Rosewood History

A Guard’s Experiences – Thomas Arthur Byrnes (1883-1973)

Tom was born in 1883 at Black Gully, Toowoomba. On Saturday 31st December 1949 he retired from the department after being a Railway Guard for 39 years. He said that a train never got away from him. Tom joined the Railway Department as a porter in 1907, working at Roma Street station. A year later he transferred to South Brisbane station as senior porter, afterwards becoming a shunter at Roma Street. He became a guard in 1910. Soon after he learnt the Fassifern and Brisbane Valley lines as a guard on goods trains. He worked on the newly opened Marburg line in 1912 and transferred to the Fassifern line as permanent guard in 1916. He transferred to Ipswich in 1921 and worked Toowoomba, Woolloongabba, Roma Street, and Sandgate goods trains, in addition to several branch lines. In 1941 he took up work on passenger trains running between Ipswich, Sandgate, Pinkenba, and Mitchelton.

On retirement he said that the thing that struck him most was the big increase in wages since he first became a guard working 10 to 12 hours a day at 7/6. That was increased to 9/9 a day after five years. Guards in 1949 were receiving something like 4/6 an hour for an eight-hour day.

There were 7 articles printed in the Queensland Times in October and November 1952, written by Tom Byrnes. This is the first of those articles. It includes the Marburg Line.  [Queensland Times, Friday 3 October 1952, page 5]

You can find links to the other six articles at the bottom of the page.

Railway Service
A Guard’s Experiences–1
(by T. A. Byrnes)

In this article, Mr T. A. Byrnes, retired railway guard, who served for many years in the Ipswich district, relates some of his experiences. He joined the railway service in 1907 and was classed as a guard in 1910, at that time, at 25, being the youngest guard in Queensland.

Mr Byrnes was transferred to the Ipswich depot in January, 1911. He now lives at Balmoral, Brisbane. As the first instalment of his story, he writes-

The late Mr. M. Carmody, who was station master at Ipswich, advised me to take up the duties of learning the Fassifern branch under the guidance of Guard W. Gee. Those days were much more difficult for a guard than the present days are. In the first place the trains were not fully equipped with the Westinghouse brake, and the guard had to work his hand brake and auxiliary brake to assist the engine driver to brake the train down the grades. A guard then had to have full knowledge of the road. This work entailed extra hardship, besides the duties for a branch guard, in selling tickets to passengers joining the train at isolated sidings, sorting mail-bags, parcels and general routine work. The roadside goods were very heavy. Today passengers on branch lines travel by rail motors.

When I was fully competent, I relieved the two guards when they went on annual leave.

My next field of duty was the Brisbane Valley branch. My tutors were the late Inspector James Sheppard and Guard Tim Dwyer. I learnt the road to Benarkin, 86 miles from Ipswich. That station was then the terminus of the branch. Linville was the centre of a heavy timber loading district, and the run up the range of some 11miles to Benarkin was on a grade of nearly 1000ft. Benarkin in those days was a hive of activity in the timber industry.

Mr Jack Danaler was the first station master, being appointed only temporarily until a permanent station master came.

The railway yard was much larger than it is today, a number of the sidings having been demolished. There was a larger number of employees at the timber mill, and the three hotels were doing a good business.

The Longreach hotel, conducted by Bob Vickers, had a large dining hall at the rear for the mill employees to dine. The Club Hotel was conducted by the Brady family, and the Victory Hotel by Harry Judd. Today, there are no hotels there.

A guard in those days did not have the comfort after completing his journey that the guards of the present day have. We were issued with a large canvas bag, something like a military kit bag, to carry our blankets when we were away from home depot for a time, a flag-case for our time-tables, flags and detonators. There were no trainmen’s quarters like they have now. Guards had to camp in the vans.

Today, at Toogoolawah, Linville, Blackbutt and Yarraman sleeping quarters and beds, also a kitchen, fully equipped, are supplied to travelling trainmen.

There is a difference in the wages for guards then and present award rates. In the old days, a guard had to be five years in the third class and five years in second class before he could go into the lower first grade. The first year’s pay was a daily rate of 7/6 and the second year 8/3, then 8/9 and the following two years 9/9 a day. A first class guard received a daily rate of 12/6 a day. Now the wages for trainmen are very high. I became a benedict on 8/9 a day.

My next duty was learning the Bundamba-Redbank pilot trains. A good number of the sidings on this loop are now out of use.

On December 16, 1911 the Marburg branch line from Rosewood was opened for traffic and was officially opened on January 26, 1912 by Mr  W.T. Paget, then Minister for Railways. Driver J. Reddy, Fireman P. Mulholland, and myself were the first train crew on this branch.

The line was laid down under a guarantee by farmers of the Rosewood-Marburg district. It was principally a sugar cane route, with two coal sidings at North Rosewood, and a private line about a mile long from Marburg station yard to the sugar mill. This mill was taken over from Mr T. L. Smith’s family by Mr Gibson, of the Bundaberg family. The farmers were receiving about 14/6 a ton for cane delivered at the mill.

Besides cane taken by rail, a large number of German wagons took it to the mill. Marburg in those days was a busy little farming centre. There were two hotels, a butter factory, a police station with a sergeant in charge and a constable, a dance hall, showground and good brass band, with the Kitzelmann brothers, Julies and Herb as leaders.

On the official opening day the band marched from the railway station to the showground.

The district also had a rural school. Later it was represented in Parliament by Mr. Wm. Cooper, a local resident.

After serving about two years on this branch, I was transferred back to the Ipswich depot.

About that time, I was elected to the position of union branch secretary, due to the late Guard J. J. Keogh resigning. This position was purely an honorary one. There was no percentage out of members’ fees as the branch secretary receive today. I held this position for about two years, when I was transferred to the Boonah depot.

(To be continued)