McKenzie’s footage captures not only the trains and people who work on them but station buildings and railway infrastructure as well as everyday scenes along the railway line as we head north. The images captured are very clear and steady considering the amount of movement that must occur when travelling on a steam locomotive and the close-ups of the crew working give us a sense of the conditions they experienced.
Although McKenzie’s films, in colour or black-and-white like the one above, are silent with no ambient or recorded soundtrack, his sympathetic filming allows our imagination to ‘hear’ the sounds we associate with locomotives. We can access our personal experience of the trains we travelled on, worked on and lived with from the the late 1960s into the early 70s. Although there is much footage of trains from this period Roger McKenzie’s films are significant because of their quality and the unique perspective they give of people, machines and places.
Roger McKenzie (d. 1992) worked as a film editor for television’s ATN 7 in Sydney. Roger, along with his good friend Bernie Kent, was a film collector who also captured his personal interests on film including his love for trains and other transport such as buses and ferries. They were able to acquire a pass from the New South Wales Railways allowing access to places from which the general public were otherwise restricted such as workshops and depots. Bernie Kent recalled in an interview in 1992 that they would often leave home in North Sydney at 4 am to get into position to record the early morning trains passing; at other times they would stay overnight. Their favourite locations for filming trains included Hawkmount, Fassifern, around Maitland, Darling Harbour and the Macdonaldtown car sheds.