Remembering the last Berwick stationmaster

Berwick stationmaster Ray Wilton and assistant stationmaster Werner Kerber. Pictures: SUPPLIED

The final stationmaster of the Berwick railway station Werner Kerber has been remembered as a loving and caring man.

The 93-year-old died on Friday 29 September in Port Fairy alongside his wife Lilian, shortly after they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

The pair moved to Berwick in October 1967 before moving back to Port Fairy in 2019 after 52 years living in Berwick.

Werner was born to Arthur Kerber and Eva Bernhardt in October 1929 in a small second-floor apartment in a small district within central Berlin called Lindenhof.

When World War II began, Berlin became a significant target for air raids, with a bomb once coming through the flats above his family’s apartment, hitting his mother’s marble dressing table and exploding, burning out the apartment.

A lot of his memories from this time were of hiding under the house in the cellar.

Werner had to move around a lot to avoid the worst parts of the war, including being shipped out to a family of strangers in the eastern part of Germany.

At the age of 14, he began an apprenticeship as an industrial businessman with the Kauffman factory, manufacturing perfumes, toothpaste and face creams.

When the Berlin Blockade began in June 1948 with the Soviet Union stopping all road, rail and canal access to West Berlin, Werner spent the next year working at the airfield helping to unload planes and working with American servicemen.

He then joined the Berlin police force, meeting his wife Lilian at the annual police ball.

Werner was then stationed as a constable at Schöneberg, with his duties including patrolling the Berlin Town Hall, traffic and night shifts.

His life shifted once again when he saw an advertisement in the Berlin Morning Post for personnel to join the railways in Victoria.

Arriving at Station Pier in Melbourne on 1 April 1952, his first few months in Australia were spent in an immigration camp in Ararat learning the duties of a railway man.

In July 1952, Werner was posted to Port Fairy railway station as a porter and quickly became a vital part of the community, eventually helping to form the Port Fairy Surf Life Saving Club in 1953.

Promotions eventually took the family to Warragul in 1956, where their daughter Sabrina was born, followed by their son Stephen who died at birth and their son Linton.

The Kerbers met other railway families in Warragul including the Stosics and the Zerowysys.

The next move took the family back west, with Werner becoming the assistant stationmaster at Glenthompson.

At his funeral service at the St Johns Anglican Church in Port Fairy on Monday 9 October, his daughter Sabrina spoke about her father’s time in Berwick as the assistant stationmaster to Ray Wilton.

“The two of them kept the station immaculate, winning Railway Garden of the Year,” she said.

“As a kid, I remember spending Sundays chopping up newspaper and punching holes in the top to put in the toilets as paper.

“I also remember a few briquettes flying out of the trucks sitting in the yard and filling up hessian bags for our home heater.

“A few pine trees were also watched by Dad as they grew in the railway cuttings and were absconded with at Christmas time.”

Werner was also the Berwick Scouts treasurer and the financial auditor for the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Dandenong.

Sabrina said her father enjoyed watching and participating in sports during his retirement.

“Dad took great pleasure in retiring from the railways on his 60th birthday in 1989 and took up golf at Pakenham with clubs from me and a bag and cart from his railway mates,” Sabrina said.

“I taught him to play and that natural sporting instinct ended up in him winning the monthly medal and a pewter mug.

“I sometimes wonder just how good he could have been at any sport had shift work not got in the way.”

Sabrina said they had a number of firm friends in Berwick during their 52 years living there.

“In Berwick, they added Dick and Marj Fenton for Chinese dinner nights, card playing and drinks,” she said.

“At times, the Fentons, Harrisons, Stosics and Zerowsys came together for special events.”

Sabrina said the pair wanted to spend the rest of their life by the beach watching the whales and enjoying the fresh sea air.

“Berwick would have been a lovely town to continue living in after 52 years,” she said.

“However, the lure of Port Fairy was always there, so in March 2019, he and Mum and I bought a house overlooking the Southern Ocean and George Dodds Reserve where many years have been spent with their friends and sisters, reminiscing and enjoying the surf club and the East Beach.”

Sabrina said her father was an “easy-going, friendly and gentle man”.

“I don’t ever recall a harsh word, voice raised or anything bad to say from him about others and vice versa,” she said.

“He was the ultimate gentleman, kind, considerate, quick-witted, handsome, happy to hand newly made friends a penny from his collection from the year of their birth and always remembered to send birthday cards and letters to Germany and around Australia.

“My dad had a wonderful nature, he was nearly always cheerful, quick with a homemade joke, loving adventurous and carefree.”