Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Werris Creek Railway Timeline

As a child travelling by train, I knew Werris Creek station as a very big station for an apparently very small town.

In fact, Werris Creek was a major New England Railway centre. According to the Railcorp site:

The Railway Station at Werris Creek has been a major rail junction in northern NSW for well over a century. Anyone who has ever travelled through NSW to Tamworth or Narrabri will know Werris Creek. It's where the combined train from Central separates to take travellers both north or north-west. Travellers and smokers will know it best as the breathing spot on a long journey where they can witness train shunting in action. Just forty minutes to Tamworth in the North and about twenty minutes from the agricultural centre Quirindi, Werris Creek is situated within the Parry Shire in New England, in the Heart of NSW Big Sky Country.

The decision to build a line from Werris Creek to Gunnedah was made by the New South Wales Parliament on the evening of the 26th April 1877. This decision marked the overturning of long standing policy not to build branch lines before the completion of the three mail lines; the Great Northern, Great Western and Great Southern lines. It signalled a boom in Australian branch lines and in the significant increase in the productivity and popularity of the railway. The line reached Gunnedah (the home of Dorothea McKeller) in September 1879.

At Werris Creek, the former Department of Railways (now StateRail) not only gave rise to the physical fabric of the town, but also provided its psychological framework and instilled a set of moral values that affected everyday life. Werris Creek has the distinction of being both the first and the last railway town in northern NSW and epitomises all aspects of the rail industry, including the sometimes dangerous aspects of railway work in the past. A number of former railway workers, killed through railway operations, are buried at Werris Creek. The railway institutions in Australia helped to form a working class culture and, as a one-industry town, Werris Creek has been identified as a centre where the railway working culture has flourished.

Railway timelines for Werris Creek follow:

1877 Work on branch line from Werris Creek commenced
Sept 1879 Line reaches Gunnedah
Oct 1879 Platform finished
1884 Railway Refreshment Room (RRR) tender awarded
Nov 1884 RRR Opened
March 1885 Adjacent platform built
Jan 1886 'Great Northern Railway Junction' operational
1893 Footbridge built
1889 Gas works operational
1892 Verandah on eastern side extended
1896 Timetable altered
1897 Moree branch line operational
1899 Manila branch line operational
1902 Inverell branch line operational
1906 Pokataroo branch line operational
1908 Walgett branch line operational
1911 Second story added to RRR
1917 Decision to make Werris Creek the Northern Headquarters of Mechanical Branch signals boom years
1923 Binnaway to Werris Creek line opened
1923 Second story added to Station building
1939 Additional sleeping quarters added
1958 Explosion in Single Street kills two people and breaks every window in the Station building
1960 Diesel takes over from steam
1972 RRR closed after 88 years of service
2001 NSW Minister for Transport Carl Scully announces a grant of $1.3 million towards the Australian Railway Monument (ARM) at Werris Creek
2002 Appointment of Project facilitators, commencement of Australian Railway Monument Project.
2005 Monument opens

Back to Timelines Entry Page


Melissa said...

Hi Jim, i was one of the lucky people who had the pleasure of being part of the research team that collated the data for this monument back in 2003. Loved every bit of the job. Great site. :-)

Jim Belshaw said...

How nice to hear from you Melissa, and thanks. It was a job well done.