Opening of Railway.

This was published in

The Maitland Mercury.


16th August, 1877.

About the opening of the great northern railway extension, from Murrurundi to Quirindi. The Warrah railway station that is mentioned, is really the Willow Tree station, and it was renamed later. Seems there wasn't much in the town at the time.


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From our roving reporter.


If we overlook for a moment the time which has elapsed between the opening for trains of the last extension of the Great Northern Railway, and the completion of the twenty-four miles opened on Monday last, we shall be disposed to admire the progress into the interior that has been achieved in spite of difficulties.. But while acknowledging this, we do not think it right to the people of this colony at large, whose interests suffer both directly and indirectly by the policy of dawdle that has for some years marked our railway construction work to condone or ignore that policy. We do not think the excuses made either for the contractor or for the Government are entirely satisfactory, because it must be clear that the interests to be considered first were those of the taxpayers. And those interests have been relegated into the back ground. With these remarks, we shall drop the subject of the delays and forgetting them, can admire the skill and judgment which the department of the Engineer in Chief has displayed in getting over such a very material obstacle as the Liverpool Range. It could not be surmounted, and it was therefore cut through. The line to Quirindi is not altogether another Zig zig, but is a highly creditable specimen of engineering skill, notwithstanding It winds along the side of a great mountain, crosses difficult gorges, pierces a rocky barrier, and is yet smooth and safe, and pleasant to ride upon. It passes over very ragged country indeed, and till the Moonbies shall be scaled, probably the Department will have had no task, leaving out the passage of the Blue Mountains, so full of trouble, and causing so much anxiety.


From the Murrurundi station, which up to Monday morning was the inland terminus of the Great Northern Railway, and which is situated about 1550 feet above sea level, the extension proceeds along a fairly level surface for two miles up the valley of the Pages. On one side the traveller has the valley bordering the river, at first with the picturesque town of Murrurundi spread over a portion of it. And passing away from that, come cultivated fields, and green grazing plots, and the river in its stony bed, and gentle declivities, one crowned with a handsome country house, and behind all, gloomy and stern and awful, the great range. On the other hand are flats and undulations and vast masses of the prevailing formation, which winds and weather have reduced to their present proportions, stand here and there, and give a very rugged and strange appearance to the landscape. And here too is a background of mountain, a broken irregular skyline, with some commanding peaks, and showing several precipitous rocky faces. At two miles from the starting point, the line bends, and crosses the Page over a substantial timber bridge, with four 26-feet openings. Then begins the ascent of the range, which forms the steepest gradient along the extension, being a rise of one in forty to the opening of the tunnel in Doughboy Hollow. The line passes along the side of the mountain and to accommodate it, the spurs which break the slope are cut through, and the intervening gullies are filled up, the cuttings and the embankments being some of them of great depth and height. Of the valley just below, the cuttings and the trees now shut out the view, but now and then glimpses are gained of the town, the cultivation patches, and the Great Northern Road winding through them. Beyond, there rises a world of mountains, hazy in the distance, and yet further behind them, another series of ranges, softly blue. Here the air is clean and pure. Presently the line crosses the coach road on a level crossing, the road having been slightly diverted for the purposes of the railway. We are now two thousand feet above the level of the sea, nearly five hundred feet above the valley, and nearly five miles from Murrurundi station. This is the spot which gives a panoramic view of the plain below, the trim town, the fields about and beyond it, the yellow road, the river with its bordering oaktrees, the overshadowing mountains on either side, the nearer range with, its purple haze, and the far distant one with its soft blue tones. The train goes slowly enough to let the traveller drink in the beauty of this lovely scene, for we are still climbing, and he gets several aspects of it from the crossing of the road to the mouth of the tunnel. The highest point of the range is here, 2112 feet above the level of the sea, but the tunnel mouth is at two thousand feet. The train enters, and traverses the 528 feet length of the tunnel, in darkness, with a rumble and a smell of sulphur, and some annoyance from smoke. From a minute and a half to two minutes is consumed in the passage, but it seems to take longer, Then we emerge into Dough boy Hollow, a pretty valley basin, with hills all around it. There is a small collection of houses here, and it is the first camping place, after leaving Murrurundi, for the carriers and their teams. The contractor had his chief difficulties to tackle in the six or seven miles which include the tunnel. The soil in the cuttings was loose and friable, or composed of broken stone, and the batter fixed in the first specifications was nothing like sufficient to ensure the integrity of the slopes. Consequently, Mr. Wakeford had in several cases to remove many thousands of yards of earth from the face of the cuttings after they were made, and this is said to have been a most troublesome and costly job. And then the embankments, being made of the uncongenial earth taken out of the cuttings, would not consolidate, and had a fashion of slipping down, and required frequent filling up, practically, re-making. The tunnel was also a source of anxiety and delay. First it had to be excavated, and then it had to be bricked, and the best laid plans of engineer and contractor could not foresee all the difficulties of the first operation, or the course that might produce delay in the second. There were difficulties arising from dearth of labour, in making the bricks, and in laying them when they were made. Mr Wakeford made his bricks near Murrurundi, and they were brought on trucks to the tunnel, this being pretty well the first use of the temporary way laid to facilitate the general work of construction. However, the tunnel stands, an accomplished feat, and we understand that all the work is excellent.


The Doughboy Hollow mouth of the tunnel terminates the assent of the range. The descent is effected on a gradient of one in forty. The line winds its way among the hills, the whole journey till the train gets near Warrah, being through picturesque broken country, involving some very deep cuttings and high embankments, one timber culvert with five twenty six feet openings, and some clever expedients for preventing the fall of earth. At one place, the line is carried round a shelf made in a very steep slope that overlooks the coach road, and the soil is so loose above the railway, and the face of the declivity so upright, that a timber fence has been made to receive and hold back the stones and earth that are loosened. This part of the journey will be a favorite one with travellers who like mountain scenery. You get no extended view, everywhere the hills bound the sight, but there is a constant change in the character of the surface of the country, and even now, in a dry season, and when the vegetation and the foliage are brown, pretty tree shadowed creeks which have fretted their tortuous way along, and green nooks, and moss grown rocks, and the winding coach road, with an ocaasional pitch of cultivation, or wayside house, make up a very delightful landscape. Nearer Warrah, the country becomes more open and level, the mountains are far away in the back ground, to the right hand and to the left and the signs of settlement and occupation increase in number and extent. The Willow Tree lnn is passed about twelve miles from Murrurundi, and round it a comparatively large stretch of land is in cultivation. We say comparatively, for the general character of the occupation of the country is pastoral and agriculture, however it may rank in the future, is of secondary importance and significance, In the present It has not yet had its chance, but the soil is favourable for the cultivation of cereals, and the climate judging from the appearance of the crops we saw above ground, not much against it, even in a season which is certainly not good for the growth of grass. We apprehend, therefore, that the railway will eventually promote a more nationally profitable use of this particular soil than its devotion to the production of beef and mutton.



Warrah Station.


Warrah station is fourteen miles from Murrurundi station, and is just within sight of the old Willow Tree Inn. It will be at this station that the railway traffic from Tamworth and New England will for the present begin. It is the extension from Murrurundi which will specially serve that traffic till the remaining thirty-eight miles of Mr. Wakeford's contracts are completed. There is a goods shed at Warrah, but at present no sign of any other occupation, except for railway purposes. We believe, however, that some land bas been bought by a Murrurundi forwarding agent, for the erection of an office, and possibly a few months may see a new village of Warrah spring into being.


After leaving Warrah, the line has no great troubles to surmount. The country is gently undulating, and at first we pass many pretty cultivation plots, and get, through the trees, pleasant glimpses of many more. Entering Colley Creek estate, we pass several magnificent grazing flats, some of which have been improved by Mr Loder so as to create a new beauty in the landscape. The ragged underwood and the stumps have all been carefully removed, and a beautiful green sward stretches far and wide below shady boughs, judiciously left to perform their kindly office to the herds that browse about them. There is plenty of variety of detail in this part of the journey, but its general features are, occasional plots of cultivation, open bush, and these plains. The mountains are away in the distance on either hand, and just serve to give character to the landscape, and to relieve it of monotony.


As the line approaches Quirindi, tho country changes a little. It becomes more ridgy, close to Quirindi are certain black soil ridges, which many a teamster has sworn at in wet weather. Several creeks and watercourses have had to be bridged. Quirindi Creek is crossed by a bridge of timber, having four twenty six foot openings, and Jacob and Joseph Creek is crossed by a viaduct of ten openings of similar capacity. Much of the bush has been removed from the flat country on the line we are now passing through, and a very pretty expanse of level land, bordered by low hills and gentle slopes, and broken by the meandering watercourses, affords an agreeable variety of scenery. Old Quirindi township nestles in an angle of some rocky rising ground, but a new township has been built, along the new road which has been made loading to the railway station, and which constitutes the main street of a town that the railway has called into existence. What was Quirindi in the old coaching days-was a smaller town than the new collection of houses which has been erected in anticipation of the completion of this extension. There are several public houses and stores and a flourmill finished and it may be claimed for this extension that it has made an important settlement of what was previously a very insignificant roadside village


Looking back from the Quirindi station over the country passed through, the sight is very engaging. The clearing in the foreground has been perfect, and there are no rugged stumps or dead ringbarked trees to offend the eye. That foreground consists of grassy flats, extending on every side, and rising wherever they end by gentlo curves, too slight to be called hills.


 We recommend travellers, when they reach Quirindi station, to cast an eye back along the line, and they will agree with us in thinking that the landscape stretched before them is one of special beauty. Indeed, the whole trip from the Murrurundi station to the Quirindi station will, in good weather, be one of the most pleasant railway journeys in the northern district, from the great variety and diversity of the scenery, none of which is tame or monotonous.


Quirindi is 1260 feet above sea-level, 740 feet below the tunnel mouth, twenty four miles from Murrurundi, and one hundred and forty four miles from Newcastle. It will be the centre of the railway traffic coming from Breeza and Gunnedah, and indeed from the whole of a very extensive area of the Liverpool Plains district. It is also the centre of an immediate population of free selectors, who are chiefly agricultural farmers, and both selection-if there is any land to be had-and the cultivation of wheat, ought to receive an impetus from the facilities of the railway.





Although the extension to Quirindi is somewhat a blow to the business prospects of Murrurundi, the Murrurundi people made the ceremony of opening an occasion for a holiday. The special trains that left Murrurundi during the forenoon were well filled, and among the travellers were Mr. Rae, Commissioner for Railways; Mr. Higgs, Northern Traffic Manager; with other gentlemen. The usual mail train arrived at Quirindi true to time, and found the place gay with flags, and a good crowd of people assembled, who cheered vociferously. The arrival of this through train had been waited for, and as it came up, Mc. C P Gruggen, J P Chairman of the Opening Ceremony Committee, welcomed Mr. Rae, who, in a few suitable words, declared the line open, and apologised for the absence of Sir Hercules Robinson and the Minister for Works. Cheers for the Queen, for 'the Governor, for the contractor, for Mr Hoskins, 'for the member for the district, for Mr Rae, for the resident engineer, for the visitors, and for Mr. W. C Browns, completed the brief ceremony.


These twenty four miles, dating from the opening of the extension to Murrurundi, have taken about five years to make. The Murrurundi extension was opened on April 5, 1872. But dating from the time that Mr Wakeford began, in April 1874, they have taken a little over three years. They ought to have been opened on August 31, 1876, and the extended contract time for the opening to Tamworth is September 30, next month.


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Helen Copeland | Reply 15.09.2013 14:19

How amazing the rail line Murrurundi to Quirindi took only 3 years. Would take longer these days even with modern equipment. Wonderful description.

Geoff Barwick. 16.09.2013 09:59

Yes, I agree. Yet it appears that the reporter is highly critical of how long it took to do the job?

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25.09 | 09:36

Absolutely delighted to come across a part of my direct ancestors history about which I knew very little and shall endeavour to find out more
Thank you Prof. A.

23.09 | 22:23

Very interesting Kelaher family history. Impressive number of trained nursing sisters. Jack lent the Copelands a cream horse, Playboy, in 1950's, ridden by Kate

09.09 | 17:58

Wonderfully informative. Thank goodness for Jane and John Atchison's work

06.09 | 14:33

I am Jack Kelaher and I am proud of my pop, dad and ancestors.

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