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All sewn up at Walhalla School 957

  • A black and white photo of Walhalla State School
    Walhalla State School, PROV VPRS 1396 P0 Unit 3

The town of Walhalla

Walhalla is a picturesque mountain town nestled into the Baw Baw Ranges of the Gippsland District. Walhalla was the centre of one of the great goldfields of Victoria when it was founded as a gold-mining community in 1862. It was home to 4,000 people and produced some 55 tonnes of gold.

The town itself was small: settled on a small section of the Stringer Creek Valley, buildings were mostly confined to one main street that followed the valley’s creek.

The Walhalla Institute is born

Although conditions were rough and the town was isolated, during its boom years Walhalla was a vibrant town and community. By 1867 the population was more than large enough to support a local school, which opened under the super-intendancy of Mr George Christie. This school, known as the Walhalla Institute, taught 50 students and functioned as a church on weekends.

Within a year, the school’s roll had expanded to 90, and a new teacher was needed to oversee the rapidly expanding school. The role was advertised in Melbourne newspaper The Argus on the 1st of June 1868. Henry Thomas Normanton Tisdall, an Irish immigrant from Melbourne, applied and took the position.

Tisdall was a commanding figure and a central member of the community who taught the school for close to 18 years.

After his departure the school had difficulty finding steady staff due to its remote location, poor road access and cold and damp climate. Tisdall himself was required to assist in the process of hiring a new teacher. One applicant, Miss Mary Anne Dillsworth, was the subject of several letters between Tisdall and the Education Department.

Hiring Miss Dillsworth

On the 28th of January 1886 Tisdall wrote to the department:

“Mary Anne Dillsworth passed in all subjects…excepting needlework. The school does not seem to have examined her in that subject.”

Although Miss Dillsworth had passed all other examinations with a 3rd class order of merit, was able to provide past inspectors reports and a letter of recommendation from her previous school, the absence of needlework certificates proved rather alarming to the Department.

Tisdall, however, provided written support for Miss Dillsworth and a compromise was reached. The Education Department requested:

“Ms Dillsworth should forward specimens of her needlework” from which her aptitude could be judged.

A miniature woollen sock and cuffed cotton sleeve were promptly forwarded to Melbourne, and Miss Dillsworth’s competency was established.

Miss Dillsworth and Mr Tisdall’s communications with the Education Department were in some ways typical of the rural school experience. Staffing and managing schools in rural areas was often about compromise; although the submission of sewing samples was not a typical method to prove qualification, Walhalla’s isolation made compromise necessary.

You can find more rural school stories, records and photos amongst the displays at the School Days: Education in Victoria exhibition at Old Treasury Building.

Written by Amber Evangelista based on records* discovered while undertaking research for School Days: Education in Victoria. With special thanks to Bernard Bolch of the Walhalla Heritage and Development League for assistance.

* VPRS 640 P0 Unit 551: Central Inward Primary Schools Correspondence Series.

Archival Snapshot: The Controversial Warship Shenandoah

C.S.S. Shenandoah - VPRS 8357P1 Unit 6 Harbour Trust Photographic CollectionOn the 25th of January 1865 the Confederate States Steamer C.S.S. Shenandoah arrived in Hobsons Bay, Victoria,  seeking repairs, provisions, and to land its prisoners.  The month of January 2015 marks the 150th anniversary since the arrival of C.S.S. Shenandoah.  The Shenandoah’s arrival created a great deal of controversy and raised serious diplomatic concerns. 

This Archival Snapshot highlights some of the archived correspondence held at Public Record Office Victoria regarding the C.S.S. Shenandoah and its time in Victoria.

A piece of warship history

The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865. The Confederate States of America was formed when individual States declared their secession from the United States of America.

British colonies and British subjects, as directed by Queen Victoria in a proclamation on Wednesday 17 July 1861, were to remain neutral in the North American conflict. No British subject was to enlist to serve in a foreign service, and the supply, fitting out or equipping of vessels for warlike purposes, in His Majesty’s dominions, was prohibited.

C.S.S. Shenandoah correspondence files within the Public Record office Victoria collection

During the stay of the C.S.S Shenandoah there was daily correspondence between the United States Consul William Blanchard, and the Government, with Blanchard protesting most stridently on the support provided to the vessel by the Colony of Victoria and the Governor.

There was also a protest by Shenandoah’s captain, Lieutenant Commanding James J. Waddell C.S.N., to the Commissioner of Trade and Customs on the 14th February 1865 in relation to the execution of a search warrant. Aid, assistance and work on the steamer was suspended after the Commander and officers refused to allow police to search the ship for alleged stowaways.

The correspondence files also include daily repair reports from the Harbour and Tides Master at Williamstown, United States Consul correspondence, affidavits of deserters and prisoners, Crown Law Office correspondence, police correspondence, military correspondence, and papers from the Trades and Customs Commissioner and the Governor of Victoria, Sir Charles Darling.

The correspondence provides a fascinating insight into the event given the historical context of the time. It’s a story full of intrigue, chivalry, piracy and stowaways.

WEB v2- VPRS 1095_P0_Unit 31 Special files Carton 1 No 2 Warship Shenandoah 5 IHK pt1WEB - VPRS 1095_P0_Unit 31 Special files Carton 1 No 2 Warship Shenandoah 5 IHK pt2

 The C.S.S. Shenandoah was in port for a total of 25 days, sailing out of Port Phillip in the early morning of the 18th February 1865 with a number of alleged stowaways on board.

Christine Little, Access Services Officer







VPRS 1095/P0 Unit 31 Special Files – Carton 1: No. 2 Warship Shenandoah

Creating Agency:
Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851 – 1855 and Governor’s Office): VA 466, 1851 – continued

Agency currently responsible:
Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851 – 1855 and Governor’s Office): VA 466, 1854 – continued

Other records used:
VPRS 8357/P1 Unit 6 Harbour Trust Photographic Collection, Historical: Ships
VPRS 1226/P0 Unit 44, C3151 Remarks on conduct of Police during the visit of the ‘Shenandoah’ Geneva Arbitration Award, Alabama Arbitration.


Victorian Electronic Records Strategy Case Studies


The Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS) has produced a series of case studies to be used as a reference guide for innovative electronic recordkeeping practices.

The case studies highlight the challenges, processes, technologies and achievements encountered when undertaking electronic recordkeeping projects and digital records transfers within Victorian Government.

Small and large scale projects are featured in the case studies as well as recent Sir Rupert Hamer Award recipient agencies.

The case studies can be viewed here.

If you would like to submit a proposal for a case study about your organisation’s recent electronic recordkeeping or digital transfer project, please submit a VERS Case Study Proposal Form to

The Seven Year Myth

5. 7 Year MythSeven years is the ‘magic figure’ often bandied about when it comes to how long records must be kept by government. However, minimum periods for retention of public records actually vary and are determined by law and Public Record Office Victoria.

There are a lot mistruths associated with the seven year mark.

The myths

It’s often said that seven years of a dog’s lifetime is equivalent to one year in a human’s, or that separation rates peak seven years into a romantic relationship (the so called seven year itch!).

But the wisdom that all records, whether they are created by business or government, only need to be kept for a seven period, is a pretty sound assumption, right? WRONG!

Despite the best efforts of records management professionals everywhere, the ‘seven year rule’ is a myth which continues to dominate perceptions of the minimum periods required to retain public records. This fallacy has probably evolved from requirements to keep financial records for seven year periods under various laws, perhaps most notably section 286 of the Commonwealth Corporations Act 2001.

Our record keeping responsibilities

In some cases, legislation will prescribe retention periods for certain types of records. For example, under the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 the principal registrar of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal must keep a file of all documents lodged in a proceeding for a period of five years after the final determination of the proceeding.

However for public records kept by government, the legal requirement to retain records for set periods of time is determined by Retention and Disposal Authorities (RDAs), which are created by Public Record Office Victoria.

RDAs are designed to take account of the relative legal, financial, transparency, historical and other values of records over time, which will vary considerably depending on the type of record.

All current RDAs are available on Public Record Office Victoria’s website.

While RDAs prescribe different retention periods for records, they can be categorised under four general classes:

  • Ephemera, drafts and duplicates can be destroyed as soon as administrative use has finished.
  • Temporary short term records must be held for two – ten years on average.
  • Temporary long term records and permanent records must be held for up to 75 years on average.
  • Permanent records can never be destroyed and must be transferred to Public Record Office Victoria as State Archives.

 If in doubt about whether to bin a document or how long a record should be kept for, it’s best to consult your records manager for advice. Because remember, just like diamonds, some records are forever!

By Carly Godden, Standards and Policy, Public Record Office Victoria

Emails are the smoking gun of record keeping

an image of a hand moving a computer mouse with the words Emails are the Smoking Gun layered over the topDespite the amount of time we spend each day reading and sending emails, by some estimates around 28 per cent of our day, we allocate little of that time contemplating how we should manage them.

Here the Public Records Office’s Alan Kong, Manager Standard and Policy, shares three facts all Victorian Government staff should remember when writing emails: 

  1. Your corporate emails are public records.

They are the precious gems that relate to the business of your agency and must be retained for a period as determined by legislation. Examples of corporate emails:

  • communication between staff where a formal approval is recorded
  • direction for an important course of action
  • business correspondence received from outside the agency.

Another type of work email are those used to facilitate agency business but which are not required to be retained (consult your internal policy). These emails may be ephemeral records and may be able to be destroyed as part of your Normal Administrative Practice. If you are unsure, talk to your records team.  

  1. Make no mistake, emails are the smoking gun!

In 2012, the then Victorian Auditor General and Victoria’s Deputy Ombudsman, independently, told a seminar of Victorian records professionals that, while their investigations looked at all relevant agency records, the smoking gun was always in the email (as records).

Without exception, emails form the key planks of a modern investigation and feature prominently in the final report. An example of such an investigation is the Debelle Royal Commission* in South Australia which resulted in the setting up of an independent review of the South Australian State Records Act.

  1. Email systems are not so perfect (from a records management perspective)

It’s important to understand that email systems are not developed from a record keeping perspective. Some email systems allow users to edit stored copies of emails that have been sent or received, the management of disposal is often non-existent and finally, access of records is a nightmare. Think about it, when someone leaves the organisation, what happens to their emails in the inbox?

If emails are not actively managed as records, it can impede on your organisation’s business dealings, cost money in search and retrieval, and put your organisation at risk. So regardless of how your agency decides to manage these records, the approach must be a proactive one. It’s important to check your internal record keeping policies and strategies to reduce these risks. Good recordkeeping systems, practices and programs support and facilitate effective and efficient management of government business and service delivery.

Most importantly remember, treat your emails with the respect they deserve.

* Royal Commission 2012-2013 Report of Independent Education Inquiry

Newly opened Section 9 files reveal: The Yarra River Baby

A cutting from the court papers states that Mary Alice Clara Stevens is found guilty and sentenced to death21 December 1934 at approximately 9.30pm, Footscray labourer William Henwood watched as a young woman walked with her baby and suitcase towards Richmond Suspension Bridge on the bank of the Yarra River. Half an hour later she walked past him again in the opposite direction, this time the baby wasn’t with her.

In March the following year, Mary Alice Clara Stevens was sentenced to death for the murder of her baby, Leslie Neil Stevens.

In one of a series of Section 9 files now open as of January 2015, Mary Alice Clara Stevens petitioned the court for mercy. This is her story as told through the records found in that file.* 

Early years

Mary Alice Clara Stevens was born on the 27th of February 1911 in Chiltern. She was one of eleven siblings, ranging in ages from eleven to thirty-five, and her father was an employee of the Albury Council. At school she did well obtaining a Merit Certificate before entering service in Albury at seventeen years of age.

It was here she met the man who would, some years later, become her fiancé. Transport driver Eugene Rollings courted Mary Alice for two years before proposing. However, Mary Alice decided she did not want to be tied down and so handed back the ring.

Soon after, she met Leonard Eames of Tribune Street. He was always well dressed and seemed decent. It wasn’t until Mary Alice became pregnant with his child that she discovered him to be a married man. She returned home to her parents. By her own admission to the Inspector General, her mother wasn’t pleased to see her, but her father was good to her and made all the arrangements for her. 

The birth of Leslie Neil Stevens

Leslie Neil Stevens was born on the 16th of November 1933 at the home of Mary Alice’s parents in Albury. Mother and baby were taken to the nearby private hospital where they stayed for 11 days before returning home for three weeks.

It was then that Mary Alice moved to Melbourne.

In her statement to police she explained:

“On 3rd January 1934 I took the baby to the City Mission Maternity Home at 65 Albion Street, East Brunswick. I registered the baby at Albury when he was about 18 days old. I  named him Leslie Neil Stevens. When I took the baby to the Home I agreed to pay 10/- per week to the Childrens’ Welfare Department for his upkeep. I have paid this amount regularly weekly out of money which I earned whilst in service at Elwood. I was earning 22.6 per week.”

Rekindled romance

It was during this time that she became reunited with Eugene Rollings. He visited her in Melbourne three times before they decided to get married in early January 1935.

According to the court proceedings, when Eugene found out about her baby he told Mary Alice he would not keep another man’s child.

The day of the murder

Mary Alice admitted she was terribly worried over this and did not know what to do with the child. What she resorted to was recorded in her statements to police on Boxing Day 1934:

“I left my employment on 19.12.34 with the intention of going to Albury to marry Eugene Rollings. After I left my employment at St Kilda I went and stayed at Fitzroy for three nights. On Friday afternoon 21.12.34 I went to the Childrens’ Welfare Department and paid three shillings I owed for the child. I told them I was taking the child and I obtained permission in writing to get him from the Home.

“I arrived at the home at about 10 minutes past 5. I saw Sister Sprague at the home and after saying goodbye to the sisters and girls at the home Sister Sprague and another lady drove me in a motor car with the baby and a suitcase to the tram at the corner of Lygon and Albion Street, Brunswick. I went to Bourke Street on the tram. I then went with the baby to Coles and had tea. I then came to Bourke Street and got on another tram and went to Princes Bridge.

“When I got back in the city from Brunswick I decided to drown the baby as I had no place to take him. I only had enough money for my fare to Albury. After getting off the tram at Princes Bridge I walked along the Yarra River upstream on the north side for a considerable distance to a seat which I pointed out to detectives today. I sat on the seat and nursed the baby for about two hours wondering what to do with him.

“During that time I took the blue jumper suit and cap off him and put on the brown jacket produced in its place. I give no reason why I did this. I then carried the baby and the suitcase further along the river and when I came to a spot which I pointed out to the detectives today I stopped. I could see nobody about and I then threw the baby into the river face downwards. I saw him drop into the water. I did not hear him cry and I immediately left and walked back to Collins street with my suitcase. It would be about half past 10 o’clock when I threw my baby into the water.

“I then went back to the room at Fitzroy and the following morning I caught a tram at 8 o’clock and went to Albury. I stayed at Eugene Rollings’ home until interviewed by police today. I did not tell anyone what I had done with the baby. When Eugene Rollings asked me on Tuesday Christmas Day what I had done with the baby I told him that some person had adopted it but I did not know their names.

“At no time did the father of my child give me a penny towards the support of the baby. This statement which has been read over to me was made on my own free will and is true and correct. Alice Stevens.”

This is the hand written letter petition of mercy

Petition for mercy

A ‘not guilty’ plea

At trial, however, Mary Alice Clara Stevens pleaded ‘not guilty’ and said in a statement from the dock:

“Your honour and gentlemen, I am innocent of any intention of killing my boy. I loved him and wanted to keep him under most distressing circumstances. I never thought of doing such a thing and I did not intend to do it. Since he was born my only thought and idea was to rear him to the best of my means. My mind for months became disturbed. I was in distress and began to lose any grip I had of myself. I tried to get him adopted by somebody who would care for him and look after him, and where I could see him frequently.

“I often went to the Travellers’ Aid Society and had my meals there. Occasionally I met a friend there whom I knew as Miss Gilbert, who lived in the Parade, Ascot Vale. She promised to look after my child if her parents did not object, or to get a friend to do so. The reason I took the boy from the Home that day was because I made arrangements to meet her at the Travellers’ Aid Club rooms, or rather she promised to meet me at the GPO herself the following night and arranged to take the boy herself or to get a friend of hers to take him. I can remember bringing the child to the City. I waited for hours to meet my friend. She did not come, and I grew ill and depressed and dejected.

“I have no memory of where I went or what I did from then on. I loved my boy dearly that night, as much as I had ever loved him. I would not have destroyed him and never intended to do so. Since my arrest I have been in prison. The statements I made have been read to me. They are not correct. I am telling the truth now. I never at any time intended injuring or destroying my boy when I took him away from Mission Home. I am unable to tell you my feelings in regard to the dreadful charge made against me. I am innocent of murder.”

The jury’s finding

The jury deliberated for five hours before finding Mary Alice Clara Stevens guilty of murder with a very strong recommendation to mercy.

Sentence to death was then passed by the Judge.

Petition for mercy

In the petition for mercy that followed, arranged by Mary Alice’s fiancé Eugene, signatures were accompanied by a letter that said “we make no attempt to justify her action but desire to respectively express the opinion that if the law compelled the father of the murdered child to share in the responsibility of maintaining the child, such a desperate act would have been avoided.”

This is the final document approving a reduced sentence

Sentence reduced to three years


The Inspector General disagreed with this view and claimed Mary Alice to be a cold-blooded killer.

“She is the stuff of which murderers for gain are made. She shows few signs of being moved by joy or sorrow, anger and hatred, or love and affection. She appears entirely self-centred.”

He reports a female officer’s observations:

“She was perfectly calm and collected during the Court proceedings. She was quite cheerful, ate well, and discussed the incidents of the trial with me. When the verdict was given she went limp and dead and then screamed twice. A few minutes later she said, ‘How could they? How could they? I did the best for the child when I had it.’ It was fear she felt. For the first time she realised what the consequences might be. She quickly recovered. It did not appear that she realized that the killing of the baby was a crime. My knees knocked and my heart turned over. The main thing in my mind was the murder; but I am certain it was not in hers. She is not a normal woman. The impression she leaves with me is that of a person who has drowned a cat or a dog.”

While Miss Wall, the Matron was quoted as saying:

“She shows little emotion. Neither grief nor sorrow touch her much. When first received she told me all about the crime keeping nothing back – all without emotion. She behaved quite normally with other prisoners on remand talking and laughing.

“When questioned as to the consequences to herself of her actions she said I did not think of them at the time. I first realized that something might happen to me when I was arrested.”

The finding

In spite of the Inspector General’s letter, the Premier’s Office recommended on the 9th of April 1935 that Mary Alice Clara Stevens’ death sentence be amended to three years imprisonment.

This was Approved by the Governor in Council on the same day.

* VPRS 1100 / P0002 / unit 000007 / Type M2

Archival snapshot: war emergency nurses

VPRS 1875/P1 Unit 4 Pg 0226

VPRS 1875/P1 Unit 4 Pg 0226


A nurse is a gift sent from above

In 1915 there was increased need for nurses to help with the war effort so nurses were asked to sign up as “war emergency nurses” in the military hospitals.  When these nurses signed up as “war emergency nurses”,   they could not have imagined that the register which authenticates their qualification would become a unique part of Victoria’s Nursing history.





Prior to the establishment of the Nurses Board, private organisations such as the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses’ Association registered nurses who completed and passed in one of their training schools. In 1901 the Australian Nursing Federation, Victorian Branch, was first constituted as the Victorian Trained Nurses Association (VTNA).  The role of the Association was to register nurses and introduce a uniform curriculum of training. From 1924 the role of registering nurses was the responsibility of the Nurse Board (VA 3144).  And, whilst these volumes do not necessarily correlate to nurses who served during World War 1, they are a resource which may help researchers locate Victorian nurses who trained prior to the declaration of the war.

The Warfront 

By 1917 the demand for nurses on the warfront was still increasing as the war raged on.  It had been suggested that Melbourne hospitals help with the supply of nursing staff by decreasing the training period from four years to three. Senator George Pearce, the Australian Defence Minister noted the great demand for nurses by the Imperial authorities, yet the supply was far short of the demand and by 1917  2,000 nurses had been accepted in Australia for war service.

Matron Grace Wilson on Lemnos. Image courtesy of Australia War Memorial

Matron Grace Wilson on Lemnos. Image courtesy of Australia War Memorial

 Army matron-in-chief Grace Wilson

In 1934 the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association changed its name to the Royal Victorian College of Nursing, which was in operation until 1975. Nursing Sister and army matron-in-chief Grace Wilson, who was recently depicted in the World War 1 miniseries Anzac Girls, was a council member of the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses’ Association and helped to establish the postgraduate training courses. 

Matron Wilson nursed in both World Wars and after her death in 1957 was given a service with full military honours. Upon her death the Matron left provisions in her will for several military and nursing organisations.

 Written by: Phoebe Wilkens, Access Services Officer, Public Record Office Victoria


VPRS 7591/P3 Unit 161, 513/516

VPRS 28/P4 Unit 1347, 513/516

Various newspapers

Australian War Memorial

War records

Australian Dictionary of Biography


Celebrating 150 Years of Sebastopol, Victoria, 1864 to 2014

  • PROV, VPRS 2545/P1 Council Minutes, Unit 1.

Sebastopol was a long, thin, little township, strung out along the gold mines between Buninyong in the south and Ballarat, the bustling town just over Rubicon Street, in the north.  Shops and houses shared the township with mines and mullock heaps.

On 1 October 1864, the Borough of Sebastopol separated from Buninyong Shire. The first Borough council meetings were held in November that year. To mark this milestone, 150 years since its inception, we look back at the history of the town. 

Step back in time in Sebastopol

In the twentieth century the borough provided a pool, a war memorial, an infant welfare centre and a kindergarten for its residents. Albert Street was a major shopping centre, with a Mechanics Institute and Free Library, but residents could also rattle into Ballarat on the tram for the theatre, botanical gardens and the art gallery.

Moving house

With a only a small number of rate-payers the borough was often strapped for cash. In 1873, with rate revenue disappearing in front of his eyes, the Mayor instructed the Town Clerk to go out and count the miners’ cottages being lifted off their suburban blocks and carted away to towns with jobs. Many homes in Sebastopol were built on blocks for which they paid a yearly fee to the Mines Department. People often carted their houses away with them when they moved to another town. See the FAQ Mining Records on the PROV WIKI. 

Sebastopol records

Interesting records giving glimpses of everyday life in Sebastopol over the last two centuries include a register from the local Sebastopol court. Many of Sebastopol’s residents came from mining districts in Cornwall and Wales with Welsh names common among the names of rate-payers, miners, and Borough councillors.  

Finding records at Ballarat Archives Centre

The Ballarat Archives Centre holds a fascinating collection of Sebastopol records. 

Records which reveal something of life in Sebastopol include a list of new books for the library in 1892 and a local court register of collectors and carriers. A complete list of Sebastopol records held at the Ballarat Archives Centre can be found under Borough of Sebastopol and Sebastopol Courts in the Public Record Office Victoria online catalogue.

 Written by Elizabeth Denny, Access Services Officer Ballarat.


Update on VERS refresh

The work on renewing the VERS standard continues and is expected to be completed around February 2015.

Work is currently underway to produce software tools to construct, analyse, and view the new style VEOs. We are producing these tools for two reasons. The first, long term, reason is so that agencies and vendors can easily adopt and use the new standard. A second, short term, reason is to test the draft revised VERS standard. This will allow us to ensure that can be efficiently and easily implemented, and to fine tune the requirements and XML specifications. The tools are being written in Java 1.7 and will be available within the Victorian government.

Currently the construction tool (VEOCreate) has been written and tested. The analysis tool (VEOAnalyse) has been largely written and testing is underway (this not only tests the analysis tool, but the VEOCreate tool as well). A number of minor tweaks to the XML schemas in the renewed standard have been made as a result of this work.

The text of the renewed VERS standard is available on the PROV website at

Archival Snapshot: Victorian Railways’ Sir Harold Clapp

A black and white portrait of Sir Harold Clapp

Portrait of Sir Harold Clapp

Sir Harold Winthrop Clapp (7 May 1875 – 21 October 1952) was a transport administrator with the Victorian Railways who over the course of thirty years revolutionised railways as we know it.

Clapp introduced faster services and more powerful locomotives, supported the farming sector and presented a report on standardising rail gauges (track width) which then led to a uniform rail gauge across capital cities. 

Clapp was renowned for his unprecedented attention to customer service and a paternal management style. He had a fantastic memory and learned the names and faces of thousands of railway employees. His concern for worker conditions was genuine and he was personally responsible for improvements within the industry such as better sanitation facilities and the provision of good cafeterias.

Clapp became Chairman of Commissioners of Victorian Railways in 1920 and remained Chairman until his retirement in 1951. 

Sir Harold Clapp’s Greatest Achievements

  • Improved timetables
  • Larger, modern and more powerful locomotives
  • The introduction of electric lighting on locomotives and the fitting of auto-couplers (the mechanism for connecting rolling stock)
  • Improved services to regional areas
  • Under his chair, Victorian Railways expanded operations into everything from motor coach services, a ski chalet, bakeries and crèches.
  • He gave support and assistance to the farming sector by introducing two special trains, the Better Farming Train and the Reso Train (Victorian National Resources Development) which boosted rural rail traffic and helped to meet customer demands for agricultural products.
  • He examined and implemented the Upgrade of the clunky (Melbourne to Sydney express) service into the all-metal, all-air-conditioned, non-stop, high-speed express.of Progress.

Harold W Clapp was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1941 in recognition of service to public service.

Sir Harold resigned from the Victorian Railways in September 1951 due to declining health, but continued to act as a consultant to the Department of Shipping and Transport. On 14 July 1952 Harold was honoured by having the new revolutionary B Class Diesel electric Locomotive named after him, the B60 – Harold W Clapp.

Harold passed away 21 October 1952. He left behind a wife, and three children. He was tributed far and wide, including by then Prime Minister Robert Menzies. He was praised as a remarkable man and his list of accomplishments are to this day considered momentous and ground-breaking.

Victorian Railways ‘B’ Class Diesel Electric Locomotive – B 60 the Harold W Clapp

This is a black and white photo of the B class Diesel overland

Locomotive B Class Sketch circa 1952 (VPRS 12851/P1 unit 1 Diagrams of Rolling Stock, Locomotives, Rail Motors, Cars, Vans, Wagons)

The B class were diesel locomotives built by Clyde Engineering, Granville for the Victorian Railways in 1952-53. They were the first mainline diesel locomotives built in Victoria and were designed similarly to the Electro-Motive F-unit which has the characteristic bulldog nose.

The first B Class locomotive (number B60) was launched in July 1952 and was named the Harold W Clapp.

A very popular and important locomotive for the next few decades, the 26 B Class locomotives operated on broad gauge lines throughout Victoria, working with many important passenger trains, as well as fast freights.

In the 1980s it was decided to try to rebuild the now aging B Class Loco’s into A class locos.

In 1985 after 11 Loco’s had been rebuilt the project was abandoned due to funding issues and rising costs. This combined with the inception of new higher powered locomotives rendered many of the B class superfluous and a few were scrapped. Others were purchased by private vendors, some were stored and as of 2014 only three of the original B Class Diesel electric Locomotives are still in service.

In 1983 the B 60 – Harold W Clapp was converted to an A Class Locomotive – A 60 Sir Harold Clapp and continued as a passenger loco for many years. It is currently in storage.

Lee Hooper, Access Services Officer

Public Records Sourced

PTC Collection photographs: VPRS 12800 Photographic Collection: Railway Negatives: Alpha-numeric Systems and VPRS 12903 Photographic Negatives: Railways: Box Systems, digital images available via PROV’s online catalogue

Creating Agency: Victorian Railways (also Victorian Railways Commissions 1883-1973, Victorian Railways Board): VA 2876 1883 – 1983.

Agency currently responsible: Public Transport Victoria: VA 4968 2014 – Cont, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure: VA 5003 2014 – Cont.

  1. Portrait of Sir Harold W Clapp VPRS 12800/P1 Item H1255

  2. Sir Harold W Clapp on tour VPRS 12800 P1 Item H2551

  3. B 60 Harold W Clapp Locomotive Model on display at the Victorian Railways Centenary 1954 VPRS 12800 P1 Item H2664

  4. B class Diesel Locomotive NO.60 named Harold Clapp at North Melbourne VPRS 12800/P1, item H 5072

  5. Inauguration of the Spirit of Progress at Spencer Street Station. Victorian Premier AA Dunstan speaking with Harold Clapp at left – 7 November 1937 VPRS 12800 P4 RS/0456

  6. Model of B Class Diesel Locomotive NO.60 Harold W Clapp, Front view VPRS 12903 P1 Item Box499-07

  7. B class Diesel No.60(Harold Clapp) on overland train VPRS 12903 P1 Item Box665-06

Special thanks to Phil Dunn for the loan of the Victorian Railways ‘B’ Class – B 60 Harold W Clapp – Locomotive model.

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