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Memories of life in the settlements and camps of the Transline 1912 - 1975

Gordon, Maureen (2004) Memories of life in the settlements and camps of the Transline 1912 - 1975. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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The Trans-Australian railway crossed the continent from east to west. It was built in 1912 to 1917 and the section from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie was administered by the Commonwealth Government. This study focuses on the workers and their families who were involved in the construction and operation of the transline and lived in railway settlements and fettlers' camps from 1912-1975. Although these people are now part of Australian folklore, little is known of what life was like for them outside of their work environment. This study looks at family life, social activities, welfare and medical services, schools and the teachers, as well as children's leisure activities and how women coped while providing for their families in an isolated environment. It indicates that life for the fettlers in small communities of six to eight families was physically hard and living conditions primitive. They had very few possessions because they had to keep moving their camps to keep up with the progress of the line. Life was lonely and isolated with only their fellow residents for company and support. Completion of the line reduced the number of workers needed, and the railways built permanent accommodation in the remaining camps. The camps were well run and law abiding, and residents learnt to ignore minor problems or disagreements in order to maintain good relations with their neighbours. The much larger locomotive settlements of Cook, Tarcoola, Rawlinna and Zanthus became centres for all transline employees, where the railways helped residents build hospitals and schools, and constructed provision stores to cater for the settlements and the camps along the line. Employees who could tolerate the heat and the duststorms, had a secure lifestyle where the railways provided housing, a credit system for household supplies and food if needed, and provided medical, welfare and education facilities for its workers. Most ex-residents interviewed had endured a hard working environment, but they believed the railways had looked after them well. Their most pleasant memories were of the companionship and the support of their fellow workers during their years on the transline. Illness or misfortune were rarely remembered as they looked back on 'a good life'. However, for some workers life was not good, where alcoholism and depression could cause misery in a family not able to cope with the environment.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Layman, Lenore
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