A Train Called the Fish 

By Lyn Forde – President/Research Officer of St Marys & District Historical Society Inc.

IN November 1945 questions came up on how the Blue Mountain’s train called “The Fish” came by the name. Jim Hartigan of Penrith who was a relief stationmaster in the Penrith district felt that with the train’s contemporary named “The Chips” he decided to write a letter to the Lithgow Mercury, saying that “In reference to the article in your paper dated 29/10/45 regarding the remarks of R F Wylie and C C Towle, there was a very fine article that substantiates the name on this subject published in the Sydney Sunday Times dated 4/7/1920 under the heading “The Evolution of the New South Wales Railways from 1855 until 1920” with some interesting facts about the “Fish” Train, or as it was called John Herron and His Mountain Train. However, on a visit to No 5 Castlereagh street, Penrith, the home of David Herron (Jnr) a son of David Herron who was a loco driver and was killed in the Bell railway smash in March 1890. After viewing all records (and there are many), one can safely say the name “The Fish” was first given to the train because all the crew had names that could be applicable to various types of fish. I might mention David Herron is a nephew of John Herron the original driver. It was in the year 1868 that this train first ran from Sydney at 5 p.m. daily, Mondays to Fridays and for some time Parramatta was the destination, but as the population moved out into the country so did the train, so in 1870 we find the train worked by engine No 15 in the charge of John Herron, (nicknamed “Hell-Fire Jack”) leaving Sydney daily for the mountains. His fireman was called John Salmon and the guard of the train called John Pike. So, it was to be seen that there was a Herron, a Salmon and a Pike on the train and it was not long before the lads of the service invented the name of “The Fish”. Over the years it has remained and is now recognised officially by the Railway Department. In fact, the words “The Fish” are inscribed on the sides of the middle car of the train. Today (1945) “The Fish” is one of the best trains in the State and so great has been the patronage in the past the authorities arranged to run a second train between Valley Heights and Sydney and it did not take regular travellers long to nickname it “The Chips” and that name was accepted officially. Now mountain travellers are catered for daily by “Fish” and “Chips.” I have before me a photo of John Herron the original driver of “The Fish” and he was certainly an outstanding personality. He rose in the service to the position of locomotive inspector and was in that position on the March 1890 when word was received that No 23 the fast goods train had gone over the embankment at Bell and David Herron the driver (his own brother) had been killed, but it was not possible to extricate his body. John left Penrith at 5.55 p.m. with a relief train and it was John who supervised the removal of his brother’s body. The name of Herron has long been associated with the Railway Department at Penrith, all loco men. Firstly, there was the dominating John, driver of “The Fish, next his brother David also the driver killed at Bell and now David who retired in 1938 from the position of loco-chargeman at Penrith having previously been a driver at that depot”.  In September 1959, Penrith Chamber of Commerce had arranged judging for suggestions for “Give the Train a Name” for an extra train to be put on by NSW railway to start at Emu Plains. No more than three words and in line with “Fish” and “Chips” and the reasons for choosing the name suggested and only coming from the Penrith Municipality and surrounding districts. Some of the names sent in were:- “Emu” (begins and ends at Emu, a fast runner) and probably mentioned the most, “Nepean Valley” (good advertising, lovely Nepean), “The Salt” (goes with fish and Chips), “The Tuna” (a fast traveller after The Chips), “The Salmon”, “The Filet”, “Penrith Flyer”, “Gravy”, “The Schnapper”, “Penrith Express”, “The Trout”, “Silver Bream”, “The Flying Perch”, “Pepper and Salt” and the names go on & on!  Arthur H Dunstan of No 2 Phillip Street, St. Marys was the nominator for the “The Heron”, He was a foundation member of the Australian Railway Historical Society and he wrote a letter to the committee saying:-”I beg to suggest that the new fast business train to be inaugurated between Emu Plains, Penrith and Sydney (mornings) and between Sydney and Penrith (evenings) to be named “The Heron”. My reasons for suggesting this name are:- (1) The train that became known as “The Fish” was named for its driver big Jock Heron, late of Glasgow and Southwestern Railways in Scotland. His name Heron was corrupted to Herring and he became known as the “Big Fish”, the name going to his train as a matter of course. (2) In the 1880’s the train ran between Parramatta Junction (later renamed Granville) and Penrith and was worked by Driver Jock Heron with his engine No 15. The trip between Redfern (old Sydney) and Parramatta Junction was made, combined with the southern mail the forerunner of the Southern Highlands Express and Jock Heron with his engine came on the Western portion at Parramatta Junction. “The Fish” stabled at Penrith each night was truly a Penrith train. When the extension opened in July 1867 to Weatherboard (later renamed Wentworth Falls) it was worked by a connecting service from Penrith off “The Fish”. (3) The name Heron, if given to the new train will closely associate it with “The Fish” and with Penrith, the latter’s train links with the town have been seriously weakened with the passage of time. The name Heron will doubtless degenerate into “Herring” as did the same famous railway name of so long ago but, from the point of view of Penrith and the railway historian, it will become a memorial to a railway pioneer. (4) “The Chips” which commenced to run as a second division of “The Fish” in November 1938, relieved “The Fish” of local business between Sydney and Springwood. It soon became a train in its own right. “The Heron” would be Penrith’s train as was “The Fish” in Jock Heron’s day”. And so the judges voted  “The Heron” as the name. Photo Courtesy of Blue Mountains City Council shows Locomotive No 15 with John “Jock” Heron outside the cabin. 

Sources: Lithgow Mercury, Nepean Times, Trove website.