Re: 50 years of LRRSA

Frank Stamford

Hello Rod,

Yes, it was an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), and happened around
the same time as the trip the photographs you are currently uploading
illustrate. It was the only time in the Society's history that I can
remember when things became sufficiently heated to have an election. And
that was an election for five members to form a Committee to write a new
Constitution. They met weekly until they had done it, presented it to
the AGM in June, and it was accepted!

I know considerably more about the wartime lift incident because I
subsequently benefited from the outcome. Les used to drive a motorbike
until he was involved in an accident at Camberwell Junction around 1930.
As a result of the accident he lost a leg. This seriously limited job
opportunities, so he became a lift driver. I don't know that he ever
drove lifts in VR Head Office, I think it was always in an insurance
office in the city. One day during World War II two military
intelligence people came into the lift and asked him whether there was
somewhere they could speak to him in private. He took the lift down to
the basement and switched it off and they told him they were involved in
developing a strategy to drive the Japanese out of Java and Sumatra, and
they needed to know everything they could find out on the railways
there. They had been advised that he was a probably a good source of

Les's interest in railways was very wide ranging, and had been a long
term subscriber to a number of overseas magazines, and had corresponded
with people overseas. I think he had inherited his interest from his
father, and had also inherited a good railway library. As a result he
was able to give them a lot of information. In return they gave him a
copy of the report they prepared on the railways of Java and Sumatra.

The reason I know all this is because Les told me, and lent me the
report, which I found quite startling. It was very detailed in terms of
routes, and locomotive types, which were interesting beyond belief. The
reason Les had lent me the report was that I had told him that I
intended to visit Indonesia on the way to Europe in June 1968, and that
I could not find much reliable information on the railways there, apart
from a "Railway Wonders of the World" article of 1935, and a few
references to deliveries of steam and diesel locomotives in the 1960s.
So the report was extremely useful in giving me a background of what I
might find there.

It was an admirable characteristic of Les to be very helpful to young
railway enthusiasts if they demonstrated a serious interest.



On 23/12/2010 11:03 PM, rnveditor wrote:

I have placed four more Cheetham Geelong photos into my album.
Photo 4: Keith Kings.
Photo 5: The teenager in the middle could well be Richard Dempster.
Photo 6: John Withers.
Photo 10: just admire the train.

I had seen Les on many trips (mainly ARHS), but the only time we spoke
was when he came up at the end of the agm (egm?) when we set up the
constitution committee, and congratulated me for steering through
nastiness to come up with an optimistic and practical solution.

Jack McLean had an interesting story about Les, dating from WWII.
Because of his leg impairment, Les was working as a lift operator in
VR's head office. One day, federal police came in and whisked him off.
Les's railway collection included maps which were seen to be of
importance for Australia's war effort, and they wanted to get access
to the information. I can't recall the country, but it could well have
been Ireland.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

Frank Stamford <frank.stamford@...> wrote:
...this was to be Les's last rail enthusiast trip before he
died on 21 March...

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