Silhouette of a steam train
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/collection/hero_image10-2016/trains_collection-hero.jpg

Trains: On The Rails

Exploring Australia by Train

A history of Australia's life on the rails

Within the NFSA collection there exists a railway enthusiast's dream.

The collection includes a wide-ranging assemblage of film, sound and images of trains dating back to the late 19th Century.

The following selection showcases the integral role that trains and railways have had in connecting our people and sculpting our nation.

Teachers and students will also find this curated collection to be a valuable resource. 

Just Australian Trains: At The Controls
Year:
Year

This video clip is an excerpt from the film Just Australian Trains, produced in 1985. Producer Dick Collingridge. A Film Australia Production.

New Standard Gauge Railway Links Marree And Port Augusta. Australian Diary 103.
Year:
Year

From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the National Film Board 1958. Directed by Jack S Allan. Construction of a new standard rail gauge of 4 feet, 8 1/2 inches provides a rail link from Maree to Port Augusta.

Ghan To Alice
Year:
Year

A father and son, both rodeo riders, travel on the Ghan train from Marree in South Australia to the Alice Springs Rodeo. It’s an overnight trip through spectacular country, pausing briefly at towns along the way, as they look forward to their final destination, a bull-riding contest between the best rough-riders in the region.

From the Film Australia Collection. Made by Film Australia 1978.

Royal Silver Jubilee Exhibition Train (1977)
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
19386
Courtesy:
Film Australia
Year:
Year

A look back to 1977 and the touring museum of 700 years of British history that was the Royal Silver Jubilee Exhibition Train.

The film shows many of the exhibits and the stories behind them, and follows the progress of the train's 11,250 kilometre trip throughout Australia hauling what was then valued at $100 million worth of treasures.

The bullet that killed Lord Nelson, Queen Elizabeth I's gloves, Princess Anne's wedding dress and Nell Gwynn's silver bellows were among the exhibits on this four-carriage train, the first mobile museum of its kind in the world.

Over a period of four months the train visited 26 centres between Brisbane and Perth and this film records the unique and ambitious project. 

Steam on the Harbour: Darling Harbour's working trains
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1471198
Year:
Year

Documentary showcasing Darling Harbour as a busy railway goods yard, long before it became one of Sydney's main destinations for recreation and entertainment.

It features footage shot by transport enthusiast and cinematographer Roger McKenzie and his friend Bernie Kent in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Commonwealth's Trans-Australian Railway
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
8954
Year:
Year

The construction of the Trans-Australian Railway and telegraph line from Port Augusta, S.A., to Kalgoorlie, W.A., during the period 1912 to 1917. Construction of railway carriages at Port Augusta is seen and a rail journey across the Nullarbor from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie during the 1920s, as well as the carrying of freight including sandalwood, live sheep, and salt from a saltworks are shown.

From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the Cinema and Photographic Branch 1925. Directed by Bert Ive.

New Railway Link from Darwin to Alice Springs
Year:
Year

This video clip is an excerpt from the film The New Railway Link from Darwin to Alice Springs, an episode fo the series Northern Territory Contact, produced in 1981. Princess Alexandra officially opened the new railway line in October 1980.

Producer: Malcolm Otton, Director: Ian Walker.

Northern Territory Contact is a Film Australia Production. Produced for the Northern Territory Information Service.

Nullarbor Hideout
Year:
Year

A group of children living at Cook on the Nullarbor Plain discover a swimming pool in some limestone caves and make the cave their hideout. Unfortunately a gang of kangaroo shooters who are wanted by the police for car stealing have the same idea.

The story is told through the eyes of the town's blacksmith who provides tools for the railway workers. The opening sequence of the film shows the rail sheds and railway line and gives viewers a sense of the town's isolation and their dependence on the railway in the 1950s. 

On Time
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
18346
Courtesy:
The National Film Board
Year:
Year

More than a million train passengers a day go through the gates at Flinders Street Station, Melbourne. Claimed to be the largest one station traffic in the world. Control of passengers and freight trains, in and out of Flinders Street and on time, is a masterpiece of precision planning. Made by National Film Board 1953. Directed by Eric Thompson.

A Steam Train Passes
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
44050
Courtesy:
Film Australia
Year:
Year

Generally regarded as Australia's finest railway film and winner of many awards the world over, A Steam Train Passes is a nostalgic, imaginative essay on one of the majestic but now retired C38 class steam locomotives.

This fine locomotive has been restored at the Newcastle State Dockyard.

The documentary was filmed on one of its final journeys from Sydney to a series of country railway stations.

The Rail Way
Courtesy:
Film Australia
Year:
Year

A wide-ranging look at Australian railways - from the city underground to the railway of the remote outback. We see the six locomotive coal giants of central Queensland and the picturesque Normanton-Croydon rail car, epic journeys of the transcontinental Indian Pacific and a half-day vintage steam train excursion. The film is introduced and narrated by Patsy Adam-Smith, well known for her many books on Australian railways. Made by Film Australia 1979. Directed by Greg Reading.

All Manner Of Trains
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
 27197
Courtesy:
The Commonwealth Film Unit
Year:
Year

An overview of Australia's railways in the early 1960s, before gauges across the country were standardised. The first section takes the form of a travelogue: from Cairns to Brisbane on the Sunlander, to Sydney on the Brisbane Limited then the Daylight Express to the border and the Spirit of Progress to Melbourne. The Overland to Adelaide is followed by the Port Pirie Express and the Transcontinental to Kalgoorlie before boarding the Westland for Perth. The second section looks at other significant lines and services - cross-country, interurban and suburban - and stresses the importance of the rail network to Australia's rural areas and to the nation's progress. Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1962. Directed by Malcolm Otton.

Tea and Sugar Train
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1391013
Courtesy:
The Commonwealth Film Unit
Year:
Year

Once a week the Tea and Sugar Train leaves Port Augusta and heads west along the Nullarbor with all the supplies needed by the track maintenance workers and their families that live along the route. Everything from a needle to a radiogram from a broom to health services comes on the train they call the Tea and Sugar.

Shades of Puffing Billy
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
19563
Courtesy:
The Commonwealth Film Unit
Year:
Year

The Puffing Billy is a narrow gauge railway that runs between the towns of Belgrave and Emerald in the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria. Supported and operated by volunteer railway enthusiasts, with the assistance of the Victorian Government Railways, the Puffing Billy line has become famous throughout Australia. Shades of Puffing Billy takes a light-hearted look at the problems of operating the railway. People leave their jobs for the day, hanging up doctors' coats and workmen's overalls to become conductors, station masters and ticket collectors. Warm and witty, this film is an affectionate salute to the people who keep this little railway running and to locomotive enthusiasts everywhere. Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit 1967. Directed by Antonio Colacino.

Transport in Australia: Railways At Work
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
19183
Courtesy:
The Commonwealth Film Unit
Year:
Year

Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1964. Directed by Bern Gandy. A classroom film featuring the railways of Australia. It also deals with freight, rolling stock, prime-movers and break of gauge.

Rail Town
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
4375
Year:
Year

Made by the National Film Board 1953. Port Augusta, South Australia, is distinctly an individual town with a character all its own. Here is the starting point for the long railway lines to Central and Western Australia, and the Headquarters of the Commonwealth Railways.

Richard Takes a Train Ride
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
19255
Courtesy:
The National Film Board
Year:
Year

A 1953 junior school film in the Social Studies series, primarily designed to assist teachers to explain the ticket's system. The film also describes the geography of the train's journey from Murray Bridge, on the Victoria-South Australian border, to Adelaide, the capital, of South Australia as Richard and his mother go to town, taking the train from their suburban station. The things that Richard sees on the journey make up this interesting and informative film.  Made by The National Film Board 1953. Directed by Joan Boundy.

Engine 5914 leaving Central Station, Sydney 1966
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
746019
Courtesy:
James Eric Bird Collection of Steam Trains of NSW
Year:
Year

This recording was made on 27 March 1966 at central railway Station, Sydney, NSW. It features the whistle of Mikado 59 class engine 5914 leaving Central for Katoomba, preceded by an announcement.

The recording is part of the James Eric Bird Collection of Steam Trains of NSW. Mr Bird was the first manager of the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, and recorded numerous trains around NSW in the 1960s.

His family would be delighted if his recordings were used and appreciated, so they are downloadable from SoundCloud under a Creative Commons licence and we would love to hear of any use or re-use you may find for them.

Protests at the opening of Bondi Junction railway station
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
289054
Courtesy:
Kim Batterham
Year:
Year

Genni Batterham protests at the opening of Bondi Junction railway station in 1979 about the lack of accessible transport options for people with disability.

Genni was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1978 and she was incapacitated very quickly. Angry about being 'consigned to the world of the disabled' she tried anything and everything to halt the progress of the disease. 

'Pins and Needles', made with her husband Kim, was one response arising from this anger. Funded by the Australian Film Commission's Women's Film Fund, and directed by Barbara Chobocky, it was translated into five languages and won first prize at the 1980 Canadian Film Festival and second prize at the 1980 New York Film Festival. 

The 1979 Bondi Junction protest was an important moment in the history of the Disability Rights Movement in New South Wales. The Premier, Neville Wran, later said that the experience led him to developing the Disability Taxi Service, the first public transport system designed for people with disability to be launched in Australia. 

Excerpt from Pins and Needles (Kim Batterham, Australia 1980). Courtesy of Kim Batterham. 

Journey of a Nation
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
16682
Courtesy:
The National Film Board
Year:
Year

Commissioned in 1947 as government propaganda, master documentary filmmaker John Heyer transformed this film about the standardisation of rail gauges into a heroic poem to the nation. When the film was made, there were no less than five changes in the size of rail track between the mainland states. This meant that at each break, all passengers and goods - even elephants - had to be offloaded and change trains. Journey of a Nation puts the case for a uniform gauge throughout the country, emphasising the economic cost in times of peace and the possible threat to security in times of war. The rail would help to connect Australia's far-flung settlements and break down the isolation of the outback. Made By the National Film Board 1947. Directed by John Heyer.

Warrnambool Railway Accident (c.1897) by Thomas Rome
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
452185
Year:
Year

This is a re-creation of the derailment of a train that occurred between Allansford and Warrnambool on 11 March 1897 recorded by Thomas Rome.
Drum virtuoso George Twentyman, known as 'Herr Schoot’, created effects to mimic the sounds of a steam train pulling out from a station and then leaving the rail.

Steam train at Pyrmont Bridge looking towards the city, circa 1960s
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/10-2016/darlingharbour_pyrmont_bridge_looking_to_city.jpg
Pyrmont Bridge looking towards the city
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1471198

Still image from the documentary Steam on the Harbour: Darling Harbour's working trains. A documentary showcasing Darling Harbour as a busy railway goods yard, long before it became one of Sydney's main destinations for recreation and entertainment. It features footage shot by transport enthusiast and cinematographer Roger McKenzie and his friend Bernie Kent in the 1960s and 70s

Engine 5178 Newcastle to Toronto, 1966 Part 1
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
746019
Courtesy:
James Eric Bird Collection of Steam Trains of NSW
Year:
Year

Engine 5178 recorded between Newcastle and Toronto, NSW in 1966. Part of the James Bird Collection of Steam Trains of NSW in the National Film and Sound Archive.

This recording was made from the front platform of the leading carriage, engine running tender first. 5178 was one of 280 D50 class standard goods locomotives used in Australia. They were a 2-8-0 design were originally built by Beyer Peacock in Manchester, UK and also constructed by Dubs, Neilsen Reid, North Br¬itish and Clyde Engineering at Granville in NSW. They were the first engines to be built by Clyde Engineering in 1907 and 30 of this class were built there.

The most famous of this class of locomotive is 5115 which was driven by Prime Minister Ben Chifley before he entered politics and is on display at Bathurst Railway Station. The D50 class were built between 1896 and 1916 and some remained in operation until the mid 1960s.

This recording was made on 21 August 1966 between Newcastle and Toronto, NSW and is part of the James Eric Bird Collection of Steam Trains of NSW. Mr Bird was the first manager of the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, and recorded numerous trains around NSW in the 1960s. His family would be delighted if his recordings were used and appreciated, so they are downloadable under a Creative Commons licence and we would love to hear of any use or re-use you may find for them.

A steam train at the Pyrmont power station, circa 1960
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/10-2016/darlingharbour_pyrmont_power_station.jpg
Pyrmont power station
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1471198

Image from the documentary Steam on the Harbour: Darling Harbour's working trains. The still shows a steam train at the Pyrmont power station. The documentary showcasing Darling Harbour as a busy railway goods yard, long before it became one of Sydney's main destinations for recreation and entertainment. It features footage shot by transport enthusiast and cinematographer Roger McKenzie and his friend Bernie Kent in the 1960s and 70s.

Roma Street Station
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
43690
Courtesy:
By arrangement with the Queensland Museum
Year:
Year

This actuality footage shows a train pulling up to Roma Street Station, Brisbane in 1899. Commuters disembark and exit the platform via a side gate or walk up the stairs towards the camera.

Summary by Elizabeth Taggert - Speers

Ticket To Sydney. Australian Colour Diary 39
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
12733
Year:
Year

Travelling around Sydney using a variety of public transport. Examines the morning traffic build-up to peak hour as workers in Sydney set out by train, ferry, bus and car for their daily work. 

Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1971. Directed by Brian Hannant. Film Australia Collection © NFSA

Melbourne train derailment, 1926
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1194
Year:
Year

Newsreel coverage of an April 1926 train derailment near Elsternwick station. 'Three carriages were derailed, causing disorganisation of the Sandringham service.'

No injuries were sustained as this train was not carrying passengers.

From Australasian Gazette No. 792.

Steam on the Main North
Year:
Year

An NFSA documentary showcasing the history of the NSW Hunter region as a major transport network. It features footage from the Hunter shot by transport enthusiast and cinematographer Roger McKenzie, and his friend Bernie Kent in 1968.

Victorian Railways Christmas Greeting (1974)
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1520085
Year:
Year

This jingle was recorded in December 1974. It features a voice ID at the head identifying the track for Victorian Railways with an internal naming code of VRJ 101. With train sound effects and a sound track of Jingle Bells, a very British style voice over wishes the valued customers and friends of Victorian Rail a happy and prosperous Christmas.

On the Rails: The Ghan

Teachers notes relating to The Ghan Railway.

The Ghan module is principally applicable to the junior and middle-high school curricula for History, Geography and elements of other Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) studies. 

On the Rails: Tea and Sugar Train

Teachers notes relating to the Tea and Sugar Train.

The Tea & Sugar module is principally applicable to the junior and middle-high school curricula for History, Geography and elements of other Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) studies.

On the Rails: Puffing Billy

Teachers notes relating to The Puffing Billy railway.

The Puffing Billy module is principally applicable to the upper primary school curriculum for Human

Society and its Environment (HSIE) studies