On January 2 1941, Eric Ross Robinson was working alone on night-shift  at Tasmania’s Moonah railway station.  He had joined the railways in 1935,  employed  as relieving porter at various stations around the State.

Passenger train at Moonah Station.


The 26 year old lived a quiet life with his parents and younger siblings in Feltman Street, North Hobart. His mother described him as ‘the ideal son’.  In the evenings he  studied  towards gaining his qualification as a Station Master. He must have been really pleased to have  been posted to a station so close to home.

At 4,25am Charles Duffy arrived at the station to begin the morning shift. He was horrified to  discover his colleague lying dead in the signal box, with massive head injuries.

Police determined that a relaxed Robinson had been  writing at a bench  built against a wall in the signal box  when he was viciously attacked from behind.  It was so sudden that he did not even have time to remove his hand from his hip pocket. The first blow felled him, but then there was another as he lay on the floor.

The assailant  took the  keys to the station’s  safe from Robinson’s pocket and stole the contents; a mere  £20 1o/-.

Police were able to  narrow down the time of the attack by the movements of trains passing through the station. At 12.58 a.m. Robinson had waved through a troop train which had been returning to Hobart from the military training camp at Brighton. However, three minutes later he failed to acknowledge a phone call from the Newtown station made to inform him that the Brighton train had arrived there. No concern was felt  about this, as Robinson was due to go off duty and it was assumed he had left a couple of minutes early.


Death notice of Eric Robinson, who was murdered at Moonah in 1941.


The weapon  used was clearly the station’s  missing  communication staff,  which should have been hanging in the signal box.  Robinson had received it from the crew of a Zinc Works train departing from Moonah at 12.12a.m. It was about 14 inches long, with a brass head, and weighed between 5 and 8 lbs.  These iron staffs   were exchanged between train crews and station staff to indicate that the  next section of  line was clear, and safe for a  train to proceed.


Every resource possible was used in trying to solve the case. Extra police were brought in from Launceston and the North West Coast  to help with interviewing hundreds of people, but there was little to go on. One passenger had noticed a man walking near the station late that night, but could not provide a useful description.

The main clue detectives had involved a one pound note. It had  been paid  to Robinson for a ticket  a few hours prior to the murder, and for some odd  reason the passenger  had recorded the serial number. Who on earth would  bother to do that, and for what purpose?  Unfortunately no explanation was given. Anyway, the police were just  very grateful that the person had written it down.  However, when an appeal was made to the public there seemed to be some confusion about the specific number;

Police investigating the murder of Eric Ross Robinson, 26 year old railway porter. at the Moonah railway station early on Thursday morning are seeking the co-operation of the public in tracing a  £1 note believed to have been stolen by the murderer. Detective Inspector R.W. Fleming. who is in charge of the investigations, last night urged any person who in the course of business comes in contact with a £1 bank note numbered either o/97319901, 0/97319902, 0/97319907 or 0/97319908 to communicate immediately with police…’ 

Detective Inspector Fleming,, who led the investigation into the Moonah murder.

The missing communication  staff may have provided fingerprints, but it could not be found. It probably ended up  in the Derwent River or some such place.

Despite the offer of a £500 reward, there were no breakthroughs. At the inquest held a few months later it was found that Robinson had been murdered by a person or persons unknown.

A suburban railway station  in Tasmania could hardly be expected to have a lot of cash on hand.  We can only assume that it was an opportunistic crime, and that the  porter was targeted simply because he was so vulnerable,

The awful thing is that whoever was  responsible  probably  remained in the community for decades afterwards. And of course there was no justice for the young man’s grieving family. It is hard to imagine the impact on them,  Eric’s mother had said that he idolized his eleven year old sister  Nancy.

Eric Ross Robinson lies in the Church of England section of Hobart’s Cornelian Bay Cemetary.

Funeral of Moonah porter Eric Robinson

Source – The Mercury, Jan. 6 1941








  1. Thank you for this, Pauline.

    • Pauline

      You’re welcome Carl. Such terrible waste of a young life.

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