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Monday, May 23, 2011

John Dabron

"The Fish"

Signatures of passengers on last run of The Fish

The Blue Mountains has always attracted a wide variety of creative people – artists, writers, actors, musicians – many of them delightfully eccentric.  John Dabron was one of Springwood’s most memorable characters.  Teacher of both music and art he became the assistant supervisor of music teaching for N.S.W. in 1946, and in 1947 he became supervisor of the Art Education Department of N.S.W.

John used to travel to Sydney on the Fish and various stories are told about his cooking expertise on the train.  In those days the Fish was a steam train and seating was arranged in compartments - six seats per compartment for 1st class carriages and eight for 2nd class.  All seats were reserved and passengers travelled with the same people morning and evening every week day.  Gerald Harvey, local historian, was interested in collecting stories about travelling on the Fish and recorded an interview with John Dabron, who told some of his favourite anecdotes. This is one of them.
While you could buy breakfast or just tea and toast from the train canteen in the morning, John thought it would be fun to do their own cooking.  He said he would provide all the ingredients and the stove and he would do the cooking if they brought plates and cutlery.  His travelling companions agreed and the next morning he arrived with a spirit stove, methylated spirits, scrambled egg mixture, bacon and pancake batter.  They bought tea and toast from the canteen. 

All went well and they thoroughly enjoyed their eggs and bacon until John put more spirits in the stove and loaded the pan with pancake batter.  They were at Strathfield at this stage, and as they came to Croydon the train stopped with “a hell of a bump”.  Over went the stove scattering pancake mixture and flaming methylated spirits everywhere.  They were all wearing dust coats (a custom on steam train commuting) and there was paper on the table and the flames went everywhere, not to mention the batter.  One man screamed, “I’m out of here” and ran into the corridor with the flames licking off his fingers.   They eventually got the fire out and cleaned up some of the mess but the paintwork was all blistered and the table ruined.  John said they were thoroughly ashamed of themselves.  When they caught the train home they found that their carriage had been taken off and was off for a week.  This put a temporary stop to his train cooking but he did do something special for Christmas.  He thought it would be safer cooking in a metal bucket and he prepared special things such as lobster in a cream and tomato sauce.  He bought some light cooking pots and carried everything in a hessian bag.

This is just one John Dabron story.  There are many more.
Shirley Evans

Blue Mountains City Library Local Studies Collection

Blue Mountains City Library Local Studies, image collection; the Fish ceased running in 1957 when the railway line was electrified as far as Katoomba.

Oral taped interview, Gerald Harvey with John Dabron, Blue Mountains City Library Local Studies Collection.

Springwood Historians   “The Making of a Mountain Community: A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District”

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