30 December 2010

From the east

And now for the third way to get to Coonamble.... from the east.

A Mudgee to Coonamble railway was first seriously studied by the NSW colonial parliament at the end of the Whitton era.  As early as 1880 the Legislative Assembly had voted on legislation for the Mudgee line’s extension to Coonamble.  At that time, the decision of the Assembly was to reject the proposal by 57 votes to 13.  Despite the comprehensive rejection of the proposal in this vote, in the 1890s two serious proposals for a railway line from Mudgee to Coonamble emerged.

The first proposal involved a short extension from Mudgee to Gulgong, then north-west through Cobborah (now Cobbora) and Munderoon (now Mendooran), before traveling west to Gilgandra, the north to Gulargambone and Coonamble.  It is notable that this proposal extended the railway from Coonamble, northward onwards to Walgett.  Survey work commenced in 1890 and the 1891 Annual Report of the Railway and Tramway Construction Branch of the Department of Public Works noted that an exploration of an improved route had been made.  By mid-1892 the proposal for the Cobbora route was in final form including the extension from Coonamble to Walgett.

The Department of Public Works also reported that 1891/92 brought a trial survey of an alternative route from Mudgee.  It is not clear whether this proposal involved Gulgong as parliamentary debates note that the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Works eschewed Gulgong on the basis that it was reputed to have ‘sufficiently sound roads to meet demand for transportation’.  However departmental records concerning this route appear to clearly contemplate Gulgong as part of the route.

This small uncertainty aside, the general direction of the route was to be much to the east of the Cobbora route.  Instead the line would travel through Leadville in order to ‘tap the Mount Stewart Mines’.  From this point, the railway was proposed to cross to Caigan, then north to Gulargambone and onwards to Coonamble.  Apparently this route was to remain on the eastern side of the Talbragar River, whereas the earlier proposal shadowed the western side of the river as did the eventual line from Dubbo.  This proposal is also notable for its advocacy for a separate spur from Gulargambone to Coonabarabran as part of the overall scheme of railway development.

By mid-1894 the Department of Public Works had finalised both surveys of the Mudgee to Coonamble railway.  While additional surveys were undertaken subsequently by 1898 the second Mudgee to Coonamble proposal appeared then to be the only politically viable alternative to Dubbo to Coonamble route.

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