The Better Farming Train
The Better Farming Train steamed out of Melbourne for the first time in October 1924 bound for Gippsland. An engine towing fifteen carriages painted bright orange made a striking picture. Each carriage was fitted out with agricultural displays. Pigs, cows, poultry, bees, dairy utensils, potatoes, bacon, tobacco, manure, fodder and pasture samples and a range of expert lecturers were among items of interest carried on the train.
The Better Farming Train was developed by co-operation between the Departments of Agriculture, Railways, Education and Public Health. It was a public education effort intended to improve farming techniques and raise agricultural production. The train made approximately thirty-eight tours of rural Victoria between 1924 and 1935. Each tour visited ten regional centres, with one day spent at each centre.
Upon arrival at a railway station, the train was prepared for exhibition. Cattle were walked out into the station yard; the sides of the pig truck were let down to enable farmers to view the animals; pasture plots were lowered to the platform and the display carriages were opened to the public. A series of lectures on subjects relevant to the area were conducted at each centre. Demonstrators showed how superphosphate could improve pastures. Lecturers discussed varieties, diseases and cultivation of tobacco and potatoes. In Gippsland, dairy officers demonstrated milk testing. A popular display in most centres was the "women's branch". Lectures and demonstrations were given about infant welfare, cooking and clothing design. Mothers brought babies for examination by the nurse. "A box of samples including aprons, knitted frocks, embroidery and riding pants aroused a great deal of interest" as did demonstrations of "simple cooking with special consideration to dried fruits, soups, casseroles, re-cooked meats and pastry making." (Journal of Agriculture, March 1925).
Between 500 and 2000 farmers and townspeople attended the Better Farming Train exhibitions at each centre. The train served as a travelling agricultural school, an experimental farm on wheels and a chance for a day out. It was a novelty and a spectacle and attracted many people who would not otherwise be interested in attending lectures or courses. So eager was one woman in Gippsland to view the train that she rose at 3.30 am in order to milk the cows and get the children ready. She then drove over thirty miles to visit the Better Farming Train.
View the Better Farming Train photo collection.