PREPARING FOR WAR

AT THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR I THE NSW RAILWAYS AND TRAMWAYS DEPARTMENT WAS THE SINGLE LARGEST ENTERPRISE IN NSW.

SOLDIERS LEAVING A TRAIN AT AN ARMY CAMP NEAR LIVERPOOL C.1914.
SOURCE: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, IMAGE H03422.
A LARGE CROWD FAREWELLS SOLDIERS DEPARTING FROM BROADMEADOW STATION ON A TROOP TRAIN IN 1916.
SOURCE: HUNTER HISTORY COLLECTION. COURTESY OF NEWCASTLE REGION LIBRARY, IMAGE 102 000041.
AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS MARCHING THROUGH EDDY AVENUE NEXT TO CENTRAL STATION AMONGST CROWDS OF PEOPLE ON 4 FEBRUARY 1915.
SOURCE: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, IMAGE 24578.
POSTER OF A ‘WAR MEETING’ AT BURWOOD ROAD NEAR THE RAILWAY STATION, SEPTEMBER 3, 1915.
SOURCE: STATE LIBRARY OF NSW, IMAGE A7437001R.
ALBURY RAILWAY STATION ENTRANCE, DISPLAYING ENLISTMENT BANNER ‘BE A MAN ENLIST NOW’, C.1916.
SOURCE: STATE LIBRARY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA, IMAGE 1258/2/2435.
A CALL FOR SERVICE IN 1916 FOR A NEW UNIT OF RAILWAYMEN.
SOURCE: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 25 NOVEMBER 1916
POSTER FOR A ‘RAILWAYS AND TRAMWAYS INFANTRY REINFORCEMENT UNIT’, C.1916.
SOURCE: STATE LIBRARY, IMAGE A7285001H.

In terms of both passenger and freight transport, it was the undisputed age of rail. The railways played a vital role in wartime functions and in preparation for the war.

NSW railwaymen, like other employees from the State Government at the time, did not have to resign to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). They retained their railway position and were considered seconded to their military duties. Not only were they given leave to join the war, but if their military pay was less than their existing wage, the difference was paid into a trust fund or to their dependants in Australia. Any increments or general pay changes were also accrued to their credit. By the end of the war this policy cost the NSW Railways about £1,000,000.

In February 1916 a riot broke-out at Casula and Liverpool army training camps when 5,000 troops protested against the conditions. The rioting soldiers caused havoc after overtaking the railway station at Liverpool and taking over a train travelling to the city. At Sydney's Central Railway Station armed military guards found a group of over a hundred drunken soldiers destroying a toilet block and demanded they surrender. A shot was fired by a rioting soldier and in response guards returned fire, killing one soldier and seriously injuring eight others. As Australia was in need of more recruits to fight the war, most of the soldiers involved were not punished and were still sent overseas to serve.