The Kerrisons

The workers who maintained the railway were known as fettlers. They lived and worked in small workers cottages in the forest, often with their wives and children.

One of these men, Cecil Kerrison, supplemented his income by starting a dairy farm, deep in the rainforest. Cecil lived in a cottage by the King River at Dubbil Barril with his wife Lillian, their 10 children, and 11 cows.

Mrs Kerrison must have spent more than her fair share of time in her tiny kitchen, cooking for her large family, and the other fettlers who worked on the railway. Legend has it that Lillian was known for her freshly baked scones with jam and fresh cream.

Cecil and Lillian’s tribe of children grew up in the rainforest, which they’d search each morning to round up the cows for milking before school. They, and other local children would travel to Strahan each day for their lessons, leaving on an early train, and boarding the 4.30 pm train to return home in the afternoon. But sometimes, the train home wouldn’t leave Strahan until 7.00 pm, and the children would huddle together in the guard’s wagon, gradually falling asleep to the rocking of the train. The guard would wake them as they drew close to their house and the children would be sent off into the darkness, to walk home alone.

Some children, like the Kerrisons, who lived further along the line, wouldn’t get home until midnight. Then they’d get up early the next day to milk the cows before heading off to school again. These children were known as railway kids. They lived their lives around the railway, with the wilderness as their playground.

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