The most famous traveler of the Silver to Sea Way was not a human. Rather, the honour goes to a grey-haired Smithfield Sheepdog called Bob!
Bob’s adventures began when he was caught by a stray-catcher in Adelaide and sent north to become a rabbit catcher. When Bob’s train stopped in Terowie, he caught railway employee William Ferry’s eye. Enamored, Ferry struck a deal with the stray-catcher – if he gave the stray-catcher a replacement dog, he could have Bob! Soon after, Ferry was transferred to Petersburg (Peterborough) as Station Master. Here, Bob became part of the railway community.
Bob’s first (voluntary!) train ride was on a wheat special from Gladstone to Port Pirie. Bob’s travels took him all over the Mid-North and beyond. He regularly visited his old haunts in Adelaide, saw the sights of western South Australia and was a guest of honour at the opening of the line connecting Broken Hill to Petersburg. Supposedly, Bob was even present at the opening on the 1881 Melbourne Exhibition!
However, it was not all fun and games. Once, when travelling from Saddleworth to Manoora, Bob tumbled off his favorite spot atop the coal carriage and landed in the dust. He limped back to Saddleworth where he was met with much love and sympathy.
When Ferry was promoted again and transferred to Western Australia, Bob was left behind in the care of the South Australian Railway. Following a misadventure with another rabbit catcher, Bob was presented with a collar inscribed with the phrase, ‘Stop me not but let me jog. For I am Bob, the driver’s dog. S.A.R.’
Bob continued travelling far and wide until his death in 1895, which made headlines across Australia.
In November 2009, Mayor Ruth Whittle OAM unveiled a bronze statue of Bob the Railway Dog in Peterborough. Sculpted by Silvio Apponyi, the statue was funded by a campaign coordinated by Heather Parker of the Peterborough History Group SA Inc.
More information about Bob can be found at https://www.bobtherailwaydog.com/home. Likewise, several books have been written about Bob’s journeys. These include John Wilson’s Bob’s Railway (2019), Olwyn M. Parker’s The Railway Dog: The True Story of an Outback Dog (2016) and Corinne Fenton’s Bob the Railway Dog (2015).
‘Bob, the Railway Dog,’ Observer (Adelaide), 17 August 1895, p.30, accessed 27 July 2021. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/161826109>.
‘Bob, the Railway Dog,’ The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide), 2 August 1895, p.3, accessed 27 July 2021. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/208994556>.
Shannon Corvo and Narelle Graham, ‘Bob the Railway Dog, Australia’s famous train hitchhiking pooch, immortalised in print,’ ABC, 9 May 2019, accessed 27 July 2021. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-09/bob-the-railway-dog-immortalised-in-new-book/11092050>.