THE COMING OF THE RAILWAY
The Great Dividing Range lived up to its name as far as transport in the early settlement was concerned.
A road was hacked across the mountains in 1813 in six months in a major engineering effort. Getting the railway here was even more difficult but necessary.
Loaded carts took up to 18 days to make the journey from Parramatta to Bathurst and freight costs were extreme. Even coaches took five days.
In 1857, an officer (Captain Hawkins) charged with finding a suitable route for a railway wrote back to the Surveyor-General saying “that no practical line for a railway or tramway exists between the Cox and Colo Rivers”.
However, by 1859 a practical route had been settled as far as Mt Victoria. An extension from Parramatta was authorised in January 1862 but getting contractors to do the job and finish on time caused many delays.
For example, Mark Faviell who was contracted to build the section from Locksley to Kelso by 1870 had to be granted an extension of two years and five months.
The line inched its way closer to Bathurst (Raglan March 1873; Kelso Feb 1875 and finally to Bathurst on 4 April, 1876).
The rail bridge (which can still be seen over the river though not in use) was part of the last section and was imported from England and erected by Mr. Mason.
It is made up of two lattice girders divided into three spans supported by 9ft cast iron cylinders, sunk 14ft below water level.
Having a railway station was a major status symbol for a country town and a huge economic boost for the district.
Lower Keppel Street came alive with business and travellers.
An 1877 timetable shows two trains daily each way leaving Sydney at 9am and 5.15pm and arriving at 5.27pm and 1.27am respectively.
The station was opened by the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson on 4 April, 1876.
The whole town had a holiday and there was a three-day race meeting. Children were given drinks and sweets at a special party and there was a Grand Luncheon at the Market House and a Public Ball at the School of Arts Hall.
The original Station Masters’ residence and apparently a weatherboard cottage still remain from these early days, although other facilities have come and gone.
The second platform was built in 1882 and the Russell Street overpass in 1888.
In the mid-20th century, when the railway was at its peak, it was a major local employer and many streets close by were heavily populated by these workers e.g. Torch St.
The railway station is still close to its original form and is unique amongst NSW stations. It is in Victorian Tudor style and the original fabric and detailing are described as outstanding.