Tea and Sugar Train Driver in my Own Back Yard!

I recently discovered that living in Strathalbyn is a former Tea and Sugar Engine driver!

Andrew Soar contacted me after buying the book from local shop Argus House. Yesterday I met him and had a wonderful chat about his train driving days and the history of the train.

Andrew personally knew Alf Harris, who was the Father Christmas on the train for over 30 years. Alf is now buried in the Stirling North Cemetery and his headstone has a locomotive on it. I intend to have a look next time I am up Pt Augusta way!

Andrew kindly gave me a copy of his Certificate of Competency as  Locomotive Engineman Class 2, which he obtained on 18/12/1971.

I also have a copy of a list of the Commonwealth Railway Guards from January 1978. Andrew’s brother’s name is on the list as working for the railways was a family affair! Unfortunately many of the names have a line through them, indicating the men have died.

I was also shown a train timetable. See below:

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The Tea and Sugar timetable
The Tea and Sugar timetable

I have now learnt where the number 521 comes from…The 5 represents the day of the week the train runs. Starting with Sunday as the first day of the week…so The Tea and Sugar ran on a Thursday. The odd number represents the train going out from Pt Augusta. Odd numbers went out, even numbers returned. So there you have it!

Andrew had some old photos of him in the driver’s cab and the long lonely stretch of line which reached¬†across the outback.

Photos on the endpapers of  "Tea and Sugar Christmas"
Photos on the endpapers of “Tea and Sugar Christmas”
Andrew's inscription in his book
Andrew’s inscription in his book

As we wandered around his garden bits and pieces of railway memorabilia popped up.

An old railway vice which would have been mounted on a sleeper next to the track
An old railway vice which would have been mounted on a sleeper next to the track
Horses would pull this as a man stood behind and it would dig up the track. Looks like hard work to me!
Horses would pull this as a man stood behind and it would dig up the track. Looks like hard work to me!

Below is a selection of old signal lights, used by different workers at different times.

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P1200356Did you know that every sleeper is numbered? I had no idea. These are some of the numbered nails.

P1200357When a gang was working this sign would warn the train drivers.

P1200358The little phone bowes which used to along the side of the railway line were always padlocked. With beautiful heart shaped locks!

P1200360Andrew had a million stories to tell, of which I heard only a glimmer. It was a different time then, when practical jokes could be played on fellow workers without fear of losing your job!

Lots more stories to be collected about this bygone era!

2 thoughts on “Tea and Sugar Train Driver in my Own Back Yard!

  1. Hi Jane
    Just visited the Hahndorf Gallery and saw your book. You probably don’t remember me, but I think you taught my son Matthew (Arbon) when you and Harry Beachamp co-taught at PBAS.
    Are you and Ian still together? His kids are the same age as mine. I’ve seen him in print when he was protesting against some development in Strath. I now live in Mylor, and Matthew with wife and 3 kids in Mt Barker.
    Just had to say Hello. Love the elephant book. I’ve been to Thailland and Laos and seen some of the damage of land-mines, and also visited an elephant sanctuary
    Cheers
    Suzanne Arbon

  2. Yes Hi Suzanne, of course I remember you and Matthew.Ian and I live in Strathalbyn and have a 21 year old daughter. I still catch up with Harry as he is living and working in Murray Bridge with the Natural resources people.The book is beautiful and over the next few years I have a few more books coming out. In October this year the National Library of Australia are releasing Radio Rescue, also illustrated by Robert Ingpen. Cheers.

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