BEYOND THE TREE | Archie, the train that followed William from job to job

The Beyond the Tree regional-history exhibition at Liverpool Regional Museum includes a growing community tree to which you can add your own family history. Bring in photos of your family moments to be scanned, printed, mounted and added to the display. It's in conjunction with Liverpool Genealogy Society. Volunteers on Tuesdays to Saturdays help with research and family enquiries. The Champion is running a series of local family stories to tie in with the exhibition. Margaret's grandmother's cousin William worked on a sugar plantation up north, then helped build a dam back in NSW before he enlisted at Liverpool. Interestingly, the steam train that serviced the same NSW dam site had also been deployed on a sugar plantation in Queensland and, like William, also ended up in military service at Liverpool.

MY GRANDMOTHER'S cousin, WilliamBurns, left Newcastle in 1906 on the SS Wyandra to work on a large sugar plantation along the Herbert River in Far North Queensland. She often got postcards of William's travels and on one occasion William took great delight in telling her their younger cousin Billy was also working on the same plantation.

The plantation provided the workers with the accommodation of huts and tents. Their job was to cultivate the land for planting and then harvesting the sugarcane which was hard, back-breaking, physical work in tropical temperatures. The crop was then hauled from the mill by horses on tram tracks to the nearby river for transporting.

In 1909 William returned to NSW as one of the 500 construction workers to build the walls of the Barren Jack Dam on the Murrumbidgee River. The name Barren Jack was changed to Burrinjuck in 1911 and irrigation supplies were begun in 1912.

The workers, their families, the supplies and construction materials were all transported by a small-gauge steam train, running on a two-foot gauge track from Goodah Station on the main south line to the dam site. Years later 600mm-gauge engine No 2029, fondly named Archie, worked on the Liverpool-to-Holsworthy-barracks line. The same engine was once attached to the Farleigh Sugar Mill in Queensland. Archie is now restored and on show at Thirlmere Rail Museum.

The remote area of Burrinjuck was harsh, the summers were hot and the winters were cold. By 1909, the township was well established with workers' homes, stores, accommodation houses, a public school, a post office, churches, doctors, a hospital and a population of 1200.

When William finished his work at Burrinjuck in 1911 he went to Liverpool to join the Army before World War I. He left the regular army in July 1915 and joined the AIF at the LiverpoolCamp. A month later he married his sweetheart, VioletPryor.

William served in the 30th Australian Infantry Battalion and boarded the HMAT Beltana in Sydney in November 1915, disembarking at Suez the next month. He was attached to the 5th Australian Division Military Police in Egypt before rejoining the 30th, going to France in June 1916.

He was unfortunate to have had a case of trench fever for which he was hospitalised in England. He'd been wounded twice in action but nothing serious. He arrived home with the NSW 2nd Military District on the Kildonian Castle on May 9, 1919.

He returned to his family and worked as a coachbuilder in the Newcastle depot of NSW Railways.

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