Victorian Railways Commissioner Harold Clapp was fond of repeating a comment made to him by an American railway worker: 'The railway is ninety-five per cent men and five per cent iron.' Victoria's railways have relied on the women and men who served in diverse roles to provide a state-wide transport service.
The railway system worked on a strict system of hierarchy that emphasised discipline, punctuality and organisation. Loyalty and dedication was demanded, and there was a strong expectation that workers would advance their railway-related skills outside of working hours through various training and self-improvement programs. Yet within this seemingly inflexible system there developed a strong community of workers who were passionate about the railway system. Many jobs with the railways were highly regarded, offering people secure, respected work.
When the suburban railway service merged with the bus and tram services to form the MET in 1983 this strong community underwent a difficult transition. Suburban staff were separated from country staff, with the new 'V-Line' service handling all regional rail travel. Privatisation has brought further changes, with the rail staff community being further spread across several private companies.