An Approximate Centenary

   Posted by: cholmondeley   in Culture, Victoriana

Victorian Railways Institute gathering (c.1910-1915)

Victorian Railways Institute gathering (c.1910-1915)

The main entrance to the current building at Melbourne’s Flinders Street station was opened to the public on 10th October, 1909. Some months later, on 22nd of January, 1910, the Victorian Railways Institute held an opening ceremony inside the building, in the lecture theatre that would later become the station’s ballroom. It is the second event that history seems to have selected to be the Station’s official opening date. Which means, of course, that this Edwardian Era architectural icon turns 100 this Friday.

The centenary seems to be attracting little mainstream press or official attention from the city, and certainly nothing from Metro, but Jenny Davies, who’s just written a book on the station and publishes flindersstreetstation100.com, is talking up the celebrations for Friday. She has an exhibition entitled “The Station Turns 100″ currently on display in the Degraves Street subway which provides a nice overview of the station’s history. (She should be there most lunchtimes until Saturday selling books, and is keen to talk to anyone interested in the station.) The publicity she’s generated has apparently stirred up the fickle public interest in restoration and preservation, with a new lobby group forming to attempt to effect change — and possibly attract some of the estimated $10M in funding the station will require.

But is this really the Centenary of the station?

Given the apparent lack of newspaper coverage of such an event, it seems likely that there was in fact no official opening for the new building itself. Jenny Davies notes that there is no known foundation stone for the station — an unusual situation for large public buildings of the period — and believes that the idea that the Victorian Railways Institute opening constituted the “official” opening of the building had crept into currency by the time of the Victorian Railways Centenary in 1954. The VRI was a social club and training institute for railways staff. It was also, however, given responsibility for and control over much of the station building — thus the ballroom is actually The VRI Ballroom — so perhaps its inauguration is an appropriate anniversary to celebrate. In any case, the station is around 100 years old about now, and I for one feel it’s something of a shame more of a fuss isn’t being made about it.

[Update: According to a VRI staff member I spoke to this afternoon, their centenary celebrations have been set for May.]


Sherlock Holmes movie, steampunk outing opportunity?

   Posted by: Professor von Explaino   in Culture

Having watched a number of Sherlock Holmes trailers it’s looking like the current envisioning of the story has quite a few steampunk friendly elements.  As such, ROSEA is making noises to organise a Brisbane Steampunk outing to the Dec 26th opening night of Sherlock Holmes.  I’m also wondering if other groups around the country are looking to brave the stupid-hot summer weather to do something similar.

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Superb LED pocketwatch conversion

   Posted by: cholmondeley   in Culture, Technology

This masterful conversion of a non-functional early C20th Elgin pocketwatch casing into a fully functional LED-handed timepiece with vibrating alarm and light-responsive display is a thing of beauty — which one might expect from a project which took two years and cost $1,000 (not including the heirloom watch). Australian maker Paul Pounds (whose recent PhD thesis describes a four-motored flying robot) dedicates the project to master horologist Howard Pounds (1914–2005), who would no doubt have been justly proud of his grandson’s achievement.


Time Travellers Picnic [MEL] Nov 3 2009

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

Title: Time Travellers Picnic [MEL] Nov 3 2009
Location: Fitzroy Gardens
Link out: Click here
Description: When: from 11am, Tuesday 3 November (Melb Cup Day)
Where: Fitzroy Gardens
- I think we should meet on the nice lawn in front of the Conservatory.. this would be a good place to retreat to in the case of any showers, too..
Bring: Bring some food to share - and your own beverages. Also bring blankets, baskets, cushions/seating, parasols, croquet sets, boules and other necessaries for a lovely afternoon in the park.
RSVP: to omega at steampunkerie AT gmail DOT com , or comment here, so I know there\’s people coming.


Fitzroy Gardens
230-298 Wellington Parade
East Melbourne VIC 3002
Show on the map
Start Time: 11:00
Date: 2009-11-03


Antipodean Utopias of the Victorian Era!

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture, Literature, Victoriana

Coming across a detailed encyclopedia of British Utopias throughout history (I had no idea Glastonbury had a countercultural Festival back in the Edwardian era!), I was inspired to investigate what manner of similar occurences may have been underway in the Antipodes at the same time, as the influence of Mother England was of course very strong, and there was likely to be some cultural concurrence.

I must confess though, to having become a tad distracted from intentional communities of the time; and have found what may be of even more interest to Antipodean Steampunks: fictional utopias that were being written by Victorian Era Australians. Therefore, I’d like to present a brief appraisal of two of Australia’s better known Utopian works: Melbourne and Mars: My Mysterious Life on Two Planets by Joseph Fraser, and A Week In the Future by Catherine Helen Spence.

Now Joseph Fraser appeared to be an interesting character indeed. Listed as a Phrenologist (the study of the shape and protuberances of the skull, based on the belief that they reveal character and mental capacity - hugely popular in Victorian times but now well debunked) in the Sands & McDougal Melbourne Directory during the late 1880’s,  Fraser was better known as the author of several titles popular *ahem* with the ladies - namely Husbands, How to Select Them, How to Manage Them, How to Keep Them, and How to Read Men as Open Books. One can only imagine what kind of life the venerable Mr Fraser ans his lovely lady wife, Mrs Fraser, must have lived.

Melbourne and Mars: My Mysterious Life on Two Planets was published in 1889 by E. W. Cole (of the Book Arcade, about whom I intend to write a lengthy article at some point). Fraser’s utopian vision (a parallel life on Mars) is for a world where money is abolished, everyone has enough food, clothing and accoutrements to live a comfortable existence and electricity is an almost magical conduit, powering everything (however impractical even by our standards today); and this utopian vision is charmingly and earnestly described. Land travel occurs on an extensive underground railway system powered by electricity, people work minimal hours each day with extensive leisure time,and still appear to be theists, giving thanks for their bounty to “The Giver of Good”.

Catherine Helen Spence was a little more distinguished, being noted as Australia’s first female science fiction author. Spence led the life of a recognised public figure, landing in Adelaide only 3 years after the colony was founded and becoming a noted journalist and political activist. A Week In the Future leans in different directions while touching many of the same themes - a standard working day of only 6 hours, communal living, significant leisure time and a generally socialist approach to life are all similar to the ideas in Melbourne and Mars. Significant attention is given by Spence to fashion and it’s lack of utility, as one might expect from a feminist writer: in her 1988, clothing is no longer for decoration but is merely functional, and the concept of fashion is no longer considered relevant. The description of a bustle by our time-travelling protagonist when questioned by her relative from 1988 is one of my favourite lines:

“What is the meaning of that hump at the back? Is it to hide any sort of deformity?”

“By no means. It is to hang the drapery on, and is considered–or was considered–to be indispensable. It helps stout people like myself to have some appearance of a waist.”

Another issue worth exploring from a feminist viewpoint and one that is explored by both writers and where there is significant divergence, is that of overpopulation. Fraser’s Mars has four times the population of earth in a fraction of the space, due to their advanced technology and their use of the magical properties of electricity which “eats no food” unlike the beasts of the earth; an amusing misconception but ultimately disappointing; as the protagonist comes to the conclusion that the Earth need not fear for Malthusian scenarios for centuries. Spence however, brings forth very early in her work the concept of deliberate population restriction; in her London of 1988, all married couples are restricted to a maximum of 3 children, and there is no stigma attached to individuals who make the choice not to reproduce, and the restriction is in fact “the keystone to their whole system”. Instead of a child born out of wedlock being scandalous, it is the idea of having more than three offspring which is considered disgraceful. Conversely, infant mortality is virtually unheard of, most children living to maturity - a very different scenario than what faced Catherine in Victorian Adelaide, where the child mortality rate was 40% higher than in other parts of the colony and as a feminist, she would have championed any means to diminishing the domestic roles of women.

While many of the ideas expressed are fanciful and unrealistic dreams, there are in both accounts fascinating insights to life in Victorian Australia and the kinds of ideas and ideals from the perspective of both sexes to be found. I feel these kinds of works heavily inform our understanding and growing solidification of the concepts of steampunk, too. I would urge you to read them, and fortunately, both these works are out of copyright and freely available online:

A Week in the Future can be found on Project Gutenberg in full html text format; and Melbourne and Mars can be found as a scanned version of an original printed copy either viewable through the browser or as a full download [pdf, 37MB]on the excellent Reason in Revolt website, which archives a great number of works of Australian Victorian Utopianism.

Warmest Regards,

Mme E. Millais

We’ve had this on our Calendar for months, but we thought we should give a little reminder as the event is now right around the corner, and the President & Secretary of the ALTV will be in attendance for this fine festival in our Nation’s Capital next weekend!

Victorian Era Dance & Costume Festival, Canberra - October 2-5th, 2009

Wildilocks is proud to be presenting a workshop on Victorian Hairstyling as part of the Victorian Era Festival for 2009, held by the Earthly Delights Historical Dance Academy. The festival focuses on Victorian era partner dances & costuming, and has many workshops on a wide variety of Victorian pursuits such as bonnet making, etiquette, needlework, a Graveyard Tour, and there’s even a talk on Steampunk! You can see the full program for the weekend here [pdf], and there’s still time to register and attend this wonderful event!


Euchronia to return as a biennial event

   Posted by: cholmondeley   in Culture, Euchronia [VIC], League

The New Year’s Eve committee, after much deliberation and consideration, have decided that, in keeping with the character and quality of their “Euchronia” event, it would henceforth be presented on alternate years. Members and friends are advised to make other arrangements to farewell the noughties, and we should all look forward to the riotous revelry of the 31st of December, 2010.


Conflux 1880’s Banquet

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

Title: Conflux 1880’s Banquet
Location: Canberra
Link out: Click here
Description: Dr Gillian Polack is planning a fascinating banquet experience this year! As always, the recipes and menu are authentic to the time periods. Pre-dinner drinks will be set in 1945 - the first Mardi Gras after the war. Cocktails set the scene! Then for the dinner we move back in time to the culinary delights of the 1880s.

You have been invited to this Mardi Gras celebration by the great hostess Severine Sallier.  Severine is upholding the old ways - she knows they’re going to fade. The railway has come to Lake Charles, it could soon be just another town on the line from New Orleans to Houston. Contraband Bayou’s pirate past and its pre-war elegance will be forgotten. This last dinner is her fight against mediocrity.

The Bayou is full of mystery and secrets - perfect for our Convention theme. There are many excellent horror and mystery novels in this exotic setting. Creatures from the Black Lagoons, Vampires, dark family secrets, and pirates’ hidden treasure all have resonance on Contraband Bayou in 1883.

The Banquet will be held on Saturday evening at the Marque Hotel Canberra, commencing 7pm with pre-dinner drinks.

Tickets are $52 per person (drinks extra).
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2009-10-03


Steamrail Mildura Weekender

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

Title: Steamrail Mildura Weekender
Location: Melbourne + Mildura
Link out: Click here
Description: Weekender to Ouyen & Mildura. Enjoy a trip from Melbourne to the glorious town of Mildura on the mighty Murray River with options of dinners, river cruises and more!
Start Date: 2009-10-30
End Date: 2009-11-02


International Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day

   Posted by: admin   in Culture

Title: International Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day
Location: worldwide
Link out: Click here
Description: December 8 is International Pretend to Be a Time Traveller Day. The idea is to dress and act like a time traveller but never to actually tell anyone that you are one.

Some ideas:

* Walk up to random people and say”WHAT YEAR IS THIS?” and when they tell you, get quiet and then say “Then there’s still time!” and run off.
* Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell “NOOOOOOOOO”
* Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.
* Take some trinket with you, hand it to some stranger, along with a phone number and say “In thirty years dial this number. You’ll know what to do after that.” Then slip away.

Good Luck .. and for God’s sake people .. do try not to initiate any Paradoxes.
Date: 2009-12-08

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