Railways role in First World War explored in new exhibition

15 June 2015

A party of Australian Pioneers returning to their dugouts, 1918. Queensland Museum Collection.

See another side to rail as you explore its vital role in the First World War in the new exhibition Railways 1914 – 1918 by The Workshops Rail Museum, opening today until 6 December.

Railways played an essential logistical part on the battle fields of Europe and the Middle East, and at home in support of a far-away conflict.

Queensland Museum Network CEO Professor Suzanne Miller said the exhibition highlighted the role of the railways, including the mobilisation of troops, equipment, supplies, food and treasured communication from loved ones.

“We often think of railways as being big, heavy and time consuming infrastructure, but in the war track was being laid quickly, maintained, expanded and shifted,” she said.

“We can only imagine the logistical challenge of operating the railways in unfamiliar countries, with signalling, traffic control and timetabling over complex routes, while being constantly disrupted by damage.

Railway employees were particularly sought after for recruitment for railways on the front because of their specialist knowledge.

An estimated 14,500 employees from state railways across Australia enlisted during the 4 ½ years of war. More than 300 men registered from the Ipswich railway Workshops alone, and sadly 31 did not return.

“It is testament to the strong sense of community within the railways that the Workshops employees raise more £1400 themselves to build the war memorial in the Museum’s forecourt,” Professor Miller said.

Developed in-house by the Queensland Museum Network team, Railways 1914 – 1918 uses personal stories, imagery and objects to explore the unique relationship of rail and war, and the impact on the lives of ordinary men and women.

The Workshops Rail Museum, part of the Queensland Museum Network, is winner of Australian and Queensland Tourism Awards for Heritage & Cultural Tourism.

For more information about Railways 1914 – 1918 and visiting The Workshops Rail Museum, call (07) 3432 5100 or visit theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au.

This project is proudly supported by the Queensland Government. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; and is supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund.

Media Contact: Glenn Price on (07) 3432 5100 or 0407 128 995