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Eighty years ago today, early on a winter’s morning, this group of people were photographed on Sydney’s Central Station. It was Sunday, some time before 9am when the last of the specially dedicated trains departed to take participants to the starting point for Palmer’s Mystery Hike No. 2. The hike had been organised by F.J. Palmer and Sons city department store in conjunction with the Railways and National Parks authorities. The hikers were not told their destination until the trains were due to leave.
The first mystery hike, two weeks earlier on June 26, had been very successful and the second seems to have attracted the attention of at least two photographers. Tom Lennon captured the above image showing a happy group posed on and beside one of the special ’ Palmer’s Mystery Express’ trains.
Lennon was not the only photographer at the station on that day. In a wider view, (also shown below) he has given us a relatively rare image of another, most likely professional, photographer at work. The man in the leather jacket in the lower right foreground appears to be using an old wooden reflex camera. There are also some other photographers in the group. The man closest to the photographer and standing on the far right hand side of the group is clutching a paper bag and a box camera, possibly a Kodak ‘Brownie‘, and the woman, 4th from the left, wearing a beret and white shoes, is winding a box camera. The man in the striped jacket who stands on the train and holds a megaphone labelled ‘Palmers’ appears to be gazing into the open back of a more up to date 35mm camera.
Mystery Hike No. 2 ran from Valley Heights in the lower Blue Mountains along the old Lapstone Road to Penrith. Four special trains conveyed approximately 2,000 hikers to their destination. Others had to take the regular Mountains train. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that more than 2,900 people took part in the hike and that around 2,500 of those were women. The distance covered was 12 miles and many of the hikers had trouble with their feet due to the distance and the hard ground. The ambulance officers in attendance reported a particularly busy day.
In 1932 there were four more mystery hikes held around Sydney. Hikers purchased a two-shilling train ticket and joined a train from Central Station. The hikes, held on Sundays, were enormously popular.
Tom T. Lennon was a commercial photographer whose studio was at 64 Victoria Road, Drummoyne. The 1796 negatives in the Powerhouse Museum Tom Lennon archive include images of balls and dinners held in Sydney, weddings, funerals, work events, parties, portraits, pets, fashion, horse races, musicians, dance bands and various places and events 1927-1949. Many images from the Tom Lennon archive have been posted previously on Photo of the Day.
Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian
Photography by Tom Lennon,
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