SPEIGHT’S NEW BROOM AND THE SECOND INTERCOLONIAL RAILWAY
The Railway Construction Bill included a line from Dimboola to the South Australian border, but while Duncan Gillies was still nursing his Bill through parliament, his opposite number in Adelaide, Commissioner of Railways Thomas Playford, was ordering carriages for the intercolonial express. His Engineer-in-Chief, Henry Mais, had already persuaded the South Australian government to order four palatial Mann Boudoir cars from America. Mais had been greatly impressed with American railroad engineering on a tour he made in the first half of 1883, and was clearly in favour of the sleeping cars made by the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Company, of Troy, New York.
The Mann cars, with their side corridors and individual compartments, were preferred over the open section Pullman sleepers running in New South Wales, which could be quite stuffy. When made up for night travel, Pullman sleeping berths were curtained off but otherwise all occupants shared the one open saloon, preparing for bed in the central passageway.
The privacy afforded by the Mann car was no small consideration in an age when women were only beginning to have the confidence to travel unaccompanied. The design also provided better ventilation. Playford sent the plans of the Boudoir Car to Gillies on 28th October 1884, with the clear intention of purchasing them as a fait accompli. South Australia had no protectionist leanings, so importing the world’s best sleeping cars presented no difficulties for them.
Victoria was completely unprepared to build carriages suitable for overnight journeys of over 500 miles. The only bogie carriages in use were the ‘American Saloons’, which were used on suburban trains. The protectionists would protest loudly if more carriages were imported, either from overseas or even other colonies. So as track layers were rapidly closing the gap on the South Australian section of the intercolonial railway between Murray Bridge and Border Town, the Victorians responded by seeking a conference as soon as possible after the Christmas break to discuss intercolonial rolling stock and other issues.
Speight’s Tasmanian Consultancy
Richard Speight had scheduled a short family holiday in Tasmania, partly mixed with business. Speight, two of his sons and a daughter were accompanied by Edward Jeffreys and Miss Jeffreys. Edward Jeffreys was a partner in the Monk Bridge Iron Works of Leeds, a subsidiary of the Kitson Locomotive Works, which built locomotives for the Midland Railway. Clearly, Speight and Jeffreys were friends. Jeffreys was visiting Australia, and in December 1884 had travelled on the overland express from Melbourne to Sydney with several members of parliament.
A few weeks later Jeffreys was in Adelaide and attended a New Year’s Eve function held at William Thow’s residence in Woodville, with the South Australian Locomotive Branch band providing the entertainment. Thow was suspended at the time while the government was trying to resolve the acrimonious wrangling between him and his Engineer-in-Chief. Thomas Roberts was Acting Locomotive Superintendent and the party moved on to his residence.
It must have been an excellent evening as Jeffreys made a very generous £25 donation to the band, a sum equivalent to six months wages for a clerk! By the time of their voyage across Bass Strait, Jeffreys was acquainted with the Locomotive Superintendents of at least three of the Australasian colonies and would have shared some valuable insights with Speight. They left Melbourne’s South Wharf on the 947 gross ton S.S. Flinders at 2 p.m. on 8th January, steaming down the Yarra River and into Port Philip Bay for the 22 hour voyage across Bass Strait to Low Head, then up the Tamar River to Launceston. There they took the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company (TMLR) train for Hobart, arriving late on Friday evening to a welcome by W. H. Burgess, the Colonial Treasurer.
It is evidence of Speight’s reputation that the Tasmanian Government had enlisted his advice in its long running dispute with the TMLR. Speight met with the Railway Department’s Engineer-in-Chief and the TMLR’s manager, and returned home with the Jeffreys aboard the 1,212 gross ton S.S. Pateena for a pleasant crossing on 16th January. In the meantime he had set in motion a succession plan for the Victorian Railways Locomotive Branch (renamed the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch in 1880).
The passing of the Railway Construction Act 1884 had given Speight a fat budget, but without the necessary expertise the planned works would be difficult to complete. This was particularly true of the Newport Workshops and other Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch projects. Speight was worried that no one in that Branch had professional engineering qualifications or firsthand experience of up-to-date practice in Britain, Europe or America.
Coming from England’s premier railway company, the parochialism ruling Victoria must have troubled him, as did the realisation that there was no professional engineer to assist Solomon Mirls and act in his absence. The Commissioners therefore advised Gillies that a successor to Mirls was needed, but as no one in the Victorian Railways had the requisite qualifications they needed to look elsewhere. Jeffreys had no doubt put in a good word for Thow, but recruiting the South Australian Locomotive Superintendent would be fraught with difficulty as his long running and bitter dispute with his Engineer-in-Chief had yet to be resolved..
The Railway Management Act required government approval to appoint staff from outside: a clause inserted by nervous protectionists. Gillies gave his consent and the advertisement for an Assistant Locomotive Superintendent was announced the day before Speight returned from Tasmania. Twenty eight men applied, from which a shortlist of seven was made. Four of the five local applicants short-listed were locomotive inspectors, and one a locomotive foreman.
The others were T.S. (Thomas) Roberts, Thow’s assistant, and Allison Dalrymple Smith, Locomotive Superintendent of the South Island lines of the New Zealand Railways. These men sailed to Melbourne for interviews, Smith crossing the Tasman on the sprightly little steamer, the SS Rotomahana. Coincidently aboard the same ship was the man who would become his nemesis; newspaper proprietor David Syme.
Mirls was on the interviewing panel with the Commissioners to provide some technical expertise and help select his successor. Speight’s critics alleged this put Mirls in an embarrassing position, but they slighted Mirls by further criticising the Commissioners for not having competent engineers on the panel! It must have been an unhappy time for Mirls, as his little daughter Ida took sick and died at the end of June. She had lived only 10½ months.
It was not made public that Speight also interviewed Thow and Thomas Midelton, the Locomotive Engineers of South Australia and NSW, or that he had the advice of his friend Jeffreys. Allison Smith was chosen over Roberts, for while the South Australian met requirements, he was an older man and they were looking for youthful vigour. Subsequent events no doubt caused them to wish they had chosen otherwise, as Roberts returned to Adelaide and a few years later succeeded Thow as the South Australian Railway Locomotive Engineer, subsequently producing the most notable locally designed and constructed locomotives yet seen in Australia.
The protectionists immediately began baying at Smith and hounded him for the next seven years. The advertisement for an Assistant Locomotive Superintendent had stipulated that applicants must have been trained as locomotive and mechanical engineers, and be capable of designing all descriptions of railway rolling-stock. But Allison Smith was candid in admitting he had never designed a locomotive, although he had designed carriages and wagons for New Zealand.
He must have been an impressive young man, having taken on disgruntled enginemen and politicians alike while still in his early twenties, and whipping the New Zealand Railways Locomotive Branch into an efficient outfit. This no doubt impressed Speight, who was less interested in Allison Smith’s grasp of locomotive engineering as his ability to oversee a huge workshop expansion. He had supervised a large expansion of Addington workshops, near Christchurch, and probably the Hillside workshops at Dunedin too.
He took over in Christchurch in 1877, and from then onwards most of the carriages and wagons built in New Zealand were made in those workshops. The £225,000 approved for a workshop at Newport was discussed at Allison Smith’s job interview in April 1885, as the work clearly demanded a dedicated and experienced project engineer. This was lost on the know-all political and newspaper critics, who were pushing for the elevation of one of Mirls’ subordinates. But unlike Mirls, none of the local applicants had the required breadth of experience.
As chief draughtsman Mirls had designed carriages, and then as Locomotive Superintendent had made the Woods brake workable and managed the setting up the former Exhibition annex as the initial carriage shop at Newport. He had also assisted in the design of and rebuilding of many locomotives. Speight needed Mirls’ skills in administering the expanding Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch, including its design office. He could not be expected to supervise the construction of the Newport Workshops as well.
The tiresome carping of the protectionist Berryites went on for months. What could the tin-pot railways in South Australia and New Zealand possibly offer the premier railway of the colonies?  But it was too late, and after a gold watch send-off in Christchurch during which his colleagues thanked him for ‘many acts of kindness and his courteous and gentlemanly conduct’, Allison Smith sailed to Melbourne and commenced work on 22nd July 1885.
He was unknown to anyone in the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch and had done nothing to personally offend a soul there, but seldom has a man begun work in such an atmosphere of ill-feeling. A week before he started work Major W.C. Smith had all the papers relative to his appointment laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly. This included the shorthand writers’ notes of his interview with the Commissioners, and his credentials. A few weeks later the Berryites in Parliament launched an attack, calling for a Select Committee to investigate the appointment.
Never happy at having lost control of their railway milch cow to a board of independent and professional Commissioners, they questioned why good Victorians were passed over, and why no qualified engineer was on the interviewing panel with Speight. Thomas Bent even said the selection of Allison Smith was a ‘job’ and an insult to the members of the Victorian Railways who applied for the position. This despite none of them having managed the setting up of a workshop or the necessary experience of rolling stock design, as Mirls had.
It was protectionism at its silliest, not just inhibiting the import of advanced engineering equipment but also of engineering brains! Worse, it was an attempt by politicians to interfere in the selection process. Zox MLA asked what chance the railway commissioners had of doing their duty if every appointment they made was to be challenged by parliament. The Berryites were voted down 33 to 16, but not before some demeaning things were said about Speight, Allison Smith and Mirls.
A defiant Allison Smith quickly introduced measures to smarten up his workforce. The local Williamstown Chronicle gave voice to the aggrieved, claiming ‘there never was a period in the history of the railways in this colony when the employees of the Loco department were roused to such a spirit of dissatisfaction as at present. Instructions of a most irritating character freely interspersed with fines and other means of punishment, have caused engine drivers to wonder what the morrow will bring forth.’ 
The unionised enginemen were only prevented from striking after taking their grievances to Mirls, who calmed matters by restoring the status quo. A week later Allison Smith was a guest at the Enginemen’s Union annual dinner, and was well received, indicating that the views aired in the press were not that widespread. The Union then had about 500 members, who Speight claimed to be the highest paid enginemen in the world. Mirls said that he ‘always endeavoured to deal fairly with the employees’ because he knew that when there was ‘quarrelling in the house something must be wrong, and when men were dissatisfied the service suffered.’ 
But some of the men were taking advantage of Mirls’ good nature, and it was this laxity that Allison Smith confronted. He started on a salary of £850 per annum, almost the same as his superior Mirls, who was on £900. It was put around that this was a slight against Mirls, the clear inference being that Speight was not happy with his Locomotive Superintendent. This may have been more than mere gossip, although it was not reported in Melbourne.
The South Australian Register published an article after Thow and Roberts returned from Victoria, both having spoken with Speight and Jeffreys. If they were the source, the comment in the Register is revealing. ‘In bringing a man of Mr. Allison Smith’s qualifications into the service the Commissioners are doing good work. The locomotive branch has virtually been managing itself for years past. Mr. Solomon Mirls, the Loco. Superintendent, must regard the new appointment as a vote of want of confidence in himself, and the Commissioners probably mean that it should be so interpreted.’  It is certain Speight was concerned at the absence of anyone qualified to take Mirls’ place, and was also aware that Mirls was not enjoying robust health.
Mirls was well liked by his men, probably because he interceded for them when they were in trouble. His defence of the engine crews involved in the Hawthorn accident is typical. Quickly making a public declaration of their competence and absolving them of blame, he intimated his intention to put them back to work immediately. Although he claimed to have ‘no practical mechanical knowledge’, the heaviest and most powerful locomotive yet run on the Victorian Railways was designed and built on his watch as Locomotive Superintendent.
The press of traffic feeding onto the trunk lines from the expanding network was proving too much for even the most powerful locomotives to handle unassisted. With Speight’s encouragement Mirls faced the challenge of his career to design a big engine and have it locally made. Mirls had been Chief Draughtsman all through the Meikle years, and had worked on the string of new designs including 2-4-0 No. 100, the pattern ‘Buzzwinkers’ Nos. 103 & 105, the 4-4-0s Nos. 38 & 44, and the rebuilds of 2-2-2s Nos. 12, 34, 36 and others that became the J class. All this work was accomplished in the crowded confines of Williamstown workshops. Added to these were the Meikle designs built by Phoenix that were later classified as the Q, U, K and H classes.
Mirls also designed serval classes of carriage and was instrumental in perfecting John Woods’s half-baked concept of a continuous hydraulic brake. Most recently he and his staff had redesigned the Baldwin ‘Ten Wheeler’ with smaller driving wheels and cylinders, together with some more British features such as a copper firebox and less flamboyant steam and sand domes.
As Locomotive Superintendent Mirls would have had little time for detailed design work, but to him fell the oversight of the major features, the direction of his staff, and the checking and approval of each stage of the work. The Locomotive Branch draughtsmen and workshop foreman Robinson Jackson contributed ideas and then the men on the shop floor at Williamstown and at Phoenix had to manufacture the parts and make them fit and function.
By this time Phoenix was an experienced builder, and a good deal of practical redesign took place on the shop floor. It is unlikely Allison Smith had a hand in the big 0-6-0 design. He did claim to have designed ‘working parts of engines’, but took no credit for any particular locomotive. The design work for the new engine would have been well advanced by the time he took up his duties, and more likely he was fully committed elsewhere.
The contract to build the new design 0-6-0 was let to Phoenix on 16th October 1885. Referred to as a heavy goods locomotive, it had the biggest boiler yet seen on a Victorian locomotive. It was really a mixed traffic engine, sharing the same 5 foot diameter driving wheels as the M class suburban 4-4-0 tank being built concurrently by Phoenix. (All wheels were imported from Britain, as no foundry in the colonies was yet capable of making large and complex castings).
When the first of the fifteen 0-6-0s was steamed in August 1886, Mirls travelled to Ballarat to supervise its trial run up the five miles of 1 in 52 to Warrenheip with 21 loaded trucks. Mirls left nothing to chance, and had the government shorthand writer along to record his conversation with other railway and Phoenix officials. Perhaps he was aware of the quarrels and recriminations that followed the breakdown of the VIP special train to Aldgate, in the Adelaide Hills. There was to be no argument about who said what, but he needn’t have worried. No. 353 handled its test train easily.
Mirls’ big engine was an immediate success. The new 0-6-0 was denoted the X class, but enginemen impressed by their size and strength nicknamed them ‘Jumbos’. A new classification system for motive power was implemented that year, each class being denoted by a discreet letter of the alphabet. One of the early rosters for the big X class was the Adelaide Express between Melbourne and Stawell.
Locomotive Standardisation and the Kitson Connection
That between them the Locomotive Branch and Phoenix were able to produce the ‘Jumbos’ was a remarkable achievement. The recently supplied Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 and 4-4-0 pattern engines provided a starting point, but apart from its tender, nothing on the Jumbo replicated what had gone before; everything was bigger. That they pulled it off might have surprised Speight, as it was well known that Mirls had no engineering qualifications, although clearly he had much practical experience. But despite the success of the X class, Speight worried that the locomotive fleet comprised so many designs with very few common parts.
Yet another had been introduced a few months after his arrival in the colony. These were Beyer Peacock 4-4-0s, similar but not identical to the NSW Railways 255 class ‘High Flyers’. The broader Victorian rail gauge enabled the fitting of a larger fire grate, larger boiler and larger smokebox which made them somewhat more powerful. They also had a wider tender. Later classified ‘A’ under Mirls’ new system, they were good looking engines of solid British pedigree and about 20 per cent more powerful than the old Sturrock 2-4-0 B class.
The A class engines were immediately put to work on the overland express between Melbourne and Albury, hauling the new Stroudley designed six-wheeled carriages. As the continuous brake issue had still not been resolved, Speight had ordered a trial of Sanders and Bolitho’s vacuum brake, and this equipment was fitted to some of the new 4-4-0s and Stroudley carriages, while others were fitted with the Woods brake. This plethora of locomotive designs and braking systems concerned Speight. Modern locomotive practice in England was emphasising the advantage of standardised components, but neither Mirls, Allison Smith nor Phoenix had the capacity to design a group of standard locomotives.
Speight was well aware of the Midland Railway’s experience with a stable of assorted engine designs which it had gathered through mergers with other companies. Its Chief Mechanical Engineer was Samuel Johnson, who had standardised many parts of engines built for the Midland after he took over in 1873. Many of these locomotives were built by the Kitson Locomotive Works. It was probably more than coincidental that Edward Jeffreys, a partner in a Kitson subsidiary and personal friend of Speight’s, was in the colonies at the time.
Jeffreys was paid £250 to produce a proposal for standardised designs, and a further £750 for detailed drawings, almost certainly prepared by Kitson and Co., and similar to engines on the Midland Railway. The drawings must have arrived in the second half of 1885, and the first of the five designs to be ordered was the small 4-4-0 D class. The £53,000 contract for the D class was awarded to the Phoenix Foundry in January 1886. At the time their general manager, William Shaw, was in England investigating the latest engineering methods and purchasing some £15,000 of machine tools for his Ballarat works.
There was never an intention to have the engines built overseas, although Kitson did make two engines to the new designs. One was a heavy goods Y class 0-6-0, the other an E class 2-4-2 suburban tank. Kitson entered these in the 1888 Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne, where they were awarded a First Order of Merit. They were subsequently purchased by the Victorian Railways but Phoenix were the big winners. They secured orders to make all five designs, totalling 140 locomotives. This kept them busy for the next eight years.
Mais, Thow and the Joint Stock Carriages
As mentioned earlier, a priority after the passing of the Railway Construction Act was to link Adelaide and Melbourne. South Australia had been prodding Victoria for action since October 1884. Agreement was reached that an intercolonial conference would be held at the end of January 1885. By then the South Australians were racing towards the border, their contractor already having 55,000 sleepers stacked at Border Town. Most of the earthworks were complete and ballast trains were already running over part of the line.
Meanwhile the Victorians dithered, with contracts yet to be let for the section from Dimboola to the Border. While the South Australian parliament was in its summer recess, Tom Playford, their Minister of Public Works and Commissioner of Railways, set out to visit electorates in the South-East, and then journey on to Melbourne. He was to be accompanied by Engineer-in-Chief Mais and Alan Pendleton, the General Traffic Manager, but these men were held up in Adelaide giving evidence to the Thow Board of Inquiry. This followed the debacle of the opening train to Aldgate mentioned in Chapter Seven, when Thow and the Assistant Engineer-in-Chief, R.C. Patterson exchanged hot words.
Because the South Australian Railways was still a Ministerial Department, the ongoing dispute between these men enmeshed the Railway Commissioner. Mais, Patterson, and Pendleton brought charges against Thow, and a parliamentary Select Committee tried unsuccessfully to sort it out. This was followed by a Royal Commission, again fruitless, and finally, in November 1884, a Board of Inquiry. The discords and disagreements were the subject of much parliamentary debate and press criticism, and even gave rise to a want-of-confidence motion in the government. Thow was suspended for two months during the Inquiry. The sad thing is that all this effort, expense and distraction was over trifles.
The proceedings of the Inquiry did not appear to be favouring Mais and Patterson when they left Adelaide to join Playford at Naracoorte. The likely outcome was no doubt a concern for the Commissioner too, as he was in sympathy with the Engineer-in-Chief and the other officers and had expected the Board would find against Thow. Worse, he was on record saying that should the Inquiry favour Thow, the other three officers would have to go.  Playford, Mais and Patterson therefore continued the tour under a cloud, travelling north to Border Town, which was then the terminus of the isolated 3’6” gauge South-East system. They were met by distraught farmers whose crops were being devoured by a plague of rabbits crossing into South Australia from the disputed border with Victoria.
Neither colony would accept responsibility for the narrow strip of no-mans-land, which had turned into a rabbit nursery! One of the matters on the agenda for the intercolonial conference was the building of a border station in this disputed territory. After inspecting progress with railway construction west of Border Town, the South Australian party took a stagecoach to Dimboola. There they were welcomed Robert Watson, the Victorian Railways Engineer-in-Chief, who was waiting with a special train for the ten hour journey to Melbourne. The party arrived on the afternoon of Monday 26th January, and were officially welcomed next day by the Victorian Premier. The intercolonial conference then began.
Thow had been pointedly excluded from the negotiations, despite the focus being on rolling stock matters. This was very much his department. But the previous Sunday evening, despite still being under suspension, he boarded the steamer S.S. Adelaide for a two week ‘holiday’ in Melbourne!  The ship encountered strong headwinds on the voyage, tying up at Hobson’s Bay at noon on Wednesday 28th. It would take more than adverse winds to deter Thow, and having previously worked with Mirls during the Brake Trials and having favoured the Victorian invention, he would have no trouble finding sympathetic colleagues in Melbourne.
The day after he disembarked, the Thow Inquiry findings were released in Adelaide, basically exonerating him. The atmosphere at the conference meeting that day must have been electric! Adding to the charged atmosphere, Thow was having discussions with Speight about the Assistant Locomotive Superintendent’s position which had just been advertised. Some South Australian newspapers gossiped that Thow was offered the job at £1,000 per annum.
There was no doubt that Thow was highly regarded as a locomotive engineer: Thomas Higinbotham had dealings with him before 1880 and considered him by far the best locomotive engineer in the Australian colonies. Speight shared that view, probably after consultation with Jeffreys, who by that time had met most of them. It might have eased the embarrassment of Playford, Mais and Pendleton if Thow had moved to Victoria, but placing Thow as second in command to Mirls was not going to be a good fit. 
Although the Board of Inquiry acquitted Thow of untruthfulness and of unfitness for the public service, they did consider him censurable for verbally and in written minutes imputing ‘unworthy motives and falsehood to his brother officers.’ They also criticised Mais and Patterson for their lack of restraint and their disparaging assertions towards Thow. One editorialist expressed the opinion of many, finding the charges puerile in the extreme.
The outcome was due to strong minded professionals reporting to short term political heads. Until 1880 the Locomotive Engineer had been subordinate to Mais, who on occasion overturned Thow’s decisions. At Thow’s request the Commissioner separated the Locomotive Branch from the Engineer-in-Chief, but Mais was loath to accept the loss of authority. The same thing had happened in Victoria a decade earlier, when Higinbotham returned from America and ordered the Rogers 4-4-0s and American saloon carriages over William Meikle’s head. The separation of mechanical and civil engineering was often more like a divorce.
Similarly, in NSW the Locomotive Branch had been established in 1879 with Robert Burnett recruited from England. His management was also stifled by disputes with the civil engineers and he resigned after two years. Thomas Midleton, appointed in his place endured similar hostility, preferring American locomotives against the Engineer-in-Chief’s prejudice for the British product. It was against this change in the profession that the Thow dispute played out, but simultaneously the separation of railway management from direct political control was taking place.
In South Australia the rapidly changing ministerial heads of the Railway Department had lost control of a situation which a professional railway manager like Speight would have immediately nipped in the bud. Playford had inherited the mess but made it worse. Embarrassed in the middle of the Melbourne conference he made up his mind to resign.
Whereas the South Australians led the way in decisions about the rolling stock for the intercolonial express, Playford’s discussions with Gillies and the Victorian Railways Commissioners convinced him that South Australia had to follow Victoria’s lead and separate their railways from direct political control. Playford made his views forcefully known on his return to Adelaide, and swapped portfolios with the Minister of Lands instead of resigning outright, which would have brought down the government. But for the hapless Patterson, it was the end of his career in South Australia.
South Australian Designs Preferred
Despite the high drama unfolding during the intercolonial conference, it did settle some important questions. So confident was the government in its new railway management Gillies did not attend. Commissioners Speight, Agg and Ford were supported by their branch heads: Engineer-in-Chief Watson; Engineer of Existing Lines William Greene; General Traffic Manager John Anderson; Locomotive, Carriage and Waggon Superintendent Mirls. But despite this heavy Victorian presence, Mais and Pendleton were controlling the agenda, with Mais taking the initiative. Having already ordered four sleeping cars from the USA, Mais proposed that all the other carriages be to South Australian designs. At the time Victoria had no bogie carriages suitable for long distance travel.
Mais would have emphasised the need for all-bogie rolling stock on the through service, due to the tortuous line through the Adelaide Hills, with its 10 chain radius reverse curves. An early design of Thow’s was a six-wheeled Cleminson carriage. In March 1883 one of these had derailed derailed in the Adelaide Hills near Upper Sturt, damaging 336 feet of track. The Assistant Engineer-in-Chief immediately recommended the line be worked exclusively with bogie rolling stock equipped with continuous brakes.
The South Australian Railways had earlier imported six bogie carriages built by the Ashbury Carriage and Iron Company, of Birmingham. These side loading compartment cars were placed in service in April 1884, and Mais proposed to use them as a pattern for the joint stock sitting carriages. They were larger than the Stroudley six-wheeled carriages the Victorian Railways had imported from Birmingham at the same time, but Mais would have found Speight sympathetic to his wish to provide a very high standard of comfort on the Adelaide-Melbourne service.
Speight had been party to James Allport’s lead in providing the Midland Railway with the best carriages in the United Kingdom. It was therefore agreed that the South Australian Railways would provide plans for both the carriages and brake vans, which would then be built in Victoria. The conference agreed that all the carriages and brake vans would be jointly owned by the two systems, and used exclusively for the through service. South Australia would provide the four sleeping cars, two mail vans, two brake vans and two luggage vans. Victoria would build eight sitting cars and two brake vans.
At the time it was not announced that these joint stock carriages would be built by the government workshops and not let to private manufacturers. Nevertheless, arrangements were quietly made to facilitate this end and a few weeks after the conference it was announced that the carriage and truck shop at Newport would be extended by 200 feet. By September 1885 the new building was complete and the remaining carriage builders were transferred from Williamstown. All carriage building and repair was from then onward performed at Newport, while truck repairs continued at Williamstown.
It is quite likely that Thow already had his senior draughtsman working up the designs. This was Eugene Victor Siepen, who had migrated to Adelaide in 1883 from Manchester, where he had been employed by locomotive builder Beyer, Peacock and Company. With Thow he helped design adaptations of the Ashbury carriages, which were proliferated in the hundreds in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.
In early July 1885 while Allison Smith was preparing to leave New Zealand, Speight and fellow Commissioner Ford made an arduous journey to Naracoorte to settle arrangements for the joining of the intercolonial railway. With them was 65 year old George Darbyshire, Engineer for Surveys. Their task was to fix a place for the border station. The roads were so bad due to winter rains that the three men were a day late arriving at Naracoorte, where they met Mais and Pendleton.
The two South Australians had toughed out their defeat at the hands of the Thow Inquiry some months before and were still in control of their branches. Together with the Victorians they went over about fifteen miles of line then under construction west of Border Town. The five men then inspected the rabbit infested border territory, where they had been directed to place a railway station and customs post. They chose a site in the middle of the disputed area, which was named Serviceton, after the Victorian Premier. It was to be another 29 years before the Privy Council awarded the land and the station to Victoria.
Colonial Rolling Stock Manufactures Threatened
A month after Allison Smith took up work in July 1885, specifications were being finalised for the new workshops at Newport. The first big contract was let on 9th October, and a month later it dawned on the private rolling stock manufacturers that Newport was going to be a lot more than a repair shed! The Sandhurst Steam Carriage Manufacturing Company raised the alarm, and enlisted the support the Phoenix Foundry at Ballarat and the G.F. Pickles carriage works at Sandhurst in an open letter, claiming the ‘gigantic workshops now being constructed at Newport are destined, within a very short date of their completion, to undertake and monopolise the whole of the building of railway carriages and locomotives, to the utter ruin and complete annihilation of such important companies as yours and our own.’ 
They tried to prevent the enlargement of Newport, and to obtain guarantees that new rolling stock would continue to be sourced from private contractors such as themselves. Gillies was quick to reassure the country electorates that Newport was only to be used for repair work, but they were unconvinced. The Kyneton Observer complained that ‘every day it becomes more apparent that the country electorates must take decisive steps for their own protection.’ They did just that, and prior to the elections held in March 1886, a Decentralisation League was formed.
The League tried to tar the Newport project as a ‘job’ to enrich land speculators, on the strength of John Woods building a house near Edom station, which later became Spottiswoode. It was a beat-up. Woods had secured the Newport site for the railways while he was Minister for Railways, but the decision to build the workshops was made over five years later by a different government. But the League’s concerns were not ill-founded, as work on building the cars for the Adelaide Express had quietly begun, and pointedly they had not been awarded to private companies! Not only that, but they were being built to South Australian designs!
Rising Unionism and Speight’s Diplomacy
After two years Speight’s new broom was bringing the railways into profit, but the new regime was not universally liked. Allison Smith had settled down in the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch, but some of the old guard were resentful of the new discipline. At the annual dinner of the Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association (EDFA) in September 1886, the invited guests included Mirls and the three commissioners. Also on the podium were some leading opposition figures in the Legislative Assembly. It was a set-up.
The union was then 16 years old, and over 200 enginemen had gathered at the imposing Hotham town hall in North Melbourne. There they were treated to diatribes against the management, including an attempt by David Gaunson MLA to spread a rumour that Cabinet was intent on disbanding the union, and then claiming that Speight, on a £3,000 per annum salary enjoyed sick pay while a £3 a week employee had no such benefit. Collard Smith MLA, now a Colonel, joined the criticism, stating his objection to the appointment of commissioners, and of recruiting the Chairman from overseas.
Airing these views in front of the commissioners was poor form! Back peddling, the Colonel attempted to sweeten the pill and congratulated Speight for doing well. At this the men cheered, which might not have been what he was expecting. He could be intemperate, and perhaps he had been imbibing too much. Nevertheless, as a Director of Phoenix Foundry he was biting the hand that fed his company! Speight turned the awkward situation into a triumph, giving better than he got.
On an previous occasion he had assured the union he knew that men sometimes got into trouble without intention, in which case the commissioners were only too glad to say, ‘Go back and be careful for the future.’  They knew he was fair, and now he assured the applauding men that politics had nothing to do with the management, and he hoped that it never would. £25 million of the colony’s £30 million debt was invested in the railways, which was a magnificent property and needed the best efforts of all the men to make it a success. He did not want people coming and throwing firebrands into it and creating discontent! The commissioners were even handed to every man, and 999 out of 1,000 were certain this was true.
Earlier that year Speight had been guest of honour at the second annual banquet of the Victorian Railway Employés’ Mutual Association (VREMA). Also present were Gaunson and Bent. Speight was well aware of the need to co-operate with the rising union movement, unlike Charles Goodchap. His opposite number in NSW would have nothing to do with them. Speight encouraged his men that by working together to make the railways profitable the government would be more likely to grant them concessions. He was adept at negotiations, careful not to give offence but determined not to give anything unnecessarily away.
Speight’s resolve was put to the test in mid-1886 when the VREMA decided to take up the case of a man who had been passed over for promotion. The Association was the second attempt to form a general railway union and had been formed in March 1884, less than a month after Speight’s arrival in the colony. Gillies had shut down the similarly named Victorian Railway Employés’ Association in 1880 for trespassing into the political arena. But like its forebear the VREMA grew quickly and had over 2,000 members within six months. By March 1886 it had over 4,000 members, or 44 percent of the railway workforce. By contrast, only 14 percent of railway employees in the United Kingdom belonged to a union. In the following six months a further 1,039 employees had signed up, bringing total membership to 5,039 in 23 branches. An affiliate union in NSW numbered about 4,000 members.
The man in the eye of the storm was Giles Dobney, son of a foreman at the Williamstown Workshops. He followed his father into the railways as an apprentice in the carriage shop at Williamstown and showed promise. In 1881 Mirls gave him leave of absence to travel to New York and England, there to hone his skills and learn new techniques by working with some of the leading carriage builders. It was probably the first instance of such an arrangement by the Victorian Railways and three years later he re-joined the workforce at Williamstown. After working there a year Mirls appointed him Inspector of Carriages at Sandhurst.
His appointment miffed a couple of men at Newport who thought they were better qualified. The Commissioners heard the appeal and confirmed Dobney. In September 1886 the VREMA sought legal advice and decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court. Speight did not object to them doing this, which helped keep his relations with the union cordial. Perhaps he realised what it was going to cost them! Soon the legal fees began eating into the Association’s coffers. The council procrastinated but their feet got colder and colder. Two and a half years and £800 worth of fees later, the matter was allowed to drop, but not before some stormy meetings and great dissention among the members.
Promotions to higher grades were meant to be by seniority but there were always exceptions, one being guard Bell. By 1888 he was a regular on the Commissioner’s tour train and his promotion also created some envious protests. Another cause of unrest was the creeping mechanisation of tasks in the workshops that enabled unskilled labour to take over work hitherto the preserve of artisans. In December 1887 the Amalgamated Society of Engineers formed a deputation to protest this to the Commissioners. The Society was long established in the Iron Trades, its Melbourne branch being formed in 1859.
Speight’s attitude to the unions remained accepting and conciliatory. He addressed the VREMA’s third annual banquet in April 1887, this time with none of the opposition politicians present. The Association president was fulsome in his praise of the Commissioners, remarking that ‘Mr. Speight and his colleagues had led the railway employés to feel that there was a brotherhood between them — (cheers) — and he thought it was very gratifying to know that such a state of affairs existed.’  The conservative Argus agreed. Noting the VREMA had grown to between 7,000 and 8,000 members, it editorialised that Speight was well aware of the rock ahead, with the Association becoming too powerful, but that ‘a capable, sympathetic, but determined head such as Mr. Speight makes—a manager who does not unnecessarily offend and does not unduly give way—is a great check upon any catastrophe.’ 
The Second Intercolonial Connection
The first great achievement of Speight’s term as Commissioner was the linking of Victoria and South Australia by railway. The South Australians had opened a railway to within 13 miles of the Victorian border at Narracoorte as early as January 1877. In October the same year the Victorian Railways reached Hamilton. The distance between the railheads was about 120 miles, which was less than the distance between the railheads of Bowning and Wodonga. A year earlier that gap had been bridged with a Cobb & Co stagecoach service to create an overland mail service between Sydney and Melbourne. Yet nine years passed before an overland mail service was arranged between Adelaide and Melbourne.
It was possible to make the Adelaide to Melbourne journey overland, but only those with a fearful dread of the ‘mal der mer’ would even contemplate it. A broad gauge train could be taken from Adelaide to Milang, on the shore of Lake Alexandrina. Then a paddle steamer to Meningie, connecting with a stagecoach for Kingston. From there a narrow gauge train to Narracoorte, connecting with another stagecoach to Hamilton (and from September 1884 to Casterton, when that became the railhead).  Lastly, a tired traveller might join a train to Melbourne. So the all-important English Mails continued to be carried by sea!
A week after the Victorian election in March 1886 a special train departed Adelaide for Border Town conveying the South Australian Commissioner of Railways, Mais, Pendleton and some others over the newly completed but not yet officially opened broad gauge direct line. After inspecting works near the border, they bridged the gap to the Victorian railhead at Dimboola by coach and travelled on to Melbourne for a second intercolonial railway conference.
Once again Thow was excluded, but there were two very notable locomotive engineers travelling with them. They were none other than John H. Kitson, of the Kitson Locomotive Works, and his partner Edward Jeffreys, a friend of Speight. They had left England together on the RMS Austral for Melbourne and were touring the colonies, no doubt drumming up business. They played no part in the intercolonial conference, but being allowed to travel together with very senior railway officers was no doubt mutually beneficial.
The conference addressed the practical issues of financing and staffing the joint station at Serviceton, revenue sharing and rolling stock maintenance. After the conference the party visited the Newport carriage shop and inspected progress on the eight composite 1st and 2nd class cars and two brake vans being built for the joint stock service. With the South Australian section of the route almost complete, it must have been obvious the Victorians needed assistance in the workshop. A few weeks later Eugene Siepen from the South Australian Railways drawing office embarked on the SS Adelaide to help out in Melbourne.
Up to that time the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Branch had only one draughtsman, and new designs were largely built from patterns developed from existing locomotives and rolling stock. Indeed, the workshops may have had little experience building from drawings, so as co-author with Thow of the plans for the new carriages, Siepen’s advice was no doubt very necessary and welcome. Six months later he joined Mirls’ team permanently as senior draughtsman in the Branch, where he commenced on 20th September 1886 with a salary of £275 per annum. Over the next few decades he became the predominant influence in the drawing office and with Allison Smith greatly adapted and improved the design of the Ashbury carriages.
The Progressive Opening
The actual opening of the intercolonial service was something of a creeping event. On the 3rd May 1886 the South Australians opened their part of the intercolonial line to Bordertown. C. & E. Millar had the contract to close the gap between Wolseley and Dimboola, and had completed all but the last 42 miles from Diapur to Wolseley. (As Bordertown was the northern terminus of the narrow gauge line from Kingston and Narracoorte, a third rail was added between Wolseley and Bordertown for broad gauge trains.)
The post office agreed to reroute some of the Adelaide to Melbourne mails from sea to rail, with the 32 mile gap between Wolseley and Diapur being bridged by a Cobb & Co stagecoach. The service began on 10th May 1886, with Millar Brothers using their own train over the incomplete line. This provided a through passenger service of sorts, the train leaving Melbourne at 6.30 am. It took all day to reach Dimboola for a late supper at 7.20 pm. Passengers then boarded Millar’s train, which steamed away at 8.30 pm, taking it slowly on the new line which was still unballasted and arriving at Diapur at 10 pm.
After an overnight stay the Cobb & Co. stagecoach left at 6 am for the 42 mile ride to Bordertown. Arriving at 12.15 pm, there was time for a leisurely lunch and freshen up before the South Australian Railways train left at 2.15 pm. It arrived in Adelaide at 9.30 pm. The journey wasn’t cheap. The first class fares were: Melbourne to Dimboola, 250 miles, £2 1s. 3d.; Dimboola to Diapur 32 miles, 15 shillings; Diapur to Bordertown, 42 miles, 15 shillings and Bordertown to Adelaide, 183 miles, £1 10s. Or £5 1s. 3d. for the 507 miles. By contrast, the fare for the longer 573 mile journey from Sydney to Melbourne, including a sleeping berth, was £4 13s. 6d. This equated to a week’s wages for a salaried man like Eugene Siepen, and was quite beyond the resources of less skilled men.
C. & E. Millar completed the line by mid-year, so that an all-railway service was able to start on 1st July 1886. Cobb & Co. still acted as booking agents, issuing a three coupon ticket: one coupon for the Victorian Railways portion of the journey, one for C & E. Millar’s train, and one for the South Australian Railways. Passengers still had to change trains at Dimboola and Bordertown, but despite the absence of fanfare and its incomplete state, the line was effectively open. Ballasting was still not finished and the rolling stock was not ready, but it was good enough to save precious time on the all-important mail service.
The Joint Stock Boudoir Cars
A fortnight before an unknown track-layer hammered in the last spike somewhere west of Lillimur, the four Boudoir cars arrived in Adelaide from Boston aboard the barque ‘Ralph M. Hayward’, probably the largest railway cargo ever to make it to Australia under sail. It was a month or so before they were made ready for the road, but the carriages and brake vans being built at Newport were still not finished. It therefore suited the Victorian Railways to delay acceptance of the line from C. & E. Millar so the makeshift service continued for over six months. But in late spring the Victorian governor invited the governors of the three neighbouring colonies to Melbourne for an event which forced the railways to expedite the inauguration of a genuine through service. The event was the running of the 25th Melbourne Cup!
As the Islington Workshops had by then fitted up two of the Boudoir cars, arrangements were made to bring the South Australian governor overland by train. Given the huge size of these carriages, they were sent to Victoria in early October and carefully tested to ensure that they did not foul the loading gauge. Commissioners Speight and Ford together with Engineer of Exiting Lines Greene, boarded the train at Dimboola to supervise the test. The axle bearings overheated and the platform veranda at Spencer Street scraped the cars. ‘Hot boxes’ were not an uncommon occurrence in the days of friction bearings, and minor track maintenance would have fixed the clearance issue at Spencer Street. When the train passed through Ballarat, Speight ensured the press were given a tour. The Ballarat Star reporter was ecstatic!
‘The car, which is known as a boudoir car, is built to accommodate 20 sleepers, and is replete with every modern convenience; and to those who have hitherto only known the dingy dens on the Sydney line dignified with the name of sleeping cars, comes as a revelation. A neatly fitted up smoking compartment is provided, together with broad comfortable beds, and a passage which runs the full length of the car provides a comfortable promenade; seats at each window being also fixed so as to be available at a moment’s notice.
Four of the rooms are fitted up for family use, so that families travelling together may have the desired privacy, while the lavatories and retiring rooms both for ladies and gentlemen are all that can be desired. An elegantly fitted buffet is provided with kettles, ice-chests, and all the appurtenances necessary to make life comfortable under the circumstances. Each room is fitted with an electric bell, and a very ingenious apparatus provides ventilation at the bottom of each cabin, without the faintest risk of draught. Gorgeous mirrors and neat toilet appointments are scattered in every direction.’ 
Another newspaper gushed that ‘the cabins are fitted in a manner superior perhaps to the fittings usually found on first-class passenger steamers. The berths are fitted with mirrors, and upholstered in French grey rep with dead gold figuring. The panels or the doors and partitions of the roof are covered with embossed leather gilt, whilst the frames are of highly polished mahogany. The designs of the ornamentations are classical, and the work is that of an artist. In the roof of each compartment electroplated ventilators are placed, which are easily adjusted. Air is also admitted by the windows, which are curtained with handsome Turkish cloth. The metal work of the doors and windows is electro silver-plated. The lamps, in which kerosene is used, are of artistic design, and mounted in electro-plated silver.’ 
Unlike the Pullman car where berths were only curtained off from the central passageway, a reporter was pleased the Boudoir car ‘ensures the utmost privacy.’ The provision for families and ladies was to revolutionise overland travel, and almost all sleeping cars built for Australasian railways for the next sixty years followed the Mann pattern, whereas in North America the more gregarious population continued to accept the open section Pullman car.
After adjustments to the running gear Mirls accompanied the cars on a further test run to Sunbury. Again they experienced hot boxes, but after some attention they returned to Adelaide, where such was the interest in the Melbourne Cup that the South Australian Railways Commissioner had advertised a special return fare of £4 2s. 6d. Special trains were run on consecutive days, the most opulent race trains yet! The first departed Adelaide at 3.30 pm on 27th October 1886, and consisted of one South Australian Railways first class carriage, a Boudoir car and a brake van. Forty four ordinary passengers were aboard. This was a kind of full-dress rehearsal for the second train, which was to carry His Excellency, the Governor of South Australia the following day.
The trial of the Boudoir cars turned out a wise precaution, as the first of the trains did not have a trouble-free trip. Hot boxes were again experienced, delaying the train in South Australia and again in Victoria, with newspapers variously reporting these occurred on the brake van, the Boudoir car or the engine. Stops were made to allow the bearings to cool, so by the time the train steamed into Ballarat at 10.40 am behind No. 162, one of the Rogers ‘Yankee’ 4-4-0s, the hungry passengers were three hours and twenty minutes late for breakfast.
The lanky American D class locomotive had been especially rostered for the intercolonial service on the steeply graded section between Stawell and Ballarat, which was laid with light rails. No. 162 was ideal, having the required power but with its weight spread over eight wheels instead of six. The superiority of American railroad technology for Australian conditions was there for all to see in the locomotive and the big 12 wheeled sleeping car, but the breaking down of British prejudice was going to take many more decades.
The second special left Adelaide next day, 28th October, with a larger consist. In addition to a Boudoir car, the South Australian Railways provided two first class sitting cars, a brake van and their State carriage. This was occupied by Sir William Robinson, his aide de camp, private secretary and Brigadier General Owen, Commandant of the South Australian Defence Force. The five car train accommodated 47 passengers and would have been double headed over the Adelaide Hills by the new Dübs 4-6-0s, six of which had been placed in service during the first half of 1886.
The vice-regal progress was to a slower schedule and despite the absence of hot boxes, they were nearly two hours late at Spencer Street for their reception by a 50 strong guard of honour formed by the Permanent Artillery. Among the luminaries welcoming the Governor were senior railwaymen Paul Labertouche, John Anderson and Solomon Mirls, all of them no doubt very relieved that the passengers had enjoyed the journey and nothing untoward had occurred.
After Arsenal won the Melbourne Cup, the South Australian punters returned on 6th November. Two separate trains were run as far as Dimboola, but from there they were combined, forming a double headed consist of two Boudoir cars, three first class carriages, and a brake van. This would have been the longest and heaviest train yet run on the line and Allison Smith was aboard to monitor the performance of the new rolling stock.
He was joined at Murray Bridge by his opposite number, Thomas Roberts for the journey through the Hills, where the tight curvature proved an issue for the very long Boudoir cars but nothing serious was reported, and Allison Smith returned to Melbourne next day. The concern of the engineers was understandable, given the length of the Boudoir cars at 70’8½” over the buffers, or more than twice the length of the Stroudley six wheelers then in use on the Sydney Express.
The Overland Mail
Several Victorian papers reported the small number of passengers on the specials, but Adelaide’s population was about 120,000 and Melbourne’s of just short of half a million. Together with the very high fares and the competition from coastal steamers, the sparse patronage should have been no surprise. The day before the specials ran, the co-ordinated train and Cobb & Co. coach service carried only a dozen passengers west and four east. One coach was normally adequate for the passengers.
Mail was paying for the service. It these days of instant messaging and all-pervasive social media, it can be forgotten how vital the mail service was. Every colonist would have resonated with the poem that W.H. Auden was later to write:-
… Men long for news.
Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.
The crucial importance of mail services cannot be over-emphasised. Auden finished his poem with the line ‘For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?’ Australians felt their isolation intensely, and went to extraordinary lengths and expense to provide communications. Often the grandest building in a town was the post office. Lonely servicemen in New Guinea later expressed it perfectly in song:-
Maybe it’s on the ocean;
Tossed by wind and hail,
Maybe it’s with old Davey Jones –
Where’s our ruddy mail?
We can do without tobacco,
We can do without our ale,
In blinding tears we’re asking
Where’s our ruddy mail?
The overland rail service quickly took mail from the coastal steamships, so much so that a few months after the through service began the mail steamer SS Emu had been withdrawn from the Melbourne – Adelaide route. Local ports between the cities were only left with a fortnightly service.
Testing Newport’s Joint Stock Carriages
Newport Workshops had not finished the new joint stock sitting cars before the race specials, but two weeks after the Melbourne Cup another through train was run, this time comprising several of Newport’s new composite carriages. They were Thow’s development of the Ashbury design, each with four 1st class and two 2nd class compartments, and were classed ABab; (A for 1st class, B for 2nd class, and the repeated code indicating a bogie vehicle). The composite design enabled one carriage to suffice for both classes when passenger demand was low, an important consideration at a time when locomotives were small and unnecessary weight meant inefficient working.
Thow saved further weight by avoiding corridors or passageways between the compartments, and no toilet facilities were provided. This ‘dog box’ layout was then very common, but meant that once a train was moving, passengers were stuck in their compartments with whomever of their fellows, and must wait until the next stop to satisfy nature’s calls. On express trains, this could mean holding on for uncomfortable periods. It would not be long before this situation was remedied.
The test train was run to ensure the new cars would not foul any structure on the intercolonial line. It was despatched from Spencer Street on 22nd November, with Watson, Anderson and Mirls on board, together with Mais, returning to South Australia after a visit to Melbourne. The commissioner’s inspection car provided for them, as they were tasked with negotiating arrangements for the first physical joining of two railway systems on a common gauge in Australia. All of them were in unfamiliar territory.
The Victorian Heads of Branches stayed in Adelaide a week to iron out agreements for the joint working, maintenance and financial aspects of the co-operative venture. On the return journey the train was run at express speeds to further test the new rolling stock. Mirls was very pleased with its performance. A seven man South Australian parliamentary commission, learning of the test trains return, secured an opportunistic overland visit to Melbourne and saved themselves several days on the sea journey.
The Unceremonious Opening
C . and E. Millar were concentrating on completing the station and facilities at Serviceton, by then an imposing two storey brick building in the middle of nowhere. What Sir James Service thought about this tribute to his name is unrecorded, but as one of the movers and shakers for Australian federation, it was fitting. However the inauguration of the second intercolonial link was not to be even a pale shadow of the great event he attended as Victorian Premier at Albury in June 1883. Service had since retired and the press were expecting a big celebration ‘at which the principal magnates of both colonies will be present.’ 
C. and E. Millar had managed to make the Dimboola to Serviceton line for only £2,600 per mile. Admittedly it was laid through easy country, but it showed what could be done. They were ready to hand it over when their contract finished on 1st January 1887, but the railway authorities were still not ready. Only two days before the line should have opened the commissioners were making arrangements with Customs for the handling of passenger’s luggage. January 12th was announced, but the Government Printer did not have the timetables ready in time, so the through service was postponed yet again.
Almost at the last minute the South Australian Railways was angling for the express train to carry first class passengers only, this despite Newport’s composite carriages including compartments for both classes. Common-sense prevailed, and the express services commenced with trains leaving both Melbourne and Adelaide on Wednesday afternoon, 19th January. It was something of an anticlimax as a through rail service of sorts had been running for over seven months, and the specials run for the Melbourne Cup and Heads-of Branches had already introduced the public to the new rolling stock.
With not much cause for celebration, there was none! The authorities announced that the two governments would arrange a formal opening about the time of the upcoming South Australian Jubilee Exhibition the following June. So the first eastbound express steamed away from Adelaide station at 3.30 pm with a Boudoir car, two composite ABab cars, and a brake van. Yet despite the absence of formal celebrations, three or four hundred people gathered to farewell the train, including the Commissioner of Railways and other parliamentarians and civic luminaries, all of whom joined the cheering led by Adelaide’s Mayor. 
Aboard the Boudoir car were sixteen passengers who were listed in the newspapers in the same manner as cabin passengers on ships. They were Mr. and Mrs. Bray, Messrs. Dunn, Arkwright, Laurie, Elliss, Barnfield, Harrison, Wiffen and Johnson. Also aboard the Boudoir car were six ladies: Mesdames White, Vickers, Way, Beach and Misses Beach and Johnson. Another fourteen passengers were comfortably seated in the six compartments of the composite car. Only Mr. Bray could be regarded as a VIP: he was Chief Secretary of the South Australian government.
The westbound service left Spencer Street at 4.05 pm. Behind the locomotive was Newport’s new design of brake van with central guard’s compartment and observation canopy, and baggage compartments either end. This design was to be repeated often by both railway systems. Next was a Boudoir car, which elicited choruses of oohs and aahs, especially from the ladies. The car even had iced water provided, which given the high summer temperatures was a most thoughtful provision for the 19 hour journey. Behind the sleeper was a new composite ABab car, and bringing up the rear was a carriage for local passengers, to be detached at Geelong. There were about sixty passengers, but unlike the eastbound service, none were named in the newspapers.
Despite the government’s disinterest, the railways determined not to let the occasion pass. Speight had gone to Tasmania with Greene to umpire the dispute about trackage rights and payments between the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company and the Tasmanian Government Railways, but Commissioner Ford and the Heads of Branches, along with several parliamentarians and a crowd of onlookers were on the platform to see the train off. The Member for Wimmera, Walter Madden, led rousing cheers as they steamed away. And well he might, as many of his electors turned up at Horsham station in the wee hours of the morning to witness the train passing. That scene was probably repeated at every town, village and hamlet along the routes 508¾ miles. 
Customs, Federation and Mail
Once again, the opening of an intercolonial railway got people talking about federation. Every passenger was required to check their large luggage and parcels in the guard’s van, and were not permitted to open them until the train terminated. Two Customs officers were then tasked with examining the luggage for dutiable items. At roadside stations, the stationmaster was appointed a customs agent, and examined the luggage of any detraining intercolonial passenger.
Passengers were allowed smaller amounts of carry-on luggage, but this was inspected in the middle of the night by the customs officer at Serviceton!  It was becoming ridiculous, and the impending opening of the intercolonial rail link between Sydney and Brisbane made it even more so. The Queensland Railways had already brought their 3’6”gauge line up to the border, and the last 15 miles of the standard gauge NSW link was in course of construction from Tenterfield.
The RMS ‘Chimborazo’ was sighted off Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island soon after the first Melbourne Express had been cheered away from Adelaide station. It had been hoped the English mails would have arrived in time to be put aboard the first train, but in the days before radio the arrival time of ships was very uncertain. It was not until 1.30 am the following morning that the ‘Chimborazo’ anchored in Largs Bay. The mail was quickly transhipped into the launches ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Ethel’ and taken to the Largs Bay Jetty. In the dark some 44 bags of South Australian mail was processed, then 360 bags for the eastern colonies was sorted and loaded and taken from the jetty to Adelaide station by a tiny locomotive, arriving at 4.50 am.
Later that morning the Postmaster General himself, Charles Todd, supervised the loading of the mail for that afternoon’s Express. One van was for Victorian and Tasmanian bags, which would be sorted en route by two post office employees who would join the train at Serviceton. The mail for NSW and Queensland was loaded in another van. While the Boudoir cars dazzled the public, it was the prosaic mail vans that were the real raison d’être of the Express. The first class single fare had been set at £3 15s., plus 12s 6d., for a sleeping berth. Even the second class fare at £2 6s., meant that a journey on the Express was beyond the resources of the working man. But the train carried letters for everybody, and even a few days saved over delivery by sea was appreciated.
The Official Ceremony that Wasn’t
And so with little ceremony but much interest the second intercolonial railway was established. The proposed formal celebration in connection with the opening of the South Australian Centennial Exhibition the following June was quietly forgotten, but the ‘big wigs’ did get their chance to enjoy a junket. A trainload of over one hundred Victorian Members of Parliament and their wives filled five joint stock carriages, all at public expense!
The Victorians were met at Adelaide by Thomas Playford, who had survived the embarrassment over the Thow affair to become Premier of South Australia. But with all the attention focused on the Jubilee Exhibition, the railway was just taken for granted.
Nevertheless, a throng of visitors arrived by train from the eastern colonies, including an unexpected delegation from China and the Victorian Chief Justice, George Higinbotham (Thomas’s brother). One Express from Melbourne carried 650 passengers, a huge increase on the modest numbers initially using the train. The highest commendation came from one very well-travelled passenger:
I have travelled over most of the great American, Canadian, Mexican, and Indian railways, also recently over the new main Continental express routes, such as the ‘Orient express’ (Paris to Constantinople), the ‘Train de Luxe’ (Calais to Rome), the Mail (Calais to Brindisi), the north express (Brussels to Berlin and St. Petersburg), the new Spanish express (Calais to Lisbon), and many others. On none of those routes is there any accommodation at all superior to your South Australian cars. Indeed, for smoothness of running, general comfort, and cleanliness, and perfection of toilet arrangements, the cars are superior to any I have seen. Of course many of the trains I mentioned are provided with restaurant cars, which many travellers consider a doubtful advantage, and which are certainly not required here with your capital breakfast and dinner arrangements at the Murray Bridge. 
High resolution versions of some of the photographs in this chapter may be found on Smugmug.
- Express and Telegraph, 15 November 1884, p. 4. Usually referred to as the Commissioner of Public Works, his portfolio included the Railways which he managed as Commissioner of Railways. ↑
- South Australian Register, 6 May 1884, p. 7. ↑
- South Australian Register, 29 November 1884, p. 1. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 29 January 1885, p. 6. ↑
- Mercury, 16 January 1885, p. 2. ↑
- See Graces Guide:- Monk Bridge Iron Company ↑
- South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 10 January 1885, p. 16.
Victorian Railways: Report of the Board of Land and Works for the Year Ended 31 December 1879, Victorian Parliamentary Papers (VPP) 1880-81, No. 14, Appendix 2, p. 18. Mirls’ report is dated 24 August 1880. This is the first Annual Report to refer to the new name for the Branch. ↑
- Mercury, 8 January 1885, p. 2.
Tasmanian, 17 January 1885, p. 19.
Argus, 8 January 1885, p. 1.
Mercury, 15 July 1890, p. 2.
See passengersinhistory:- SS Flinders ↑
- Launceston Examiner, 16 January 1885, p. 2. ↑
- Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1880, VPP 1881, No. 20, Appendix 23, p. 49. ↑
- Argus, 6 August 1885, p. 9. ↑
- Argus, 15 January 1885, p. 5. ↑
- Argus, 5 May 1885, p. 6. ↑
- Age, 13 May 1885, p. 5. Gives his age as 34, but he was born on 11 January 1854. ↑
- The Press (Christchurch), 7 July 1885, p. 2. ↑
- Age, 25 April 1885, p. 8. ↑
- Argus, 28 April 1885, p. 4. ↑
- Bendigo Advertiser, 13 May 1885, p. 2.
Age, 6 August 1885, p. 4. W. Collard Smith moved for a Select Committee ‘of competent engineers’ to re-examine the applicants. The inference being there were no competent engineers on the panel. ↑
- Argus, 1 July 1885, p. 1. ↑
- South Australian Register, 19 April 1889, p. 4. Roberts’ locomotives were the S class 4-4-0 on the broad gauge and the T class 4-8-0 and Z class 4-4-0 for the narrow gauge lines. All were designed and built in South Australia. ↑
- Williamstown Chronicle, 20 December 1890, p. 2. ↑
- Lyttelton Times, 19 April 1883, p. 5., Wednesday 2 April 1879, p. 6.
Otago Daily Times, 7 August 1880, supplement p. 5.
New Zealand Times, 14 March 1879, p. 2.
New Zealand Herald, 9 April 1879, p. 5. ↑
- Williamstown Chronicle, 20 December 1890, p. 2.
Age, 25 April 1885, p. 8. ↑
- Argus, 5 May 1885, p. 6; 22 July 1885, p. 7.
Williamstown Chronicle, 9 May 1885, p. 2; 19 September 1885, p. 2.
South Australian Register, 13 May 1885, p. 6.
Bendigo Advertiser, 13 May 1885, p. 2.
Ballarat Star, 3 July 1885, p. 4.
Age, 16 July 1885, p. 4. ↑
- The Press (Christchurch), 7 July 1885, p. 2. ↑
- Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1887, VPP 1887, No. 87, Appendix 23, p. 49. ↑
- Age, 16 July 1885, p. 4. ↑
- Ballarat Star, 3 July 1885, p. 4.
Age, 6 August 1885, p. 4.
Argus, 6 August 1885, p. 9. ↑
- Williamstown Chronicle, 19 September 1885, p. 2. ↑
- ibid. ↑
- Age, 29 September 1884, p. 3. ↑
- Williamstown Chronicle, 26 September 1885, p. 3. ↑
- ibid. ↑
- The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian, 9 May 1885, p. 5. Mirls also received an additional £100 for ‘sundries’. ↑
- South Australian Register, 13 May 1885, p. 6. ↑
- Australasian, 28 December 1889, p. 27. ↑
- Bendigo Advertiser, 13 May 1885, p. 2. ↑
- Weekly Times, 9 December 1882, p. 7. ↑
- Bendigo Advertiser, 13 May 1885, p. 2. ↑
- These were the B class 2-4-0 and the O and Q class 0-6-0. ↑
- Argus, 11 January 1876, p. 5.
Age, 7 February 1877, p. 2. ↑
- Norman Cave, John Buckland and David Beardsell, Steam Locomotives of the Victorian Railways Volume 1: The First Fifty Years, Melbourne, 2002, pp. 89-90. ↑
- Herald, 6 January 1888, p. 3. ↑
- Argus, 27 June 1895, p. 5. ↑
- Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1887, VPP 1887, No. 87, Appendix 21, p. 32. ↑
- Ballarat Star, 16 August 1886, p. 2. ↑
- Cave et al, p. 125. ↑
- Ballarat Courier, 13 February 1877, p. 2. ↑
- Cave et al, pp. 50 & 123. Comparisons of tractive effort, total boiler heating surface and fire grate area all indicate an approximate 20% increase. ↑
- M.H.W. Clark and J.C.M. Rolland, History of the Locomotives of the Victorian Railways, 1860-1904, Privately reproduced MS, Melbourne, 1934, Sheet 6. No. 198 entered service on 25th August 1884. ↑
- Argus, 22 August 1884, p. 9. ↑
- Locomotive standardisation on the Midland began under Matthew Kirtley. ↑
- Cave et al, p. 128. ↑
- Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1887, VPP 1887, No. 87, Appendix 21, p. 38. Contract let 14th January 1886. ↑
- Robert Butrims and David Macartney, The Phoenix Foundry: Locomotive Builders of Ballarat, ARHS, Williamstown, 2013, p. 93. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 26 January 1885, p. 5.
South Australian Register, 26 January 1885, p. 6. ↑
- South Australian Register, 15 January 1885, p. 5. ↑
- South Australian Register, 15 March 1883, p. 4. ↑
- Port Augusta Dispatch, 2 February 1885, p. 2.
South Australian Register, 4 February 1885, p.4. ↑
- Yorke’s Peninsula Advertiser, 23 January 1885, p. 3. ↑
- South Australian Register, 30 January 1885, p. 4. ↑
- Age, 28 January 1885, p. 5. ↑
- Adelaide Observer, 31 January 1885, p. 26. ↑
- Argus, 29 January 1885, p. 4. ↑
- Evening Journal, 5 February 1885, p. 2. ↑
- Northern Argus (Clare), 3 February 1885, p. 3. ↑
- South Australian Register, 30 January 1885, p. 7. ↑
- Argus, 6 August 1885, p. 9. ↑
- Argus, 30 January 1885, p. 5. ↑
- Northern Argus (Clare), 3 February 1885, p. 2. ↑
- South Australian Register, 30 January 1885, p. 7. ↑
- Robert Lee, Colonial Engineer: John Whitton 1819-1898 and the Building of Australia’s Railways, Sydney, 2000, pp. 259-62. ↑
- Lee, pp. 262, 289, 340-41. ↑
- Evening Journal, 4 February 1885, p. 3. ↑
- South Australian Register, 4 February 1885, p. 4. ↑
- Border Watch (Mount Gambier), 18 March 1885, p. 3. ↑
- Argus, 31 January 1885, p. 13.
Herald, 3 November 1886, p. 1. This was Mirls’s full title. ↑
- Evening Journal, 12 August 1879, p. 3. Details a Thow design for the South Australian Railways 3’6’ gauge lines, an example of which was sent to the Sydney Exhibition in 1880. Other six-wheeled Cleminson cars were built for the broad gauge, and it is reasonable to credit Thow with these designs. The Cleminson design placed each pair of wheels in a separate frame in order to reduce the rigidity of the conventional frame. ↑
- South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 24 March 1883, p. 23. 1st class car No. 8. ↑
- See Comrails.com:- Ashbury cars 136-141
South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 6 October 1883, p. 23. ↑
- Evening Journal, 31 January 1885, p. 5.
Argus, 27 November 1886, p. 9. ↑
- Age, 7 March 1885, p. 9. ↑
- Williamstown Chronicle, 29 August 1885, p. 2. ↑
- See Wikipedia:- George Christian Darbyshire ↑
- Adelaide Observer, 18 July 1885, p. 34.
Argus, 31 January 1885, p. 13. ↑
- See Wikipedia:- South Australia / Victoria border dispute ↑
- Williamstown Chronicle, 29 August 1885, p. 2. ↑
- Victorian Railways: Report …30 June 1887, VPP 1887, No. 87, Appendix 21, p. 31. Contract for the East and Central Blocks let 9th October 1885 for £51,694. ↑
- Bendigo Advertiser, 6 November 1885, p. 3. ↑
- Ballarat Star, 11 November 1885, p. 3.
Leader, 14 November 1885, p. 29. ↑
- See Wikipedia:- List of elections in Victoria ↑
- Argus, 11 February 1886, p. 4. ↑
- Ballarat Star, 7 March 1873, p. 2. ↑
- Williamstown Chronicle, 26 September 1885, p. 3. ↑
- Argus, 20 September 1886, pp. 4, 6.
Age, 20 September 1886, p. 5. ↑
- Argus, 27 March 1886, p. 10. ↑
- Age, 21 May 1886, p. 6. ↑
- Age, 4 April 1887, p. 6.
Argus, 4 April 1887, p. 5. ↑
- Age, 7 March 1884, p. 5. ↑
- Herald, 30 August 1884, p. 2.
Argus, 8 January 1885, p. 9. ↑
- Argus, 26 March 1886, p. 3. ↑
- Herald, 28 September 1886, p. 4. ↑
- Age, 30 July 1886, p. 4.
Argus, 17 September 1886, p. 5. ↑
- Argus, 15 September 1886, p. 5. ↑
- Age, 3 September 1886, p. 5.
Argus, 3 September 1886, p. 5; 15 September 1886, p. 5; 17 September 1886, p. 5. ↑
- Age, 4 May 1888, p. 6.
Bendigo Advertiser, 15 March 1889, p. 2. ↑
- Age, 16 March 1888, p. 9. ↑
- Argus, 22 December 1887, p. 7. ↑
- Argus, 12 April 1879, p. 5. ↑
- Argus, 10 February 1887, p. 8; 4 April 1887, p. 5. ↑
- Age, 4 April 1887, p. 6. ↑
- Argus, 4 April 1887, p. 5. ↑
- South Australian Register, 17 January 1877, p. 5. The Kingston – Narracoorte line opened 16 January 1877. ↑
- Harrigan, p. 285. The Casterton line opened 1 September 1884. ↑
- South Australian Register, 3 May 1886, p. 6. The official opening was on 1st May 1886. ↑
- Adelaide Observer, 13 March 1886, p. 32. ↑
- See Graces Guide:- Monk Bridge Iron Co John assisted his brother James in managing the firm. ↑
- South Australian Register, 5 April 1886, p. 4. ↑
- Herald, 6 January 1888, p. 3. ↑
- Victorian Railways: Report…30 June 1887, VPP 1887, No. 87, Appendix 23, p. 49. ↑
- South Australian Register, 3 May 1886, p. 6. ↑
- Argus, 7 May 1886, p. 5. ↑
- Border Watch (Mount Gambier), 30 October 1886, p. 4. ↑
- Horsham Times, 8 June 1886, p. 2.
South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 5 June 1886, p. 11. ↑
- Age, 25 May 1886, p. 4. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 16 June 1886, p. 4. ↑
- Australasian, 3 July 1886, p. 28. ↑
- Horsham Times, 8 June 1886, p. 2.
Narracoorte Herald, 3 September 1886, p. 4. ↑
- South Australian Register, 14 June 1886, p. 4. ↑
- Age, 4 October 1886, p. 4. ↑
- Ballarat Star, 5 October 1886, p. 3. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 28 October 1886, p. 5. ‘Rep’ is a ribbed fabric, ‘dead gold’ probably a misprint for ‘red gold’. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 28 October 1886, p. 5. ↑
- Adelaide Observer, 9 October 1886, p. 31. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 28 October 1886, p. 4.
Ballarat Star, 29 October 1886, p. 2.
Geelong Advertiser, 29 October 1886, p. 2.
Argus, 29 October 1886, p. 5. ↑
- Express and Telegraph, 29 October 1886, p. 2.
Evening Journal, 29 October 1886, p. 2.
See Comrails.com:- R class 4-6-0. These were R class locomotives Nos. 91-96, placed in service between February and May, 1886. ↑
- Geelong Advertiser, 30 October 1886, p. 2.
Argus, 30 October 1886, p. 8. ↑
- See Wikipedia:- Melbourne Cup winners ↑
- Express and Telegraph, 8 November 1886, p. 2.
Evening Journal, 10 November 1886, p. 2. The South Australian governor returned to Adelaide by special train two days later. ↑
- Victorian Railways Chief Mechanical Engineers Branch, Diagrams and Particulars of Locomotives, Cars and Wagons. 1897. ↑
- Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 2 May 1891, p. 2.
Age, 1 May 1891, p. 6. ↑
- Argus, 29 October 1886, p. 6. The passenger manifest was recorded at Dimboola. ↑
- W.H. Auden, The Night Mail, General Post Office Film Unit, London. 1936. See YouTube:- The Night Mail ↑
- Clive Baker and Greg Knight, Milne Bay 1942: The Story of ‘Milne Force’ and Japan’s First Military Defeat on Land, Loftus NSW, 1991, p. 460. Two verses from the RAAF 100 Squadron’s poem ‘Where’s Our Mail’. ↑
- Narracoorte Herald, 7 September 1886, p. 2. ↑
- Herald, 26 October 1886, p. 2. ↑
- South Australian Register, 20 January 1887, p. 4. ↑
- Age, 23 November 1886, p. 5.
Argus, 24 November 1886, p. 8; 27 November 1886, p. 9.
Adelaide Observer, 27 November 1886, p. 36. ↑
- Argus, 15 June 1883, p. 6.
James Service, Geoffrey Serle , Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 6, MUP, 1976. ↑
- Adelaide Observer, 27 November 1886, p. 36. ↑
- Argus, 20 January 1887, p. 6. ↑
- Horsham Times, 11 January 1887, p. 2. ↑
- Age, 14 January 1887, p. 4. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 19 January 1887, p. 4. ↑
- South Australian Register, 20 January 1887, p. 4. ↑
- South Australian Advertiser, 20 January 1887, p. 6. ↑
- Geelong Advertiser, 20 January 1887, p. 2. ↑
- Australasian, 1 January 1887, p. 27. ↑
- Herald, 20 January 1887, p. 3.
Argus, 20 January 1887, p. 6.
See Wikipedia:- Walter Madden ↑
- Horsham Times, 21 January 1887, p. 2. ↑
- Argus, 20 January 1887, p. 6. ↑
- Evening Journal, 20 January 1887, p. 3.
Age, 30 December 1886, p. 5. ↑
- See Wikipedia:- Wallangarra railway station ↑
- Evening Journal, 20 January 1887, p. 2.
Express and Telegraph, 20 January 1887, p. 2. ↑
- Argus, 20 January 1887, p. 6. ↑
- Herald, 24 June 1887, p. 2.
Evening Journal, 29 June 1887, p. 3. ↑
- South Australian Register, 20 June 1887, p. 5. ↑
- Express and Telegraph, 22 June 1887, p. 4. Letter of Mr. J. H. B, Warner, executive commissioner for Seychelles at the Jubilee Exhibition, to Alan Pendleton, South Australian Railways General Traffic Manager, 21 June 1887. ↑