Railways and WAGR Staff

The State Records Office holds historical sets of government railway plans, files and staffing records.

Government regulation of railways was initially administered by the Colonial Secretary's Office until a Director of Public Works was appointed in 1877. In the following year he was also given the title of Commissioner of Railways, paving the way for the establishment of the Department of Works and Railways.

In 1890, the Department of Works and Railways was separated into the Department of Works and Buildings and the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR). Although the WAGR was to undergo further departmental changes throughout the 20th Century, the provision of a government railway system continued to form the backbone of this organisation.

Perth Electric Tramways Ltd. commenced operations in 1899 and trams ran along Hay Street from East Perth to Milligan Street. Tram services were later extended to a number of suburbs in the Perth metropolitan area before ceasing in 1958.

Staff Records

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During the early years of the 20th Century, the WAGR played a major role in the development of Western Australia. Opening up outlying regions of the State required the laying of railway lines throughout the State - a very labour intensive process that required the employment of a large workforce.

Most of the records of those employed by the WAGR have been transferred to the State Records Office. These records often provide detailed work histories of employees and comprise:

General Correspondence and Subject Files

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The State Records Office has received many consignments of correspondence and subject files created by Westrail (and its predecessor agencies) over the years. Many of the collections of subject files have been grouped into specific projects or topics (such as civil engineering, land resumption, signalling and communication).

Collections of general correspondence and subject files can be located by searching our online catalogue.

Railway Passes

These registers provide listings of the names and details of patrons issued with railway passes. The registers were created and maintained by the relevant Courthouses and are not WAGR records.

  • Collie Courthouse, Labour Bureau Register of Railway Passes, 1924-1942, Acc 1366, Item 59: Provides name, marital status, occupation, age and intended destination.
  • Narrogin Courthouse, Register of Railway Passes, 1909-1940, Acc 1103, Item 8: Provides date, name, by whom employed and intended destination.

Railway Plans

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The State Records Office holds a substantial collection of WAGR plans spanning the 20th Century and providing detailed information on the expansion of the rail network throughout Western Australia during this period.

The WA railway plans are listed through our online catalogue. The State Records Office also retains card indexes to railway plans available on microfiche on the 3rd floor of the State Library / State Archives.

  • WA Railway Plans Index: This partial index to WAGR plans covers the period 1890-1998. The index is arranged alphabetically by railroad (e.g. Armadale-Brookton line) with each card recording the title of the plan, the type of plan, the plan number, date and associated file number. The index contains references to various WAGR Chief Civil Engineer (CCE) plans, including Progress Plans and Standard Plans. Progress Plans of WAGR stations and sidings show track layout, buildings, work and alterations undertaken. Some plans show lots, streets and buildings surrounding stations, permanent way stations, station yard details and land resumption information.
  • WA Public Works Department Plans Index: An alphabetical card index containing references to all Public Works Department plans held by the State Records Office. Railway related plans contained in this series include resumption and railway construction plans loosely covering the period 1880 to 1962.

Locomotives and Carriages

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The State Records Office holds a series of detailed blueprints (Consignment 6300) of the locomotives and carriages used by the WAGR. A complete listing of the diagrams available (detailing carriage/locomotive class) can be obtained from the State Records Office upon request. A small proportion of plans, mostly for steam engines, has been microfilmed and are available in the microfilm area of the 3rd floor of the State Library / State Archives.

Please Note: Due to the fragile condition of the original diagrams, copying is limited.

Detailed information on the maintenance and technical aspects of locomotives and carriages can also be obtained from the general correspondence and subject files of the Mechanical Branch (Acc. 2861, 2862 & 3273, AN 260).

Land Resumption

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Records relating to the resumption of land for use by the WAGR are also held by the State Records Office. Some examples of these records include:

  • Land Acquisition Registers, 1911-1925, Acc 1744, AN 260: Volumes detailing resumption and acquisition of land for railway reserves. Includes a nominal index to landowners.
  • Files - Land Resumption, 1911-1978, Series 1200: Files dealing with land resumptions for railway purposes such as bridges, marshalling yards and railway lines. Names of persons from whom land was obtained and lot numbers are often given.

Commercial Railways

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Although the majority of railway material contained within the State Records Office is related to government railways, there are some records relating to the various private or commercial railways that have operated within the State.

Further records relating to the Midland Railway Company can be located in the State Library's Private Archives Collection.

Page reviewed 3 February 2021