Yes, its been a while since Marthaguy, but Gilgandra is a big place....so lets get rolling.
Gilgandra lies 17 kilometres beyond Balladoran and 63 kilometres from Dubbo. The name ‘Gilgandra’ means ‘long waterhole’ in the indigenous language of the region. Arriving at Gilgandra by rail means that one has reached a point 525 rail kilometres distant from Sydney’s terminal.
At the time of construction of the line Gilgandra represented the first real civilisation after leaving Dubbo. The township already had some considerable permanency. A post office had been established in June 1867, and a full school was in place by 1887.
Gilgandra was also the railway’s first connection with the Castlereagh River. Initially, this nexus was proposed to be an immediate one, as Gilgandra’ s railway station was planned to be located 4.5 miles away from the main part of the township on the western bank of the Castlereagh River. However political pressure resulted in the station being relocated to its present location, well away from the riverbank.
The initial track layout of Gilgandra provided the sorts of facilities which would be expected, including station buildings, goods shed, stock yards and the first wool siding on the branch line. The station building was the largest structure encountered after leaving Dubbo. It provided a general waiting room, a ladies’ waiting room, an office for the station master and a separate parcels office.
One relatively uncommon feature at Gilgandra was the wye provided for turning locomotives. This had been installed by 1906. It suggests that the railway was maturing beyond its initial task of connecting Coonamble to the wider railway system and that the predicted increase in traffic along the line was already occurring.
Although it does not appear on Gilgandra’s track diagram until 1927, records indicate that a small coal stage and ash pit was provided at the apex of the wye in March 1904.
Catch-points were provided on Dubbo and Coonamble ends of the turntable roads at Gilgandra were brought into use on 31 March 1913.
Within a dozen years the growth of traffic on the line required additional facilities, including a grain shed, which the Railway Commissioners noted as being under construction in their 1914 Annual Report. The shed appears on the 1916 track diagram for the location, along with the extension of the wool siding on which it was located. The shed held 20,000 wheat bags at capacity.
At some early stage refreshment facilities were provided on the station platform. These were operated by a contracted private firm until the Railway’s records state that Gilgandra Railway Refreshment Rooms taken over by the Railway Commissioners on 1 February 1917. This change warranted the construction of accommodation for the staff of the rooms in July 1917.
Not only passengers were watered at Gilgandra. The initial signal diagram for the location shows a water tank located to the south of the platform. Records suggest that this was of 90kl capacity. In 1921, the tank received a roof. While subsequent diagrams do not show this tank, by 1927 it was joined by a second tank of the same capacity at the northern end of the platform. Other records suggest that this second tank arrived in September 1931.
In October 1925 a new dead-end wheat siding laid in at Gilgandra, between the Crossing Loop and the Goods Siding.
This decade brought Gilgandra two landmarks which remain until the current time. The first was a Metcalf silo constructed in 1920 with a capacity of 14,400 tonnes, which was extended in 1927 with the addition of a workhouse. At the time of this extension, on 5 July 1927, Gilgandra’s completely reorganised yard was brought into operation.
The other enhancement was the mill at the northern end of the yard operated by McLeod’s Milling Company. This stub-ended siding had existed from June 1909, but by 1927 it had received its name to reflect the substantial mill constructed adjacent to the railway. This mill was served by the railway until 24 November 1982.
Primary produce – grain, wool, livestock - were not the only commodities to require railway infrastructure within Gilgandra’s railway yards. Separate fuel sidings were provided for the Esso and Mobil petroleum companies.
On 12 August 1929 the Vacuum Oil Siding was brought into operation at Gilgandra. It was a dead-end siding on the down side of the line, with points facing the down side and had standing room for ten trucks.
In somewhat of a major disruption to the railway services in the area Gilgandra railway station destroyed by fire on 2 December 1930. Passenger services did recover and were nourished by a replacement building which served until the cessation of such services in 1975. After this date passengers travelling along the Newell Highway courtesy of omnibuses commissioned by the railway authorities were provided with an opportunity to visit the railway station as part of their rubber-tired adventure.
The 1950s brought further expansion of the grain handling facilities. The decade commenced with the extension of the Metcalf silo. Five years later the railway authorities constructed an A Depot grain bulkhead.
Nearly 50 further years were to elapse before further grain handling facilities were established in the vicinity of Gilgandra. In September 2003 the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) commissioned its grain depot.
Today Gilgandra’s railway precinct provides a much reduce imposition on the landscape. It is eclipsed by the Australian Wheat Board’s bulk grain facility which is two kilometres to the south. A single goods siding services the railway yard, with a disused stub-end spur in place to the east of the goods siding.