Alice’s Train Journey Part Two; Northam to Southern Cross 1897

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A_and_B_class_VR_locomotives

Victorian Railways photograph of New A 398 leading a B class up Glenroy Bank on the Sydney Express, circa 1900.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_and_B_class_VR_locomotives.jpg

Now at Northam, Florrie and Alice were ready to board the train to Kalgoorlie.  They may have been travelling on the newly rebranded Kalgoorlie Express (still commonly referred to as the Coolgardie Express) or they may have been travelling on the ‘mixed’ train which stopped at all stations and pulled freight, so was slower – but much cheaper.

A timetable was published in the ‘Northam Advertiser’ in 1896 which seems to have continued till July 1897.

Timetable

“Alteration in Railway Time Table.” The Northam Advertiser (WA : 1895 – 1918; 1948 – 1955) 14 September 1895: 1 (Supplement to The Northam Advertiser). Web. 23 Apr 2018

The map below shows that Southern Cross was about the halfway point from Northam to Kalgoorlie.  I have finally found a reference to sleeping carriages.  They may have comfortably slept for some of the time.

Following the railway journey is a convenient way to describe the world that Alice was travelling to, so this part is as much about Western Australia at the time than about Alice herself.

The ‘Western Mail‘ in 1913 has a picture of the Northam rail yards.  Due to copyright restrictions I can’t post it in this blog, but it can be accessed here.

Railway to Kalgoorlie

Railway Perth to Kalgoorlie marking in stops referenced in local newspapers at the time as being on the route. It is a little different to the rail line today.

The terrain around Northam is scrub and low hills. Not quite desert, but no longer forested.  I have only found one description of this part of the journey.  It is somewhat biased, but not inaccurate.
SIR,-That portion of the Yilgarn Railway from Northam to Killeberrin, a distance of about 60 miles, is made to pass over some of the most wretched country to be found in the Eastern districts, being mostly sand plains and some miserable thickets where not even a rat could find a living. The contractor who is building this line has carriages attached for the conveyance of passengers as far as Booracoppin, 51 miles from the Cross, at one pound per head. Fortunately this train does not leave Northam until about ten at night, so that the passengers are not able to see the nakedness of the land. It certainly will be advisable when the Government takes over this line to continue running that portion of the line at night so that strangers may not see what a miserable piece of country they are passing through. When travelling down this dreary line of railway one may cast a reflective glance over the distant landscape and see nothing but a vast sandy desert, and would naturally wonder why a railway was built through such a vile piece of country … This line of railway will certainly be a lasting memento of the errors of the present Ministry, who seem to consider that their opinion and knowledge of the country is supreme.
Yours, etc.,
W. M. PARKER.
York, February 5. (1)
There were a lot of stations at which the train would stop only if someone needed to get on or off at them, but Meckering seems to have been a scheduled half hour halt.  Which is odd, it being only 25 miles (40km) from Northam.  Perhaps it was just the mixed train which stopped here for so long.
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Hay carting to chaff cutting plant, Meckering, 1933, held by State Library of WA. Some rights reserved https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ .  No changes made.

A ‘special correspondent’ for the ‘West Australian’ in 1896/1897 wrote a very interesting series on the lands east of Perth.  His objective was to describe the agricultural possibilities of the land to encourage pastoral settlement.

DECEMBER 1896:  At the time the Northam-Southern Cross railway was in course of construction, somewhere about 300 men were kept constantly employed.  For many miles they worked over some of the richest land in West Australia, and one would naturally expect that some enthusiasm might have come of them … But they were not of that sort. They worked hard and received their pay every fortnight … No desire to settle on the land seemed to possess them … they were men who had worked at navvying jobs nearly all over Australia. Wherever public money was being spent these men rolled up their swags and went to. As soon as the works were done they rolled up their swags and trikked, as the Boers say, for new pastures where big contracts spelt many navvies wanted. 

Wages are high and the labour market until lately was entirely in favour of the workers. The demands for the goldfields alone brought thousands to our shores. Did
they settle on the soil? Not 1 per cent.(2)
I’ve included that quote to show the demographic that Alice would meet upon arrival in Kalgoorlie, and the discussions occurring at the time.
After Meckering, the train went through Tammin to Kellerberrin.
3433112086_3d9a46c63a_o

Kellerberrin. Held by Don Pugh via Flickr. Some rights reserved https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/ . No changes made.

This region was still heavily wooded.  A response to the ‘West Australian’ highlights a practice that at the time must have seemed progressive, though with hindsight it’s rather horrifying:
I agree that extensive ring-barking by Government should be undoubtedly remunerative;  but not more than two-thirds of the timber should be killed, and only on every second lot of say 1,000 acres ring-barked, and 500 or so left ; selectors to take a portion of each. Besides, in places where there is much stone and little grass all the timber should be left, so as to secure timber for fencing and fuel, shade, and shelter, and to prevent a repetition of an important mistake, frequently made in the Eastern colonies. (3)
There are very few digital images out there of the scenery on that long stretch between Northam and Southern Cross, but a picture emerges of bushland with occasional farming stations and a lot of wandering men on their own.  There was an Aboriginal population too, some of whom were working for the farmers under what were effectively slave conditions.

 In describing the lands in these districts suitable for cultivation, one is met at the outset with a very peculiar difficulty. The nature of the country changes in a few yards. In one minute one is traversing rich red clay soils, the next he is ploughing his way through heavy sand plains. There is no shape or sense of order in the distribution of the various lands. They seem to be scattered about in the greatest of disorder [but]

this area is intersected by the Coolgardie railway, and has a portion of … rich forest … extending between Merredin and Hine’s Hill. The best way of inspecting this area is to travel by train to Hine’s Hill station, where accommodation is procurable at the railway refreshment rooms located there. The rich lands come right up to the station, but the [best] area begins about two miles away. (4)
Doodlakine_Store,_2014

View of the Doodlakine Store, Station Street, Doodlakine, Western Australia taken 29 december 2014 by Bahnfrend, some rights reserved under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.sv . No changes made.

At risk of labouring the point, I have included another description of the region from ten months later.
NOVEMBER 1897:  THE NEW AGRICULTURAL PROVINCE.
There is a new agricultural province opening up in tho east that very few have seen. The men who, carrying blankets, are looking for work know all about it, but the railway traveller who pries no further than the view from his carriage window, sees nothing beyond an almost unbroken line of forest that is bare of grass, monotonous and forbidding. But behind those walls of gaunt eucalyptus that jostle each other for standing room there is activity, development, fruition. The new agricultural province is in the rough, and it is only to be seen under difficulties. There are few roads, no hotels.You should not set out without carrying tucker, a waterbag and a rug. 
At the time of the completion of the Coolgardie railway the settlers between  Meckering and Southern Cross could be counted on the fingers of the hands, if not on one hand. These pioneers were graziers whose mainstay was sheep. They had the whole country side under pastoral leasehold, and only grew crop enough for their own needs, for till the line was made they could not cope to sell anything that could not walk to market on four legs. 
When the Lands Department began to survey agricultural areas there was at first a very baiting response on the part of applicants for the blocks … To-day there are only two blocks on the Meckering agricultural area unalienated, and they consist of sand plain, which is considered worthless. 
… It is anticipated that the Minister … will have the territory surveyed and thrown open for application as Free Homestead Farms and conditional purchases. Going further on towards the Cross there is plenty of unoccupied land at Kellerberrin, Doodlekine, and Hine’s Hill, where some farms have already been established, and fruit trees and vines are doing well, particularly in the vicinity of soaks. But at present Tammin, Kellerberrin, Doodlekine, and Hine’s Hill are to Meckering what 
Meckering was to Northam a few years ago, when graziers had a monopoly of the ground that this spring was green with waving corn. Settlers, as a rule, want to see ground proved before they will go out to new country. (5)
After Kellerberrin came Doodlakine, Hine’s Hill and Merredin where the train stopped for water.  It’s hard to tell with all the black and white photos, but Florrie and Alice were passing through an area of vivid daytime colour.  This land was very different to the impenetrable walls of terrace houses they had left behind in England.
Rest_area,_Hines_Hill,_2014

Rest area at Hine’s Hill showing the terrain and climate. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rest_area,_Hines_Hill,_2014.JPGBy Bahnfrend [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons . No changes made.

A resident of Hine’s Hill wrote a complaint to the ‘West Australian’, giving the most intimate description that I have found of this part of the journey:
SIR,-I wish to draw the attention of the heads of the various Government departments to the several inconveniences to the travelling public on the Yilgarn railway. The first Two-refer to is the disgraceful way the Railway Department cater for the second-class passengers. It is a great infliction to anyone travelling eves a short distance in one of tbsir carriages. How must it be to poor women and children to travel from Perth to Coolgardie? No cushions are provided-nothing of any description but the bare, hardboard, as naked and as hard as the cell of a gaol ! The cost of cushions for each train would not be more than £10. It is a common occurrence for the carriages to travel the greater part of the journey at night time without any light, and this gives an opportunity for criminals of desperate character to commit crime. To obviate this I would suggest that relays, of lamps be kept filled and lighted at Hine’s Hill for the passenger trains. The ladies’ waiting-room at Hine’s Hill might as well be at the Gulf of Carpentaria as where it is. It is impossible for a lady to find it unless shown. The waitresses are too busy attending to the tables to show them, and I have often heard ladies asking the men standing on the platform to show them. The waiting room is found by entering, the refreshment room and travelling along its whole length directly behind the chairs of the passengers seated at table, with scarcely room to pass down. Why not have the waiting-room on the platform, with a notice on the door directly opposite where the passengers leave the trains?  … Another question I wish to ask is, Why do not the Postal Department have a telegraph station at Hine’s Hill? The travelling public severely feel the want of this. The passenger train stops half an hour there for refreshments, while at Kellerberrin, where the telegraph station is, the train stays but a very few minutes, and the passengers have to travel about three chains to the office.
-Yours etc,
MAURICE WILLIAMS.
Hine’s Hill, October 2 1896 (6)
Descriptions of the terrain become more numerous the further from Perth I look.  The goldfields definitely captured the imagination of Western Australians. There is just one more description of this stretch which is worth adding here.
DISORGANISATION.
THE RAILWAY BETWEEN NORTHAM AND SOUTHERN CROSS.
It has come to our knowledge that a deplorable state of affairs exists on the Government railway line between Northam and Southern Cross, and, in all probability, no improvement will be enacted until some disaster takes place. Our informant is a gentleman well known in the city, who has frequent reason to adopt transit by rail over that line. He says that the time-tables have been suspended between those two stations, and it is now a matter of very common occurrence for trains to meet when mid-way between two stations. The result is that one has to back to the station where the line happens to be duplicated, and allow the other to pass it there.(7)
The refreshment stop at Hine’s Hill was the last main stop before Southern Cross Station.  There were still a few smaller stops, but the train only stopped at them for a few minutes.  There are a few descriptions of this section.
ALONG THE NORTHAM-COOLGARDIE RAILWAY.
DOODLAKINE AND MOORANOPPIN.
Leaving the Bainding Agricultural Area and travelling west immediately on passing the Hine’s Hill railway station, one comes across a salt lake. This will be found, on close examination, to be part of a series of salt lakes from which one of the branches of the Avon River takes its origin. In a devious manner this chain of salt lakes travels south-westerly ,from Hine’s Hill passing immediately under Mt Caroline. Several large patches of first class forest land impinge on to it … Following the old coach road from Hine’s Hill Railway Station and travelling west, a distance of three miles brings the traveller into a fine forest of morrell, gimlet and salmon gum timber … The bed of the lakes in many places is covered with fine salt bush … (8)
The distance from Hine’s Hill to Southern Cross was 129km (80 miles). The track here was reported to be rougher and the danger of derailment greater.  If Florrie and Alice had travelled through the night they would have woken at Hine’s Hill and would now be stirring themselves ready to see the countryside in the dawn light.  If they were travelling at night, out of the window would be a hard wall of unrelenting blackness.  The peak speed of 16 1/2 miles per hour referenced by Mr Piesse in his speech did not apply to night time travel.
After an optimally eight hour journey – which often actually took ten or twelve hours – Florrie and Alice reached the halfway point on their journey to Kalgoorlie. From this point on they were in the land of camel trains and gold mines, prospectors and brand new or half built infrastructure.  They might have been heartily tired of the travel, but it would have been exciting as well.
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Southern Cross, along the train line from Perth to Kalgoorlie.

__________________________________________________________
  1. “THE COUNTRY ALONG THE NORTHAM-YILGARN RAILWAY.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 7 February 1894: 6. Web. 23 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3057839>.
  2. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 14 December 1896: 2. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3103960>.
  3. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 14 January 1897: 9. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3105570>.
  4. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 2 January 1897: 7. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3104993>
  5. “THE WIMMERA OF THE WEST.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 29 November 1897: 3. Web. 23 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3189009>.
  6. “RAILWAY TRAVELLERS WANTS.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 7 October 1896: 9. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3100406>.
  7. “DISORGANISATION.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 21 February 1896: 9. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72379490>.
  8. “OUR AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 9 January 1897: 11. Web. 27 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3105330>

Alice Head’s Train Journey Part One – Perth to Northam

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Bayswater_railway_station,_c._1900

Bayswater railway station, c. 1900. It must have looked much like this when Alice’s train stopped there early in her journey to Kalgoorlie. Public Domain. Original held by State Library of Western Australia via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bayswater_railway_station,_c._1900.jpg

In May 1897, Alice’s contracted year of employment was over and she was free to follow whatever life path she chose.  Looking at her fellow passengers, at this point they scattered far and wide.  Some married, some headed for the eastern states, some stayed near Perth or Fremantle as single employed women.  Some returned to England and at least two seem to have headed to the United States.  But a surprising number of them went to Kalgoorlie.

By 1897 the big gold boom was at its height. Men were flocking to the Western Australian inland to stake a claim on a gold mine and make a fortune.  Gold actually was being discovered, enough of it that confidence remained high.  A couple of very big mining operations were underway.  Little camp towns were rapidly turning into major business centres.

Hastily erected huts were being replaced by large stone buildings. Miners who were not making it rich – as yet –  found work as labourers on the many constructions.  The train line was opened from from Perth to Coolgardie in 1896 and that town became a city almost overnight.  Inns and boarding houses thrived.  Built of bluestone with high ceilings and grand entrance foyers, the boarding houses were cool in the heat and built with an elegance we don’t see today.  They contained expansive sleeping quarters and large dining areas.

Obviously, domestic staff were required and the business proprietors could pay top dollar.  It isn’t referenced in the history books much, but single women like Alice were also flocking to the gold fields to make their fortunes.

The whole enterprise of gold mining may have sparked Alice’s imagination.  Like all other entry points to Western Australia, Fremantle was full of prospective miners heading for the goldfields.  It would have been a heady dose of optimism after the gloomy and economically depressed London she had left behind.

Did they respond to an advertisement?  Was it word of mouth that there was a lot of work there?

Florrie and Alice Head, Jean Christison, Jessie Gray and Margaret Brown all went to Boulder via Kalgoorlie. There may have been more of them.
Elizabeth Troup married Henry Ernest Wilkinson in Perth in 1897, but then she and Henry also went to Boulder.  Perhaps the seven of them traveled together.
Perth to Northambypaint

Railway line from Perth to Northam in 1897, an approximation based on newspaper references to the journey.

Railway travel was an adventure in itself in 1890s Western Australia, particularly those long rail lines into the outback.  The papers of that decade are full of stories and complaints.

In 1891, the decision had been made to create a rail line to the goldfields.  Competition was fierce between York and Northam to be the ‘starting point’ for the rail journey.  Northam won.  The line from Northam to Merredin was completed the following year, was extended to Southern Cross in 1894, then to Coolgardie in 1895 and finally to Kalgoorlie in September 1896.  It was a brand new track, still full of mishaps and confusions.

At the time that Alice made this trip, there were two different lines involved.  Passengers caught a train to Northam.  The goldfields train began at Northam and was an entirely separate track.  By the end of 1897 the first direct train from Perth to Kalgoorlie was running, but Alice probably travelled a few months too soon to catch this one.  There was a ‘Kalgoorlie Express’ train but before July 1897 it followed the same track as the others and if caught behind a slow train it had to sit at that slow pace.  It was ‘express’ only in that it stopped at fewer stations.

Train timetable

Train timetable Perth to Midland Junction April 1897 “Advertising” The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950) 5 April 1897: 4. Web. 22 Apr 2018 .

Everyone who wrote about these trains agreed on a couple of points.  They were slow – often running hours if not days behind schedule.  They were crowded.  There is one reference in late 1897 to a train of eighteen passenger carriages full of people arriving in Kalgoorlie.  They were unreliable.  Water was a huge issue for the train which ran on steam.  If at any point water was not to be had, the train had to wait for water to be brought from a nearby place.

Watering_a_steam_train_on_the_Western_Railway_Line,_Queensland,_1890-1900_(4732501438)

This image is from Queensland, but shows the process involved and the style of carriage in use when Alice made her journey. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Watering_a_steam_train_on_the_Western_Railway_Line,_Queensland,_1890-1900_(4732501438).jpg held By State Library of Queensland, Australia [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

A very very long speech was given by the Commissioner for Railways, Mr Piesse, at a Railway Picnic in May 1897.  It must have taken him half an hour to give it.  But he did give some useful details for the family historian of a century later.

There was hardly any necessity for saying much in order to demonstrate the advance which the Western Australian Government railways had made during the past five years, but as he had in his possession a few figures which would tell their own tale, he thought he might claim their indulgence while he submitted them … The duplication of
the line from Fremantle to Midland Junction had been in hand for some time, and the work, he was happy to say, was rapidly approaching completion. Already 19 miles had been duplicated, and before long he hoped to see the full 24 miles furnished not only with a double set of rails but also with efficient signalling and interlocking apparatus

…  some people had stigmatised our trains as being too slow for funerals. Well, he noticed that the other colonies had funeral railways, just the same as Western Australian had …  The speed averaged in Western Australia was 16.5 miles per hour … Therefore, considering the width of gauge here as compared with those in the other colonies, and the fact that the colony had been only five years under responsible government, he thought that Western Australia could justly be proud of holding the second place in Australasia in the matter of speed of her railway trains. (1)

Passengers brought pillows and blankets for the journey, since the carriages were not heated and only first class was cushioned.  There is no indication of sleeper carriages, despite the journey being an overnight trip and up to two days long in the event of track issues.  Alice, Florrie and the others probably boarded at 5.50pm as per the above schedule, settled themselves into their seats and waited for luggage to be loaded and for the conductor to blow his whistle to start them on their journey.

I love railway journeys, so I spent some time researching this one.

The first part would have been exciting.  Journeys always are at the start, but the line from Perth to Northam meandered greatly, following tracks laid down over a decade earlier to service what by 1897 were Perth suburbs.

1896: Rising early in the morning of September 7, we packed up a clean shirt, a piece of soap, and a toothbrush, and bustled to the central railway station. There we arrived in time to witness a typical station scene before the departure of the long-distance train. Among the ladies there was a large amount of flutter and genteel squabbling over the berths to which they were entitled, and we felt indeed sorry for Mr. John Davies, the general manager, who, however, fixed matters with tact, and managed to please everyone, even the much distressed ladies. (2)

After leaving Perth it ran northeast through Bayswater (the picture at the start of this blog post).  By the 1890s the region was well settled.  They would have passed through streets of houses with a few paddocks attached, past a lot of new buildings and trees.  After Bayswater the line crossed the Swan River and reached Guildford, then it was just a short distance to Midland Junction where it stopped to pick up more passengers.

Midland Junction

Midland Station, Western Australia, May 1927

Midland Junction Railway Station, Western Australia, May 1927. W.E. Fretwell Collection Photographs of William Edward Fretwell (1874 – 1958)

Feb 1897:  Sir,- Permit me through the column of your widely-circulated journal, to draw attention to the disgraceful way in which the so called Perth-Midland Junction timetable is adhered to; or rather, is not adhered to. For the advertised 8.35 business train from Guildford to Perth to run to time is now, if not a thing of the past, a very rare exception to the rule. It is in most cases from 10 to 15 minutes and very often as much 25 minutes late .  If it is found that the return journey cannot be accomplished within the advertised time, why not run the 7.45 train out from Perth ten or 15 minutes earlier?  Surely this could be managed, now that the duplicate rails extend to within a mile of Guildford, without any danger of collisions.
-Tours, &c, TRAVELLER. 
Guildford, February (3)

After Midland Junction, the train apparently went to Mundaring – a deviation from the present route.  After Mundaring the line turned northwards and they followed the Avon River for roughly 40 miles (64km) to Toodyay.  This was a very picturesque journey.

Eastern_Railway_Avon_Valley

Grain train on the Eastern Railway, Western Australia alongside the Avon River. Taken .21 January 2006 by Nachoman-au under the terms of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License Version 1.2 . No changes made.

Toodyay

1922:  A three hours’ train journey through stately timber country brings the tourist to Toodyay, the centre of an old-established district and one of the earliest surveyed town sites in the State. Situated on the left bank of the Avon river and nestling amid tree covered hills, Toodyay is undoubtedly one of the most charming inland towns in W.A., and affords tourists ample proof of the wisdom of the early pioneers who, almost go years ago, determined to settle in such beautiful surroundings. The clearness of the atmosphere, due to its high position, marks the district as one of the health resorts of the State …  a quaint, little old fashioned village, but with all the advantages of the new world.

The Avon River, crossed by various bridges, enhances the beauty of the valley and, here and there, are beautifully clear swimming pools … (4)

From Toodyay, the train headed directly south, even veering a little back east, till it reached Clackline.

Clackline

 

May 1897:  Disgraceful Railway Accommodation.
“The travelling public and the residents of Newcastle and district are complaining bitterly at the accommodation the Railway authorities provide for travellers between Newcastle and Clackline. The train running between these two places is only provided with one small carriage consisting of one first and two second class compartments, giving seating accommodation to 18 persons, 6 first and 12 second class. The first class passengers are the worst treated. . They pay an increased fare for the privilege of travelling with a greater degree of comfort but, for various reasons, they have often to content themselves with the hard and uncomfortable benches of the second class compartments. One reason may be that more than the half-dozen may have purchased tickets, or it may be that some gentleman may wish to have a quiet smoke on the journey but as the compartment may contain a lady or two he must perforce abstain till Clackline is reached , or retire to the second class division in the hope, often a delusive one, that no ladies are travelling there. On every hand complaints are being made, of the general discomfort experienced by travellers and some alteration is absolutely necessary.” (5)

Uncomfortable carriages weren’t the only issue.

May 1897: A Derailed Tender. — During shunting operations at Clackline on Friday last the tender of an engine became derailed. The mishap caused a delay of two hours to the Coolgardie express. (6)

There were also delays due to special trains which were sometimes attached for officials and VIPs.

After Clackline, the tracks turned directly east.  The train stopped at Spencer’s Brook where passengers from Albany met the train.  Once all passengers were loaded, the train continued on.  Just past Spencer’s Brook they again met the Avon River which they crossed, then travelled the last half hour to Northam, the final destination.

Northam

Gala in Northam 1907

‘Gala in Northam, W.A. – 1907’. Public Domain. Via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/hwmobs/35726165862/

At one time, Northam had been the goldfield frontier.  In 1897 it hovered between an outback town and a city satellite town.  Nobody could commute from Northam to Perth for work, but one could certainly make it to the city and back in a long day trip, or in an easy overnight visit.  In the 1890s the town was bustling with through traffic.  The railway had only reached Northam in 1886 but the place had boomed in that eleven years.

Northam was a refreshment stop, so everyone disembarked here anyway.   Alice and Florrie either changed trains here, or were just stopped for an hour for a meal and to stretch their legs.

Whichever it was, from this point on they were heading into a very different country.


 

January 1897: Trains passing through [Northam] daily are crowded with people returning to the goldfields. (5)


 

1. “RAILWAY PICNIC AND SPORTS GATHERING.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 14 May 1897: 6. Web. 22 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66517915>.

2. “TO KALGOORLIE AND BACK.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 18 September 1896: 6. Web. 29 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66536817>.

3. “MIDLAND JUNCTION TRAIN SERVICE.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 29 December 1897: 2. Web. 18 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3191225>.

4. “TOODYAY.” Toodyay Herald (WA : 1912 – 1954) 11 March 1922: 2. Web. 18 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148820103>.

5. “Disgraceful Railway Accommodation.” The Northam Advertiser (WA : 1895 – 1918; 1948 – 1955) 19 May 1897: 3. Web. 22 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211925214>.

6.  “GENERAL NEWS.” The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) 14 May 1897: 7. Web. 18 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66517943>.

7. “RAILWAYS.” Coolgardie Mining Review (WA : 1895 – 1897) 26 December 1896: 13. Web. 14 Apr 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232726390>.