George had a railway spirit

As told by Geoff Williams in 2006

The first “Spirit of Progress” to depart from Spencer Street to Albury in 1937 was crewed by Driver George Lynch (Senior) and Fireman Jack Anderson. George worked the “Spirit” roster for a number of years but, unfortunately, he encountered a few train running problems and he was grounded and remained as a Shunting Engine Driver until his retirement.

            George Lynch was a very clever man – he conducted the Railway Institute classes for Enginemen (Firemen) learning to be Drivers. He was known to be able to “throw” his voice and the story goes there was a coffin being transferred across the Albury platform and George – sitting on his engine opposite, throwing his voice – calling out “Help, let me out”. There was panic on the platform as one could well imagine.

            George had a high radio mast at his house in Havelock Street. Mounted on the top was a light and when George was passing through Wodonga on the down “Spirit of Progress”, he would give his signature whistle on the loco and Mum would blink the light on and off in acknowledgement. However, the powers-that-be, during the war, instructed him to desist as they thought he may have been giving the enemy a signal. Another trick of George’s was when he had a new-chum Fireman when on the Pilot, he would throw his voice, saying, “Hey mate, have you got a cigarette?” The lad would be looking for this voice that wanted a cigarette.

George had made railway history in 1937 when the Sydney Ltd ran non-stop from Albury to Spencer Street in 3 hrs. 25 mins, clipping 25 minutes off the previous record. George retired at the age of 65 in 1953 and died at the age of 74.

            The first “Spirit of Progress” to run from Albury to Melbourne was crewed by Driver Ray Murphy and Fireman Harry Binder. Harry went on to pass for Driver and he later crewed the “Spirit of Progress” as a Driver on both steam and diesels. When the Standard Gauge line was built between Albury and Melbourne, Harry had the honour of driving the first Standard Gauge Goods Train from Albury to Melbourne. He was assisted by his regular Fireman, John Wortman.