09 April 2012

The Great White Train

I have been going through my Uncle Les' photo album which I've borrowed from my dad. Uncle Les (Leslie Alfred Davis) was married to my grandfather's sister. He is said to have entertained the troops during the war, which I think he did through working with the YMCA, and he also worked for Bebarfalds, a now-gone department store which sold home furnishings and furniture, located where Woolworths is now, across the road from the Sydney Town Hall. I have an old sewing machine from Bebarfalds which was originally my great aunt's.

Uncle Les' album is huge and has hundreds of photos. Looking through it, I started to wonder if Uncle Les had worked on the railways as well as for Bebarfalds, because there were lots of photos of "train representatives" in various places around country New South Wales (NSW). Then I noticed the photos of the train, and on it was written "Great White Train". Googling revealed that the Great White Train was an endeavour by Sydney-based industrialists through the Australian Made Preference League to encourage people to buy Australian-made products. The train was a travelling exhibition of 15 carriages in which about 30 companies (including Bebarfalds) displayed their wares, hoping to entice rural customers to buy from them. There were two journeys through NSW, the first from 11 November 1925 until 20 May 1926, covering roughly the western half of NSW, and the second from 25 August to 22 November 1926, focusing on the eastern half of NSW.

Uncle Les, as a representative of Bebarfalds, travelled on both journeys. They obviously went to so many places on the trips that he lost track of which place was on which journey because the photos are all mixed in together.

Former Western Australian Labor politician and journalist Wallace Nelson was an official lecturer on the tours.
The then Australian Governor General, Lord Stonehaven, toured the Great White Train during a visit to Albury on 14 April 1926.
In this photo Uncle Les is standing, near the centre of the photo, wearing a "grey" tweed jacket.


  1. Hi Prue, my name is Alan Foskett (historian) from Canberra and i'm writing an article on The Great White Train and would very much like to make contact with you if that's possible. alan.foskett@hotmail.com

  2. Dear Prue, amazing pictures. I'm doing a PhD at Monash Univerisity and one of the chapters is about the Australian Made Preference League and the White Train. Would like to know if you have more pictures and if I can reference them in my thesis. Many thanks. juan.sanin@monash.edu

  3. Hi Prue,
    You may already know this but In approximately 1982 there was a movie made about the train.
    Michael Osborne