A Cape Town District Six Museum tagged image from photographer – denisbin as published on Flickr.
Weethalle. The old railway station now a small cafe. Behind is the fine town hotel. The railway reached here in 1923. Town established 1921 for soldier settlers from WW1.
Image by denisbin
A brief history of railways in New South Wales.
It all began with the calling of a public meeting to consider the issue of building railways in 1846. Lines were being considered to Windsor, Bathurst and Goulburn. It proposed the American solution to railway building – government grants of land along the proposed line but with an added bonus of a government guarantee of 6% per annum on the first £100,000 of capital and a government grant of cash. In 1848 the Sydney Tramroad and Railway Company was formed. After some delays work began in 1850 but by 1851 not much had happened and the company wanted a further £150,000 which was granted for a line only from Sydney to Parramatta. In 1855 the line was finally completed with the first train to Parramatta in September 1855. The line was only completed with substantial government investment and in 1856 the government decided to take over the railway and have it run by three government Commissioners. In 1861 parliament authorised lines to Campbelltown and Goulbourn, another to Bathurst across the Blue Mountains and a third from Newcastle to Murrurundi in the Hunter Valley. The line from Newcastle to Maitland opened in 1857.
Westwards to Bathurst.
At the end of 1860, with the royalties from gold mining the government had completed lines from Sydney to Penrith and Richmond; to Picton in the south; and from Maitland to Morpeth. The biggest engineering challenges were still ahead of the railways department – crossing the Blue Mountains to Bathurst and climbing into the Southern Highlands to reach Goulburn. The problems of crossing the Blue Mountain ridges were immense and two zig zag railway sections near Lithgow were eventually approved and several major viaducts. They line was completed to Wentworth Falls in 1867 and it was 1875 before the railway line reached Kelso across the Macquarie River from Bathurst. The official opening into Bathurst was in April 1876. The 1870s were a decade of significant railway expansion and new lines. At one stage there was even a proposal to have a direct rai link to South Australia from Cootamundra westwards to Pooncarie on the River Darling and then across the SA border near Renmark. That never eventuated. But a link to Queensland was pursued more vigorously and completed as was a line to Albury with a link to Melbourne.
Southwards to Goulburn and Albury.
A main truck railway line to the South was important to peon up the Western Slopes of NSW in the 1870s. The rail head was settled at Picton in 1863 and with tunnels it was extended into the Highlands to Mittagong in 1867. It was quickly pushed on to Goulburn reaching there in 1869. It was important to extend this line south to Albury to prevent the Victorian railways taking more trade from the Riverina Districts. The Goulburn to Yass section was finished in 1876. It was extended to Wagga Wagga in 1878 but the line did not cross the Murrumbidgee River into Wagga Wagga until 1879. From here the line pushed onwards to Albury where the railway opened in February 1881. It was June 1883 before the River Murray was bridged and a connection was made with the line to Melbourne.
Northwards to Newcastle and beyond.
Newcastle was a rail terminal like Sydney with the first line to Maitland completed in 1857.This line was eventually extended to Muswellbrook in 1869 and on to Aberdeen in 1870 and Scone in 1871. Murrurundi was reached in 1872. Work began on pushing the line north through Quirindi to Tamworth in 1874 with it being completed in 1878. From here the railway was extended towards the Queensland border and the northern tablelands. The first section with steep gradients reached Uralla in 1882 and Armidale in 1883. In 1884 the railway reached Glen Innes and then Tenterfield. The Queensland border was reached in January 1888 linking up with the Queensland railway system. Queensland railways had extended their lines to Wallangarra which is across the border from Jennings in NSW. But there was no connection to Brisbane from Sydney as there was no connection between Sydney and Newcastle.
Linking Sydney and Newcastle.
It was Premier Sir Henry Parkes who appropriate funds for a railway northwards from Sydney with the first stage to the Hawkesbury River and a section southwards from Hamilton just outside of Newcastle to Gosford. The line to the Hawksbury River was completed in 1887 and that to Gosford in 1888. The 3,000 feet wide (914 metres) stretch of the Hawkesbury River were still to be spanned by a railway. A competition called for engineering designs and the contract was let to an American company. Despite difficulties the bridge was completed in May 1889 with piers deeper than those of any other bridge and it was largest bridge of its kind in Australia and the third largest in the world at that time. It was a milestone in Australian railway history as it provided a rail link from Sydney to Brisbane via Wallangarra and this service was already linked with the line from Sydney to Albury and Melbourne and Adelaide and Melbourne had been the first colonial capital cities linked by rail in January 1887. So now there was railway link from Adelaide to Brisbane (1,789 miles or2, 8880 kilometres) albeit with many changes of gauge along the way and with no coordinated railway timetable for such a service. But this 1889 bridge was not stable enough for bigger and heavier trains and a new bridge was constructed across the Hawkesbury River between 1939 and 1946.
The North Coast line.
A new coastal line from Newcastle/Maitland to Taree and Gloucester opened in 1913 before reaching Wauchope in 1915. This lien was extended to Coffs Harbour and South Grafton in 1915. Earlier a railway line had headed south from Murwillumbah to Lismore. It was constructed in 1894 but extended to Lismore and Casino in 1903 and northwards to Tweed Heads at the same time. The section from Casino to Grafton opened in 1905 but it did not cross the Clarence River. This was not bridged until 1932. A branch line was built to Kyogle from Casino in 1910 and this was linked to a new line to Brisbane in 1930 which necessitated a rail spiral and a long tunnel across the border between the two rail systems to get the rail tracks up into the Great Dividing Range. A through train service was not possible until the Clarence River was bridged by rail in 1932. The introduction of the Brisbane Limited train via Casino and Kyogle reduced the train travel time from Sydney to Brisbane via Wallangarra by six hours. The service ended at South Brisbane until 1986 when it was rerouted to Brisbane Roma Street railway station. The Brisbane Limited train between Sydney and Brisbane ceased in 1990 when it was replaced with an XPT service. The line from Casino to Murwillumbah closed in 2004.
Extensions to the main truck lines.
By 1900 most major towns and cities of New South Wales had a railway service. The 1880s and the 1890s were decades of considerable railway expansion.
•The urge to get a railway to the Darling River at Bourke branched out from Bathurst firstly to Orange and then on to Dubbo in 1881. The north western line reached Bourke in 1885. From Nyngan a line was built to Cobar.
• The discovery of silver, lead and zinc in the Barrier Ranges near the South Australian border spurred the growth of Broken Hill but it was not linked to Sydney by train until 1927. Earlier a railway had been built from Broken Hill to Menindee in 1919. Then the links were made between Parkes and Condobolin and Roto to Menindee in 1927. The air conditioned Silver City Comet train began the service between Sydney and Broken Hill in 1937.
•New lines in the Riverina were designed to stop the leakage of trade across the River Murray to the Victorian railways. A line from Wagga wagga reached Narrandera in 1881 and Hay on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in 1882.
•A branch line from Cootamundra to Gundagai was completed in 1886 and later extended to Tumut in 1903. Another line which stretched from Cootamundra to Temora opened in 1893. The Temora line was extended to Lake Cargelligo in 1917. Also from Temora the line went west to Griffith in 1916 and on to Hillston in 1923. It was then joined with the Broken Hill line at Roto in 1926 to provide alternative routes to the west.
•A new southern coast line opened to Wollongong and North Kiama in 1887. The section from Kiama to Bomaderry on the outskirts of Nowra opened in 1893.
•Over a few years a north western railway branched from the New England railway at Werris Creek. The first section to Gunnedah opened in 1879 and the second section to Narrabri opened in 1884. The line reached Moree in 1897. The line extended to the Queensland border at Mungindi in 1914.