John Leonard Buckland (1915–1989) was born in Camperdown, Victoria. He was the son of a barrister and the nephew of S.M. Bruce, Prime Minister in 1923–29. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar School. He worked on a coastal steamer and then as a cadet journalist in the Victorian Railways Public Relations Department. During World War II, he was a photographer with both the RAAF and the Australian Army. He later worked for the transport publisher Frank Shennan and in 1954 he joined the Australian Government Department of Trade as a journalist. He moved to the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1970 and retired in 1975.

Buckland had a lifelong interest in railways. As a boy, he had been a member of the Victorian Model Railway Society. In 1937 he was involved in the promotion campaign for the inauguration of the Sydney–Melbourne express train Spirit of Progress. In his retirement in Melbourne he devoted most of his time to his railway interests. He was an original member of the Australian Railway Historical Society and president of the Victorian Division. He also belonged to the Light Railway Research Society of Australia. He had an extraordinary knowledge of Australian steam locomotives and wrote numerous articles about them. In his later years he travelled widely around Australia to inspect and photograph steam locomotives and railway operations generally.

Buckland was co-author of Steam locomotives of the Victorian railways, which was published posthumously by the Australian Railway Historical Society in 2002.


Buckland visited the Library in 1979 and subsequently lent many of his photographic negatives for copying. He bequeathed his railway photographs and papers, memorabilia and books relating to railways to the Library. The collection was received from his executors in 1989.



The Buckland Collection contains about 25,000 photographs, one of the largest collections on Australian railways in public ownership. The photographs, which are in both black and white and colour, mainly date from the 1930–80 period, but there are some earlier ones. Many were taken by Buckland, but thousands were sent to him by friends and acquaintances and the coverage of the collection is extremely wide. They include steam locomotives, stations, goods yards, railway lines, bridges, viaducts, diesel locomotives, passenger rolling stock, freight wagons, service stock, structures and signals, accidents, private lines, coal lines, steelworks and industrial lines, timber and sugar tramways and jetty railways.

Manuscripts and Personal Papers

The manuscripts and personal papers, which date from 1936 to 1989, are arranged in the following series:

  • Correspondence
  • Writings by Buckland
  • Writings by others
  • Subject files
  • Press cuttings and printed material
  • Rolling stock diagrams
  • Maps, signalling diagrams
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Notebooks

The subject files make up the largest component. They relate particularly to the Victorian Railways, but there are also files on the other state railways, railway companies, private lines, tramways, locomotives, locomotive builders, railway disasters and many other subjects.

Printed Material

The printed material that formed part of the bequest comprises a small number of books and pamphlets on Australian railways, tourist publications, and instruction books, handbooks, operating instructions and regulations, mostly issued by the Victorian Railways.


The photographs in the Buckland Collection are kept together in the Pictures Collection at P861. They have mostly been classified according to geographical area, with the Victorian photographs making up the largest group. The remainder are arranged by locomotive classes and types of rolling stock. A list of categories is available in the Special Collections Reading Room and online. The photographs are being progressively catalogued and some items digitised.

The manuscripts and personal papers are held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 8059. A finding aid is available online at

The printed material has been catalogued individually and integrated in the general collection.


Parker, Bob, John Buckland and his trains, National Library of Australia News, vol. 15 (11), August 2005, pp. 7–9.

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)