TRIBUTE: John Sargent and his sister Gail Bennetto attend the opening of Railways 1914 to 1918 which features the story about their grandfather James Sargent.
TRIBUTE: John Sargent and his sister Gail Bennetto attend the opening of Railways 1914 to 1918 which features the story about their grandfather James Sargent. David Nielsen

Stories of rail war on show

RECOGNITION of one of our First World War Diggers in the latest Workshops Rail Museum exhibition was an emotional moment for his grandchildren.

Gail Bennetto and John Sargent travelled from Brisbane to attend the opening of the exhibition Railways 1914 - 1918 at North Ipswich yesterday.

Their grandfather James Henry (Harry) Sargent played a part in the little known story of railway workers recruited into the 2nd Light Railway Operating Company to transport troops on the Western Front.

His story is one of those featured in the new exhibition.

Discharged with shell-shock, which had lingered through his life, James Sargent had little to say about his war experience. But his grandchildren said the recognition was a proud moment for the family.

"He would be absolutely thrilled," Mrs Bennetto said. "Like most of them, he didn't talk about the war very much. All he said was that he drove trains.

"He was concentrating on his life the way it was. But when (his wife) died, even though he had three children and grandchildren, it was like the light went out in his life."

Mrs Bennetto felt it her duty to research the story of the Light Railway Operating Company for her family, and some of that research has been used in putting together the new exhibition.

An estimated 14,500 employees from state railways across Australia enlisted during the 4½ years of war. More than 300 men registered from the Ipswich railway Workshops alone, and sadly 31 did not return.

Queensland Museum Network CEO Professor Suzanne Miller said the exhibition highlighted the role of the railways, including the mobilisation of troops, equipment, supplies, food and communication from loved ones.

"We often think of railways as being big, heavy and time consuming infrastructure, but in the war, track was being laid quickly, maintained, expanded and shifted," she said.

Railways 1914 - 1918 is open until December 6.



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