A New Railway Era?

Every boy loves a train and my mate Mick, the sage of Wiseman’s Creek, is still a boy at heart.

He told me a story about Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton who has been celebrated as “the father of the NSW railways”.

Mick says … “His bust (pictured) at Sydney’s Central station looks out over the platforms of the railways he designed, in imitation of the father of rail in Britain from the 1830s, the wonderfully named Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose bust is displayed at Paddington Station in London.”

Funny what Mick knows.

Whitton’s work in NSW was characterised by constant struggle and inadequate funding. Mick says he always argued that what’s not spent in capital would be spent later in operation, and he was right.

But his line across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst was a huge feat of engineering, these days underappreciated, and has stood the test of time (think nineteen crossings of Solitary Creek between Rydal and Tarana alone).

We have an evocative reminder of Whitton in a gift he made to Bathurst around the time the station was completed in 1876, in the form of the two station benches (pictured) which you can still sit in today.

But now we have the prospect of more rail services to Bathurst, maybe the electrification of the line, maybe a reinstated link via Demondrille to the marvellous Lachlan Valley Rail group at Cowra.

Certainly we now have a good new railway carpark at Bathurst which respects our heritage (thanks John Holland), a repainted goods office, and the promised railway museum in the Railway Institute building still in the works. Thanks also to Steve and the other staff who preserve our wonderful station.

Down the in the heritage Railway Precinct, or lower Milltown, there’s heaps happening – the revitalisation of Tremain’s Mill, the two former hotels opposite The Vic being restored, Milltown Police Station beautifully restored as a B&B, and cottages being rejuvenated all over – I know, I know, it’s a real estate boom.

Thought of the week … “Exciting times ahead for railway heritage in Bathurst”