The Tasman Limited train service ran from the North West Coast town of Wynyard through to Hobart. It began in December1954. Here it is crossing the Leven River at Ulverstone, my hometown.
That paint scheme of cream and red gave rise to the nickname, The Blood & Custard. 🤢
It was considered rather luxurious, hence the following ad. What great artwork;
My most vivid memory of the Tasman Limited is its stewardess. Coral Morrison. In the following photo (source unknown) she is waiting to board at Burnie station. Coral was born at Burnie in 1918, so she would have been about 40 by the time I remember her.
Because a lot of mainland tourists used the train, Coral gave a running commentary on each town as it approached. I have to thank Gregory Cure for his memory of her description of the Ulverstone Shrine of Remembrance clock tower. Yes, as soon as I read it I could hear her voice;
‘The base on which is stands is coloured blue. It signifies the sea on which the island of Tasmania stands. The three columns rising from the map of Tasmania denote the three services, RAN, AIF and RAAF. They each represent a book; the squares of glass representing the pages of the book where the names of the fallen are inscribed. The series of links connecting each column with the other denotes unity between the services. The clock denotes time and eternity, and the torch of remembrance surmounts the whole structure.’
I have a strong memory of the Tasman disrupting the annual ANZAC day service as it passed through town behind the clock at 9.45am. Someone might be able to tell me whether that’s true or not.
Greg also remembers Coral’s announcement for Latrobe;
‘Latrobe was named after the first governor of Victoria, William Joseph Latrobe.‘
Governor Latrobe was of French Hugenhout descent, and Greg (along with others) recalls that Coral acknowledged this by pronouncing the name in the French style, as though the ‘e’ had an acute accent. Thus the Governor’s name became William Joseph Latrobé, as in café.
The sole bit of commentary I recall myself concerns Westbury;
‘Westbury is the only town in Australia to have a traditional village green.’
Now why did that lodge in my brain? Probably because I was obsessed with Enid Blyton books and all things English.
I am delighted include some memories from Roslyn Burgess;
‘We were so excited to catch it from Ulverstone for a day in Devonport during the holidays. We did the big trip to Hobart and my brother lost his front tooth between Conara Junction and Hobart, so the stewardess gave him 3d. I think her name was Joy but it was 60 years ago…!
The stewardess Rosyln was referring to was Joy Luckman, who took over from Coral for the southern stage of the trip from Western Junction.
My only trip right through to Hobart was with the Brownies, circa 1959. We went to some sort of jamboree, to see the Tasmanian State Governor and Chief Scout of the Commonwealth and British Empire, Lord Rowallan. That was all very well, but for me the most exciting thing was having lunch in the buffet car.
I’m not sure who the Stationmaster at Ulverstone was in those days, but he did have a sense of humour. One day my mother handed over the money for a ticket to Deloraine and he pushed a coin back saying, ‘I think that two bob’s a bit sunburnt, Madam’
Unfortunately Tasmanians began to desert their dear old train, preferring to drive or catch the bus. Towards the end passenger numbers had dwindled from around 200 per journey to about 15, most of them students paying reduced fares. The Blood & Custard was no longer financially viable. The person who bought ticket no. 40 in March 1978 was a rare bird and may have travelled from Derwent Park to Ulverstone in glorious solitude.
The last run from Wynyard took place on July 28, 1978. It was such a nostalgic occasion. Those on board loudly lamented the end of an era, but the thing was….they probably hadn’t been on the Tasman in the previous ten years and for some it was their first trip!
HERE IS A MUST SEE FILM OF THAT FINAL RIDE. I did love the lady who told the ABC reporter and train buff John Roberts not to be so rude about first time passengers (he had asked whether they felt any sense of guilt). Admitting she was a first timer herself she said it was because, ‘We’ve had such a lot of worry with sickness and one thing and another and we couldn’t get out and about’. It had only been running for 24 years! 😎
The feisty woman excused her friend, also on his one and only trip, because he’d had arthritis, but at least the old chap accepted some responsibility. And what did this friend think of the train’s demise? ‘It’s sabotage‘. John Roberts surely knew the fellow meant ‘sacrilege’, but ironically he was correct in that the end of the Tasman Limited was a form of ‘sabotage by apathy’.
NOTE – Since I shared this story on Facebook, several people have mentioned Coral Morrison’s beautiful lipstick. It seems an odd thing to recall all these years later. 🥰 Someone even suggested she chose the colour to match her name.
TO WATCH A 1950s PROMOTIONAL FILM ON THE TASMAN LIMITED., CLICK HERE.