Bob the Railway Dog, also known as “Terowie Bob” is a character from the South Australian Railways folklore.
During the late 19th century, Bob traveled the South Australian Railways system and was widely known to railmen as well as to the workers building the railways, and, in fact, everyone who frequently used the railway services.
He was first registered in 1884, but his popularity made him part of many events and stories. He first “fell in love with trains” as a young dog while following the workers who were building the railway near Strathalbyn. He kept following the navvies to the line and was three or four times returned to its owner, James Mott, the owner of the Macclesfield Hotel. Bob finally disappeared when he was only nine months old. The dog had a passion for railways, as simple as that.
Before his railway career, Bob had been delivered along with fifty other dogs from Adelaide where he was picked up as a stray dog and taken to Quorn. He and the other dogs were supposed to exterminate rabbits near Carrieton.
At the time, William Ferry was working as a Special Guard at Petersburg (today Peterborough) and in 1885, was promoted to Petersburg Assistant Station Master. By this time, Bob was already used to traveling by train, often sitting in the locomotive tender, just in front of the coal space, traveling thousands of miles. According to the Petersburg Times, Bob’s favorite place was on “a Yankee engine; the big whistle and belching smokestack seem to have an irresistible attraction for him…”
Bob had no master but had many friends among the engineers. He was also befriended by trainmen and those who were permitted to ride for free. He didn’t like the engines from the suburbia because of the cramped cabs. Bob was barking vigorously and became famous for clearing out the third class compartments. He always managed to convince passengers that the coach had been exclusively reserved for him. Even though he appeared aggressive with his barking, apparently, that was his way of showing affection and friendship.
According to some sources, this traveling dog visited all the mainland states of Australia. He was noticed in Queensland, Oodnadatta, and even Western Australia, which was hardly possible at the time when there wasn’t any railway connection to this part of the continent. Though he might have missed the West, Bob had been noticed around the coast and up the Murray river for several times.
According to some sources, at the opening of the new railway between Petersburg and Broken Hill, Bob was present as a distinguished guest at the Melbourne Exhibition in 1881.
It is noted that during his railway career, Bob had several accidents. An the beginning, he had several falls which helped him to refine his jumping skills from one locomotive to another, even in motion. According to one report, there was an accident when Bob felt from an engine which was traveling from Manoora to Saddleworth and injured his leg. However, he managed to walk two miles and get to Saddleworth.
His tail also suffered in the accident. Once it got jammed in Port Pirie, while another time, Bob lost an inch of it after he slipped off. During another journey, his coat caught fire. The poor dog once confused the ships whistle with that of a locomotive and got on a steamship to Port Pirie.
Many reports suggested that Bob was a “well bred” dog, probably a German Coolie crossed with a Smithfield, while others claimed that he was a Bearded collie. Once, a correspondent in the South Argus, Henry Hollamby of Macclesfield, claimed that he was the breeder and that “Bob’s father was a German collie dog.” He claimed that it was the dog he had sold to the owner of Macclesfield Hotel.
According to a report in The Advertiser during his retirement, Bob regularly dined at a butcher’s shop in Hindley Street, run by Mr. Evans. According to another article at The Chronicle, one afternoon on July 29th, 1895, Bob was heard barking at a passing dog, and then suddenly he dropped dead with a pitiful howl. After his death, Bob’s body had been preserved and later displayed at the Exchange Hotel, Adelaide.
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Bob, the railway dog, was eulogized all around the world and lauded as “the king of outcasts.” His collar, which was first given to the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, was later passed on to the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen.