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Paying tribute to Inveresk workers

Workers in the Inveresk railyard’s blacksmith shop in Launceston in the 1920s. Source: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

Kristy Sheridan, Museum call-out for old photographs to pay tribute to ex-railway workers, ABC News, 20 January 2015

Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) is looking to preserve the histories of men and women who worked at Launceston’s old railway yards.

The Inveresk workshops serviced the state’s railway network for almost 125 years.

Close to 2,000 people worked there at its height after World War II.

QVMAG began occupying the space in 2001, turning it into a living museum.

“When the site opened, and we still had pieces of machinery and things around, what we didn’t have, were those stories and those people,” history registrar Louise James said.

The museum is now asking former railway workers and their families to contribute photographs.

Accompanied by words, they will be mounted on aluminium and displayed.

Workers were employed in trades from upholstery to chrome plating and pattern making until the site closed in 1994.

Malcolm Cash started as an apprentice boilermaker before working as an engineer draftsman and surveyor.

“I had so many jobs when I was at the railway; you think you go to the railway, you work there, and you do one job, but I think I had about 12 different things,” he said.

Mr Cash said such was the quality of the work, the site was used by farming, transport and private industry.

“They’d go to the engineering people and they’d say, ‘we can’t do it, better go to the railway’,” he said.

The idea for the photographic tribute started when a family of a late railway worker donated his photograph with the request it be displayed on site.

The photo of Nicola D’Ambrosio in the workshop is now proudly mounted on the walls.

Ms James realised how much of a community had existed at the rail yards.

“That’s what triggered it, and I thought well, that’s really lovely,” Ms James said.

Anecdotes of tomfoolery that went on at the rail yards are well known.

“There’s a joke: how many people worked at the rail yards and the answer is often, half of them,” Mr Cash said.

“[We’ve heard about] the tricks they used to play on the young apprentices, the pet cats they had on site and the fights they used to set up when the supervisors weren’t around,” said Ms James.

Six railway workers have so far submitted their photographs to the project.

The Inveresk rail yards were opened in 1871 by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Albert.

By 1978, ownership of Tasmania’s railway system transferred to Australian National Railways.

The site was scaled down and eventually closed in 1994 when the workforce moved to Newstead.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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