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WW1 Victorian Railways Unit

            WW1 Victorian Railways Unit           Working the Trains in No Mans Land

In Remembrance of the Australian Light Railway Operating Company
 - Victorian Railway Unit


AWM Photo E04674
Belgium: Western Front (Belgium), Menin Road Area, Birr Cross Roads
3 November 1917
The mangled ruins of part of the light railway after a direct hit on a trainload of ammunition. Amidst the debris are damaged shell cases. The light railway was used to transport casualties and supplies within the Ypres area. From Birr Cross Roads casualties were transferred to motor ambulances to be transported to the advanced dressing stations on the Menin Road. Note in the background a line of motor lorries
.


Email in from John Browning 16th Sept 2016 : AWM Photo E04674

These locomotives with their drivers and engineers from the light railway operating companies performed admirable service by bringing supplies of war material from the standard gauge railheads up to the forward lines.
While the steam locomotives hauled supplies from the railheads, haulage to the forward lines was done by petrol locomotives that took over from the steam locomotives at distribution points some distance behind the front. In forward areas, steam locomotives were far too visible to enemy observation (steam and smoke by day and glowing fire by night). Even the petrol locomotives did not extend
 their operations right to the front lines. Hand worked ‘trench tramways’ served here.




Unit History


AWM Photo DAX1762
c 30 April 1917
Portrait of the Victorian Railway Unit.


1st Light Railway Operating Company. Raised in December 1916, in Victoria, as the 2nd Section, Australian Railway Troops.
Redesignated in April 1917, in England as 15th Australian Light Railway Operating Company, and became apart of  the Royal Engineers Light Railway Company.
Renumbered in March 1918.

The 2nd Section, Australian Railway Troops' was sponsored by the Victorian Railways, and the ranks were filled by the middle of January 1917. The commander was Captain C.J.Duncan from the locomotive branch, and the subalterns were A.S.Tibb and G.Stamp. On 14 February the unit was inspected by the Governor-General and addressed by the Chief Commissioner, Mr. Norman.

Arrived in England towards the end of April 1917 under Captain C.J. Duncan (after its ship had been torpedoed and sunk at the entrance to the English channel). They then went to the Royal Engineers' Railway Training Centre at Longmoor. They probably stayed at Bordon Camp, not far from Longmoor.

Email in from Trevor Edmonds 20th July 2016 : - DAX1762: My best guess for this photo is that it is most of the Victorians in No 5 Section in Melbourne during the formation. DAX1735 appears to be at the same location and is identified as No 4 Section. No 4 Section only had 10 Victorians, No 5 had 62. No 1 Section at this time (assuming the dates are accurate) had just arrived in England.



AWM Photo DAX1735
c April 1917
Portrait of the view of the 4th Railway Unit from the Victorians end of the group.




AWM Photo PB0220
Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Port Melbourne
19 February 1917
Members of the No 1 or No 2 Section, Railway Unit prior to boarding HMAT Ballarat (A70) from Melbourne. Note this group was identified by the photographer as No. 3 Section, Railway Unit, however, that section embarked from Fremantle WA. Only No.1 and No. 2 Sections embarked from Port Melbourne. The soldiers sitting in the front row are holding a large banner which reads 'Australia will be there'.


Email in from Trevor Edmonds 20th July 2016 : PB0220: No 1 Section boarded in Sydney and did not call at Melbourne. I suspect the confusion relates to the NSW railwaymen who were not required for No 1 Section and were then sent to Melbourne to join No 2 Section.



AWM Photo PB0218
Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Port Melbourne
19 February 1917
Members of the No 2 Section, Railway Unit prior to boarding HMAT Ballarat (A70). Identified third left is 672 Private (Pte) Edgar Albert Uren, a railway fireman of Melbourne, Vic. Second left of the standing row is an unidentified Company Sergeant Major (CSM) Warrant Officer II. On the embarkation role there are eleven CSMs listed and all are railway station masters. The soldiers sitting in the front row are holding a large banner which reads 'Australia will be there'.



For More Info
2nd Australian Light Railway Operating Company (Part 1) by Mark Ryan

2nd Australian Light Railway Operating Company (Part 2) by Mark Ryan

There is an Appendix of about 12 pages, relating to the Railway Companies in 'The Royal Australian Engineers 1902 to 1919' by Maj.Gen.R.R. McNicoll. 

The AWM also has the war diary of 1 Aust. LROC.

link to the names of the soldiers in the Railway Unit, Section 2
AWM Roll number: 15/9/1
Embarkations:
From Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A70 Ballarat on 19 February 1917

more info on the The Royal E Light Railway Companies

other Australian Railway Units

Units - Names and Embarkation Details

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A30 Borda 17 July 1918

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A71 Nestor 28 February 1918

Fremantle, Western Australia on board RMS Ormonde 13 March 1918

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A71 Nestor 28 February 1918

Adelaide, South Australia on board HMAT A36 Boonah 22 October 1918
Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A36 Boonah 29 October 1918

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A37 Barambah 31 August 1918

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Osterley 8 May 1918

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A30 Borda 17 July 1918

Fremantle, Western Australia on board SS Canberra 23 November 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney 9 November 1917
Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A38 Ulysses 22 December 1917

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A18 Wiltshire 7 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A70 Ballarat 19 February 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A28 Miltiades 29 January 1917
Adelaide, South Australia on board HMAT A28 Miltiades 24 January 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A9 Shropshire 11 May 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A11 Ascanius 11 May 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board SS Zealandic 5 October 1918


The Trains



AWM Photo P03608.013
Western Front
c 1917-1918
Portrait of two unidentified soldiers from an Australian Light Railway Operating Company standing in and next to a narrow gauge Hudson 0-6-0WT steam locomotive, which was constructed by the Hudswell Clarke Company Limited, of Leeds England.



AWM Photo H01947
France. c. 1917. A type of light locomotive used by Australian Railway Units operating in France. The units were supplied by Baldwin Locomotive Works.


AWM Photo P03608.010
Western Front
c 1917-1918
An unidentified engineer from one of the Australian Light Railway Operating Companies standing in a Baldwin, narrow gauge 4-6-0T steam locomotive, with the serial number 870 and the works number 44871 (not visible). It is stationary along a section of track somewhere on the Western Front. The hose coiled around the lamp at the rear of the locomotive is used to extract water for the boiler from streams or shell holes.


AWM Photo 
P03608.008
Belgium: Roeselare
c 1917-1918
A group of unidentified Australian soldiers and railway engineers standing with a Baldwin 2-8-0 standard gauge steam locomotive (serial number 1436) at the rail yards in Roeselare. This locomotive was manufactured by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia USA. The letters ROD on the tender stand for Railway Operating Division and would be followed with the serial number 1436 (not visible).


Email in from Trevor Edmonds 20th July 2016 : P03608.008, P03608.017, H18473: These are broad gauge locomotives, but the first two photos may still be relevant to the 1st Australian Light Railway Operating Company. Light railways became redundant one the trench war gave way to a war of movement in the latter part of 1918. On 21 October 1918 the 1st Australian Light Railway Operating Company was transferred to broad gauge work and placed under the technical control of the 6th which had been selected to move forward with the advance and to reopen parts of the Belgian railway system to support the advance. The 2nd Australian Light Railway Operating Company was later added to this effort. The two pictures at Roeselare were taken during this period.




AWM Photo 
P03608.017
Belgium: Roeselare
c 1917-1918
A group of unidentified Australians with a War Department 2-8-0 standard gauge steam locomotive with the serial number 1977 at Roselare, Belgium. This type of locomotive was manufactured in England and they were supplied to the War Department in large numbers. The letters ROD on the tender stand for Railway Operating Division. Two locomotives of this type survive in Australia today.

Email in from Jeff Mullier  with additional info on 5 Jan 2018 

Regards the caption to the photo of ROD loco 1977 (AWM photo P03608.17) 

there are actually 3 of these locomotives intact in Australia.

    • ROD 1984 (J & A Brown 20) at Dorrigo
    • ROD 2004 (J & A Brown 23) at the Richmond Vale Railway Museum at Kurri Kurri.            This engine completed a static restoration to ROD condition mid last year                     (see attached photo below  - photo Courtesy of Jeff Mullier ) 
    • ROD 2003 (J & A Brown 24) at Dorrigo.




AWM Photo 
H18473
England. Railway Locomotive Type 280 Baldwin class manufactured in Philadelphia, USA, by the Baldwin Locomotive Company. Five Australian soldiers are standing beside it.


AWM Photo P03608.026
France: Picardie, Somme, Hindenburg Outpost Line Area, Tincourt
c 1917-1918
A narrow gauge locomotive depot consisting of maintenance sheds and railway sidings near Tincourt. Many locomotives are visible, including two American manufactured Baldwin 4-6-0Ts (second and third from left) and an ALCO 2-6-2T (parked in the open, left of shed). These locomotives with their drivers and engineers from the light railway operating companies performed admirable service by bringing supplies of war material from the standard gauge railheads up to the forward lines.


AWM Photo P03608.007
Western Front
c 1917-1918
A derailed Baldwin 4-6-0T narrow gauge steam locomotive with the serial number 928 being re-railed by unidentified allied soldiers. Two of the soldiers are wearing wet weather clothing and the group are using a heavy duty jack to lift the locomotive back onto the tracks. The accident was possibly caused from heavy rains washing away the track ballast. This locomotive was manufactured in the United States by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and has the works number 44966 (not visible).


AWM Photo P03608.009
Western Front
c 1917-1918
An unidentified Australian soldier working alongside a narrow gauge American Locomotive Corporation (ALCO) 2-6-2T steam locomotive with the serial number 1204 and the works number 57095 (not visible) which is parked in an unknown siding on the Western Front. The Cooke Locomotive Works (a subsidiary of ALCO) manufactured these steam locomotives in New Jersey, USA and a batch of 100 were delivered to the Western Front between February and May 1917. These locomotives were used extensively by the Australian Light Railway Operating Companies until the end of the war.


AWM Photo P03608.032
France: Picardie, Somme, Bapaume Cambrai Area
c 1917-1918
Two unidentified soldiers with a narrow gauge diesel or petrol powered Simplex, 40 horse power armoured tractor locomotive with a small, low sided 1 ton goods wagon attached, which is carrying a large radiator for another Simplex locomotive. The locomotive has stopped on a narrow gauge line through the Havrincourt Wood and the engine access doors have been opened. A batch of 115 of these locomotives were provided with an armour plated body, allowing usage in areas exposed to enemy fire and 20 of these locomotives were allocated to the Australian light railway operating companies. They were manufactured by the Motor Rail & Tramcar Company Limited, Bedford England.

Email in from John Browning 16th Sept 2016 : AWM Photo P03608.032

Two unidentified soldiers with a narrow gauge diesel or petrol powered Simplex, 40 horse power armoured tractor locomotive with a small, low sided 1 ton goods wagon attached, which is carrying a large radiator for another Simplex locomotive. The locomotive has stopped on a narrow gauge line through the Havrincourt Wood and the engine access doors have been opened. A batch of 115 of these locomotives were provided with an armour plated body, allowing usage in areas exposed to enemy fire and 20 of these locomotives were allocated to the Australian light railway operating companies. They were manufactured by the Motor Rail & Tramcar Company Limited, Bedford England.

All the internal combustion engine locomotives used by the British forces had petrol engines. The Simplex locomotives had Dorman 20hp or 40hp engines.

All the 40hp Simplex locomotives had some degree of armour plate protection, being divided into three types – ‘Armoured’, ‘Protected’ and ‘Open’. The Armoured ones were most unpleasant to work in, and only one small batch was built. In practice all petrol locomotives in the forward area were from time to time subject to enemy fire. It was usual for the 40hp Armoured and Protected units to run with the side doors (not simply ‘engine access doors’) open as much as reasonably possible.

There were 20 of the Armoured type built, 223 Protected and 84 Open.

AWM Photo P03608.032 and AWM Photo P03608.015 show Protected type locomotives.

AWM Photo P03608.002 shows an Armoured type locomotive.


AWM Photo P03608.015
Western Front
c 1917-1918
A diesel or petrol powered Simplex, 40 horse power armoured locomotive tractor with the serial number LR2275, which was manufactured by The Motor Rail & Tramcar Company, Limited in Bedford England. This batch of 115 locomotives were provided with an armour plated body allowing usage in areas exposed to enemy fire. 20 of these locomotives were allocated to the Australian light railway operating companies. Note that the engine access doors have been opened to show the engine and the back of the operators seat is visible inside.


AWM Photo P03608.012
Western Front
c 1917-1918
Three unidentified Australians from one of the Australian Railway Operating Companies gathered around a 20 horse power Simplex narrow gauge tractor locomotive. These small tractor locos were petrol or diesel operated and water cooled (note radiator at left). The operator sat on the small bench seat (right) sideways to the direction of travel. These tractors were used to haul light loads such as work crews, tools, and mail. The colour patch on the shoulder of the Corporal (right) identifies him as a member of one of the six Australian Railway operating Companies. The patch comprises a red square around a purple diamond with a central number. The numbers one, two and three denote the light (narrow gauge) companies and four, five and six denote the standard gauge (broad gauge) companies. The number 15 stencilled onto the engine cover appears to be a local designation.


Email in from Robert Allan 7 Sept 2017 : AWM Photo P03608.012
The above photo on your page: Is of John Allan (left) and Joe Black (right). Centre person seating unknown.
I just got a copy of the phote from the AWM to confirm clarity and will inform the AWM accordingly.
My grandfather (John Allan) was part of the the 15th L(Aust)ROC before it became the 1st ALROC.  Hence the 15 on the engine.
Think all the above is correct.  Will CC you on correspondence to AWM if you are interested.

Regards
Robert Allan


Email in from John Browning 16th Sept 2016 : AWM Photo P03608.012

Three unidentified Australians from one of the Australian Railway Operating Companies gathered around a 20 horse power Simplex narrow gauge tractor locomotive. These small tractor locos were petrol or diesel operated and water cooled (note radiator at left). The operator sat on the small bench seat (right) sideways to the direction of travel. These tractors were used to haul light loads such as work crews, tools, and mail.

This type was by far the most numerous, with 749 being built. They could not haul as heavy loads as the 40hp machine but handled the same traffic (as photos demonstrate) and certainly were not restricted to work crews, tools and mail.


AWM Photo P03608.002
Western Front
c 1917-1918
Two Australian soldiers standing in front of a diesel or petrol powered Simplex, 40 horse power armoured locomotive tractor which was manufactured by the Motor Rail & Tramcar Company Limited in Bedford England. This was one of 20 such locomotives supplied to the Australian light railway companies on the Western Front during the First World War. Note the serial number LR2198. The soldier smoking (left) is possibly 566 Sapper Thomas Charles Kelso, of Albury, NSW, 1st Australian Light Railway Operating Company.


AWM Photo 
P03608.021
Western Front
c 1917-1918
Three unidentified Australians with a Simplex, 20 horsepower narrow gauge tractor locomotive, with the serial number LR 2570 and named 'Wee Laddie'. These small tractor locos were petrol or diesel operated and water cooled and were used to haul light loads such as work crews, tools and the army postal service wagon.


AWM Photo 
P03608.022
France: Picardie, Somme, Hindenburg Outpost Line Area, Tincourt
c 1917-1918
A Simplex, 20 horsepower narrow gauge locomotive tractor, pulling a small wagon full of unidentified Australians over a trestle bridge which has been built over a mined embankment at Tincourt on the Western Front.


AWM Photo P03608.031
Western Front
c 1917-1918
A narrow gauge Simplex, 20 horsepower locomotive tractor pulling a D class wagon full of unidentified Australian troops across a newly completed trestle bridge.


AWM Photo 
P03608.024
France: Picardie, Somme, Templeux-le-Guerard
c 1917-1918
An unidentified group of Australians, in greatcoats displaying a printed sign 'Templeux', standing in the snow amongst the ruins of the town of Templeux during the winter of 1917-1918. A small Simplex, 20 horsepower narrow gauge locomotive tractor can be seen (right) which is hooked up to a small wagon. The loco operators position has been covered over with an improvised shelter which gives some protection against the cold weather. Note that the narrow gauge rails have been laid across the road.

Email in from John Browning 16th Sept 2016 : AWM Photo P03608.024

Note that the engine cover on the far side of the locomotive has been raised.


AWM Photo P03608.030
France: Picardie, Somme, Peronne
c 1917-1918
A narrow gauge rail line running straight through a damaged house and out onto a street in Peronne. The D class wagon is full of unidentified Australians and it is hooked up to a Simplex, 20 horsepower locomotive tractor.




AWM Photo C01395
Belgium: Western Front (Belgium), Ypres Area
October 1917
Unidentified personnel of a Light Railway Operating Company standing in and beside a light railway repair train at a railway yard near Ypres. Light rail was used to convey ammunition to the gun batteries and also to transport soldiers and road or railway labourers to and from camp.

Email in from John Browning 16th Sept 2016 : AWM Photo C01395

This shows one of the specially constructed ‘mobile workshops’ train




AWM Photo 
E02768
France
28 July 1918
The type of light railway used by Australian Engineers at Cardonette.

Email in from John Browning 16th Sept 2016 :AWM Photo E02768

Baldwin locomotive



AWM photo P03608.028
France: Picardie, Somme, Hindenburg Outpost Line Area, Tincourt
c 1917-1918A group of unidentified Australians about to embark on a ride in a D class wagon, which is being hauled by a 20 horse power Simplex narrow gauge tractor locomotive, numbered 173. The men, presumably from Victoria have written chalk slogans on the side of the wagon, which read 'Cooks Tourists' and 'To Port Melb' and 'Port Melbourne'.



AWM Photo P03608.006
Western Front
c 1917-1918
Unidentified Australians connecting fish plates to join sections of rail as they lay a section of light gauge railway track. There are three narrow gauge D class wagons (right).


AWM Photo P03608.034
France: Nord Pas de Calais, Pas de Calais, Savy
c 1917-1918
Unidentified Australian soldiers transferring building materials from a standard gauge train onto a narrow gauge train consisting of D and E type wagons. Note the sections of prefabricated track including the pressed steel sleepers in the foreground.


AWM Photo P03608.033
France: Picardie, Somme, Hindenburg Outpost Line Area, Tincourt
c 1917-1918
These narrow gauge, D class wagons, filled with unidentified Australian troops are leaving Tincourt for the rear area.


AWM Photo EZ0190
France
c August 1918
Two unidentified officers travelling on a T model Ford chassis (serial M 45281) that has been adapted for use on a light railway. Wide and narrow gauge railways had to be constructed around the Somme battlefield when wet weather made roads impassable for men, horses and motor vehicles.

Email in from John Browning 16th Sept 2016 : AWM Photo EZ0190

Two unidentified officers travelling on a T model Ford chassis (serial M 45281) that has been adapted for use on a light railway. Wide and narrow gauge railways had to be constructed around the Somme battlefield when wet weather made roads impassable for men, horses and motor vehicles.

These units were known as ‘Crewe Tractors’. 132 were built at the London & North Western Railway’s Crewe Works. They had limited haulage power. Existing standard and metre gauge railway lines were repaired and in some cases extended, but nearly all new military construction was of 600mm gauge lines.


AWM Photo P03608.019
Western Front
c 1917-1918
D, E and F class, narrow gauge goods wagons loaded with war material, waiting to be taken up to the front line. This area appears to be unscathed by war with intact buildings and a tree line visible in the background.



AWM Photo C01359
Belgium: Western Front (Belgium), Ypres Area, Poperinghe
October 1917
The main yards of the 2nd Australian Light Railway Operating Company at Pacific. On the left several light rail trucks are loaded with crates, probably containing ammunition; on the right is a 16-wheel hand-powered, 6-ton capacity, Narrow Gauge crane, built by Ransomes and Rapier of Ipswich, England.


AWM Photo P03608.018
Western Front
c 1917-1918
Looking back over the coal pile from the footplate of the leading locomotive is an American manufactured Baldwin 4-6-0T narrow gauge steam locomotive, which is passing an F class wagon carrying a 6 inch field gun. In the background stacked sheaves of wheat can be seen and further back a row of tent billets.




World War One Archive Footage

WW1 Narrow gauge train lines in France -
Youtube clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3s01i3aa7w

WW1 Narrow gauge train lines in France




WW1 - Hospital trains in France - Railways in World War One
Youtube clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFpG9LhWhp8

WW1 - Hospital trains in France - Railways in World War One





for info on what other areas of war service  the Victorian Railways took part in 




References used


Australian War Memorial - Photograph Collections
https://www.awm.gov.au/


The Long Long Trail - The Re Light Railway Company
http://www.1914-1918.net/lightrail.htm



AIF Project - Railway Units & Railway Unit, Section 2
https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showUnit?unitCode=RAIL.S2
https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showGroup?gid=RAIL.S2




The Victorian Government Gazettes.                                              

The Gazette published a list of railway employees every three years between 1880 and 1929

Information given in the lists is:
    • Name
    • their employee number, 
    • date of birth, 
    • branch they worked in, 
    • position, 
    • date of entry (that is date on which they were permanently employed) and sometimes to
    • and rate of pay.
    • sometimes station at

Where to find the Triennial List of Railway Employees in the Government Gazette  (1880 – 1929)

 Year Vol Page/s  Year Vol Page/s
18801062294 and 2295 and 2296 



188411459
190822333
188722055
191124457
189011237
191423267
18931  387
19181  887
18961  621
192111189
18991  433
192411167
190234099
192611233
190534719
192921931

The list was discontinued after 1929.






Page  by Jennifer Baker
Copyright Jennifer Baker - Looking for the Evidence 13th Nov 2015
Page created 13th Nov 2015
updated 7 Sept  2017