Table of Contents
Early fire fighting services were provided by the military, then later by volunteer groups, some sponsored by insurance companies or municipalicities. See the ‘Sporting Clubs and Volunteer Organisations” page for more on some of these early brigades.
?Castlemaine Fire Brigade or ?Country Fire Brigade
Castlemaine residents formed the Castlemaine Voluntary Fire Brigade in 1854. Brigades such as this were taken under the control of the Country Fire Brigades in 1945.
Country Fire Authority Victoria
The CFA was created on 2 April 1945 following significant bushfires during the period 1939–1944 which killed 114 people, destroyed nearly 1400 homes and damaged large areas of the state. Significant numbers of livestock also perished. Subsequent investigations by a royal commission in 1944 showed a lack of cohesive firefighting ability outside the central metropolitan area. The CFA took over existing brigades, many of which had been established in the 19th or early 20th century.
Country Fire Brigades Board
Established in 1890 to have responsibility for all fire brigades greater than 16 kilometers from Melbourne.
Fire Brigade Commission
These buttons are from the Tasmania Fire Brigade Commission (1946-1977) which was tasked with establishing and maintaining an efficient fire brigade in that state.
Hobart Fire Brigade
In 1859 the first Hobart Fire station was established. In 1879 the Hobart Town Fire brigade advertised that it was maintained “soley by the undermentioned Insurance Companies”, naming eleven in all, and warning that the brigade would not service businesses not insured by those named!! In 1883 the Governing Council approved a new Hobart Fire Brigade to take over the existing fire tower and fire fighting equipment. In 1911 the headquarters was moved from Bathurst Street to Argyle Street.
Melbourne Fire Brigade
These two buttons were both made in England for A. Bowley, but perhaps at different times due to the different construction.
Up to 1890 Melbourne was protected by rival volunteer and private brigades. Following several serious and fatal fires that year, the Melbourne Fire Brigade was formed in 1891. According to the first annual report in had “59 permanent firefighters, 229 auxiliary firefighters, 4 steam fire engines, 25 horse drawn hose carts and 58 hose reels… 33 horses and 48 stations”. In 1891, the Brigade attended 816 calls and 485 fires, of which 188 fires were classified as serious. The firefighters did not become full-time professionals until 1950. Females were allowed to join from 1988.
New South Wales Fire Brigade
The New South Wales Fire Brigade was formed in 1910. It was renamed Fire and Rescue NSW in 2011. Before then there had been military, insurance and volunteer brigades, and from 1884, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB).
What could have prompted the Prime Minister to intervene over firemen’s coats?
Apparently the N.S.W. brigade were the only firemen in Australia not to receive a overcoat as part of their standard uniform. Earlier the union’s request for uniforms had been knocked back “due to the war situation”. However, having shivered through the previous winter, they were not prepared to do so again, and were happy to accept surplus military coats. Only 669 were needed to supply each man. There was at that time only one overcoat for general use at each station. These were, to quote “ old, battered, not weatherproof, and are supposed to be used in turn by men who go on watching duty. They are not fit to put on a dog.” Whilst the union’s demand for coats within a month seemed rather abrupt, in fact “Our men have been demanding coats without success for 15 years.”
At first they only refused to perform non-emergency outdoor duties without coats, but when some men were suspended, a general strike was called. That is when the Prime Minister stepped in. It seems ridiculous that with coats available for use, an 8-hour strike had to occur before this was resolved.
Images used with permission.
Queensland Fire Service
The Brisbane Fire Brigade formed in 1860. In 1990 eighty-one fire boards were replace with the Queensland Fire Service and the Rural Fire Council. The QFS has since been merged with other services into the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.
South Australia Fire Brigade
The Adelaide Fire Brigade was established in 1859. From 1870 (or before), a South Australian Fire Brigade Association existed, consisting of brigades belonging to various insurance companies. The South Australian Fire Brigade was reorganised in 1882. At that time it operated 3 floating steam fire-engines, 2 steam tugs, 4 barges, 3 large and 35 small land steam engines, as well as over 100 manual engines, 29 horse carts and 13 vans.
It was renamed in 1981 as the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS).
Unknown Fire Brigade
West Australia Fire Brigade
In November 1898 the WA Fire brigade was formed by government decree, so 1899 was the first year of operation.
The year 1909 is marked on the buttons as this was the year the WA Fire Brigade Act was passed into law, and all pre-existing fire brigades came under central control.
MISCELLANEOUS GOVERNMENT SERVICES
Australian Lighthouse Service
The Commonwealth took over control from the states of the service during the period of 1913-1915. Its role was to maintain navigational aids, light house maintenance and to transport families and supplies to and from lighthouses.
City Of Melbourne
The buttons were used for Town Hall staff such as attendants, chauffeurs, hall-keepers, etc.
To see The City of Melbourne Collection of buttons, see http://citycollection.melbourne.vic.gov.au/uniform-buttons-city-of-melbourne/
City Of Prahran.
The city of Prahran was declared in 1879. At first they did not adopt uniforms, seeing them to be a waste of money. From 1888 the caretaker at the town hall was supplied with one:
From 1900 outside officers and employees were to wear uniforms.
The Prahran Telegraph, 24th November 1900 page 5. There was ongoing problems with Inspector Rider, who would not always wear his whilst on duty! Complaints were made! In 1908 it was reported that the nature and colour of uniforms for street sweepers had not been decided upon.
I wish I could claim the button belongs to Mr Lacy, Mr Bell or to stubborn Inspector Rider, but the button is of the type made post-1950 with two holes in the back plate. Could it be one of these volunteers?
The above was a South Australian Customs Department button dating 1878-1897.
It’s interesting to realise that Australian Custom officers had no uniforms prior to December 1954. The buttons above are from custom uniforms. They show the Australian Coat of Arms are made of made of a hard black plastic.
Fremantle Harbour Trust
Harbour masters were appointed at Fremantle from 1829. Five commissioners met for the first formal meeting of the new Fremantle Harbour Trust on 5th January 1903. They were responsible for control of the harbour including building and maintaining all sheds, piers, roads, the lighthouse, buoys and signals, etc, built there. They could lease land for industries and businesses. They would employ people to load and unload wharves, and also pilots and signalmen. They would manage wrecks, collect shipping dues and make regulations relating to the harbour. It was replaced by the Fremantle Port Authority in 1964.
Fremantle Port Authority
The trust was replaced in November 1964 by the Fremantle Port Authority, who “manage shipping channels, navigation aids, cargo wharves, the Fremantle Passenger Terminal, road and rail transport infrastructure, moles and seawalls and other port infrastructure.”, as per the WA government website.
Government House Hobart
The current Government House is the 3rd (4th if you include the tent the first Governor had to live in for two years), built from 1855-1857.
Maritime Services Board of New South Wales
The Maritime Services Board of New South Wales was established in 1936, replacing the previous Sydney Harbour Trust and also the Department of Navigation, and would continue until 1995. It administered the ports of Sydney and Newcastle as well as issuing watercraft licenses. The button shows a simplified shield of N.S.W. with a King’s crown and an anchor.
Metropolitan Transit Authority, Victoria
The MET was a Victorian Government authority operating passenger trains, trams and buses from 1983, when it took over from Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board, VicRail metropolitan trains division, and the Loop Authority. In 1989 it was merged with the State Transit Authority ( STA; operating country and freight trains) to form the Public Transport Corporation (PTC). The PTC was progressively privatised from 1993.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
In 1967 the Fauna Protection Panel and the Reserves Branch of the Lands Department were amalgamated into this new service, under the Department of Lands, Industry and Environment. They study and conserve wildlife and land, map protected areas, and up-keep fire trails. The photo below is from the NSW State Archives of the first meeting of its staff. The buttons can be seen on the jackets.
Parkside Mental Hospital
In 1909 the Parkside Lunatic Asylum was renamed as Parkside Mental Hospital.
Although the button is labelled Mental Hospital S.A., it must related to this institution. It was renamed Glenside Hospital in 1967.
See also the Private uniform page, as it started and returned to private ownership.
Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service was a private company started in 1920. In 1934 it merged with Britain’s Imperial Airways to form Qantas Empire Airways Limited (QEA) and began flying internationally. The fleet was taken over by the government during WW2 for war use.
In 1947 QEA was nationalised by the government, with the British shares bought by the Australian government and Qantas Limited wound up , the Queensland routes being transferred to TAA. It remained named QEA until 1967, when it was renamed Qantas Airlines. Qantas was re-privatised between 1993-1997.
State Government Insurance Office
The State Government Insurance Office was set up in Western Australia in 1926, after the success of the Queensland version from 1916. The main thrust was to support gold miners who might develop lung disease in the course of their profession. There was opposition to this from the Opposition (no pun intended), claiming it would cost too much and should be left to private insurance companies. The Labour Government at the time claimed that private firms were refusing to offer quotations for the scheme, forcing the government to do so. Despite the actual existence of the Insurance Office, the scheme did not pass into state legislation until 1938!
Over the years the insurance office extended to cover compulsory 3rd party motor vehicle , school children’s and general insurance. Privatised in 1994, the firm offers car,motorcycle, home,business, boat, caravan and travel insurance.
Tasmania, Department of Government
Trans Australian Airways
The post WW2 Labour government formed a government owned interstate airline. It was meant to be a monopoly, but this was successfully challenged in a High Court appeal by existing airways. The first official flight of Trans Australian Airways was on 9th September, 1946. ANA was obliged to improve its service and punctuality in the face of the new competition, but it ended up failing and being bought out by Ansett.
For more information see http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/uncategorized/4th-march-2021-taa/
South Australian Government (generic)
State Electricity Commission of Victoria
The SEC was the government owned electricity supplier in Victoria started in 1918. By 1972 it was soley responsible for generation, transmission and supply. In the 1990s it was split up and privatised.
State Transport Authority (South Australia)
The STA was the authority overseeing public transport in South Australia from 1974. In 1994 it was split into TransAdelaide and the Passenger Transport Board.
Sydney City Council Law Enforcement Officer
Council Officers police the City Council’s by-laws and regulations. The following article outlines the kind of actions taken in Melbourne in 1916, and were probably similar in most cities. Just remember, don’t cause a nuisance when feeding your horse!
Sydney Harbour Trust
This was a New South Wales government authority from November 1901 until 1936. The need for such a trust had been debated since 1892. It had many responsibilities including regulated movement of vessels, handling of cargo, preservation and improvement of the port,removal of wrecks, dredging, licensing piers, maintenance of swimming baths, wharfage, fire fighting, and safety. Its scope included all foreshores, lighthouses and tugs within the harbour.
After 1936 these duties were taken over by the Maritime Services Board (see above).
Trans Australian Airlines
TAA was set up by the national government in 1946 to compete with the privately owned dominant company, Australian National Airways (ANA. See uniform buttons Private). It was a popular and successful airline, although hamstrung by the limiting “two Airlines Policy” imposed by the succeeding conservative government. In 1986 it was rebranded Australian Airlines then acquired by Qantas in 1994.
Victoria State Emergency Services
The Victoria SES has its roots in the volunteer Civil Defence Organisation set up in 1950, to mobilise rapidly in the event of war. It was renamed in 1975 as the State Emergency Services, and has been involved in most major emergencies since 1950. It is an independent statuary body answerable to the State Minister for Emergency Services. “We are the control agency for flood, storm, tsunami, earthquake and landslide throughout Victoria, and provide the largest road rescue network in Australia, with specialist teams in 102 of our 149 units across the state. “
West Australian Hospital For Insane
Patients were treated the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum from 1865, and also the Whitby Mental Hospital from 1897. These were described as not fit for purpose, so a new hospital was built in Claremont from 1903/4. The old buildings, from 1975 called Swanboure Hospital, were closed in 1986.
POLICE/CORRECTIONS & ENFORCEMENT
Australian Capital Territory Police
The Commonwealth Police (ACT) was renamed the Australian Capital Territory Police Force in 1957. See ‘Commonwealth Police’ below.
Commonwealth Peace Officer
The Commonwealth Peace Officer Guard (POG), established in 1925 to provide physical security at government locations across the nation, came under administration of the Commonwealth Investigation Service (CIS).
Commonwealth Police Force
From 1927 until 1957 police of the Federal Capital Territory were known as Commonwealth Police (ACT) and the Kings Crown buttons likely belonged to this group ( There had been an earlier unit under this name.)
The first Commonwealth Police:
In 1917 the pro-Conscription Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, who had been ‘egged’ whilst speaking in Queensland, became so fed up and distrusting of the state of Queensland (led by anti-conscription Premier T. J. Ryan) that he created a plain-clothed Commonwealth Police Force to ensure that Commonwealth law was adhered to in that “rogue” state and to report on “subversive” activities (i.e. those of groups that disagreed with his views!) This force was disbanded post WW1.
Her Majesty’s Goal NSW
See NSW Goal Warders
Her Majesty’s Gaol Tasmania
HM Goal Department replaced the Sheriffs Department in 1936 and was in turn replaced by the Goals Department in 1944. It was responsible for the Campbell Street Goal in Hobart as well local goals and watch houses.
A button in the MAAS museum has an unique, if troubling, Australian story.
According to the description given in Trove, it dates to 1842-1856: ‘The name ‘New Holland’, which was not widely used to describe Eastern Australia after 1840, suggests that the button dates from the early years of the native police. If so, the button would come from either the native police force that operated in Port Phillip until 1852, or more likely the force that operated in the northern frontier of N.S.W. from 1848.
The British used armed indigenous forces throughout their colonies. Native patrol troops, usually under a white officer, were used as cheap, brutal and effective forces. Such troops were set up in all mainland colonies of Australia in the 19th century. Troops were recruited far from where they were to be deployed to ensure lack of tribal sympathies and to provide a disincentive against desertion. The use of native troops was also a clever ploy to reduce revenge attacks against white settlers.
The first government funded troops were in the Port Phillip District from 1837. It was hoped that this employment would have a civilising effect for the aboriginals. Unfortunately these troops were used to commit violence and to aid in the dispossession of the aboriginal people. Colonisation of the mainland would have taken much longer without these troops. Eventually, the use of these troops were called into question, but not before decades of murderous behaviour.
Naval Dockyard Police
The Naval Police formed in 1913, called at that time the Naval Dockyard Police, although they were civilians, and had no real police powers, but did guarding duties. During WW1 they took on counter espionage. They did not cease to be a civilian organisation and become auxiliary of the Navy until 1923, when they also were given statuary powers. They remained an auxiliary until 1972 when they become part of the navy proper. They were then renamed Naval Police.
New South Wales Department of Correctional Services
The term “Department of Correctional Services” dates from 1970-2009. As Amor became Amor-Sanders in 1978, perhaps these buttons date prior to then.
New South Wales Goal Warders
The Queen Victoria crown, plus the “H.M.G.” for Her Majesty’s Gaols, indicate this button dates pre-1902.
New South Wales Police Pipe Band
Started in 1946 by Commissioner William John Mackay, in his honour it has adopted the Mackay tartan and uses the crest on the buttons.
New South Wales Police
The origin of policing in New South Wales was the use of marines that came with the first fleet in 1788, followed by the short lived appointment of a civilian constable, Mr. John Smith. This was followed in the next year by the appointment of trusted convicts to the role of Night Watch which in turn became the Sydney Foot Police. Early policing was to protect Sydney from thieving and petty crimes after dark. In 1862 all the colonial police forces, such as the Gold Escort and the Mounted Police, were amalgamated.
NSW Prisons Department
Northern Territory Police
The current Northern Territory Police force started in 1911. Before that the Territory was served by South Australian Mounted Police from 1870 and the Native Police Corps from 1884. Wikipedia notes they have 70 stations and shopfronts, 3 boats, 1 helicopter, 23 horses and 72 camels!
Protective Service Officer, Victoria Police
PSOs have provided security services in Victoria since 1987 to guard places such as the law courts in Melbourne; the Victoria Police Centre, St Kilda Road Police Complex, Parliament House, Treasury, the Shrine of Remembrance, and 121 Exhibition Street (Department of Justice). In 2011 legislation was amended to allow for PSOs to patrol train stations and trains after 6pm each day. recruits undertake training at the Police Academy.
Queensland Police Force
Queensland got its own force in 1864, the year of the state’s separation from New South Wales. It was not until 1931 that 2 women were appointed to the force.
Queensland Prison Department
It has the Queensland Coat of Arms, but with the wrong supporters; i.e. the animals are the kangaroo and emu as on the Australian Coat of Arms, not the red deer and brolga. The department was known as the Queensland Prison Department from 1891 until 1988. This button was worn in the 1970-80s. It is now known as Queensland Corrective Services.
South Australian Penal Establishment
South Australia’s first permanent prison was built 5 years after it was settled in 1841 in Adelaide. In 1853 another prison was built in Northfield (“The Stockade”) next to a quarry for the prisoner’s to be used for labour. By 1870 there were 7 gaols in the colony.
South Australian Police
This force was formally established in 1838, making it the oldest in Australia, and third oldest worldwide. Being a ‘convict free’ colony, its force did not start with former convicts or soldiers. It pioneered the used of fingerprinting in Australia, and had the first women police in the Commonwealth in 1915.
According to John White (retired SAPOL and member of the South Australian Police Historical Society), “Unlike other police forces in Australia that had specific ‘police’ designed uniform buttons, South Australia Police only used a generic ‘SA’ button which was also adopted by other South Australian government agencies, such as the then SA Gaols and Prisons Department (later renamed SA Correctional Services). Other than the buttons used on the 1854 Garibaldi jacket, SAPOL uniform tunic buttons have remained the same design (except for the change from a King’s to Queen’s Crown in 1974) since their introduction in the 1840’s and up until the present time. Only two sizes of buttons have been used, they are, large and small. Generally, the small buttons were used on the Mounted Police and Junior Constable/Cadet tunics and the large on the Foot Police and general duty uniforms. The use of the Monarch’s crown in South Australia is an interesting one. In 1951 then Police Commissioner Ivor Green designed a new police cap badge to replace the then existing Brunswick style South Australia Police cap badge. The new badge featured the State’s piping shrike bird emblem and a King’s Crown. The badge featured the King’s Crown in anticipation of the Royal visit to Adelaide by King George the 6th in 1953. The new badge was issued in 1951 to all police officers. Unfortunately the King died in 1952 and was replaced by Her Majesty QEII. The problem for SAPOL was that a considerable amount of money had been spent on the new badge with the King’s Crown and SAPOL was not in a financial position to issue a replacement badge with the correct Queen’s Crown. It did not seem to worry SAPOL or the State Government that we were using the wrong crown and in the ensuring years the Piping Shrike badge with the King’s Crown continued to be manufactured and remained in use along with the King’s Crown uniform police buttons. It was not until Commissioner Harold Salisbury from the UK was appointed Commissioner of Police in 1974 that it was pointed out to him that we were using the wrong crown. It was then decided from that time onwards that any new batch of cap badges and buttons manufactured were to feature the Queen’s Crown. As a result from 1974 all new recruits were issued with the Queen’s Crown cap badge and buttons, however, the King’s Crown badges already on issue to members were not withdrawn and remained in use along with the Queen’s crown version until both badges were withdrawn in 1998 and replaced by the current cap badge.”
Tasmania had a chequered history with regards to policing. Convict watchmen were replaced by military patrols, then by martial law and increasing numbers of constables, but crimes and bush-ranging were out of control. In 1828 Lt-Governor Arthur established 9 police districts with centralised control in Hobart. However, as most police were convicts there were abuses of power and so around 1858 the people demanded a decentralised system with non-convict police.
Twenty Municipal councils controlled their own police, with non-municipal areas divided into 8 policing districts. As councils wished to reduce costs, this lead to poor police wages and/or reduced police numbers. It also meant that there was uneven policing as councillors expected favourable treatment! The councils relinquished control, and in 1898 a Police Regulation Act created a state wide force under a commissioner and answerable to Parliament.
Hobart City Police.
Launceston Municipal Police
Port Arthur Police
Victorian Penal Department
The Penal and Gaols Branch of the Chief Sectretary’s Department was formed in 1870, and took over the running of Melbourne Gaol and all other Victorian gaols from the Sheriffs department. It lasted until 1960.
Victorian Police Force
The Victoria Police was formally established in 1853, although there had been constables from 1840. It was the first colony to merge all its police into one force, and the only one to this day to do so under a Chief Commissioner of Police.
The first woman to be part of the Force was Madge Connor in 1917 as a ‘police agent’. Women became full police officers in 1924, although it took until 2001 for a woman to be appointed Chief Commissioner.
The only strike by any Australian Police Force occurred in 1923, with resulting riots and looting in the city.
Victoria Water Police
From 1838 Water Police dealt with crime, looked for runaways and dealt with customs.
Today the Water police manage law enforcement on the water, also search and rescue.
West Australian Penal/Gaol/Prison/Correctional Services
The Swan River Colony, also known as the Swan River Settlement, was established in 1829 at the location that would soon become Perth. The colony formally became West Australia in 1832. Although NSW convicts were sent to King George Sound in 1826 to help establish the new colony, convicts were mostly sent to the colony from 1850-1868.
Convicts had been temporarily housed in a rented warehouse from 1850 until they built the Convict Establishment Prison ( built 1850-59). The old Fremantle Prison, also known as the “Round House”, was built in 1830-31, an eight cell prison with a gaoler’s residence. It was used for local and indigenous prisoners until 1886. In that year the Convict Establishment prison, (since renamed Fremantle prison) was returned to the control of the colony, and the Round House was then used as a police lock-up.
During the wars, Fremantle prison was partially used as a military prison and internment centre. The prison being long overcrowded, seven new prisons were opened in the State from 1960-1971, including a new women’s prison.
Fremantle Prison was closed in 1991, replaced by the new Casuarina Prison. The old buildings are now heritage listed.
A merchant ship that ran aground in the mouth of the Swan River in 1829 was used as a prison hulk. In 1830 A six cell lock-up in Perth was built. It was demolished in 1855 after the ‘old’ Perth Gaol was built to replace it.
The Goals Department was a sub-department of the Colonial Secretary’s Department from 1890. It was renamed the Prison Department in 1947, the Department of Corrections from 1972-82, the Prisons Department from 1982-87, the Department of Corrective Services (1987-93), the Offender Management of the Ministry of Justice (1993-2001) and the Department of Justice (2001-2006). Since 2006 it is the Department of Corrective Services. And every name change brings the expense of new stationary, buttons, etc, etc.
Below are various warder/prison staff uniform buttons.
According to the State records Office of WA, a “Gaols Department” appears to be a sub-department of the Colonial Secretary’s Office by 1890. However, it dated as early as 1883.
In 1947 the Gaol Department was renamed the Prisons Department. The above button presumably dates from around 1890- 1901 due to the use of the “Queen Victoria crown”.
The button below is described as dating from 1930-40s, which does not fit in with the St Edward’s crown. During that era a Tudor (King’s) Crown would have been used. As it is backmarked ‘Sheridan” it would date from post 1952, and Elizabeth’s era.
West Australian K-9 Force
West Australian Police Force
The West Australian Police Force formally came into existence in 1853, although there were part time constables, etc. from the origin of the colony in 1829. It is responsible for the largest single police jurisdiction of 2.5 million square kilometres.
WA Road Traffic Authority
This department existed from 1975-1982, in charge of traffic regulation, licensing and road accident investigation.
WA Traffic Inspector
Perth Traffic Inspectors were first appointed in 1896. The inspector was to control traffic flow and safety, and to attend to speeding and parking offenses. They also investigated accidents. There were still inspectors in 1971.
POST OFFICE DEPARTMENTS
General Post Office, Melbourne
The General Post Office of Meblourne is located at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets. The inital construction was from 1860-1867, although several stages of extensions occurred through until 1919. The building is now a retail site.
The General Post Office in Sydney (up to 1996) stands in Martin Place, and was built from 1866-91. It is interesting that the staff that worked there had their own buttons, rather than just using Post Masters General Department buttons.
Post Office Victoria
These Post Office Victoria buttons date up to the year of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901.
Post & Telegraph/Post Office Tasmania
The ‘Post & Telegraph Department’ was reported in Tasmanian newspapers from 1892. However, telegraph was established in Van Diem’s Land as early as 1821, with “Post & Telegraph” offices built around Australia in the 1860s.
Following Federation the colonial post and telegraph services came under the control of the Post Master General’s Department. It was not until 1975 that postal services were separated from telegraphic communications when the PGM was split into Australia Post and Telecom.
Post Master-General’s Department
This department took over control of the separate state postal and telegraph services on 1st march 1901 for the provision of postal and telegraphic communication throughout Australia, and continued until 1975, when it was replaced by the Postal and Telecommunications Department, which had two separate entities, Telecom Australia (later Telstra) and Australia Post.
See under ‘Private companies’ for South Maitland Railways.
Commonwealth Railways was responsible for train services in the Northern territory, South Australia and Western Australia and New South Wales from 1917 to 1971 when it was absorbed into Australian National Railways. It included such famous trains such as the Trans-Australian, The Ghan and the Indian Pacific.
New South Wales Railways
The New South Wales Government Railways was succeeded by the Department of Railways in 1932 through to 1972, which was followed by the Public Transport Commission.
The first public Sydney line was built in 1855. The network was electrified from 1926. As in other states, the freight business has been privatised.
The NSW Railways ran ‘The Season Ticket Shop’. The staff may have used the following buttons.
CityRail was the branding of passenger services in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong from 1989-2003. In was superseded by Sydney Trains and NSW Trainlink. The logo on the button was used until 2010.
Rail transport was a priority for the young colony of Queensland. The first (narrow gauge for cost and speed of construction) line was built in 1865.
The network reached its peak in 1932, with branch lines closing from 1948 onwards. The suburban network did not start to be electrified until November 1979, replacing the diesel-electric fleet. It was rebranded QR in 1999. As in other states, the freight business has been privatised.
Queenslandrail was rebranded as QR in September 1999. It operates local, long distance, interstate and freight services.
South Australian Railways
Some people make the mistake of thinking these buttons with VR (Which admittedly looks like Queen Victoria’s cypher) is a pre-federation military uniform button. As you can see three of these buttons have a King’s Crown, not a Queen Victoria crown. Therefore, the VR stands for Victorian Railways. (Rules the regarding use of a Sovereign’s cypher and crown preclude any mix and matching. In Victoria’s times various departments including the railways could use this design.)
A department of Railways was established in 1856. The Spencer Street headquarters were opened in 1893.
The railways grew from 409km in 1864 to a peak of 7652km in 1939, after which there was a slow decline. The system was electrified from 1919 to 1930. Diesel was introduced in 1951. The last steam loco ran in 1972. A standard gauge with New South Wales did not get built until 1961.
In 1974 it was renamed VicRail and in 1983 it was into metropolitan (Public Transport Corp/The Met) and country divisions (VLine). Freight services have been privatised,. V/Line passenger services have returned to Government ownership after a period of privatisation.
Western Australian Government Railways
In 1890 the Department of Works and Railways was split in two, with the formation of the Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR). In 1914 the name was changed to West Australian Government Railways and Tramways. After several more name changes, it again became WAGR from 1949 until 1975 when the trading name became Westrail, although the official name was still WAGR. Perhaps the Sheridan button dates from 1949-1952, as the 2 holes in the back plate seem to date from c.1950?
Ballarat had horse drawn trams from 1887. In 1904 the first electric trams were put in service, and by 1913 had replaced the horse-drawn examples. The State Electricity Commission of Victoria, which was already running Bendigo’s trams, took control in 1934. As in Bendigo, the service ceased in 1970.
The State Electricity took control of Bendigo’s electric tramways from 1921. It closed in 1970, having not been viable for some years.
In 1878 a Royal Commission into the linking of the Southern and Western railways in Queensland was told that railway in Brisbane would cost 14,000 pounds per miles whereas road tramways would cost 3400 to 8000 pounds per mile. The next year a ‘Brisbane Railway and Tramway Company and also a “Brisbane Steam Tramway Company” were being proposed. However, due to legal concerns about the safety and amenity of steam engines and/or raised rails upon roads, the issue was delayed. Some felt the government, not private concerns, should build such a service. It took until 1882 before legislation was passed allowing the construction of a tramways, and then until December 1883 before the ‘Brisbane Tramway Company’ was registered. Even then, it remained a contentious issue and it was not until May 1884 that construction commenced. Official serviced commenced on the 10th August 1885 by horse drawn tram owned by the ‘Brisbane Metropolitan Tramway and Investment Co.’ Unfortunately, only 6 weeks later the first fatality occurred when an employee was run over.
The first item of uniform provided to tramways men was a cap. It took some years for matching tunics and trousers to be supplied. The first mention of tramways uniforms in the newspapers was in 1899.
Electric trams ran from June 1897 although horse-drawn trans were in use until 1899. With competition from buses and private cars the service became uneconomical by 1948 and was wound down; the last services running on 13th April 1969.
Hawthorn Tramways Trust
The Hawthorn Tramways Trust was formed in 1914 to construct and manage electric tramways within the cities of Melbourne, Richmond, Hawthorn and Camberwell. They also purchased a horse tramway. At that time most tramways around Melbourne were the cable type. In 1920 their responsibilities transferred to the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways, when all the separate tramways were amalgamated.
They operated the Hawthorn Tram Depot and set up Wattle Park in Burwood in 1916, which was officially opened in April 1917.
Hobart Municipal Tramways
A tram service provided by the Hobart Electric Tram Company started in 1893. This was compulsorily bought out by the Hobart council in 1913, becoming the Hobart Municipal Tramways. It was phased out then replaced by a bus service by 1968.
Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board
Horse drawn trams ran from 1884 to 1923. The first cable tramways ran in 1885 from Bourke Street to Bridge Road. The first electric tram ran from Box Hill to Doncaster in 1889, but closed in 1896. From 1906 various electric tramways companies ran lines through Melbourne suburbs. In 1916 the cable network was taken over by the Melbourne Tramways Board (M.T.B.). The M. & M.T.B. was formed in 1919, taking control of Melbourne’s cable network, most of the electric tramways, and the one remaining horse-drawn line that ran to the Zoo. By 1940 all lines were electric.
In 1983 The Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board was absorbed into the new Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Municipal Tramways Trust, South Australia
The M.T.T. was established in 1906 to purchase all of the horse-drawn trams in Adelaide. It would afterward run electric trolleybuses, as well as petrol and diesel buses. In 1975 it was replaced with the State Transit Authority.
New South Wales Tramways
Horse drawn tramways started use in Sydney from 1861. Steam trams ran from 1879. Electrification occurred between 1898 to 1910 with the exception of a privately owned line.
When usage peaked in 1945 it was the largest in Australia, and second only to London in the Commonwealth. As cars and buses grew in use, tram lines were closed from the late 1930s. Despite public support, the post WW2 Government took advice that the tram network, in need of upgrading after war-time neglect, was better closed. It was therefore wound down from the late 1950s until 1961.
(NSW) Department of Government Transport
This Department existed from 27/10/1952 until 20/10/1972 in New South Wales to oversee bus and tram services. It was superseded by the Public Transport Commission.
Prahran & Malvern Tramways Trust
This tramways was established in 1907, although it had been proposed as early as 1891 but delayed due to the financial depression of the 1890s, then by years of negotiations.
It existed until until 1920 when it was merged with the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board.
Western Australian Government Tramways
Tramways serviced Perth from 1899 until 1958. The initial service was operated by an English company called the Perth Electric Tramways Limited.
The State Government took over this service compulsorily from 1912-14. From 1948-1958 the trams were replaced by buses.