Remembering railway picnics

The New Norfolk Railway Picnic postcard

A CENTURY-OLD postcard featuring a photo of a railway picnic at New Norfolk sold for more than $40 on eBay today. Dated January 1910, the item attracted seven bidders before selling for US$43.78.

Railway picnics on the Derwent Esplanade at New Norfolk were an annual event for several decades in the first half of the 20th century. Trains would arrive at New Norfolk from Hobart, Maydena and Parattah, bringing thousands of railway staff and their families. The transport was supplemented by river steamers and – in later years – government buses. 

The program generally included an official lunch in addition to the workers’ picnic, as well as political speeches, sporting events and the distribution of thousands of ice-creams. Attendances at this summer picnic often reached 5000 and the event was described as the biggest organised event of its kind. There were occasional hiccups, including a man being arrested for having an “illegal game” in his possession at the 1939 picnic. He appeared in the New Norfolk Court the following day and was fined two pounds. In 1937, the shingle roof of the official lunch room collapsed while organisers were making their preparations a day ahead of the picnic.

The structure seen in the top left-hand corner of the image is likely to be the back of the old regatta pavilion and its grandstand that fronted the river.

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