NSW Railways at War, Second World War Photograph Boards


A matching pair of polished timber picture frames, each with two glazed doors. The pediments are decorated with painted blue scolls, laurel wreaths with "Railways at War" lettering and are flanked by waratahs as the NSW state emblem. It is thought they were originally part of a larger memorial display but were more recently (c1980s) re-fitted as an historic photo display relating to NSW railways staff activities during the Second World War. Little is known about the panels. They are currently on display within Sydney Trains offices.

Board 1 contains six photographs of railways staff during the Second World War (Note: related brief history on the Railways Construction and Maintenance Group (R.C.M.G. below): 

  1. Group of 23 men in Army uniform, captioned "Australian Railway Construction Unit Group HQ, North Woolmer Camp, England, October 1940".
    • From rear row left to right: P Lipman, B Wilkie, H Tarrant, H Andrews DCM, F Goss DCM, J Donald, W Bevan, A Sinclair, W Upton, F Clark, W Jordan, N Webb, M Mahoney, S Gosney, Capt J Connell, Lt Col K Frazer, Capt G Smith, L Hagon, G Lincoln, T Blackmore, J Morrison, W Hughes. Inset: L Randell.
  2. Group of ten women seated at a long table packaging parcels, captioned: "Railway Unit Comforts Fund". Mrs Rouw, Miss Gilbert, Miss Scanes, Mrs Bannister, Mrs Fahl, Miss Attwill, Miss Eramsie, Mrs Kenna, Miss Hackett, Mrs Hogan. 
  3. Group of eight men with picks and shovels at a construction site near the Mediterranean Sea captioned: "Construction site on the Haifa-Tripoli railway line". 
  4. Newspaper clipping of a crowd of people, including Australian troops, captioned: "Relatives Farewell AIF Troops. Above: Troops of the Railway Survey, Construction and Maintenance Corps, AIF, marching through a throng of relatives and friends who came to see them leave Sydney for service abroad. The men have now landed in England. Below: The family's cheery smiles made this father's departure easier." (Note there is no photograph for this caption). 
  5. Group of 65 men in Army Uniform, captioned: "First Railway Survey Company, 1940". 
  6. Many soldiers aboard 'Stratheden' departing Sydney, captioned: "AIF Railway & Forestry units waiving from their transport as they sail from Sydney to England." 

Board 2 contains six photographs of railway workshops producing military equipment and materials during the Second World War:

  1. Building airplanes at Chullora Workshops on 5 March 1942, captioned: "The front fitting out section at Chullora Workshops looking south."
  2. Men building airplane bodies at Chullora Workshops, captioned: "Front fuselage (of Beaufort bomber) fitting out line."
  3. Chullora Workshops machineshop, captioned: "Machining a tank gun turret Chullora Workshops c1943)."
  4. Men assembling airplane bodies at Chullora Workshops, captioned: "Busy staff at work on aircraft assembly at Chullora Workshops."
  5. Men assembling airplane bodies at Chullora Workshops, captioned: "Assembly of the observer's canopy on Beaufort bomber."
  6. Chullora Workshops, captioned: "The tank annexe at Chullora Workshops, c 1943."

Brief history of the Railways Construction and Maintenance Group (R.C.M.G.)

It was formed by Civil Engineer, Keith Fraser (1893-1952) in Sydney, NSW, early in the Second World War in April 1940. It was attached to the Lines of Communications Engineers (AKA Royal Australian Engineers (R.A.E.)) of the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.), and comprised 700 men in the following units:

  • Group Head Quarters
  • 2/ 1st Railway Survey Company
  • 2/ 1st & 2/ 2nd
  • & 2/ 3rd Construction Companies

The R.C.M.G. embarked on HMT 'Stratheden' from Sydney on 22 May 1940 and sailed across the world, and landed at Liverpool, Lancashire on 18 July 1940, for the desperate defence of England. They worked for the British military on the construction of railway sidings at Longmoor Army Camp near Petersfield, Hampshire.

After the victorious Battle of Britain, the R.C.M.G. was shipped out from England on 3 January 1941 and went via South Africa, and landed in Egypt on 8 March 1941.

While in South Africa Henry Tarrant, a NSW Railways employee, had a bad accident and died on 17 Feb 1941 (see Railways Stores WWII plaque above). They worked for the British military on the maintenance of various railway lines in Egypt and Palestine (now Israel).

After the defeat of French Forces in Syria, R.C.M.G.'s 1st Survey Company undertook a survey for building the Haifa - Beirut - Tripoli Railway in September 1941. The R.C.M.G. was then assigned Job 901, the construction of 144kms of railway formation and permanent way, from Beirut to Tripoli along the hilly Mediterranean coast. They performed this heavy work involving many miles of cuttings, embankments, tunnels and bridges for 12 months, and employed 10,000 Arab and African labourers at the peak. This remarkable feat of engineering was managed by Colonel Keith Fraser, and was opened 6 months early by the British Commander In Chief, General Harold Alexander at Jounie, Lebanon on 20 Dec 1942, and it completed the standard gauge railway from Istanbul to Cairo.

They were then shipped out from Egypt on 3 January 1943 and landed in Sydney on 28 February 1943 for the defence of Australia. After the future Commissioner for Railways Keith Fraser resigned in 1943, the R.C.M.G. was reorganised into the following units:

  • Railway Construction Platoon
  • 1st & 2nd Mechanical Equipment Platoons
  • 1st & 2nd Engineering Stores Platoons

The R.C.M.G. was shipped over to Australian New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea (PNG)), and with the progressive defeat of Japanese Forces worked in various areas of PNG and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), in the hot wet tropics. It undertook the construction and maintenance of coastal military infrastructure, up to the end of the Second World War in 1945. The R.C.M.G. was disbanded after military operations ended.

(References: Long, Gavin. Aus in War of 1939-1945: Army v1 & v3 AWM 1966, & National Archives of Australia ADF Personnel Rec-Army-WWII sB883 NX12168 1939-48.)


Railways at War

Sydney Trains Office
477 Pitt Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
Local Government Area
  • Sydney, City of
  • Building – inside
Memorial type
  • Photograph/s or photographic montage
Recorded by
David Roden. Updated information from Sydney Trains.
Established Date format: 
$e_original_date = $entity->field_established['und'][0]['value']; if (!empty($e_original_date)) { $changed_date = strtotime($e_original_date); $new_date = date("d F Y", $changed_date); print '
Established date
'; print $new_date; } else{ print ''; }
  • Second World War, 1939–45

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