THAT RARE BREED (The Train Boy) - Contributor Richard Merchant (ex-Student and Old Boy)

St. Bernard’s was a cosmopolitan school drawing students from an international base as well as serving as the local Catholic Boys High School but a small group of travellers struggled to reach the school each and every day. From the east we came from as far away as Glenbrook and from the west, Blackheath and even Lithgow. In my case, in the first 18 months or so, “Stumpy” (the school train) left around 7.15am to arrive at Katoomba around 9.00am. Then followed a 15 min walk (full uniform, including hat) and slip into classes, which had already started. I remember doing homework on the train, so we must have been well behaved!

The afternoon train was a horse of a different colour. I must explain something here: the contingent of train boys was about a dozen (give or take) and while the morning train was semi-open compartments the train home came from Orange and the accommodation for St. Bernard’s was two adjacent closed compartments, the juniors and the seniors. Every (most? some?) one of the seniors would grab a junior and hold a court in their compartment. I can’t remember anyone ever being hurt in these episodes, but I do remember a payback episode when the senior’s area held one lone soul and 4 juniors held court behind closed doors. When the ticket inspector (a “snapper“) flung the doors open & turned the lights on, the rumble evaporated and the rest of the trip was shared (and quiet).

One unspoken advantage that the train boys enjoyed was their exclusion from detention. Trains were not as frequent then so even if the whole class had to stay, we had to catch our normal train. I remember two occasions when the train boys were singled out for special attention. The first was spontaneous while the second showed precision planning on the part of a recently departed much loved, acting headmaster.

To the first - picture a despondent group arriving at the station to find the winning school bus held at the railway gates and rocking from the victory chants and school songs. It was too much – someone pulled down balloons and streamers and it was on! The driver refused to open the door, fearing a riot so we all helped denude the bus, only stopping when someone remembered the hold up was probably our train. Gee it was a great trip home (all for free & free for all).

The second was this - over night it had snowed and Katoomba copped a bucketing. The train boys fought every inch of the way down Lurline Street around past the Clarendon turned into the driveway leading into the back of the school (at whatever time) to be met with a well constructed barrier manned by well armed boarders and organised by a ruthless commandant. We were obliterated but it was a measure of Bro Leo’s character and his love for the students.

I share these incidents in the hope it might jog others and help us all remember what it meant to be a part of the College above the snow line in the beautiful Blue Mountains.

DOGS AND KITTENS - Syl Noonan (ex-Patron, ex-Student, Ex-Committee and Old Boy)

Many boys travelled by train to and from school together with State School students. We were known as the “Dogs College” and they were known as the “Kittens”. We made many friends, but sometimes situations developed among those less agreeable that led to “altercations”. We held our own!