1930s train travel

September 1, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Greece - flowersI have flung myself against the edifice of Railcorp in the interests of ThinkingShift readers. In a recent post, I told you about Sydney’s underground ghost train network and how the Sydney to Newcastle Flyer (so-called express train to Sydney) took 2 hours and 26 minutes to reach Sydney in 1937, which is 5 minutes faster than today. ThinkingShift reader, Terri P, asked me what the price of a Sydney to Newcastle train ticket was back in 1937.

Intrigued, I decided to follow this up and contacted Railcorp. Railcorp provides rail transport throughout New South Wales via its CityRail and CountryLink services. The Newcastle Snail, sorry Flyer, is part of the Cityrail network. Now, I have a lot to say about CityRail. I travel 4 hours a day, three days per week on the Flyer. I can tell you war stories about late running trains with passengers left in the dark about why the train is crawling. Stories about how the rail transit officers only seem to show up around election time to check tickets and make their daily quota of handing out fines to passengers – they’re really supposed to be regularly patrolling trains to provide a security presence but frankly they seem to be more interested in catching out naughty passengers! Stories about when the train arrives in the early morning hours to spirit sleepy travellers off to Sydney, there are sometimes drunks or zoned out people sleeping on seats and smells of alcohol waft through the carriage. But that’s another post one day…

In today’s post, I can happily tell you that Railcorp was very helpful in providing me with information about the cost of rail tickets in the 1920s, 1930s and 1970s. And apparently, what the old chap told me how there used to be First Class and Second Class carriages and tickets back “in the old days” was correct. So Terri P, here’s the information – Sydney to Newcastle fares with today’s prices in brackets (Australian $) for 1st Class Single fares:

Year 1st class single 2nd class single 1st return 2nd return
1926 13s 11d ($1.40) 9s 9d x 2
1932 14s 4d ($1.42) 10s 1d x 2
1939 14s 0d ($1.40) 10s 1d 18s 8d 13s 5d
1947 18s 2d ($1.82) 12s 9d 24s 3d 17s 0d
1964 35s 4d ($3.54) 24s 9d 53s 0d 37s 2d
1972 $5.88 $4.11 $10.29 $7.19
2007 $17.04

Now, the astute Sydney train travellers amongst us will know that the Newcastle Flyer has no first class or second class, just pleb class. And a return ticket costs $34.80 or $24.00 off peak return (August 2007). If we factor in inflation rates, the 1926 First Class single fare would now cost $42.63.

I never used pre-decimal coinage (yep, I’m not THAT old). Australia converted to decimal currency on February 14, 1966. But a quick spot of research tells me that 13s 11d means 13 shillings and 11 pence. In fact, I had a lot of fun checking out the old coinage on this site – I really like the square Kookaburra one penny design from 1919-1921 with King George V on the reverse:

I found a whole world of interesting stuff about old bank notes and old currency. At one point, Australia even had a thousand pound note but this was withdrawn from circulation in 1915.

And the Reserve Bank museum site has some fascinating information on early designs for Australian dollar notes. Check out these six designs never used – shame really as they’re pretty good.

A few ThinkingShift readers have asked me to write on specific topics or answer questions – I have a bit of a backlog but next up I’m going to tackle Shweta’s question to me (hello Shweta!) – “Has anyone researched climatic changes on other planets? Have these planets gone through what we are…the global warming and stuff? Will Earth also end up with no life“.

I’m researching into this and if anyone else is interested in specific topics, just leave a comment.

Entry filed under: Transport.

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