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John Alt

John Alt

Male 1867 - 1935  (68 years)

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  • Name John Alt 
    Born 13 Mar 1867  Fairy Hole Inn, near Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 

    • John Alt was born at the Fairy Hole Inn on Fairy Hole Creek near Yass on 13 March 1867. He was the fourth son of Christoph Alt and the second of Martha Crossley, Christoph's second wife. He spent his childhood days at the Yass Hotel, where his father had become the licensee and was educated at Yass. When he was twelve years of age, he was listed in the Yass Courier as being one of the successful students at the first Annual Examinations held by the Yass Public School in December, 1879. The School was opened at the beginning of that year and apparently John was one of the first intake of scholars. Prior to that he attended St. Clement's Church of England School.
      In 1882, at the age of fifteen, he commenced a lifelong career with the New South Wales Railways, which began with his appointment as Junior Porter at Bowning near Yass. Four years later, after promotions to Porter, Shunter and Operator, he was appointed Night Officer at Breadalbane, fifteen miles south of Goulburn. Here he met and married Mary Ann Crawford Smith on 22 April 1891. She was the fifth child of Thomas Maxwell Smith and his wife, Anne Murray, who had married at Goulburn on 20 April 1864. Smith was a British Naval deserter, who jumped ship in the gold rush days of the 1850's and consequently would have been liable to severe punishment if he ever returned to England. He was, nonetheless, a descendant of the Grahams of Tamrawer, Scotland, a noble family, which traces its lineage back to the sixteenth century. Several of its members were created Lords and Knights of the Realm. He settled on a property at Breadalbane and called it "Rosemount" after his wife's birthplace. She was born on 10 January 1843 at Rosemount Farm, Ayrshire, Scotland, the youngest daughter of John and Agnes Murray.
      After appointments at Harden and Goulburn as Night Officer, John became Station Master at Mullion Creek, near Orange in 1892. He was not there for long, being transferred for short periods as Station Master at Cowan and then Bay Road (now Waverton), before being appointed to Gordon where he remained as Station Master until 1902. While at Gordon, the local Non-Official Postmistress (Mrs. Langford) resigned because of insufficient remuneration (?27 per annum). The Post Office was transferred to the Railway Station with John being appointed Postmaster from 2 October 1894, a position he retained until his transfer to Cooma in 1902. He also acted as unofficial agent at Gordon for the newspapers, selling at one penny each. They were sold on the 'honesty' system, whereby people helped themselves and left the money. The fact that it was never short reflects the integrity of the people, estimated at 200, using the Stafion every day.

      Following on his transfer, this item appeared in The Pymble News on 4 December 1902:-

      Travellers on the Milson's Pt. Line will notice with regret the departure from Gordon of Mr. J. Alt, who was promoted to Cooma, for which place he left last week. Mr. Alt has been on this line for nearly 10 years, of which 9 have been spent at Gordon. During this time he has earned for himself a name which one might feel proud of. Mr. Alt was one of the Churchwardens of St. John's Church of England, Gordon. He was also Honorary Treasurer of the Gordon District Cricket Club and a member of the selection committee.

      He was presented with a liquor stand in appreciation of his services to the Cricket Club.

      Promotion came rapidly after leaving Gordon. He served first at Cooma during the famous 1902 drought, where the only green feed in the State was to be found. Thousands of starving stock arrived by train daily placing the resources available at the Station under great strain. He did a very good job which was recognised by transfers, at short intervals, to larger stations at Blayney and then Cootamundra. The salary he received in each of these positions was:-

      1886Night Officer Breadalbane ?120 per annum plus Postal ?20 per annum.

      1893O.I.C. Gordon ?150 per annum plus free house.

      1899Station Master Cooma ?175 per annum plus free house.

      1905Station Master Cootamundra ?210 per annum plus free house.

      John was then promoted to Traffic Inspector and spent what was for him probably the most unsatisfactory four years of a very successful career spanning nearly half a century. A Traffic Inspector was the executive officer directly responsible for the efficient operation of a length of the Railway System. The actual length, sometimes hundreds of miles long, depended on the volume of business done. The job imposed tremendous strains on the individual, who was expected to be on the job whenever deemed necessary, irrespective of the hours worked. It was a salaried position and overtime was not paid. After four years in this position, he had a breakdown in health, following on which he returned to the job of Station Master, one at which he obviously excelled.

      Four years to early 1914 were then spent as Station Master at Albury. This was in the days when the N.S.W. and Victorian Railways operated on different gauges and everything, passengers and goods, travelling by rail between the two States, had to be transhipped at Albury from one system to the other. It was a position, constantly beset by problems, calling for dedication, sound judgment and good personal relations with both staff and public. The volume of business at Albury increased dramatically during his time there, resulting in the classification of the Station being upgraded. When this happened, despite John's good work, a more senior man was appointed Station Master and received the higher salary payable on reclassification. John was promoted to the position of Station Master of Bathurst. The local townspeople were most appreciative of what he had accomplished at Albury and several send-offs were organized in his honour. The largest was held on 2 February 1914 on the evening prior to his departure. The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express of the following Friday gave this account of the function.

      A POPULAR STATION MASTER - One of the most representative of valedictory gatherings ever held in Albury took place in the Town Hall on Monday night, the object being to pay honour to Mr. John Alt, by inviting him to be the guest of the citizens. Mr. Alt had been stationed in Albury as railway station master for four years, and during that time he carried the respect and esteem of every section of the people, because of his uniform courtesy, efficiency and consideration for the interests of the public in the discharge of the duties of his office. As soon as it became known that Mr. Alt had been promoted to Bathurst, various presentations were arranged by his admirers, but the most important of the series was the large gathering of representative citizens of the town on Monday night. The chair was occupied by the Mayor, Ald. Frere and five other aldermen were present. The toast of Mr. Alt's health was proposed by the Mayor, his remarks being supplemented by Messrs. John Campbell (president of the Albury Chamber of Commerce), Mr. F.J. Belbridge (president of the Albury P. and A. Society and Race Club), Mr. J.D. McDonnell (on behalf of the railway staff), Mr. G.A. Thompson, Mr. P. Bell Munro (manager of the Albury branch of Dalgety and Co.), Ald. Burrows and Mr. H.C. Langley (vice-president of the Cricket Association). The Mayor said he had pleasure in presenting Mr. Alt, on behalf of the citizens, with a handsome and massive tray, bearing the inscription "Presented by the Citizens of Albury to J. Alt, Esq. station master at Albury, on the occasion of his transfer to Bathurst, February 2, 1914."
      In responding, Mr. Alt said he regretted very much that the call of duty demanded that he should leave Albury, where he had spent four very pleasant years. Unhappily his duties had until lately been of such a character that he had not been able to participate as he might have desired in the social side of the town's life. In the matter of responsibility, the Albury station ranked next to Sydney and it was his ambition to become stationmaster at the central station. He came to the town on Good Friday, 1910. In 1910 the tickets sold were 38,654 and in 1913 67,532. In 1910 the fares amounted to ?33,018 and in 1913 ?46,611. During those three years the fares had been reduced. In 1910 the goods tonnage was 73,722 and in 1913 it was 124,583. In 1910 the traffic staff (outside), loco and permanent way men numbered 34. In 1913 it numbered 59 permanent men and between 15 and 20 casuals. In the face of these figures, Albury had been standing back in the regrading. He had nothing to do with that. When the regrading came out, he appealed against it. He had known the new stationmaster, Mr. Irwin, for about fourteen years and he was confident that he would prove himself in every way capable of directing the affairs of the Albury station. The other toasts honoured included that of the incoming stationmaster. Mr. Alt and his family left for Bathurst on Tuesday.

      They were not to remain at Bathurst for very long. Before the end of the year John was appointed Assistant Stationmaster at Central Station in Sydney, the busiest station in the state. For just on sixteen years, the balance of his working life, he was at Central. During World War 1, he controlled all troop trains between there and Liverpool and Menangle, where the big Army camps were located. Keeping the busiest station in N.S.W. operational during the long and bitter Railway Strike in 1917 must have been one of the greatest challenges of his life. Staff who remained on duty were subject to abuse and even assault. When the strike dragged on and the men became embittered and tempers rose, John was taken to and from work each day by car and provided with an escort for protection. It must have been a very difficult period for such a humane man, who always enjoyed good relations with the men under his control.

      During his tour of duty at Central, he was elected, by ballot of all the employees throughout the State, to the position of Employees' Representative on the Railways Appeals Board. The election was held annually and he was returned for several terms. There must have been something of the politician in him, because even when travelling on holidays, he enjoyed alighting at every station to renew acquaintances and make himself known.

      It was part of the duties of the Station Master at Central to be present at the arrival and departure of Royalty, the State Governor or other dignitaries using the official State Train. John collected autographs for his daughter, Marge, included among them those of the Prince of Wales, later Edward the Eighth and the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. He must have established a good rapport with Sir Walter Davidson, the State Governor, who used the train on numerous occasions. They were both keen cricketers and between them a match was arranged to be played at Sutton Forest, where the Governor's country residence was located. It was to be between the Governor's team and a team from Central Railway Station. The match was a great success and was won by the Railway team captained by John. Sir Walter Davidson later had the ball used that day mounted on an inscribed silver stand and presented it to John as a memento of a very happy occasion.

      When the time came for him to retire on 28 October 1930, he was well known, liked and respected in both the city and country. His services were recognized by the King granting him an award rarely given to railwaymen. It was the Imperial Service Medal, awarded for 'meritorious services rendered'.

      When John's father died in 1873, he left a farm of sixty-nine acres at Fairy Hole Creek, Yass. John's mother kept it as an investment for over twenty years. However, following on the 1892 depression and several unprofitable years, she decided to sell it. Doubtless due to the stringent financial conditions, she was unable, over a period of nearly a year, to find a suitable buyer. There are indications that she was under some financial pressure. Perhaps she had borrowed money on it and was being requested to repay the loan. There was doubtless great discussion about it within the family and she reached the stage of saying that she would be happy to get even two hundred pounds for it. Believing it was a very good buy at that price, John agreed to buy it to help his mother out of her difficulty. Ten years later, when the price of land had improved, he sold it for four hundred pounds to Arthur Bryant of Yass.

      John lost his wife, as a result of an infection following an operation for a stomach ulcer, not quite eleven months prior to his retirement. It was a grievous loss. She had always loyally supported him and took pride in making sure that his uniforms were immaculate, which involved a lot of work for her in the days before dry cleaning establishments. Her efforts were justified, because he was a big man and looked very impressive as he moved around Central Station in the uniform with special cap and knee length coat worn only by the premier station masters in the State. They had six children - three boys and three girls - unfortunately losing the youngest son, Cohn, at the age of four. They had every reason to be proud of their children, whose lives reflected the good home training they had received when growing up. Lindsay, the eldest, completed his career with the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney as Manager for many years at Gunnedah. The esteem in which he was held there was demonstrated by the local paper devoting the whole of the front page, of the issue following his death, to the story of his life and recording his activities as a leading citizen of the town. Jack spent his working life at Dalgety & Co., becoming in time one of their senior executives. Marge (Margaret), who never married, had a successful career nursing at Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, in due course becoming deputy Matron in charge of the Nursing Staff. Joyce joined the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney and, after a career there of some twenty years, married a fellow employee, Bruce Malcolm. Enid took up nursing and at the age of twenty-four married Dr. Stanley George Bradfield, second youngest son of the designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Enid was widowed as a result of an accident and left with four young children. She remained a widow and reared the children, who are a great credit to her.

      John and his family had a long association with St. John's Church of England, Gordon, where they lived for many years. The children endowed a pew in the Church in memory of their mother and also installed a stained glass window in memory of their father after his death on 23 December

      John was well known in the Masonic Lodge and at the time of his death had been a member of the Killara Bowling Club for many years. His contemporaries' opinion of him as a man can probably best be gauged by the numerous gifts of appreciation and esteem presented to him by organizations and groups of citizens in the towns where he was stationed. His fellow workers voiced their opinion in the inscription of the wireless set they presented to him on his retirement. It read "A good boss and a White Man", probably the highest compliment they could pay, reflecting their opinion of him in his official capacity and as an individual.

      N.B. 'A White Man' was a term used in those days by Australian men to describe another man whom they liked and respected, embodying those characteristics they admired and who could be relied on never to do another a bad turn.
    Occupation 1894  Gordon, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    both the Station-Master and Postmaster 
    Died 23 Dec 1935  Gordon, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I43  Mote/McInnes
    Last Modified 7 Dec 2004 

    Father Christopher Alt,   b. 20 May 1828, Bannerod, Hessen Darmstadt, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Jul 1873, Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 45 years) 
    Mother Martha Crossley,   b. 15 Oct 1842, Seven Hills, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Aug 1937, Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 94 years) 
    Married 01 Jan 1862  St Clements Church, Yass, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F16  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Mary Ann Crawford Smith,   b. 15 Jul 1872, Breadalbane, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Dec 1929, Gordon, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 57 years) 
    Married 22 Apr 1891  St Silas' Church, Breadalbane, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    John & Mary Alt
    John & Mary Alt
    John & Mary Alt (n
     1. Lindsay Alan Alt,   b. 17 Mar 1892, Goulburn, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 04 Sep 1965, Gunnedah, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years)
     2. Jack Alt,   b. 18 Oct 1893, Newtown, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Nov 1973, Sydney, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years)
     3. Edith Margaret Alt,   b. 07 Aug 1895, St Leonards, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Jan 1970, Gordon, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 74 years)
     4. Colin Wardrop Alt,   b. 02 Feb 1901, St Leonards, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 05 Aug 1905, Blayney, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 4 years)
     5. Joyce Mary Alt,   b. 14 Jan 1905, Chatswood, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 02 Sep 1996, Canberra, ACT, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 91 years)
     6. Enid Agnes Graham Alt,   b. 05 Feb 1911, Smollett Street, Albury, NSW, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 Feb 2007, Canberra, ACT, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 96 years)
    Last Modified 17 Mar 2018 
    Family ID F42  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - both the Station-Master and Postmaster - 1894 - Gordon, NSW, Australia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 23 Dec 1935 - Gordon, NSW, Australia Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

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    John Alt
    John Alt
    John Alt
    John Alt
    John Alt
    John Alt