13 October 2008

Signalman

Driving back from Adelaide last week, we stopped to feed a hungry baby at the truck-stop town of Tailem Bend, on the Princes Highway. This is the first time I've ever been there when it wasn't 40 degrees*, which was nice.

Highlights of Tailem Bend include a magnificent bakery. I particularly enjoy eating whatever I've bought there while sitting in the park and admiring Tailem Bend railway station. This time it was open and I saw that it included a little 'museum', which was a room dedicated to a collection of objects straight out of the dowdy world, when railway stations were objects of civic pride. I can't begin to describe the architectural style of this building. It seems to occupy some Edwardian category all its own.


I tried to pick a favourite object, and my heart beat with desire when I clapped eyes on this lovely signalman's cap. Most of all I was touched by the beauty and pathos of its crest. I'm not sure what a signalman actually did. I suppose he was an important man, but this was a time when even council street sweepers wore crisp uniforms and peaked caps.


What a beautiful thing that crest is. What an object of enduring style. It signifies pride in one's job and position, no matter how lowly. It has the flourish of fine copperplate handwriting; official but not stuffy in the least. The opposite of stuffy, it's almost jaunty.

*For international readers, forty degrees is very hot.

4 comments:

I am the Queen of F*%&ING EVERYTHNG...OK!! said...

Seriously, you do know what a signal man does, don't you??

nevolution said...

I wonder if they took as much pride in their work as you hypothesize. Would a street cleaner be as excited about having Street Cleaner on their cap?

It's a small jump from this to a label machine; the only difference being the confluence of modernist typography, the shrinking of technology and economic rationalism.

But yes, lovely find.

Michael Leddy said...

Great find, Sean. The slanting script reminds me of what you'd see on a baseball uniform.

Crritic! said...

Yes Sue, I suppose he signals... What exactly? The driver from the platform would be my guess, but was this a respected occupation or was he just the shit-kicker?