150 Years of Tasmanian Railways

From staggering feats of engineering and the enabling of complex mining operations, to employment for men and women and family social outings, for 150 years railways have played an important role in the economic and social history of Tasmania.  The story of the Tasmanian Railways is one of great successes, but also of hardships, economic failures, and disasters. It is a colourful and dynamic history.

In this series of blogs, we highlight a couple of colourful figures and incidents in the history of Tasmanian railways to highlight the human and social side of the railways. Railways provided livelihoods for a range of different people, not just those who were employed as drivers or engineers, but for the community at large. We will focus on the social life that popped up around the railways, the hubs of activities and social life that developed in Tasmania around or directly because of the railway. 

In concert with these blogs we are celebrating the occasion with an exhibition of railway records and memorabilia in our State Library Reading Room, which will then travel to libraries around the state.

We have also released a new and expansive Tasmanian Railway Guide to our railway records, which should greatly assist researchers who want to delve into those intricate technical drawings, expansive line plans and registers of rolling stock.

The Railway Rate, a Riot, and the Railway Hotel at Longford

On the 1st March 1874,  a large and rowdy mob marched through the streets of Longford, Northern Tasmania, making a great racket by shouting and banging on instruments made of ‘kerosene tins and marrow-bones.’  The mob stopped in front of the Prince of Wales Hotel, yelling at the landlord Mr Bryant and threatening to smash his windows with stones. The mob was angry because bailiffs were staying at the hotel, and they did not believe that these bailiffs deserved such comforts.  Mr Bryant eventually managed to subdue them, but the mob instead turned their attention to the nearby windows of the sub-collector of the railway rate, William Mason, where they ‘fired a salute at the back windows … and demolished about a dozen squares of glass.’  Still unsatisfied, the mob moved next door to Dr Appleyard’s house, and launched missiles ‘as large as hen’s eggs’ smashing windows and some woodwork. The angry mob then disappeared, it is reported, ‘as if by magic’. 

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