On the Railroad

11 September, 2011

Loco crew members and railway engineers posed with three locomotives at Portland loco depot, c1921.
Loco crew members and railway engineers posed with three locomotives at Portland loco depot, c1921.
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: My great-grandfather was an employee of the Victorian Railways both in Melbourne and Ballarat in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Is there somewhere that I can find information about his time there?

Answer: There is a wide variety of records from the Victorian Railways held by the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). These include such diverse documents as correspondence, tenders and contracts, accident reports, plans, timetables, and images.

PROV also holds employment records from 1890 to the mid 1950s. Employment History Cards, which cover the period 1890 to 1925, would be an ideal place for you to start, as they trace the employees' work histories with Victorian Railways. Information includes dates that they began employment, positions, salaries and dates when they left the railways.

If your great-grandfather happened to work for the Stores Department, his work history might be found in the Employee History Sheets, Stores Department (1886 – 1984).

Unfortunately, the railway employee records are not available online but you can access them through PROV's reading room in North Melbourne.

Many of the other Victorian Railways records held by PROV might also be of interest for your research in order to help contextualise your ancestor's working life. PROV has some excellent online FAQs and research guides (linked at right) that provide a great deal of information on the way family historians can use these documents to bring to life their ancestors' histories.

Another rich resource for people doing research on railway employees is Museum Victoria's website Victorian Railways . It contains detailed information on the history of the railways, as well as over 1000 historic photographs, with images of rail yards, locomotives, stations, passengers and employees. You may even find your ancestor in them!

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