Trains spread cheer be­fore min­ing boom

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

For most of the world rein­deer and a sleigh ferry presents to homes on Christ­mas Eve, but for a brief pe­riod in time in the Pil­bara it was heavy diesel and good old fash­ion mate­ship which helped de­liver the Christ­mas cheer.

Back in the day, be­fore the boom times, the Pil­bara Rail­ways His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety used to run trains along the Hamer­s­ley Iron rail lines as a so­cial en­deav­our.

Trips on old trains, in­clud­ing the famed Pen­den­nis Cas­tle, saw groups head out to rail camps to make use of swim­ming pools, ten­nis courts and pic­nic ar­eas.

One of the favourite runs of the year how­ever, was the an­nual Christ­mas run, a true show of com­mu­nity spirit for those work­ers iso­lated in Tom Price and Parabur­doo for the fes­tive sea­son.

Ev­ery year about late Novem­ber to early De­cem­ber, work­ers from the in­land towns would be fer­ried on the trains to Kar­ratha to do their Christ­mas shop­ping.

For­mer PRHS mem­ber Bob Vanselow re­mem­bers the tra­di­tion well.

“It was some­thing we thought of our­selves be­cause there was very lit­tle ac­tion from any­one on build­ing a sealed road to Tom Price,” he said.

“They would spend all day shop­ping and we had an ar­range­ment with the Kar­ratha City shops so all the presents peo­ple bought were stored in plas­tic bags with their name on them in the back of­fice.

“As quickly as this back­room would fill up we would have a con­voy of trail­ers and trucks and utes car­ry­ing all this stuff out and putting it into the lug­gage van on the train. Ev­ery­thing from tram­po­lines to pot­ting mix­ture.

“Af­ter the shops shut ev­ery­one would buy their take­away food and get on the train to head back.”

Mr Vanselow said he re­called a bit of con­fu­sion with all the com­mon last names, but ev­ery­one got their presents in the end.

Many Kar­ratha res­i­dents to­day still re­mem­ber the event, and it seems al­most ev­ery­one in town helped out at some stage when the trains ran.

The tra­di­tion even­tu­ally faded to black in the early 90s as min­ing ac­tiv­ity be­gan to pick up and im­proved roads meant it was no longer such a bur­den to drive to Kar­ratha and back.

Mr Vanselow said the Christ­mas runs were some of his fond­est mem­o­ries from his stint in the Pil­bara, and he be­lieved this would be the case for many oth­ers.

Af­ter the shops shut ev­ery­one would buy their take­away food and get on the train to head back. Bob Vanselow

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

The diesel elec­tric re­spon­si­ble for haul­ing Christ­mas presents to Tom Price still sits out the back of seven mile.

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