P.O. Box 126, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia 6430
Goldfields Football League (GoFL) and precursors since 1900
Red and black
1903-4-5, 1911-12, 1919-20, 1929, 1931, 1939, 1945, 1952, 1958, 1960, 1963-4, 1966, 1971, 1973-4-5, 1978-9, 1983, 1987, 2000, 2002, 2006 (28 total) Western Australian State Premierships - 1903 & 1912 (2 total)
Kalgoorlie Railways may not have the best record in the GoFL in terms of premierships won, but the club has nevertheless enjoyed consistent success, and for a time at least could certainly lay claim to boasting one of the strongest senior grade combinations in the land.
The precise origins of the club are not known in any detail, but it seems likely that it emerged out of a team known as Locomotives which played a number of social games in 1899. The following season saw the first ever Kalgoorlie Railways combination spring into action as a member of the goldfields region’s primary football body of the time, the Hannans Districts Football Association, and it was not long before the newcomers began to emerge as a power. In 1903, in fact, Railways managed arguably the most noteworthy achievement in goldfields football history by not only winning the flag, but also downing the supposedly all powerful East Fremantle side in the first ever contest to determine the West Australian state premier. In what was a tough, closely fought encounter, players like ‘Snowy’ Jarvis, Mick Kenny and Charlie Tyson were instrumental in enabling Railways to keep their noses in front during the hectic closing stages en route to a 7.6 (48) to 5.11 (41) triumph.
Kalgoorlie Railways ultimately proved to be the only successful goldfields club during the two decade existence of the state premiership, and they managed the feat not once, but twice, after downing Subiaco 8.12 (60) to 7.9 (51) in 1912.
Over the years, most notably but by no means exclusively during the pre-world war one period, goldfields clubs played host to some of the most illustrious names in football history, including, in the case of Railways, a veritable ‘team’ of champions.
The discovery of gold at Coolgardie in 1892 and Kalgoorlie the following year, at a time when the rest of Australia was in the throes of a major economic depression, precipitated a period of pronounced and sustained economic growth on the West Australian goldfields, and football was one of the main beneficiaries. By the time of Railways’ formation in 1900 the genuine ‘boom’ years were over, but the region was still sufficiently prosperous to prove an attractive stopping point for many of the itinerant young men of the era whose lives consisted of a more or less constant search for work. Football, of course, was in no way a professional concern at this time, either on the goldfields, or anywhere else, but what football clubs could often do, through the aegis of rich patrons and supporters, was procure decent work for players that they wished to sign. During the early 1900s, Kalgoorlie Railways managed to do this so successfully that there is little doubt that, albeit admittedly for only a very brief time, the team was almost certainly among the strongest in the land. In addition to the state premiership win alluded to earlier, the club won three successive premierships between 1903 and 1905, and when the first ever official West Australian interstate touring team was selected in 1904 it provided the side’s backbone with four players: Ted Rowell, Mick Kenny, Charlie Tyson and ‘Snowy’ Jarvis, all of whom were footballers of the very highest order. That same year saw Railways lose the state premiership to East Fremantle, but any doubts as to the overall prowess of the side were laid to rest with an emphatic 13.10 (88) to 9.14 (68) defeat of a WAFA representative team in Perth, a victory to which the great Ted Rowell contributed 7 goals.
The immediate pre-world war one period saw all three of the GFL’s power clubs - Railways, Mines and Boulder - engaged in a continual and often enthralling battle of supremacy. In 1911-12 Railways, with players like ‘Poet’ Smith, Joe Slattery, and three of the six Tyson brothers, George, Charlie and Sam to the fore, rose to the top of the tree in fine style. However, in 1913, despite a great effort from ‘The Poet’ in kicking 4 goals in the premiership decider against Boulder City, the side had to accept second billing. It was a similar story in 1914 and 1915, the last two seasons before the GFA suspended operations because of the war, but in 1919-20 Railways returned to the premiership rostrum in emphatic style, with the club’s playing ranks having been bolstered by the acquisition of Jim Gosnell from West Perth, and the emergence of top quality youngsters such as Tommy ‘Tit’ Marsh, ‘Nugget’ Jones and Charlie Tyson junior.
With Gosnell returning to the Cardinals and Tyson heading east to the VFL, Railways’ playing stocks were depleted during the early ‘20s and the club took the better part of a decade to recover, with its next premiership, courtesy of a nail-biting 5 point grand final win over Boulder, not arriving until 1929. Two consecutive grand finals against Kalgoorlie City followed, with the Kangas winning the first, but Railways gaining revenge in the second to the tune of 9 points. Thereafter, despite the club being home to such noteworthy players as Norm George, Jack Anderson, Jim Gosnell (who resumed with Railways in 1929 after winning the 1924 Sandover Medal), Jack Williams, Allan Ebbs (later the first ever winner of the Simpson Medal), Wally Carlisle and Jim Mills (ex-South Fremantle) most of the 1930s proved something of a struggle. It was not until 1939, under captain-coach Anderson, that the side again broke through for a premiership, but the prospect of any further progress was ruined by the intervention of war.
During the post-war era goldfields football underwent a gradual decline in profile, but Railways continued to win premierships with creditable consistency, and remains a stalwart of the competition to this day. The era of national significance for the GFL may be well and truly over, but to ignore, belittle or distort the history and traditions of clubs like Kalgoorlie Railways, as some are prone to doing, is effectively to transform the game of Australian football into something immeasurably less than the sum of its parts.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications