The pubs that we called “railway hotels” make up a fascinating part of Australia’s history, as told in Scott Whitaker’s new book touring the North West this month.
The railway enthusiast and part-time historian has published three volumes in Railway Hotels of Australia; Victoria (2015), New South Wales (2016), and Queensland (2017).
Mr Whitaker said he has visited every hotel or former hotel site.
“It lists all 193 hotels across Queensland, or once known as the railway hotel.
Across Australia there were once more than 700 hotels known as the railway hotel, Mr Whitaker said. Of those, around 150 are still trading.
Most major towns had a railway hotel, Mr Whitaker said, which were located near each train station.
Mr Whitaker said his grandfather got him interested in railways at a young age.
"He was a train driver, and he took me under his wing and would talk to me about railway history,” he said.
“I went on to become an air traffic controller which I did for 30 years, until I lost my hearing.
“I needed to do something in my semi-retirement, which was to go around having a beer at every railway hotel in the country,” he said.
And he has done it, apart from “a couple in the South West of Western Australia”.
Once he’d visited them all, Mr Whitaker realised many of the old pubs had stories share.
Volumes one and two cover Victoria and New South Wales, while volume four (currently in production) will cover the remainder of Australia.
“Interestingly in all three states, I cover about 190 hotels in each state,” he said.
Each town is indexed and each fact is checked with at least two or three sources, Mr Whitaker said.
Although there is no railway hotel in Mount Isa, Cloncurry’s is honoured with its own chapter.