Queensland’s Cavity Express

Between 1929 and 1984, the Queensland Government provided regional communities with dental care by running specifically designed dentistry clinic carriages. The train consisted of a waiting room, two dental studios and a private living section in one carriage while the second carriage consisted of a storage area and a trailer compartment for a motor vehicle. This meant that, in addition to treating patients on board, the train could pull into a regional station and then the dentists could travel further out to communities and schools beyond the railway line. They even had portable dental chairs and drills that they could pack into the motor vehicle.

In 1948 a series of pictures was taken by the Commonwealth Department of Information that documented the work of dentist Mr J Kilby and his dental assistant and wife Mrs Kilby, and their life on board the dental train. In their living area, they had two bunks (it was the 1940s after all…), a kitchen, pantry, shower, toilet, and even a hanging garden.

In Australia in the 1940s it was estimated that by the age of 18 only one in ten people had ‘good teeth’. Resources around the nation were poured into improving the dental health of children and in Queensland, outreach care included dental trucks and a flying dentist service to complement the dental trains. In one year, it was reported that Mr and Mrs Kilby treated over 30,000 people from their railway dental surgery.

Rob Shiels
Collection Manager, The Workshops Rail Museum

Title image caption: Twelve year old Eileen Russell being tremendously brave while husband and wife dental duo, Mr & Mrs Kilby, clean her teeth, 1948. Queensland Museum Network Collection.

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