Union Songs

Trains of Treasure website

Trains of Treasure

Poems Songs and Music of the Railways
Review by Bob Bolton

This CD is the latest output from Brian Dunnett's railway history project. This has been going on for a decade or more and has, thus far, produced an excellent travelling display of Australian railway history, a cassette of railway songs by Brian's old group Matilda's Mob, a number of great concert and workshop presentations. Brian, working with Denis Kevans, gives us an excellent compilation of many of the performers who have appeared over the years contributing to Brian's various presentations and provides an interesting look at the broad sweep of Australian railways - often from the neglected viewpoint of the ordinary railway worker.

The content covers a wide range of styles and this produces a CD that is a delight to listen right through - something not true of many single-subject, single-style CDs. Trains of Treasure starts with the NSW Railway Institute Band playing The Sydney Railway Waltz, written by William H. Paling for the opening of the first railway in NSW, in 1855 - then changes the view sharply to Denis Kevans reciting Frank the Poet's For the Company Underground, a convict's less pleasant view of a mine, with its rail-carts.

This CD gives us many such changes. - There are solo 'folk' style singers like Margaret Walters (Lawson's 2nd Class Wait Here and John Warner's Railway Widow's Blues), John Dengate (singing 'Duke' Tritton's The Sandy Hollow Line, and his own Train Trip to Guildford, and reciting The Gates of 23 - the ticket collector's soliloquy, The Paymaster, The Hard Road, The Perth to Adelaide Trooper, Eveleigh, The Jilted Engine Driver and Empty Rails). Denis Kevans sings the title song Trains of Treasure, and recites For the Company Underground, Number Twenty Two, The Navvies, The New Exhibits, The Sleeper Cutters' Camp, He Understood, Farewell to Steam, The Workman's Square Deal, and The Shunter). Roger Ilott sings his own Beside a Railway Line and Joe Fernside's The Woy Woy Workers' Train) and Jacko Kevans sings Tweed and Lismore. Mark Gregory, who also co-produced the CD with Russ Herman, sings the original (banned in 1938) Tex Morton version of Sergeant Small and Matilda's Mob gives us Comrade Fettler, On the Queensland Railway Lines, Railway Kids and The Ballad of Janet Oakden. A distinct change of style comes when Ray King and Ron Russell, of the Elcar Workshops, give us a more electric sound with their song for the famous steam locomotive 3801.

The 31 diverse items give us 71 minutes of comprehensive view of Australian railways from the earliest days to the present day of 'economic rationalism' that bleeds public assets to politician's own ends ? and, maybe, shows that things have always been much the same, but it all holds together as an entertainment and is well worth the modest sum that I paid.

Trains of Treasure CD is available for $15, plus $5.00 post and packaging, from:
Rail, Tram and Bus Union
83 Renwick St
Redfern NSW 2016
Phone: 02 9310 3966
email: lynnelo@magna.com.au

Return to top of page