Bob the Railway Dog had an insatiable thirst for train travel – he was a dog for all Australians.
THIS SCRUFFY GERMAN COLLIE was born in 1882 with four seriously itchy paws.
At just nine months old, Bob left his home at the Macclesfield Hotel, South Australia, and began his canine career as a hitchhiker on railway locomotives – often taking himself on interstate trips and being welcomed everywhere by friendly train crews.
Peterborough History Group chair Heather Parker says Bob the Railway Dog, as he was later known, was adored throughout his home state and beyond. “He had a wonderful temperament and loved people, particularly the engine drivers,” she says.
“He’d start off going in one direction, he’d get off and think about it for a while – he could pick and choose where he wanted to go – and hop on another train.He liked Broken Hill and he had a friend down in Hindley Street, Adelaide, who used to give him food.”
Adelaide’s “The Advertiser” said in 1939 that, until his death at the distinguished age of 13, Bob traveled freely – “like politicians” – on the trains, suburban trams and even the Murray steamers.
He also attended official functions, The Advertiser reported.
Bob, the railway dog, (sitting on top of the driver’s car) of a stationary locomotive at Port Augusta Railway yard, circa 1887.
Railway staff stand in a group alongside the vehicle. (Photo courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.)
“He was a guest at the banquet for the opening of the railway from Peterborough to Broken Hill and appeared at the opening of the Hawkesbury Bridge in New South Wales.
Bob was happiest on a Yankee engine, said The Petersburg Times: “The big whistle and belching smokestack seem to have an irresistible attraction for him; He lives on the fat of the land, and he is not particular from whom he accepts his dinner.”
News of the traveling dog soon spread, even as far away as England.
In 1895, shortly before Bob died, an E. Cresswell, of Adelaide, wrote to an English magazine, The Spectator, to share Bob’s story.
“His name is Railway Bob and he passes his whole existence on the train – his favourite seat being on top of the coal box,” the author wrote. “He has travelled many thousands of miles, going all over the lines in South Australia.”
A Statue of Bob the Railway Dog in the Main Street of Peterborough, South Australia. (Photo credit: Sulzer55/wikimedia.org)
“The most curious part of his conduct is that he has no master, but every engine driver is his friend.
At night he follows home his engine man of the day never leaving him or letting him out of his sight until they are back on the Railway Station in the morning, where he starts off on another of his ceaseless journeys”.