years later Labertouche accompanied Ned Kelly in a special train to Beechworth where the bushranger was remanded.[37] The Secretary was a very likeable man and well known in social circles, as were many senior railwaymen in those days. One of his daughters married a son of Lord Loftus, Governor of New South Wales, and another married one of the Governor’s staff. His son was an Indian Army Captain. [38]

The New Secretary: Bob Kent

Labertouche’s replacement was the Accountant, R.G. ‘Bob’ Kent, although for a time he had to manage both the Accountant’s and Secretary’s roles on his old salary.[39] Such were the strictures of the Treasury’s finances with the depression biting ever deeper. He was born in Liverpool in 1843 and emigrated with his family to Melbourne in 1852. Educated at Melbourne Grammar and Dux of the school, he started work at sixteen and joined the Accounts Branch of Victorian Railways in January 1862, when the main lines to Ballarat and Sandhurst were still under construction. In January 1887 he was promoted to Railway Accountant. A charming man, it was said that ‘to know and be friendly with ‘Bob Kent’ is a pass-word to a royal reception in many a country or suburban mansion.’ [40]

Robert George (Bob) Kent, Secretary of Railways. The Australasian 4 December 1897, p. 30.

Speight Prepares to Fight

Speight, Ford and Greene had powerful friends, plenty of money and were not going anywhere. Greene retired and Ford, though aggrieved, took up directorships with mining companies.[41] But Speight had decided to fight. Three days before his suspension he issued a writ against David Syme for alleged libels published in The Age.[42] He had refused to withdraw it in return for generous compensation from the Shiels Government, but was compensated anyway on condition he did not give evidence before the Bar of the Legislative Council.[43]

Buoyed by the goodwill of most railwaymen,[44] the conservative press and much of the financial establishment, preparations for the upcoming trial began. Syme was determined to protect his newspaper, later furiously declaring that he ‘would sacrifice all he possessed rather than leave the reputation of The Age to the gibes of his enemies’. [45] The clash of these two proud and wealthy men was to first fascinate and then weary the depressed colony for the next 27 months in two ‘colossal cases’, throughout which the underpaid Acting Commissioners had to implement unpopular ‘reforms’ that reduced services and increased rates and fares.

The Reforms of the Acting Commissioners

Two days after the Commissioners were suspended, Shiels opened his re-election campaign with a four hour speech at Casterton, during which he defended his government’s decision. He said the Commissioners had put forward a scheme that would save £250,000 per annum, but the retrenchments proposed exempted no class of employees. Shiels told the audience he felt that was unjust, and proceeded to detail a somewhat softer scheme.[46] So on one hand the Commissioners were obstructive, and on the other too heavy handed!

The following week Wheeler announced that reduced train services would not take effect until 1st May, a date conveniently after the elections! [47] That politicians had taken back control of the railways was obvious, Table Talk commenting, ‘Mr. Francis, Mr. Kibble, and Mr. Rennick, are so palpably the nominees of the Government that it would have been better if Mr. Wheeler had simply given his orders to the heads of the departments, without going through the pretence of appointing fresh Commissioners.’ [48]

But it fell to the Acting Commissioners to devise a more considered scheme to reduce the railway deficit, and in addition to the earlier announcements about reduced train miles, replacement of gatekeepers and a compulsory retirement age of 65, they proposed redundancies which would save £25,000 and some lesser economies, one being to only provide full uniforms to staff working in proximity to the public.

Another was the rerouting the Adelaide Express via Geelong in order to eliminate a local Geelong service and the banking engine kept at Bacchus Marsh to push the Express up the Ingliston Bank: ten miles of continuous 1 in 48 gradient.[49] (Although the direct line to Ballarat was shorter, the gradients were too steep for the small engines then in use to tackle unassisted. Most goods trains continued to be worked via Geelong). Total full year economies amounted £127,000 which was well short of the looming deficit for 1891-92 of £430,000.[50]

To help bridge the gap, the Acting Commissioners proposed increases in rates and fares that they hoped would return an additional £202,000: a sanguine estimate if ever there was one. The higher charges just exacerbated the collapse of business. When the accounts for the year were closed, revenue was down by £203,445 on 1890/91. From that boom year revenue fell continuously for five years, reaching its nadir in 1895/96. By then a catastrophic 27 percent of revenue had gone, as had an army of working men. In the ten years between the 1891 and 1901 censuses, the Statistician estimated Victoria lost 86,000 men of working age.[51]

Acting Commissioner Murray and More Retrenchments

With Rennick taking up duty as Engineer-in-Chief, Murray took over as Acting Commissioner on 4th July 1892 with a salary of £1,250.[52] He and Mrs Murray were society people, known for their parties and dances.[53] Murray held public lectures with Professor Kernot to demonstrate such cutting edge technology as ammeters, photometers, voltmeters, block instruments, condensers, recorders, relays, and dynamometers.[54] His early career is outlined in Chapter Eleven.

Murray was an ambitious man and when appointed Telegraph Engineer in 1878 he quickly realised the need to become conversant with all aspects of railway workings. His capability was recognised by John Anderson, then Traffic Manager, and by 1883 Murray was considered as a possible Commissioner to work alongside Richard Speight. With the goal of a Commissionership in mind, he set about broadening his knowledge by making a tour of Europe, Great Britain and America in 1890.

While overseas Murray had meetings with numerous senior railwaymen,[55] but the satirical journal Melbourne Punch described him as a ‘plodder’ with the real power in the triumvirate being Kibble.[56] Murray was appointed as financial results for the 1891-92 financial year were being processed, and they were not encouraging. It was clear a new round of retrenchments and service restrictions was necessary, and plans for this were announced at the end of July 1892 for saving over £62,000 per annum.

Most of the saving were to be achieved by retrenchments and pay cuts in the Locomotive and Existing Lines Branches.[57] But retrenchments had already taken place at Newport Workshops, with ‘wholesale dismissals’ which were followed by a 2½ percent cut of all wages. The 1,250 men working there were then restricted to a five day week with the workshops being closed on Saturday morning. Of the five days they did work, everyone had to forego one day’s pay.[58]

Refrigerator Cars Rejected

One of the first acts of the Acting Commissioners was to take most of the Wickes ‘TT’ refrigerator cars out of service. About a year after the cars were introduced, Traffic Manager Francis had recommended their withdrawal. But Speight knew their operation was necessary to build up the refrigerated business.[59] This had already occurred in NSW, where Robert Hudson had patented and built his own version of the Wickes car at the Hudson Bros. works.

Against much vested interest and at his own expense, Hudson had proved the concept by establishing an abattoir at Tenterfield and railing the refrigerated carcases 390 miles to his central distributing depot in Sydney. The quality of the meat was superior to that of livestock slaughtered in the capital after transport to the city, during which they lost condition.[60] In mid-1892 Hudson was commissioning his second abattoir and chilling works, at Narrandera, but the significance of this was lost on Francis.

Now as Acting Chief Commissioner he implemented the recommendation he made to Speight as Traffic Manager, and sidelined most of the TT fleet. The irony was that Hudson’s success was trumpeted by The Leader, Syme’s weekly newspaper[61] while The Age, his daily, was still condemning the TT trucks as useless! The Age could hardly do otherwise. Speight had already commenced his libel action against the paper for, among other things, its criticism of the refrigerator trucks.[62]

Far from the meat and dairy industry calling for the withdrawal of the TT trucks, they were beginning to put them to good use. In the first quarter of 1892 some 16 of the 30 trucks were used for refrigerated traffic and earned £2,182 revenue.[63] The others were used for fruit and other merchandise, running as normal box vans. The ice suppled cost about half the revenue earned, but so prejudiced were Francis and Kibble that the TT’s were ‘pronounced useless’ and laid aside while ‘absolutely necessary’ orders were placed for 100 new ‘U’ class louvred vans to take their place at a cost of £12,060, despite the financial restraints then being applied.[64]

The U vans were a simplified and cheaper to build version of Allison Smith’s 1888 prototype,[65] and provided ventilation through their louvred ends and sides at whatever might be the ambient outside temperature: often 100°F or more in summer. But the wrongheaded Acting Commissioners considered these would be adequate for dairy, meat and fish traffic! Nevertheless they agreed to a trial of Taylor’s patent chemically based refrigerating equipment. This was experimentally placed in three covered HD vans. It worked but cost of replenishing the chemical refrigerant, although moderate, was daunting in the depressed conditions. The experiments ended in March 1893.[66]

The ‘Motor Trains’

The Acting Commissioners decided to exert control over the Locomotive Carriage and Waggon Branch, still managed by Allison Smith. His salary of £1,200 per annum[67] was only £50 less than the Acting Commissioners Kibble and Murray.[68] Smith was Speight’s man and at odds with their views, but for a while there was an uneasy co-existence. In an attempt to reduce the cost of running trains on lonely outer suburban lines, the Acting Commissioners ordered the restoration of the Rowan car.

This self-propelled steam railcar had fallen out of use some years earlier, after being leased for use on the private Altona line.[69] It was overhauled and put to work on the Essendon – Broadmeadows service, where it daily faced the 3½ mile climb up Oliver’s Bank, most of it a savage 1 in 50 gradient. A few months later the Williamstown Chronicle, which often reflected the views of workshops employees, reported the ‘Rowan Car that was to have revolutionised certain suburban traffic has “gone bung”…the innovation is undergoing another overhaul at the Newport Workshops.’ [70]

Nevertheless, it was repaired and Newport proceeded to use its spare boiler and engine to create another ‘motor train’. Portion of an old four wheeled carriage was used to house the spare engine and vertical boiler, which was then married to the orphan end- loading four wheeled carriage made a decade earlier to Woods’ design. It was then put to work on the Outer Circle line.

These motor trains were operated by one busy man who combined the duties of driver, fireman and ticket seller. They were said to reduce running costs by a third, and maintenance by half. But Allison Smith objected to one-man operation as dangerous, and contrary to Board of Trade rules. His refusal to take responsibility for them was a source of growing friction in his dealings with Kibble. [71]

Rowan Car No. 2 attached to Woods’ experimental composite car AB118. PROV H1046.

In addition to the Broadmeadows and Outer Circle lines three others were nominated as ideal for motor trains. The Acting Commissioners circumvented Allison Smith and ordered two motor engines after a visit to the Phoenix Foundry to view steam tram motors being built for Bendigo. Impressed, they gave Phoenix ‘carte blanche’ to design and build two similar but larger motors. The result was a cross between a conventional 2-4-0 tank locomotive and a steam tram motor, completely enclosed so as to appear like a carriage.

Phoenix quickly built the motor engines and a test run was made in May 1893 with Kibble and Murray as guests. The motor took two new composite sleeping cars and a van up Warrenheip bank in 19 minutes, including a stop to demonstrate its ability to restart on a severe gradient. It then went flying down to Meredith at a mile a minute. Kibble ‘expressed entire satisfaction’ and conjectured more orders would follow.[72] In the meantime Allison Smith had Newport build its own motor engine.

Copied from the design of a Dübs crane locomotive imported the year before, but without the crane, it was a small but conventional 0-6-0 tank. A door in the rear of the cab was provided to enable the driver to walk through his train to sell and check tickets.[73] By September 1893 the Z class Phoenix and Newport motor engines were at work on the Briagolong, Linton and Buninyong lines.[74] But by then the depression was so deep that further new additions could not be afforded. However four small ex-M&HBUR 2-4-0 well-tank engines were modified to work motor trains, and these remained a feature of sparsely trafficked lines into the early Twentieth Century.[75]

An Extraordinary Attack on Allison Smith

In early 1892, at the request of the West Australian Government, Allison Smith sailed to Albany and then took the Great Southern Railway Company’s train to Perth in order to advise on the future site and design of a railway workshop. Given his experience with workshops in New Zealand and Victoria he was the best qualified person in the seven colonies for the task, and the Victorian Acting Commissioners instructed him to go.[76] It was on Allison Smith’s recommendation that a new workshops and engine shed were later built at Midland Junction, much to the chagrin of Fremantle, the location of the original and very cramped workshops.[77]

He was back at work at Newport on 8th August,[78] but in the meantime he had been attacked yet again in the Legislative Assembly by W.T. Carter. Carter asked why, if the Locomotive Superintendent could be spared to visit Western Australia, he could not be retrenched. He followed with the sensational statement that ‘the whole of the railway deficit would be accounted for in the experiments of Mr. Allison Smith’. He again called for an investigation of his earlier charges, which would find ‘that Mr. Allison Smith was the greatest leak in the Railway department.’ [79] Wheeler quipped that Carter ‘seems almost to sleep in the workshops’.[80]

Carter further disparaged Allison Smith for fitting new locomotives with ‘unsafe’ American headlamps and then removing them. This was one of many ‘experiments’ Carter thought was a waste of money, although the Phoenix Foundry fitted their two motor engines with the same headlamps. Similar headlamps were installed on locomotives in NSW and other colonies, and while not very effective, were appreciated on unfenced lines. Wheeler assured Carter the lamps were not unsafe, but no more experiments would be permitted without the approval of the Acting Commissioners. [81]

Dr. Maloney MLA joined in the attack, accusing Allison Smith of overstaying his leave by undertaking private work in Adelaide. The insinuation that he was ‘on the make’ was quoted from an anonymous letter circulated in contravention to parliamentary rules. Wheeler made no objection to the letter being read but noted the Locomotive Superintendent’s leave had not been overstayed. The Argus noted the ‘unmanly attack’ was made without framing an indictment to which Allison Smith could reply, and that Wheeler ‘meanwhile sits silent as if he enjoyed the fun, and hoped to profit by it.’ [82]

Phoenix S class ‘Colonial Yankee’ No. 207 with American headlamp on a Mixed train at Boort circa 1892. PROV H1114.

Carriage Designs for the Depression

Realising the big boudoir cars ‘Perseverance’ and ‘Enterprise’ were in excess of the Portland line’s needs, the Acting Commissioners had them withdrawn and used instead as first class sitting cars on the Sydney Express.[83] Meanwhile Allison Smith had two smaller composite sleeping cars built at Newport to replace them. Similar to his bogie carriages in outline, they had three first class and three second class compartments each seating eight or ten passengers, with compartments in each class reserved for ladies and smokers, the latter with spittoons set in the floor for men who preferred to chew their tobacco.

At night the hinged seat backs could be lifted to form an upper berth, the seat making a lower berth. Four of the compartments even had an adjoining lavatory, on the same plan as the Brown and Marshall car imported for the Centennial Exhibition in 1888. Coded 5 and 6 ABab, they were placed in service in August and September 1892[84] and on many nights during the depression just one of these cars would likely have sufficed for all varieties of passenger business on the line.

Plan of Newport built Portland line composite sleeping cars 5&6 ABab of 1892. Victorian Railways Rolling Stock Branch.

In December 1892 examples of some new rolling stock initiatives were exhibited. Three American Saloon cars built locally in 1879-80 were altered to provide 1st and 2nd class accommodation and a ticket office. They were intended for use on the 54 miles of Mallee line extensions to Beulah and Birchip, which despite the financial privations of the colony were authorised that month.[85] The rebuilt American cars enabled the guards on these lines to conduct much of the traffic including the booking of tickets, as only minimal facilities were provided at stations, which were built without platforms.[86]

Also exhibited was Allison Smith’s rebuild of one of his three years old 1st class bogie cars. This was the first of twelve Newport altered for use on long distance trains. Recoded AC (‘C’ for corridor) they were the first sitting cars in Australia to be provided with side corridors and lavatories: the precursors of thousands to be built in subsequent decades. By early 1893 one each had been included in the consist of trains on the Ballarat, Sandhurst, Port Fairy, Swan Hill and Gippsland lines, and later on the Albury line. [87] But they had no end vestibules to enable movement from one car to another. That improvement would come five years later.

Like Speight before him, Kibble had been impressed during his American visit by the ability of train conductors to move from car to car selling and collecting tickets. He estimated suburban rolling stock with inter-car connections would enable station porters to be replaced by train conductors at an annual saving of £10,000. But as a Traffic Branch man he was concerned about the time the bogie American cars took to load and unload at stations, there being only one door at each end. He wanted a short version accommodating fewer passengers so that station stops could be kept brief.

Kibble could not have been unaware that the NSW Railways had adopted bogie American saloon cars for all their suburban work, and already had 171 in service.[88] But Kibble knew better and wanted a fleet of 200 short ‘American’ six wheelers built as soon as possible. Allison Smith obliged and had a prototype car built at Newport; a retrograde step as no fixed wheel passenger cars had been built for six years.[89] While this car was being built, several others were altered to improve accommodation on thinly patronised services.[90]

Kibble’s 36 seat short American saloon car of 1893. Access was by the platforms at each end, which also enabled inter-car movement. Only one was built. Victorian Railways Rolling Stock Branch.

Allison Smith and his staff at Newport probably initiated all these designs, but a fight developed over a new 70 foot long corridor car with access from end platforms that Speight and Smith had been advocating since 1890. Plans had almost certainly been prepared before Kibble intervened. His fixation on the need to rapidly load and unload carriages led to his insistence on a ‘belt and braces’ design. Side doors to each compartment were to be provided in addition to the end doors and platforms. Side doors were also required along the corridor opposite each compartment.

Side doors were completely superfluous on main line express trains which made few stops, but they significantly added to the expense of construction and were a source of draughts. As long vehicles protruded further on curves, there was also a danger of a door accidentally opening which might decapitate an engineman or passenger looking out of a passing train. It outraged Alison Smith’s engineering sensibilities (and probably those of his staff as well), so he refused to have his name associated with the prototype.[91]

The 1st class ‘Pioneer’ end loading corridor car built at Newport in 1893. It was paired with a 2nd class version, both with side doors to the compartments provided at Acting Commissioner Kibble’s insistence. PROV H2743.

The Lal Lal Collision and Recriminations

Not long after the Deputy Commissioners diverted the Adelaide Express via Geelong as a cost saving measure, it suffered a rear-end collision with a goods train. Driver Williams had left the cab of the New A class 4-4-0 No. 280 and walked forward along the running plate to check on sparks. He returned to the cab just in time to see the red tail light of a goods train they were rapidly overhauling. With the Westinghouse brake in ‘full emergency’ the Express slowed a little before ploughing into the brakevan of the goods train, throwing it aside and then wrecking four empty open wagons and derailing another.

The remaining 21 trucks of the goods train and its 0-6-0 locomotive O 61 were undamaged, as were the three composite ABab carriages and brakevan of the Express. Guard McInnes of the goods train was alerted to the impending collision by the big Yankee headlamp fitted to No. 280, and jumped clear with moments to spare. Nobody was injured, and the stationmasters responsible for the safeworking of the trains were acting in accordance with the rules. Poor Williams, who had 30 years’ experience as an engineman, bore most of the blame for not keeping a lookout, but he had a good record and the investigators recommended lenient penalties. Immediately after the accident The Herald reported what senior railwaymen were speculating:-

It has been stated for some time, that since the appointment of the Acting-Commissioners, the whole Railway Service had become disorganised. Little heed had been paid to the croakers, as they were termed, but the accident the other day at Warragul and now at Lal Lal go a long way to prove that things are not going on in the department as they should. Both these accidents occurred to trains which were running according to the “reformed service,” and trains which had been altered on the time-table.

Francis, Rennick and Kibble had been confirmed as Acting Commissioners by the time of the initial investigation and were not happy with its findings. They ordered a reassessment. Three times Allison Smith and James Syder, the Traffic Manager, re-examined the case and reached the same conclusion. K.L. Murray, then still the Telegraph Engineer and E. Philpott, the Signals Engineer re-examined the case twice, agreeing with the others that the stationmasters were blameless.

They considered moderate fines and forfeiture of promotion for two years were adequate for the crew of No. 280. But retrenchments and other economies were causing discontent among the employees, so Kibble decided to crack down hard and ignore the findings of all the professional investigators. In addition to the recommended fines driver Williams was reduced to the lowest grade of drivers and his young mate to the lowest grade of fireman. They also fined the stationmaster at Elaine and recorded a severe censure against the stationmasters at Meredith and Lethbridge. [92]

‘The Railway Collision Near Lal Lal’ from a sketch by E.T. Luke. The Australasian, 18 June 1892. p. 1172.

Kibble and Allison Smith at Loggerheads

With their disagreements simmering over the Lal Lal accident, the Rowan cars, the one man operated ‘motor’ locomotives and the design of the long express cars, Allison Smith and Kibble’s relationship finally came to the boil over the issue of further retrenchments in the Locomotive and Waggon Branch. In early September 1892 The Age reported that at the Acting Commissioners’ request, Allison Smith had recommended the retrenchment of a further 60 men in his branch and a 12½ percent cut in enginemen’s wages. The Acting Commissioners were said not favour the proposal.[93]

Next day Wheeler announced a Board of Inquiry was to be formed to investigate the Locomotive and Waggon Branch, although no specific charges were to be made.[94] This was exposed as a thinly veiled strategy to finally get rid of Allison Smith.[95] The embattled Locomotive Superintendent furiously denied having made the suggestions reported by The Age, and sought the Minister’s approval to make this known to the Press.

He did so, and on 15th September there followed an angry showdown with Kibble and the others at the Spencer Street offices. Following a diatribe by Allison Smith, Kibble called him ‘a miserable disloyal, treacherous hound’ and said they would not listen to him. Kibble later admitted to those words,[96] but some early accounts add that he also used ‘dirty blackguard’, ‘scoundrel’ and ‘liar’.[97] The Locomotive Superintendent told him where to go and left.

Nine days later the annual banquet of the Locomotive Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association took place at the Masonic Hall in Collins Street. It was attended by about 350 enginemen, with guests including Bent and several other politicians, Kibble and Allison Smith. There was no mistaking where the sympathies of the enginemen lay, with loud cheers accompanying a toast to Speight and the former Commissioners, and an ovation given to Allison Smith when he rose to speak.

Bent endeavoured to broker a reconciliation between Kibble and Allison Smith, suggesting that ‘Britishers fought but shook hands afterwards, and he hoped that Mr. Kibble and Mr. Smith would shake hands and work together harmoniously for the benefit of this great institution and this grand country. (Cheers.) After the lapse of a minute Mr. Kibble rose and walked along the table to where Mr. Smith was seated and shook hands… [98] But it was only the end of the beginning of their fight.

The Locomotive Branch Inquiry Established

A few days later the dismaying results for the last week of September 1892 revealed a 28 percent plunge in revenue compared to the same week the year before. It was against this deepening calamity that a very worried government finally appointed a Board of Inquiry into the Locomotive and Waggon Branch on 3rd October. The years of invective by The Age and a group of politicians against Allison Smith and his noxious relationship with Kibble made it inevitable.

The Locomotive Superintendent had asked Wheeler for a Board ‘presided over by one of the Judges, with Railway experts as colleagues’ [99] He claimed Wheeler agreed, but was ‘surprised and disappointed to find that it consisted of a College Professor and two Police Magistrates’. Professor Kernot, founder of the Engineering School at Melbourne University was the Chairman, assisted by A. W. Howitt, Secretary for Mines and A. P. Akehurst, Secretary of the Crown Law department.[100] Kernot was a respected engineer in the colony, but was anything but a cloistered academic. He was consultant to other colonies on bridges, and various other ‘outside’ jobs that anchored him in practical issues.[101] Howitt had decades of experience as a police magistrate, [102] as had Akehurst, who also had a reputation for harsh sentencing.[103]

Professor W.C. Kernot, Chairman of the ‘Allison Smith Board’ of Inquiry. University of Melbourne Archives UMA-I-1240.

The Argus immediately discerned that the Inquiry was a politically motivated strategy to ‘sacrifice’ Allison Smith, with terms of reference limited to allegations made against the Locomotive Superintendent and no opportunity to investigate all aspects of the Branch. Furthermore, they noted that none of the Board members had railway expertise, Kernot ‘not being a locomotive man’ and the others being police magistrates.[104] The Herald, which always seemed to have an ear to corridor gossip in the railway offices, simply called a spade a spade, and termed them the ‘Allison Smith Board’.[105] A few months later The Age was using the same term.[106]

With two of the Board members heads of government departments it was also hardly independent. Fifteen years earlier when an investigation of William Meikle’s engines was made, three locomotive engineers from other colonies were enlisted.[107] Two weeks after the Board was appointed but three days before they had met, Kibble and Murray made an unannounced inspection of Newport Workshops. It was discourteous at best, and probably a snub calculated to encourage the workforce to take sides.[108]

Fishing for Evidence Against Allison Smith

The Board found it difficult to proceed, pointing out to the government that without a prosecutor it was an ‘unsatisfactory and indefinite…fishing inquiry’, so the advice of the Crown Law Department was sought to see if a charge of maladministration could be sustained. In mid-January 1892 a team of four employees from that department was tasked to collate evidence, much of it supplied by the Acting Railway Commissioners! Men at Newport who volunteered were given time off to visit the railway offices at Spencer Street to give evidence, which was then examined by the Crown Prosecutor for an opinion.[109]

In the middle of this the Shiels liberal government was defeated in a no-confidence motion and James Patterson was called to form a new Cabinet. He gave himself the Chief Secretary’s and the Railway Ministries. Although a conservative and former member of the Gillies government, he was nevertheless in agreement with the reform policies pursued by Shiels and Wheeler. The Inquiry Board was therefore reactivated. [110]

But the desperation to formally charge Allison Smith with maladministration (misuse of public funds) proved fruitless. He made his first appearance before the Board with the Crown Prosecutor present. The Argus called attention to the ‘unseemly proceedings’, where Allison Smith was to all intents and purposes ‘on trial (for the proceedings clearly mean that he is charged with maladministration), and an able and experienced Crown prosecutor was present to unfold the case against him… To say that Mr. C.A. SMYTH was present simply to ‘assist’ the board is merely quibbling. He is virtually a prosecutor – as much a prosecutor, indeed, as he would be in a criminal court, with the important difference that he is prosecuting a man whom no one has dared to formally accuse.’ [111]

The Crown Law department had built the case against the Locomotive Superintendent, and then proceeded to effectively prosecute and sit in judgement of him! Recognising he was being stitched up, a few days later Allison Smith called them out, demanding the Board clarify if he were a defendant or a witness. Without a charge, they had to admit he was merely a witness. At that the Locomotive Superintendent declared that as witnesses were not permitted to cross-examine other witnesses, he saw no point in being present during the proceedings, but would only attend when requested to give further evidence.[112]

Allison Smith in 1993. The Australasian, 10th June 1893.

Peel’s Evidence

Many of the witnesses were ‘old school’ men uninformed about the engineering, operational and economic progress taking place beyond Victoria’s borders. Some were uneasy with the policies pursued, foremost among them the foreman of the carriage and wagon builders, Samuel Peel. He began his service with the Victorian Railways as a car builder in 1859 and was himself once the subject of an inquiry into his supervision at the workshops following complaints by a subordinate.[113]

Peel maintained that over the previous three and half years 85 carriages and 962 trucks had been ‘smashed up’, all of which should have been repaired, as was done when Mirls was in charge.[114] His evidence made sensational copy in the newspapers. Two thirds of the 8,000 goods vehicles on hand in 1889 were I class open wagons.[115] The impression was given that as Allison Smith’s new 10 ton capacity I wagon was introduced, those of 8 ton capacity were declared obsolete and scrapped.

The Board considered ‘that in this case great loss has been caused by a hasty and injudicious determination to alter the type of the most numerous class of vehicle on our railways.’ [116] This ignored the Locomotive Superintendent’s evidence that it was the much older and definitely obsolete six and seven ton capacity trucks that had been scrapped.[117] On Peel’s own evidence, the life of a truck was 15 years, which approximated the beginning of the Mirls regime in 1878. At that time there were 800 I class trucks.[118]

Peel valued the carriages and wagons scrapped at £54,462, but Allison Smith was able to show that eight months earlier Peel had valued the same vehicles at £8,724.[119] Peel’s claim that Mirls allowed no vehicles to be broken up was also wrong, as another foreman gave evidence that 139 trucks were scrapped at that time.[120] The Board also seemed oblivious to the fact that the passenger carriages scrapped were obsolete low roofed four and six wheelers, much criticised by passengers as stuffy and gloomy.

When Speight appeared as a witness, he said ‘there is no necessity for going in for a perpetual renewal of an obsolete type of carriage’ as it merely ‘perpetuated the rolling stock upon an ancient basis.’ [121] The replacement bogie carriages were vastly superior and well received, but Peel criticised his boss for fitting the 1st class versions with unnecessary and costly ornamentation and leather seats.[122] As the additional width and more hygienic green leather covering of the seats was so much appreciated by passengers, the Board had to accept this improvement but dourly condemned the lincrusta walton wall lining, mirrors and pictorial illustrations as ‘unduly costly’ and ‘superfluous’.[123]

The mirrors were fitted to improve lighting in the compartments and remained part of subsequent carriage design for decades. Allison Smith’s response was that the extra cost per carriage was £15. That such a triviality worried the Board was evidence of the widespread change of outlook pervading Victorians. While the Board was writing its report, thirteen banks closed their doors and two thirds of all deposits in the colony’s trading banks were frozen.[124] Gloom had replaced the Boom and the lean cows of frugality had devoured the fat cows of extravagance.[125]

Woodroffe’s Evidence

Another key witness was Thomas Hale Woodroffe, who had been promoted as Engineer of Existing Lines in March 1892. Emigrating from London with his family as a four-year-old, his career began on the 1st January 1861. While not yet 13 years old he became the first apprentice in the Williamstown Workshops. [126] After seven years he became a draughtsman there, initially working for Frederick Christy, and for a short time with William Meikle, during which he became Secretary of the Williamstown School of Design.[127] He was transferred to the Engineer-in-Chief’s office in January 1872, working on designs of bridges and other civil engineering projects.

In 1884 Woodroffe was promoted to assistant engineer, and in April 1891 as assistant to the Engineer of Existing Lines.[128] So although having trained in mechanical engineering, for twenty years prior to his appointment as Engineer of Existing Lines he had been imbued with a civil engineer’s view of the locomotive branch. A wary eye for any damage inflicted on the track! As ex-Chairman Speight remarked, the ‘permanent way man naturally thinks that the strain upon the permanent way should be as slight as possible. The locomotive man naturally thinks that the road should be capable of carrying anything put upon it.’ [129]

Woodroffe had investigated the track damaged by Allison Smith’s incorrectly balanced wheels on locomotive X 365,[130] and was instrumental in condemning one of the five classes of Kitson standard locomotives, built to a design arranged by Jeffreys. Under questioning by the Chief Prosecutor he said the New R class 0-6-0 was too heavy for light lines laid with 60 lb rails and caused damage to the track. He also said that the Serviceton line was relaid due to damage done by the Kitson standard engines.[131] But Speight told the Board the decision to relay the Serviceton and Gippsland lines had been made by the Commissioners ‘long before’ the contract for the Kitson standard engines was made.[132]

The X class ‘Jumbo’ pre-dated the Kitson standard locomotives and was rostered on the Adelaide Express.[133] The X class was two tons heavier than the new D class 4-4-0 which were rostered on the Adelaide Express from November 1887.[134] But six months before the D class were placed in service, the Serviceton line was already in bad shape. A driver of the Express complained the track was so bad that speed should be limited to 15 mph.[135]

In 1892 Woodroffe, as Engineer for Existing Lines and Allison Smith had argued about future track relaying policy. This was long after Speight had approved the building of Kitson standard locomotives and the relaying of sections of the Serviceton and Sale lines. The Locomotive Superintendent advocated more relaying in heavier steel rails, while Woodroffe wanted to retain existing rail and use old engines. Probed by the Board, Woodroffe said the use of 60 lb iron rails in lieu of 75 lb steel rails would have been cheaper, provided the old engines were used.[136]

But a few months later Woodroffe admitted this was not a good idea. Giving evidence in the Speight v. Syme case he said ‘iron rails have practically gone out of use’.[137] His evidence to the Board was in favour of the 2-8-0 ‘Consolidation’ locomotive common in North America, and also used in the neighbouring colonies. This design spread its weight over eight driving wheels and was therefore suitable for hauling heavy loads over light track, although mostly they were preferred for heavy duty on main lines.

In 1891 New South Wales imported twenty 100-ton J class Consolidations from the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, adding to eleven smaller versions purchased in 1879. Two similar engines to this latter order were supplied to the South Australian Railways and classed ‘O’, but Thow did not like them so they remained orphans.[138] American locomotives were more complex and expensive to maintain, as Woodroffe admitted. Allison Smith gave evidence that the Baldwin W class 4-6-0 cost 5.96d. per mile against 2.81d.per mile for the Kitson standard New R class 0-6-0.[139]

The 20 big NSW Railways J483 class ‘Consolidations’ were purchased from Baldwin in 1891. UoN ‘Living Histories’ – ARHSBox016_0521.

The Blinkered Conduct of the Inquiry Board

By their narrow minded restriction of their investigation to the charges made against Allison Smith’s management, the Board was willfully blind to circumstances that determined railway policy. Had they investigated further, they would have found that the Kitson standard locomotives had not wrecked the Serviceton and Gippsland lines. All they had to do was read Appendix 2 of the 1890 Annual Report! Only 86 miles of track needed relaying in the three years to 1890. Old iron rails which had reached the limit of their useable life was the primary reason for relaying. In none of the preceding ten years did track relaying approach the 141½ miles of iron rails replaced before Speight arrived! [140]

Rail relaying during Speight’s regime and that of the Acting Commissioners.

The Crown Prosecutor and the magistrates on the Board had come to an erroneous view that as light lines had been authorised, damage to those lines by working unsuitable engines was in contravention of parliament. Akehurst maintained that ‘Parliament has decided that the lines should be made in a certain way. The question is whether the locomotive branch have adhered to that rule, and if not, why not?’ [141]

But parliament had acted in accordance with the American model by minimising the first costs, fully aware that improvements would be made as business developed, and giving the Commissioners a free hand authorise upgrades when necessary. The decision to relay with heavier rails was the Commissioners, not the Locomotive Superintendent’s. Speight told the Board the way things worked. ‘In all railway departments there are prejudices…The Railway Commissioners have to take a higher standard and look at the matter all round.’ [142]

All the witnesses went unchallenged and strengthened the case already formed by the Crown Prosecutor. When Allison Smith was finally recalled, the Board were deaf to his plea to call Thomas Roberts and William Thow as witnesses. The Locomotive Superintendents of South Australia and New South Wales could have given valuable evidence regarding the need to replace obsolete rolling stock with new and improved designs, and for the need to fit Westinghouse brakes to all the goods stock.

To the Board these were ‘abstract questions’ which they had no intention of hearing![143] Allison Smith’s request to also have the Board meet the cost of bringing Roberts and Thow to Melbourne was refused, as was his request that he be provided with legal counsel at government expense. Later defending their decision, the Board claimed it ‘merely declined to incur a serious expense in bringing witnesses from distant parts of Australia to give evidence the utility of which was not very clearly apparent’.[144] Were they not aware that these railwaymen would have taken trains to Melbourne on free passes, or that the Government had funded months of effort by the Crown Law department to gather evidence?

Had the Board listened, they would not have made the foolish recommendation that the trucks already fitted with Westinghouse brakes be confined to hilly lines, while unbraked trucks be confined to flat country! It was unworkable and tantamount to creating a break of gauge.[145] Had Thow been able to give evidence, he could have told the Board the J class Consolidations were purchased to work the severe 1 in 30 gradients on the Blue Mountains and Southern main lines. They were then Australia’s heaviest and most powerful locomotive.

On the vital question of the overall cost of the Branch, Chief Prosecutor Smyth was also deaf to the Locomotive Superintendent’s explanation that it was not meaningful to express costs in terms of train miles run. Total train miles were lower than the miles run by locomotives, which included engines double heading and an allowance for shunting and standing time, all of which incurred costs. Prosecutor Smyth exposed his ignorance by asserting that an engine standing still incurred no wear and tear,[146] oblivious that the boiler was under heat and pressure, coal and water were being consumed and a crew being paid.

Branch costs expressed in terms of locomotive miles was the more accurate and favourable indicator of efficiency. But even on the basis of train miles the Board admitted working expenses of the Branch had not increased, and that ‘the cost of repairs per train mile to engine and passenger carriages, show, though with occasional fluctuations, a steady diminution which is highly satisfactory’.

Nevertheless, the Board was sceptical about the accuracy of the accounts, and diminished their finding with the incredible aspersion that ‘These conclusions are drawn from the statistic compiled by the officers of the locomotive branch, but it is not possible for us to verify the fact or to trace the data to their source… we feel doubtful of the accuracy of the favorable figures given in the statistics.’ [147] Allison Smith retorted that they didn’t take the trouble to interview the Accountant![148]

Professor Kernot and the Kitson Standard Locomotives

Professor Kernot’s role on the Board was disappointing. He left most of the questioning to the Crown Prosecutor and the two police magistrates, but probably acted as a restraint as the other Board members had to defer to his engineering credentials. It was most likely at his insistence that after much criticism, this rider was added to the Board’s findings:-

‘It must, however, be stated for the locomotive branch that there is ample proof of energy and a desire for improvement in methods and of stock with which the work of the railways must be carried on. This is apparent even in such an instance of conspicuous failure as the attempt to balance engines.’ [149]

The five Jeffreys (Kitson) standard designs comprised two for main lines; the New A class 4-4-0 and Y class 0-6-0; two for light lines, the D class 4-4-0 and New R class 0-6-0; and the E class 2-4-2 tank for suburban work. The main line New A and Y had identical boilers, cylinders and motion gear. The light lines D, New R and E classes also shared identical boilers, cylinders and motion gear, and all five designs shared the same crank axles, connecting rods and valve gear.

The tenders used were basically common, and all minor parts were interchangeable. A total of 167 locomotives were built to these standard designs, all but two in Victoria. When the orders were complete, a third of the locomotive stock shared common parts. [150] The Board recognised that ‘As an example of standardisation and interchangeability carried to the utmost limit, Mr. Jeffreys engines were singularly perfect.’ [151]

But as suitable for Victoria, they were held to be less than perfect, mainly due to faulty balancing of the reciprocating and rotating masses of the driving wheels. Kernot found that:-

‘the locomotives belonging to the Victorian railways reveals glaring errors and inconsistencies in connection with this question. Engines of similar character, used for similar work, are in some cases heavily balanced and in others not balanced at all, while in those that are balanced there are inexplicable variations in the position of the balance weights.’

He commended Allison Smith for noticing this and attempting to rectify it, but found he had ‘overlooked a very important factor’. The New A, Y and New R classes were singled out as badly balanced, but of these, the New R was roundly condemned, as being intended for light lines its effect on the track was more marked.[152] The D and New R classes were both held to be too heavy for light lines, and the Acting Commissioners had restricted them to main lines.

There was professional disagreement whether locomotives should be made to suit the track, or the track to suit locomotives. Woodroffe, as Engineer of Existing Lines, advocated the former due to lower first cost, while Speight and Allison Smith pushed for the latter as producing the lowest long run cost. There was no right answer of course, the choice depending on available finance. But in the depths of a catastrophic economic depression cutting costs was all that mattered to the Board.

Although the Locomotive Superintendent correctly held that the light lines were inadequately ballasted, so that after rain a man would sink up to his ankles, it was clear the New R was causing damage. It was almost as heavy as the Y class and poorly balanced. When drivers of the New R ran their engines at speeds unsafe for track conditions, as many were inclined to do, damage to track was inevitable. Kernot concluded that a redesign of the Old R with Kitson standard parts would have been preferable, and ‘that the new R type is neither necessary nor suitable.’ [153] However this would have dictated a smaller boiler than the two standards adopted, as the New R was twenty percent heavier than the Old R.[154]

Kitson Standard New A class No. 410 as built by the Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat in 1890, with American kerosene headlamp. Circa 1891. UoN ‘Living Histories’ – ARHSBox122_3074.

Kernot attached a technical appendix on locomotive balancing to the Board’s report, and his recommendations were subsequently implemented across the fleet, resulting in what Kernot claimed were saving to the government more than its annual subvention to the University of Melbourne.[155] Once that was done the Kitson standard light lines engines were indeed suitable to run on 60 lb rail. Years later a D class 4-4-0 ran regularly on the Kerang and Koondrook tramway, which was laid with 50 lb rails.[156] Furthermore, by then it had been given a larger boiler, increasing its weight to 45 tons, considerably more than the New R, at 38 tons.[157]

More Nitpicking by the Inquiry Board

Many of the complaints made were nitpicking. The Board claimed the large kerosene headlamps fitted to seventy of the Kitson standard engines were useless and expensive and called for an investigation of why they cost £18 10s when they could be obtained for a third of that price. Allison Smith retorted that the higher figure was that initially contracted by Mirls five years earlier, and that since then they were purchased for £6.

He also explained that the fitting of cow catchers to 190 engines was not excessive, as the policy of replacing gated level crossings with cattle pits was being extended across the network, not just on branch lines. In fact nearly 200 crossings had been so modified, and the work was continuing, so that by June 1895 nearly a thousand gated crossings had been replaced with cattle pits. [158] In any case, the sums involved were minuscule compared with the total costs of the Locomotive and Waggon Branch.

A level crossing at Cressy with cattle pits. PROV H5172.

Also misguided was the Board’s censure of the sale of old locomotives, which they held ‘might have been used on some light lines, and therefore it appears to us that they were improperly disposed of.’ [159] These nine engines included originals from the G&MR and the M&HBR, seven being purchased before 1860. Allison Smith replied that they were of ancient design, and were all sold to contractors so the government got full value.[160]

One of the nine old engines sold was the original No. 1 of the Victorian Railways purchased in 1858. 54 years later it was named ‘Willunga’ and used in making the Brighton line in South Australia. SLSA PRG 280/1/7/242.

The Inquiry Board’s Findings and Allison Smith’s Retrenchment

Four days before Allison Smith’s final evidence it was reported that the Patterson Government had already made up its mind to retrench him. ‘It is an open secret that as soon as the Enquiry Board now sitting finishes its labors the Commissioners will make radical changes in the personnel of that branch… It will be amalgamated with the Existing Lines branch under Mr. Woodroffe and … Mr. Allison Smith and several subordinate officers will retire…’ [161]

The Board presented its report on 31st May 1893. Much of their investigation was devoted to what they perceived as an excess of items held in stock, from buffers to timber and Westinghouse brake equipment. They were unsympathetic to the fact that an order for 1,000 trucks was urged by Francis in January 1891, while he was still the Traffic Manager, pointing out to the Commissioners that revenue was being lost for the want of rolling stock. Orders for stores and timber were placed before the financial depression could bite.[162]

The Board’s report did not make any specific charge against Allison Smith, but no one reading it could help concluding that they believed the Locomotive and Waggon Branch had lacked a tight control of expenses. Whether that was true or not, it was the end of the line for Allison Smith. The report was formally given to the Acting Commissioners on 7th June and they immediately informed him they ‘had the honour to intimate with regret that, in pursuance of their retrenchment policy, they had decided to abolish the present position of locomotive superintendent’ and on the following Monday he would ‘be retired from the service, and Mr. Woodroffe, the present engineer of existing lines, would take charge of the branch under the new title of ‘Chief Mechanical Engineer.’’ [163]

The Acting Commissioners gave their real reason to The Age. He was ‘not in sympathy with their policy’ and that they planned to ‘remove Mr. Smith even before the board was appointed’. [164] He did not go quietly.[165] Ironically, Woodroffe’s contribution to the Annual Report for the year to 30th June noted that the Locomotive Branch expenses were £87,120 less than the previous year, and the costs per train mile had fallen 15 percent. For almost all of that year the Branch had been managed by Allison Smith, but this official recognition of his achievements was buried in Appendix 3, which also affirmed that the financial figures so doubted by the Inquiry Board were indeed reliable![166]

Rolling Stock Manufactures Collapse

At the height of the Land Boom the rolling stock builders Wright and Edwards had won rolling stock contracts worth more than £200,000 and to make space for the workload had spent nearly £40,000 on a large new factory at Braybrook. But seven months later, in March 1891, financial difficulties forced them to cut wages from ten shillings a day to nine shillings. A year after opening the Braybrook works they were broke and 450 men were thrown out of work. (Speight agreed to re-hire some of the unemployed to finish off an incomplete contract.) [167]

A similar calamity had befallen Philip Bevan and Sons, whose Footscray works had been forced to stand down workers during the Maritime Strike in September 1890 and then in the following month their factory was nearly wrecked by a fierce storm that carried away much of its roof. By mid-1891 the factory had closed leaving another 250 families without income.[168] The Maritime Strike also forced the Sandhurst Rolling Stock Works to stand down workers.[169] However, it was better managed and in August 1892 won the contract for the construction of 100 louvred vans, all to be fitted with Westinghouse brakes.[170]

For a little while it seemed the Sandhurst Rolling Stock Works might survive, but it was not to be. By March 1893 fifty louvred vans had been completed but work stopped over a dispute regarding the fitting of Westinghouse brakes.[171] Newport took over the fitting of brake equipment to completed wagons,[172] but on 17th April work stopped again and 50 men were laid off.[173] It was the last straw, as Peter Ellis had ‘entered into a contract with the Victorian Railway Commissioners at too low a price, being hindered in the performance thereof, want of banking facilities through the suspension of bankers, depreciation in value of stock and inability to realise same, bad debts, dulness of trade, and pressure of creditors’. Ellis filed for bankruptcy a few weeks later.[174]

Of the big rolling stock manufacturers, only the Phoenix Foundry survived, and then only with a trickle of contracts for mining equipment. From the end of 1893 they did not turn out a new locomotive for nearly seven years. During this famine of work their Managing Director died at Ballarat on 24th August 1896.[175] William Shaw had been instrumental in establishing colonial locomotive building, his company supplying 310 engines to the Victorian Railways from the first of the ‘Greenbacks’ in March 1873 to EE 470, the last of the Kitson standard designs in December 1893. This was 71 percent of the locomotives obtained during that period. [176]

Phoenix Foundry in Doveton Street South, Ballarat circa 1890. Brophy’s Hotel and Horse Auctions in the foreground. Victorian Collections, Max Harris Collection, MH1454.

‘We Are All Floundering’

The depression of the 1890’s was a time of unprecedented hardship and recrimination in the colony. There was no social security, and with one in five breadwinners unemployed, starving families had to depend on private charity, as did others whose savings remained locked up while the banks underwent reconstruction.[177] The government’s policy of reining in costs meant the civil service and railways bore the brunt of the sacrifice, but finances did not improve because revenue was falling just as fast.

There was therefore a ‘strong feeling of hostility amongst those who considered themselves unfairly singled out to pay the penalty of universal extravagance.’ [178] In such circumstances, people seek others to blame, but with ‘secret compositions’ (bankruptcies) involving huge amounts of money still occurring, the real rouges largely escaped scrutiny.[179] Speight could not have chosen a worse time to launch his libel case against David Syme of The Age.

When proceedings began in the Supreme Court on 1st June 1893,[180] Speight was still grieving the death of his 26 year old son John who died six days previously. [181] The trial dragged on for 92 days, the jury being unable to reach a verdict. Like a couple of wounded gladiators, the two members of the Athenaeum Club[182] then fought it out a second time and after another 87 days in court a verdict was given on 26th September, 1894. The ‘Colossal Case’ as it was termed by The Herald was reported blow by blow, the newspapers delighting in the clever riposte of the barristers, especially James Purves, who told the jury Speight was responsible for the depression! [183]

It was against this background that the underpaid Acting Commissioners tried to manage an increasingly resentful workforce and critical press. Table Talk reported that Francis, Kibble and Murray ‘have been pretty well as roughly handled by the Conservative organ [The Argus] as their predecessors were by the Radical newspaper [The Age], and, consequently, they also have been studying the law of libel’. They were considering a claim for £10,000 each.[184]

With pressure mounting the strain began to tell on the normally genial Murray. [185] The Acting Commissioners had attempted to debar a reporter from The Argus, but during a delegation seeking restoration of a train service Murray suddenly noticed him, and ‘with pale face and trembling voice said, -There is a gentleman here whose presence is objectionable to us…to allow that gentleman to be in this room while I am transacting business. I will leave the room if he remains.’ [186] They were also not above using the retrenchment policy to settle scores.

Allison Smith was not the only officer to earn Kibble’s ire by expressing doubts about the design of the ‘Pioneer’ cars. James Mc Innes, the 46 years old Chief Draughtsman had given evidence against the cars to the Inquiry Board and ten days after the Locomotive Superintendent’s retrenchment he suffered the same fate, as did his young assistant H. Watson Williams who ‘displayed a lack of admiration for the commissioner’s novel ideas on rolling stock.’ James Smith, another young engineer of promise who had prepared statistics for Allison Smith was retrenched by Kibble in opposition to Woodroffe’s wishes.[187]

The two ‘Pioneer’ cars were exhibited at Spencer Street station on 29th June 1893, along with the little motor engine Z 526, the first locomotive built at Newport. Next day the Acting Commissioners, along with Woodroffe, the new Chief Mechanical Engineer and C.E. Norman, the new Engineer of Existing Lines, some other senior men and Samuel Peel, travelled up to Kyneton and back in the Pioneer cars. Kibble expressed ‘much satisfaction’ in the cars with his unnecessary side doors, and the following day they went into service on the Bendigo Express and were warmly received.[188] But like his six wheeled American car, their design was never repeated.

Policy Reversals by the Acting Commissioners

Although the Acting Commissioners ‘had exceptionally onerous duties to perform’ [189]they had to bow to political pressure. An early instance was their decision to close the Outer Circle line for its full length from Fairfield Park to Waverley Road. Protests forced a revision in April 1893, with only the 5¾ miles northern section from Fairfield Park to Riversdale being closed.[190] A Rowan car continued the service on the southern section.

Never to see a train service again – the Outer Circle bridge over the Yarra at Willsmere c1895. Photo:

As the weather warmed up the meat and dairy industries began to worry about the new louvred vans the Acting Commissioners thought would replace the Wickes refrigerator cars. The railway ice making plant at Newport was leased to a private company in July 1893 as more and more louvred U vans replaced the big Wickes TT cars. But by October there were calls for refrigerated transport of meat from inland freezing works.[191] The following month the Dairymen’s Association were expressing concern about the temperature inside the U vans, which was impeding the establishment of the export butter trade.[192] Soon afterwards Speight gave his emphatic support to the Dairymen during the first Speight v Syme hearing.[193]

As summer temperatures climbed and with no help from the Acting Commissioners, the butter factory at Euroa purchased their own ice and ran some of the TT cars on their own account.[194] The government finally bowed to experience in New South Wales and adopted a policy of encouraging the building of upcountry freezing works and providing refrigerated transport to the port. At last they saw that this was far better than bringing live animals to Melbourne to be slaughtered.[195]

But by then Francis and Kibble had had enough, and before their resignation belatedly admitted their campaign against refrigerator cars was wrong-headed.[196] They were feeling the same political pressure that had so dogged Speight’s regime, but without the independence to resist which the former Commissioners enjoyed. As one journalist surmised, the ‘new plan is simply one to interpose a buffer between the public and the Minister. All acts that are successful and popularize the department the latter will take credit for, and for others the commissioners will be the scapegoat.’ [197]

Table Talk held that Kibble’s appointment was ‘resented by an important section of the officers, and his behaviour as a Commissioner increased the bitterness of feeling… complicated during the past eight months by the constant friction between Mr. Kibble and the Minister of Railways.’ [198] Added to this was constant criticism by The Argus, which led Kibble to call one of their journalists a ‘sneaking hound’ and then attempt to ban the newspaper from railway offices.[199]

New Acting Commissioners

At the end of March 1894 Kibble, Francis and Murray retired.[200] Murray had wanted to stay on, given an understanding he would become Chairman. Kibble and Francis were indignant when Patterson reneged on this, and Murray expressed his disappointment and chagrin to a large gathering held to mark the retirement of Ed Jacks, a Locomotive Inspector. Murray told them he had been ‘kicked out’ and made a very long defence of his railway service, which was received with some sympathy.[201] Kibble and Francis, having witnessed the Premier’s undertaking to Murray, called it a ‘shabby piece of businesses.’ [202]

But the government wanted a clean slate, hoping three new Acting Commissioners would bring peace to the Department. Their appointment was really a one year probationary secondment with no increase in salary, as they retained their old positions.[203] The railways were effectively relapsing into the control of politicians, which ‘accentuated the hopeless muddle and the growing financial loss.’ [204]

Acting Commissioners Syder, Woodroffe and Lochhead. The Herald, Friday 16th March 1894, p. 1.

James Syder

James Syder, the General Traffic Manager was appointed the new Chairman, assisted by Thomas Woodroffe, the Chief Mechanical Engineer, and Robert Lochhead, the Goods Superintendent. Syder was 51 years old and had joined the Victorian Railways as an 18 year old. He had emigrated from England with his family as a child and grew into an amiable, courteous man. His career path was similar to Kibble and Francis.

Starting in the Spencer Street goods shed, after two years he was then sent as a goods clerk to Woodend and next to Geelong as a cash clerk. His first appointment as a stationmaster was at Clunes, in 1874, moving to more important Stawell in 1881, then in 1884 to the colonial border station and customs post at Wodonga. Three years later he succeeded Kibble as District Traffic Superintendent, Western District, next transferring to the busier North Eastern District before being appointed Assistant Traffic Manager in 1891, and Traffic Manager the following year. His wife Ruth died just ten days before he was appointed Chairman of the Acting Commissioners.

Robert Lochhead

Lochhead was a fifty-year-old Scot, most of whose railway career was as a clerk, starting in the Traffic Superintendent’s office, and subsequently at Echuca, then back to Williamstown in 1870. In 1888 he transferred to the Traffic Manager’s office and in 1892 became Goods Superintendent. That a man not even a head of branch was chosen showed the thinning pool of managerial talent. But The Herald kindly noted that the ‘man who tries to get over Mr Lochhead will have to get up early in the morning and work till late at night, and then give it up.’ [205]

Thomas Woodroffe

Woodroffe’s experience is outlined above. He was a reluctant Commissioner, and accepted the role expecting it to be a temporary three months stint. But he had to carry the dual responsibilities of Commissioner and Chief Mechanical Engineer for two years, all with no increase in salary![206] For their thankless task of reducing expenses in an ever deepening depression the new Acting Commissioners had to manage against a critical press – one paper calling them ‘plodding, routine, humdrum men’. [207]

The new Acting Commissioners also had to manage against the continuing background skirmish over railway issues in the second Speight v Syme case, with the spectre of yet another troubling libel stoush. The day the Acting Commissioners’ appointment was announced Allison Smith personally delivered a writ for damages against David Syme.[208]

Woodroffe’s administration of the Locomotive and Waggon Branch had quickly showed promise. On assuming control in June 1893, he immediately arranged for the adoption of mineral oil to replace the castor, colza, and lard oils hitherto used. The results were impressive, with lubricating oil costs per train mile halving over the next two years. He took Professor Kernot’s advice and re-balanced the driving wheels on a New R class 0-6-0. The results after several months testing was successful, and a program of balancing all the New R and Y class 0-6-0 locomotives began the following year, 1894-94. Woodroffe also set about having a prototype four-wheeled refrigerator truck designed, and obtaining new ice-making machinery.

Kitson standard Y class heavy goods locomotive and Woodroffe’s ‘cool trucks’ at Williamstown circa 1900. PROV H1139.

In order to save themselves from retrenchment the car builders at Newport burnt the midnight oil to complete the prototype T class ‘cool truck’ by 4th September 1894. Such was the demand for more that in the next nine months Newport built a further 47, plus the underframes, running gear and timbers for another 48 contracted to private builders. Newport had been working a 4½ day week since September 1893, but this work meant that from October 1894 the men were able to work a five day week.[209] What with redundancies and short time work, equivalent full time employment in the Locomotive Branch had fallen by 19 percent over the two years to June 1895.

But the cost of coal was rising steadily, due to government policy to promote Victorian mines. From just eight percent of total railway consumption in 1891-92, over the next three years coal from South Gippsland accounted for 65 percent of locomotive coal, jacking fuel costs per train mile by 12 percent.[210] Apart from that mined at Jumbunna, most Victorian coal was inferior to that imported from New South Wales.[211]

Baldwin W class light lines locomotive with a mixed train at the coal mining town of Jumbunna. William Eadie, SLV pi002188.

Another Government and Another Inquiry

Patterson often said ‘we are all floundering’ and no government knew what to do.[212] An election in September 1894 saw his conservatives defeated, Bent being one who lost his seat.[213] The fourth change of government in as many years returned the liberals with George Turner as Premier. Immediately an inquiry was sought to see if the recurring railway deficit could be further reigned in.

Turner asked if Edward Eddy and John Mathieson, the Railway Commissioners of NSW and Queensland could be spared, but the requests were declined.[214] So instead of a Board of promised ‘independent experts’ he repeated the Shiels Government’s practice and appointed County Court Judge James Casey as Chairman.[215] He was assisted by two businessmen. By taking evidence in secret their report was somewhat flawed, but they did highlight the need for a General Manager appointed by a non-political Board similar to a company’s directors.[216] That was unacceptable but the search began for a capable Commissioner, parliament being unanimous that the candidate come from the Australian colonies.[217]

In the meantime Henry Williams, the new Minister of Railways, was worried by talk that Victoria was still lagging the other colonies when it came to the efficiency of the Locomotive Branch, and asked Woodroffe for a report. The overworked Acting Commissioner and Chief Mechanical Engineer complained that press criticism was hampering railway management.[218] His report showed Victoria was very efficient compared with the other colonies,[219] and it was made available to the Board of Inquiry, but they still concluded there was opportunity to further cut costs.

The Mallee Lines and Unemployment Relief

The winding up of the Standing Committee on Railways in 1892 did not end the clamour for railway extension. A few months after Patterson took on the mantle of Premier and Minister of Railways, he felt the need to personally investigate the case for a railway to Port Campbell. Accompanied by a dozen politicians and hosted by Guard Bell, the party travelled down to the ‘black stump’ terminus of the Timboon branch in the commissioner’s inspection train, before taking to the road to Port Campbell.[220]

Despite the failing economy, Patterson’s government had four new lines approved before the bank crash of autumn 1893. But even as the colony sank into financial despair two more lines were authorised and another begun without sanction. Five of the seven lines were in Mallee districts, the first of which was an extension of the Beulah line.[221] But nothing came of the expensive junket to Timboon and Port Campbell.

The Parliamentary Special at Timboon, with Premier Patterson and accompanying politicians 19th May 1893. Guard Bell centre. PROV H1154.

The extension north from Beulah was privately funded by pastoralist Edward Lascelles, who named the new terminus Hopetoun, after the Governor. Lord and Lady Hopetoun were guests at the nearby model farm ‘Lascelles’ for the official opening of the line on 11th April 1894. Newport rebuilt a 1st class ‘AA’ car as a State Car for the occasion, the governor’s special train taking 9 hours 45 minutes for the journey from Melbourne.

Progress over the new line was of necessity slow as it was very cheaply made, with sand ballast, no fences, and rudimentary stations with no platforms. Even cattle pits at level crossings had been omitted, but these economies meant costs were held down to £2,000 per mile.[222] The other Mallee lines were built to the same standards.[223] After formal Parliamentary approval of the Sea Lake line at the end of January 1895 it was another two and a half years before another line was authorised.[224] There was no money.

The Mallee lines were built using the Butty Gang system. Butty Gangs dated to the early years of railways in England,[225] but were not used in Victoria until February 1892 when the Public Works Department introduced them as a means of unemployment relief. Small parties of workmen co-operatively tendered for sections of a job, with preference often given to married men with families. [226] Grade easing works on main lines in Gippsland, the North-East and near Bendigo gave work to 800 to 900 ‘pick and shovel’ men and also helped reduce working expenses by enabling engines to haul heavier loads.[227]

‘Pick and Shovel’ men at Axedale, circa 1890. Bendigo Historical Society BHS 1265.

Patterson struggled to prevent the railways haemorrhaging money but still the demands for railway extension continued. Perhaps to deflect criticism he reinstituted the Railway Standing Committee in July 1894. Their first task was to examine narrow gauge railways on the Decauville system, the agent for the French company being in Melbourne at the time. [228]

The Outcome of the Great Libel Cases

The verdict in the second Speight v Syme case was finally given on 26th September 1894, clearing the defendant on nine charges, and awarding the ex-Chairman of Commissioners a farthing’s damages on the tenth! Next day the editorial writer declared the ‘great Railway case has ended in a victory for The Age… they justified this journal in its strictures on the ground that, though inaccuracies may here and there have crept into some statements of facts, there was such an underlying basis of truth in all that was said as to justify any fair-minded, honest writer in writing as The Age has done… The Age saved the money and the credit of the country’. [229]

In claiming its articles were true, aside from ‘inaccuracies…here and there’, The Age was deflecting attention from the real issue grappled by the jury. The Argus reported the outcome quite differently.

‘The finding was first that the articles published by the defendant were undoubted libels, secondly, that the charges they contained were – one and all of them – substantially untrue, and thirdly, that the plea of fair comment entitles the defendant to a verdict… because a citizen or a paper, in discussing public affairs, has a right to be ignorant or muddleheaded. Taking the verdict as a whole, it is harsh for the individual, but in so far as it concedes the utmost freedom of discussion to the public, it makes for the general benefit.’ [230]

It was all about defining ‘fair comment’. Brodzky, the editor of Table Talk, who had done so much to expose the fraudulent financiers who were the real perpetrators of the building society and bank crashes, probably summed it up best.

‘The jury have found that none of these charges are substantially true, but that the critic, “as a reasonable man,” in the words of Sir Hartley Williams, “might fairly and honestly arrive at the conclusions and make the comments and criticisms and observations which he had done.” …There is no need to express sympathy for Mr. Speight, because the jury have cleared his professional character by finding that none of the charges against him were substantially correct; neither is Mr. David Syme entitled to admiration as a public benefactor. He has simply fulfilled—although somewhat tardily — the functions of any honest newspaper…’ [231]

Maurice Brodzky by Aby Altson. He exposed the real perpetrators of the Depression. Henry Lew Collection.

It was certainly a harsh outcome for Speight. The trial costs must have been colossal, with 178 sitting days. They were not disclosed,[232] but the Smith v Syme case gives some inkling. That case ran for only 27 days, and Allison Smith conducted his own defence, not having anything like the resources of Speight. Again, Syme pleaded fair comment and was cleared on that basis on 21 of the alleged 25 libels. The jury awarded a farthing for each of the other four, which they found were defamatory. But the Chief Justice in summing up castigated The Age for those libels, saying they had ‘not even the colour of truth, and that they were calculated to do the plaintiff irretrievable injury’. [233] He awarded costs against Syme, which amounted to the staggering figure of £60,000. [234]

The Age had certainly done irretrievable injury to the careers of both Speight and Allison Smith. Speight was financially ruined as well, but in an extraordinary demonstration of sympathy, Paul Labertouche, the former Victorian Railways Secretary set up a ‘Speight Fund’ during the second trial, to which railwaymen contributed about £1,500.[235] Further to that, Ephraim Zox MLA, collected a purse of 1,000 gold sovereigns to help Speight re-establish in Western Australia. David Syme made a generous contribution of £100, telling his bemused foe that ‘it was a good fight’. [236]

Migrating West, Speight became Managing Director of the 45 mile Jarrahdale Jarrah Forests and Railways Company on £1,000 per annum.[237] He chaired a Railway Inquiry for the Government and engaged in mining pursuits. In 1901 he was elected Member for North Perth in the Legislative Assembly, but died five months later, leaving an estate valued at just £96.[238] Allison Smith had an interest in the Bendigo Tramway Company in 1894[239] but later joined the exodus of unemployed Victorians to Western Australia where he was employed as chief boiler inspector, and on his recommendation a new railway workshop was established at Midland Junction.[240] He married in Albany and subsequently moved to England, where he died in 1916.[241]

Speight’s last home in North Perth was half this maisonette, still extant in 2022. Author.

High resolution versions of some of the photographs in this chapter may be found on Smugmug


End Notes

  1. Michael Cannon, The Land Boomers, MUP, 1966, pp. 121-123.
  2. Age, 24 August 1892, p. 5.
    Report of the Victorian railways Commissioners for the year ending 30th June 1891, Victorian Parliamentary Papers (VPP) 1891, No. 124, Appendix 24, p. 58. The new E class suburban tank locomotives each cost about £2,700.
  3. Age, 5 April 1892, p. 6.
    Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1893, VPP 1893, No. 43, Appendix 20, p. 46. The Oakleigh to Fairfield park line of 10¾ miles cost £27,700 per mile.
  4. Weston Bate, Sir Thomas Bent, Australian Dictionary of Biography, MUP, Vol. 3, 1969.
  5. Jacqueline Clarke, Francis Longmore, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 5, MUP, 1974.
  6. Australasian, 19 March 1892, p. 23.
  7. See Chapter Six.
  8. Australasian, 4 December 1897, p. 31.
    Herald, 4 February 1903, p. 4.
    Argus, 30 March 1915, p. 6.
  9. Argus, 30 March 1915, p. 6.
  10. Herald, 20 September 1887, p. 4; 11 January 1888, p. 3.
    Argus, 17 April 1895, p. 5.
  11. Argus, 17 April 1895, p. 5.
    Leader, 20 April 1895, p. 25.
  12. Herald, 24 August 1893, p. 2.
  13. Age, 4 May 1918, p. 11. His birth is given as 1844, and his date of joining the Victorian Railways as April 1862.
    Argus, 4 May 1918, p. 16. The Argus and several other papers quote his birth in Sydney as 1845.
  14. Argus, 18 March 1892, p. 5.
    Leader, 19 March 1892, p. 24.
  15. Age, 16 February 1891, p. 4; 28 November 1890, p. 4.,
    Argus, 18 December 1891, p. 9; 25 August 1893, p. 7.
  16. Argus, 13 July 1892, p. 4.
    Herald, 24 August 1893, p. 2; 27 July 1893, p. 2.
  17. Age, 12 August 1896, p. 6.
  18. Argus, 28 July 1893, p. 5.
  19. Argus, 18 December 1891, p. 9.
  20. Herald, 17 March 1892, p. 1.
  21. Argus, 17 February 1892, p. 4.
  22. Bendigo Advertiser, 26 November 1891, p. 2.
    Argus, 19 March 1892, p. 8.
  23. Table Talk, 18 March 1892, p. 1.
  24. Argus, 18 March 1892, p. 5.
  25. Argus, 26 March 1892, p. 8.
  26. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1892, VPP 1892-93, No. 99, p. 11. Services totalling 800,000 train miles per annum had been withdrawn by the date of the Annual Report, 27th September 1892.
  27. Age, 3 March 1892, p. 5; 8 March 1892, p. 5.
    Argus, 14 March 1892, p. 7; 21 March 1892, p. 9. At the start of his election campaign, Shiels quoted 13,618 employees. The difference between that number and the 12,787 given by Speight and quoted in The Age is taken to be casuals. The number of casuals was therefore markedly down on the 3,725 shown in Hayter’s statistics at January 1890.
  28. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1893, VPP 1893, No. 43, Appendices 22, 23 & 24. Forty seven gatekeepers were removed, but ten employed, indicating that 37 gates were dispensed with.
  29. Argus, 19 March 1892, p. 8.
  30. Argus, 18 March 1892, p. 5.
    Australasian, 19 March 1892, p. 23. The Order-in-Council was made on 17th March 1892. John Lunt died on 16th March 1892.
  31. Argus, 8 June 1892, p. 5; 9 June 1892, p. 4. Their resignations were given on 7th June 1892.
  32. Victorian Parliamentary Debates (VPD), Vol. 76, 1895, p. 1739.
  33. Argus, 5 July 1892, p. 4.
  34. Williamstown Chronicle, 25 June 1892, p. 2.
  35. Age, 24 April 1858, p. 5.
    Bendigo Advertiser, 19 June 1871, p. 2.
    Argus, 21 December 1875, p. 5.
    Age, 17 March 1876, p. 2.
  36. Age, 3 February 1873, p. 2.
  37. Australasian Sketcher, 21 August 1880, p. 6. ‘The train consisted only of an engine, carriage, and guard’s van. Not a soul knew …what the mission of this train was. The only persons who left the station in it were Mr. Labertouche (secretary for railways), Mr. Anderson (the traffic manager), and three policemen’. Kelly was entrained at Newmarket and the special stopped only at Seymour and Benalla.
  38. Argus, 18 March 1907, p. 7.
  39. Argus, 5 July 1892, p. 4.
  40. Argus, 6 January 1887, p. 5.
    Table Talk, 19 May 1893, p. 3.
  41. Argus, 26 September 1898, p. 6.
    Greene’s granddaughter Elisabeth married Keith Murdoch, the famous Newspaper proprietor.
  42. Argus, 21 March 1892, p. 11.
  43. Argus, 20 September 1901, p. 5.
  44. Age, 26 September 1892, p. 5.
    Argus, 26 September 1892, p. 3.
  45. Ranald MacDonald, David Syme, Vantage House, 1982, p. 29.
  46. Argus, 21 March 1892, p. 9.
  47. Argus, 26 March 1892, p. 8.
  48. Table Talk, 25 March 1892, p. 1.
  49. Ballarat Star, 11 April 1892, p. 4.
  50. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1898, VPP 1898, No. 36, Appendix 12, p. 33.
  51. Argus, 3 May 1901, p. 4.
  52. Argus, 5 July 1892, p. 4.
  53. Table Talk, 24 October 1890, p. 4.
  54. Table Talk, 10 April 1891, p. 1.
  55. Age, 19 March 1894, p. 5.
  56. Melbourne Punch, 3 May 1894, p. 273.
  57. Argus, 29 July 1892, p. 10.
  58. VPD, Vol. 69, 1892, p. 808. 3rd August.
    Williamstown Chronicle, 16 April 1892, p. 2; 30 July 1892, p. 2.
    Age, 12 August 1892, p. 5.
  59. Argus, 23 August 1893, p. 10.
  60. Table Talk, 29 July 1892, pp. 11-12.
    Leader, 10 September 1892, p. 6.
  61. Leader, 10 September 1892, p. 6.
  62. Age, 19 July 1892, p. 5; 10 June 1892, p. 5; 3 August 1892, p. 5.
  63. Argus, 25 August 1893, p. 7. Includes 14 trucks at £1,579 and two in fish traffic at £602.
  64. Age, 19 July 1892, p. 5.
    Bendigo Advertiser, 1 March 1893, p. 3.
  65. Victorian Railways Rolling Stock Branch, Diagrams and Particulars of Locomotives, Carriages and Trucks, January 1904, Facsimile published by the ARHS Victorian Division, p. 63.
  66. Argus, 10 February 1893, p. 5; 27 February 1893, p. 5; 28 February 1893, p. 3. The final trial is assumed to have taken place in March 1893. No further reports can be found.
  67. Argus, 8 June 1893, p. 5.
  68. VPD, Vol. 68, 1891, p. 3197. Friday 18 December 1891.
  69. See Chapter Nine.
    Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell, Steam Locomotives of the Victorian Railways Volume 1: The First Fifty Years, Melbourne, 2002, pp. 159-64.
  70. Williamstown Chronicle, 27 August 1892, p. 2.
  71. Age, 12 August 1892, p. 5; 3 April 1893, p. 5.
    Argus, 15 June 1893, p. 7.
    See Chapter Six for details of John Woods’ car AB 118.
  72. Ballarat Star, 23 September 1892, p. 2.
    Argus, 29 May 1893, p. 7.
    Robert Butrims and David Macartney, The Phoenix Foundry: Locomotive Builders of Ballarat, ARHS, Williamstown, 2013, pp. 116-117.
    Cave et al, pp. 164-166.
  73. ibid, p. 166.
  74. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1893, VPP 1893, No. 43, p. 12.
  75. Cave et al, pp. 168-169.
  76. West Australian, 4 July 1892, p. 4. He travelled from Albany to Perth by train.
    Argus, 8 August 1892, p. 6.
  77. Swan Express, 15 December 1900, p. 2. This was the local Midland Junction newspaper.
  78. Age, 12 August 1892, p. 5
  79. VPD, Vol. 69, 1892, pp. 646-647. 26 July 1892.
  80. ibid, Vol. 69, 1892, p. 965. 10 August 1892.
  81. Cave et al, p. 165. Photograph at Ararat.
  82. VPD, Vol. 69, 1892, pp. 898-899. 9 August.
  83. Argus, 12 May 1892, p. 4.
    Age, 16 March 1894, p. 5.
  84. Portland Guardian, 1 August 1892, p. 2.
    Hamilton Spectator, 10 September 1892, p. 2.
  85. VPD, 1892, Vol. 71, p. 3215.
    Argus, 14 December 1892, p. 4.
    Norm Bray, Peter J. Vincent & Daryl M. Gregory, Bogie Wooden Coaching Stock of Victoria, Sunbury, 2009, pp. 57, 58. These were 10,13 and 16 ABab. Two more were similarly altered in 1896 and one in 1898.
  86. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1894, VPP 1894-95, No. 1, p. 13.
  87. Argus, 14 December 1892, p. 4.
    Age, 14 December 1892, p. 5.
    Narracan Shire Advocate, 7 January 1893, p. 2.
    Sportsman (Melbourne), 15 December 1896, p. 8. No specific mention has come to light of any of these cars being used on the Albury line, but this reference is of a corridor car with side loading doors, which preclude it being one of Allison Smith’s boudoir cars which were added to the Sydney Express in May 1892.
    Bray et al , p. 98 for the corridor conversions of Aa cars to Ac.
  88. L.A. Clark, Passenger Cars of the NSWR, Canberra, 1972. p. 26.
  89. Argus, 13 July 1892, p. 4; 28 February 1893, p. 7.
  90. Bray et al , p. 57 has a diagram of the American saloons altered for use on the Mallee lines.
  91. Argus, 1 July 1893, p. 12.
  92. Ballarat Star, 13 June 1892, p. 4.
    Argus, 14 June 1892, p. 5; 16 July 1892, p. 5.
    Herald, 13 June 1892, p. 1.
  93. Age, 12 September 1892, p. 4.
  94. VPD, Vol. 70, 1892, pp. 1579-80. 13th September 1892.
  95. Argus, 14 September 1892, p. 4.
  96. Age, 12 September 1892, p. 4.
  97. Argus, 15 June 1893, p. 7.
  98. Argus, 26 September 1892, p. 3.
    Age, 26 September 1892, p. 5.
  99. Allison D. Smith, Locomotive Enquiry Board: Letter to the Honorable the Premier in Reply by the Locomotive Superintendent, 13th June 1893, p. 2.
  100. Argus, 4 October 1892, p. 4.
  101. S. Murray-Smith, Charles William Kernot , Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 5, MUP, 1974.
  102. W.E.H. Stanner, Alfred William Howitt , Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 4, MUP, 1972.
  103. David Dunstan, ‘Arthur Purssell Akehurst’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Vol. MUP, 2005.
  104. Argus, 20 October 1892, p. 4.
  105. Herald, 7 October 1892, p. 1.
  106. Age, 28 February 1893, p. 7.
  107. Age, 24 February 1877, p. 4.
  108. Williamstown Chronicle, 22 October 1892, p. 2.
    Age, 21 October 1892, p. 5.
  109. Herald, 14 January 1893, p. 5.
    Argus, 16 January 1893, p. 5.
  110. Age, 21 January 1893, p. 7; 23 January 1893, p. 4.
  111. Argus, 18 February 1893, p. 9; 17 June 1908, p. 7. The latter reference relates to C.A. Smyth as Crown Prosecutor.
  112. Age, 21 February 1893, p. 5.
  113. Argus, 15 August 1883, p. 11; 19 August 1893, p. 15.
  114. Williamstown Chronicle, 4 March 1893, p. 2.
  115. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1889, VPP 1889, No. 119, Appendix 16, p. 17. Total 8,064. I trucks 5,340.
  116. Age, 3 June 1893, p. 15. Report finding to Question 4 re. Rolling Stock.
  117. Allison D. Smith, p. 19.
  118. Victorian Railways: Report…31 December 1878, VPP 1879-80, No. 9, Appendix 17, p. 45.
  119. Argus, 11 April 1893, p. 9.
  120. Williamstown Chronicle, 4 March 1893, p. 2.
  121. Argus, 29 April 1893, p. 15.
  122. Williamstown Chronicle, 4 March 1893, p. 2.
  123. Age, 3 June 1893, p. 15. Report finding to Question 4 re. Upholstery and Decoration.
  124. Geoffrey Blainey, A History of Victoria, Cambridge University Press, 2006. pp. 142-144.
  125. Genesis 41, 17-21.
  126. See Graces Guide:- Thomas Hale Woodroffe , He was born in London on 18 March 1848, son of Thomas Woodroffe, Chemist, and his wife Fanny Hale.
  127. Williamstown Chronicle, 30 July 1870, p. 4.
  128. Leader, 3 March 1894, p. 30.
  129. Argus, 29 April 1893, p. 15.
  130. Argus, 20 June 1895, p. 6.
  131. Argus, 14 March 1893, p. 7.
  132. Argus, 29 April 1893, p. 15.
    Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1888, VPP 1888, No. 69, Appendix 21, p. 33. The D class were ordered on 14th January 1887, a few days before the official opening of the Dimboola-Serviceton line. But the relaying referred to was of portions of the Ballarat to Dimboola section.
  133. Cave et al, p. 125.
  134. ibid, pp. 127, 146. The X class engine 41t 14 cwt, the D class engine 39t 11 cwt.
  135. Argus, 11 April 1893, p. 9.
  136. Argus, 14 March 1893, p. 7.
  137. Age, 4 August 1893, p. 5.
  138. The Department of Railways New South Wales, A Century Plus of Locomotives 1955-1965, ARHS, Sydney, 1965. pp. 40,67.
  139. Argus, 11 April 1893, p. 9.
  140. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1896, VPP 1896, No. 38, Appendix 2, p. 12.
  141. Argus, 11 April 1893, p. 9.
  142. Argus, 29 April 1893, p. 15.
  143. ibid.
  144. W.C. Kernot, Letter to the Premier of Victoria. 8 July 1893. p. 4.
  145. Age, 3 June 1893, p. 15. Report finding to Question 4 re. Westinghouse Brake.
  146. Argus, 25 April 1893, p. 7.
  147. Age, 3 June 1893, p. 15.
  148. Allison D. Smith, p. 7.
  149. Age, 3 June 1893, p. 15. Report finding to Question 9.
  150. Cave et al, p. 128.
    Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1894, VPP 1894-95, No. 1, Appendix 14, p. 39. Total 516 locomotives.
  151. Age, 3 June 1893, p. 15. Report finding to Question 6.
  152. ibid, Report finding to Question 7.
  153. ibid, Report finding to Question 6 re. R class engines.
  154. Cave et al, pp. 147, 201.
  155. S. Murray-Smith, ‘William Charles Kernot’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 5, MUP, 1974.
  156. Kerang Times, 23 July 1889, p. 3.
  157. Cave et al, pp. 146-147.
  158. Allison D. Smith, p. 23.
    Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1893, VPP 1893, No. 43, Appendix 2, p. 18. Also Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1895, VPP 1895-96, No. 68, Appendix 2, p. 20.
  159. Age, 3 June 1893, p. 15. Report finding to Question 6 re. Engines Disposed Of.
  160. Allison D. Smith, p. 30. The engines were Nos. (V) 11 (1859), 12 (1857), 34 and 36 (1855), (N) 242 and 248 (1858), (N) 248 (1859), (N) 260 (1870) and (K) 122 (1875).
  161. Morwell Advertiser, 21 April 1893, p. 3. The same report published in the Gippsland Farmers Journal, and the Euroa and Yackandandah newspapers.
  162. Allison D. Smith, p. 11.
  163. Argus, 8 June 1893, p. 5.
  164. Age, 8 June 1893, p. 5
  165. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1894, VPP 1894-95, No. 1, Appendix 18, p. 47. Allison Smith was formally terminated on 11th September 1893. He ceased work immediately, and later sued David Syme for libel, claiming £15,000 damages.
  166. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1893, VPP 1893, No. 43, Appendix 3, p. 19.
  167. Argus, 9 August 1890, p. 5; 20 October 1891, p. 10.
    Independent (Footscray), 14 March 1891, p. 3; 24 October 1891, p. 2; 31 October 1891, p. 2.
    Table Talk, 23 October 1891, p. 8.
  168. Independent (Footscray), Saturday 23 August 1890, p. 2; 25 October 1890, p. 2.
    Argus, 25 October 1890, p. 10.
    Age, 28 October 1891, p. 5.
  169. Bendigo Advertiser, 6 September 1890, p. 5.
  170. Age, 22 February 1893, p. 5.
  171. Bendigo Advertiser, 1 March 1893, p. 3.
  172. Argus, 18 April 1893, p. 10.
  173. Bendigo Independent, 19 April 1893, p. 2.
  174. Argus, 15 May 1893, p. 5.
  175. Butrims and Macartney, pp. 112, 119
  176. Cave et al, Specification tables at end of each chapter. Of the 529 locomotives obtained by the VR from inception to December 1893, Phoenix built 310 (58%). 437 locomotives were obtained after March 1873, Phoenix making 71% of them.
  177. Blainey, p. 143.
    Cannon, pp. 191-192.
  178. H.G. Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria, Volume II, 1854-1900, London, 1904, p. 319.
  179. Cannon, pp. 145, 211-213.
  180. Argus, 2 June 1893, p. 3, 5.
  181. Argus, 29 May 1893, p. 1.
  182. Table Talk, 12 January 1894, p. 4.
  183. Age, 24 November 1893, p. 5.
  184. Table Talk, 23 June 1893, p. 2.
  185. Bendigo Independent, 3 March 1894, p. 2.
  186. Argus, 22 December 1893, p. 5.
  187. Argus, 19 June 1893, p. 5.
    Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1894, VPP 1894-95, No. 1, Appendix 18, p. 46-47.
  188. Age, 30 June 1893, p. 4.
    Argus, 1 July 1893, p. 12.
    Bendigo Advertiser, 3 July 1893, p. 2.
  189. ibid, p. 14.
  190. Herald, 5 April 1893, p. 2; 10 April 1893, p. 3.
  191. Argus, 4 October 1893, p. 7
  192. Argus, 10 November 1893, p. 4.
  193. Argus, 18 November 1893, p. 9.
  194. Argus, 17 March 1894, pp. 8-9.
  195. Argus, 17 January 1894, p. 5.
  196. Weekly Times, 24 March 1894, p. 15.
  197. Bendigo Independent, 3 March 1894, p. 2.
  198. Table Talk, 23 February 1894, p. 2.
    Argus, 22 February 1894, p. 5.
  199. Argus, 22 December 1893, p. 5.
  200. Herald, 16 March 1894, p. 1.
  201. Age, 19 March 1894, p. 5.
  202. Melbourne Punch, 1 March 1894, p. 133.
  203. Argus, 22 February 1894, p. 5.
  204. Turner, p. 317
    Melbourne Punch, 29 March 1894, p. 193.
  205. Herald, 16 March 1894, p. 1.
    Age, 12 February 1894, p. 1. Death notice for Mrs. Syder.
    Argus, 22 February 1894, p. 5. Cabinet appoints new Acting Commissioners.
  206. Williamstown Chronicle, 11 July 1896, p. 2.
  207. Melbourne Punch, 3 May 1894, p. 273.
  208. Herald, 23 February 1894, p. 1.
  209. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1895, VPP 1895-96, No. 68, Appendix 3, p. 21.
    Herald, 7 September 1894, p. 4. The order was subsequently increased.
    Norm Bray, Peter J. Vincent & Daryl M. Gregory, Fixed Wheel Freight Wagons of Victoria K to Z, Sunbury, 2009, p. 189. Another 10 were contracted to C. Keefer, Moreland in 1897.
  210. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1895, VPP 1895-96, No. 68, Appendix 3, p. 21.
  211. Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December 1894, p. 5.
  212. Turner, p. 318.
  213. Age, 21 September 1894, p. 5.
  214. Argus, 8 November 1894, p. 5.
  215. Argus, 9 February 1895, p. 6.
  216. Argus, 16 September 1895, p. 5.
  217. Table Talk, 7 February 1896, p. 1.
  218. Argus, 25 February 1895, p. 7.
  219. Age, 19 February 1895, p. 5.
  220. Age, 20 May 1893, p. 10.
    Argus, 20 May 1893, p. 11.
  221. Victorian Railways: Reports…30 June 1893, VPP 1893, No. 43/30 June 1894, VPP 1894-95, No. 1/30 June 1895, VPP 1895-96, No. 68, Appendices 1. The lines approved were Beulah to Hopetoun (26/9/92), Natimuk to Goroke and Nathalia to Picola (27/2/93), Heidelberg to Eltham (3/3/93), Dimboola to Jeparit and Boort to Quambatook (11/9/93) and Wycheproof to Sea Lake. Work began on the latter in March 1894, before Parliamentary authorisation, which was given on 29 January 1895.
    See Wikipedia:- Australian banking crisis of 1893
  222. Age, 12 April 1894, p. 5.
    Horsham Times, 13 April 1894, p. 3.
    Williamstown Chronicle, 21 April 1894, p. 3.
  223. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1894, VPP 1894-95, No. 1, Appendix 1, p. 14.
  224. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1898, VPP 1898, No. 36, Appendix 1, p. 16.
  225. Ruth Bleasdale, Rough Work: Labourers on the Public Works of British North America and Canada 1841-1882, University of Toronto Press, 2018. p. 93.
  226. Argus, 15 February 1892, p. 6; 16 February 1892, p. 6.
  227. Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1895, VPP 1895-96, No. 68, Appendix 2, p. 20.
    Table Talk, 19 February 1892, p. 1.
  228. Argus, 11 July 1894, p. 7; 19 July 1894, p. 6.
    Herald, 24 July 1894, p. 4.
  229. Age, 27 September 1894, p. 4.
  230. Argus, 27 September 1894, p. 4.
  231. Table Talk, 29 September 1894, pp. 17-18.
  232. Herald, 17 October 1894, p. 1.
  233. Australasian, 27 July 1895, p. 34.
  234. Age, 3 August 1895, p. 7.
  235. Argus, 22 February 1894, p. 5.
  236. Table Talk, 24 July 1896, p. 1.
    Elizabeth Morrison, David Syme: Man of the Age, Monash University Publishing, 2014. p. 295. Quoting Syme’s letter to Zox, 27 July 1896, in which he writes that his action might be misconstrued, but that he was ‘ready to run that risk so long as I know that you will not misunderstand me’.
  237. Bunbury Herald, 27 November 1897, p. 3.
    Westralian Worker, 21 June 1901, p. 1.
  238. The W.A. Record, 20 April 1901, p. 2.
    West Australian, 20 September 1901, p. 6.
    West Australian, 18 July 1902, p. 4.
  239. Age, 1 February 1894, p. 6.
  240. Swan Express, 15 December 1900, p. 2.
    West Australian Sunday Times, 6 October 1901, p. 8.
  241. Argus, 16 March 1898, p. 1.
    Australasian, 14 October 1916, p. 27.