Immigrant Daniel Mion joins rail pioneers

AS the official celebration nears of the centenary of the railway coming to Taree, more stories are emerging of the contribution made by individuals from all walks of life to the new era of transportation along the Mid North Coast.

Today's story is about an Italian immigrant, Daniel Mion, who contributed to his new-found homeland by helping to forge the railway line from Maitland north to Taree, and then on to Kendall.

Born in Fanna, Italy, on November 6 1889, Mion's father Antonio was a master craftsman an ornamental concretor specialising in terrazzo.

Daniel was educated in England, from where he joined an Italian cargo shipping line, on a vessel working out of Liverpool. He spent six-and-a-half years at sea, gaining both his marine steam and diesel engineer's qualifications.

When the company advertised for crew willing to sail to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope, Mion signed on, arriving in Australia in 1911 where he left the crew to become a permanent settler.

Among his first jobs was helping to construct a new railway branch line to Burren Junction, and while there he heard about construction of the North Coast rail line, which was heading towards Taree.

Daniel's son, well known Forster resident Morris Mion, explains that in those days the railways didn't transfer workers from one job to another. When his father inquired about a job on the North Coast line construction crew, he was told there were no vacancies.

"So my father came over to the Gloucester area, regardless, and joined the company that had contracted to the railways, to construct the access roadways into the worksites. He became a ganger, just north of Gloucester."

Mion continued to work with the roadmaking crew as it passed through Taree in late 1912 and early 1913. As luck would have it, he transferred to an actual railway work crew in 1915, and continued his employment until resigning in July 1921.

Morris has unearthed a copy of his father's work history which showed that in 1915 his first task as a labourer earned him eight shillings a day. He then became a fettler at Wauchope, followed by a posting to Paterson, then he became a ganger working the Northern Division, at 11 shillings a day. His final pay packets amounted to 16 shillings and twopence.

When the northern line reached Kendall, Mion didn't want to go further north.

He took up dairyfarming at Ross Glen, but the Great Depression impacted on him terribly, and he managed to get extra work with a team of horses carting railway sleepers. "He managed to survive that way," Morris explained.

In 1928 or 1929, Mion senior moved to Taree and secured a dealership from Sydney-based York Motors, to sell Morris Minors from a showroom he called 'Mion Motors', in Pulteney Street.

"He went broke," his son said. "There was just not the money around and he was paying rent for both his house and the business premises. So he sold up and went onto a farm at Tinonee. He died on September 11, 1963."

Morris recalls that his father had received an invitation to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the coming of the railway to Taree, in February 1963, but was too unwell.

Morris has vowed: "But I'll be there in Taree on May 11, 2013... if I can."

Morris is Daniel's youngest son and was born in Taree in 1931. Aged 16 he received a railway apprenticeship, "but Dad wouldn't allow me to move to Sydney to take it up".

Instead he became a welder, then a welding teacher, and worked with TAFE in Sydney from 1974 until 1989, after which he retired to Forster.

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