In the early days, Railway Hotels (along with Terminus, Junction and Station) were quickly established to service the railway construction workers, or navvies. Some publicans stayed in the new town, others moved on with the navvies to the next camp. Some existing hotels were renamed to celebrate the arrival of railway communication, and some were moved to a new site nearer the railway station. Inevitably, the Railway Hotel was the haunt of the local railway workforce.
There was once over 600 Railway Hotels in Australia, but by the 1920s many had gone. Some had been burnt down – deliberately or otherwise – or even levelled by an earthquake or washed away in a flood.
Nevertheless there could have been more. Would–be publicans at Mt Gambier in South Australia, Cook on the Nullarbor Plain and at Alice Springs in the Northern Territory as well as at many other places, announced their intention of opening a Railway Hotel. Some of these people were refused a licence, some had a change of heart or some simply opened their hotel under a different name. And what about the Railway Hotels in towns that never had a railway. How could that be?
Join author Scott Whitaker as he journey’s around Australia investigating the life of the Railway Hotel.