31 August 2011


As there are fewer than ten minutes to midnight on the last day of August 2011, I have just a few moments to make it to the end of the line.  This is a pretty rushed description of Coonamble, and doesn't really do it justice.  I will attempt to remedy this later this year.  Anyway, with all its faults and omissions, here's a posting about Coonamble's railway infrastructure...  

Coonamble, the terminus of the branch line, is reached 91 kilometres after Gilgandra, 154 kilometres after Dubbo and 616 kilometres after leaving the buffer-stops at platform 1 at Sydney’s Central Station.

The railway infrastructure confirmed the permanence and vibrancy of Coonamble’s community.  Following white settlement in the area as early as 1839, the first post office opened in April 1859, while the first public school had been opened in 1867 – only 18 years after the commencement of public education in the colony.

Coonamble, as the rationale for the entire railway branch line’s existence, received a terminus worthy of its status as a major and emerging township.  A platform extending 78 metres hosted a station building, which included an office for the station master, a general waiting room, a ladies’ waiting room and a room for the storage of parcels about to commence or complete a rail journey – known as an ‘out of’ room.

Along with these passenger facilities, a goods shed of substance, loading bank and stockyards were provided.  A siding stretching 247 metres hosted these three fixtures.

Until the later expansion at Gilgandra the only significant loco-servicing facilities on the branch line were provided at Coonamble.  These were constituted by a single stall engine shed, carriage shed and a turntable.  The turntable proved to be immediately problematic, as it required adjustment and improvement in June 1903.

The initial layout of Coonamble obviously proved to be inadequate for operational needs.  Within seven years three further stub-end sidings were provided within the yard.  Included in this was the April 1907 expansion of the stock yards.  In 1910 the station platform was extended, which was reflected in the October 1910 track diagram.  This extension may also have occurred as early as 1907, according to other sources.

In 1911 fire damaged the station building.  It was replaced immediately, while extensions to the carriage shed were also made that year in time for that year’s Christmas passenger traffic.  In July of the following year an awning was built for the station building.

In mid-1913 a public telephone was connected into the goods shed at Coonamble.

On 18 December 1916 the down distant signal at Coonamble replaced by a landmark.

It appears that Coonamble lagged behind other locations on the line in the provision of grain receival facilities.  Undoubtedly, bagged grain was moved in considerable quantities from Coonamble.  However it was not until 1962 that Coonamble received its first wheat silo.  In 1966 a D-type depot wheat bulkhead was also built at Coonamble.  This structure was the fourth of its type built on the Coonamble line, with a fifth added at Mogriguy in 1970.  The need for grain receival facilities at Coonamble was less than at the more southerly intermediate locations along the railway.  Coonamble was, and remained until very recent time, principally sheep territory.

On 10 January 1929 Coonamble also received a private Shell fuel siding – thus providing a third fuel company with the need to operate over the Coonamble railway line.

Today Coonamble is an odd affair.  A portion of the main line within the yard has been removed, leaving the platform road (at 740 metres) paralleling the 738 metre goods loop.  The southern end of the goods loop has two spurs.  The first provides access to the location’s grain facilities, which are placed on either side of the railway line.  A gravity hump provides a means to propel wagons into the grain loading area.  A second spur, just to the north of the first, lies disused.

Thanks for sticking with me on this trip along the Coonamble branchline throughout winter.  There is much more to come about this fascinating part of the NSW Government Railways.

28 August 2011


And now for the penultimate stop on the Coonamble branch, Combara, which is situated within the Budgeon Parish, part of Leichhardt County.  This tiny railway landmark existed 135 rail kilometres from Dubbo, making it 596 rail kilometres from Sydney.  The establishment of the railway brought a metropolitan expansion, requiring the opening of a post office in June 1904 and a public school in September 1904.

Combara’s station operated from the opening of the railway, until after the cessation of passenger rail services in November 1974.  It was closed officially on 22 September 1975.  Apparently the passengers had been treated to a single waiting room, built on a timber-faced platform. Nothing too fancy for those awaiting the two daily trains.

A single goods siding completed the railway infrastructure.  Along this siding, loading/wool bank and sheep yards were provided.  At some later stage a 5 tonne crane and a goods shed were added.  In 1968 a C-type wheat depot was also added, thereby providing a total capacity of 28,600 tonnes.

Today Combara has a 584 metre loop for its grain depot.  This time a gravity hump exists at the northern end of the loop.

27 August 2011


Now its time for perhaps what will be the largest expose ever posted on the world wide web about the village of Brightling, New South Wales.

Brightling is 585 rail kilometres from Sydney and 123 kilometres from Dubbo.  It is reached 12 kilometres from Gular.  Arrival at Brightling marks the passage from Ewenmar County and the first stop at the Giliguldry Parish within Lincoln County.

Brightling was named for a local property, Brightling Park.  It also existed prior to the coming of the railway.  Indeed, owing to public need, the Brightling Park Public School had been established in June 1883, a full 20 years prior to the railway.

The initial railway infrastructure provided at Brightling, a station platform and a waiting shed, appears to have been appropriate to passenger demands and was not enhanced throughout the entire seven decade period of passenger rail services.

In July 1919 the Railway Commissioners’ Weekly Notices stated that the phonophore had been withdrawn from Brightling and installed at Coonamble.  Doubtless the local citizenry was astounded at the loss of this valuable civic asset.

A decade prior to the cessation of all passenger rail services on the line patrons of Brightling were told that trains would no longer routinely stop at this location.  Once again there is little doubt that those admittedly few patrons were well used to such civic disappointments, as the public school had closed as early as January 1909 and postal services had existed at Brightling only between 1907 and 1931.

21 August 2011


Yes, it has been a little while.  The delay in posting Gular stems from teenagers’ modem syndrome – the ability of teenagers to take perfectly functioning electrical items and render them unusable, then pop them into a cupboard and deny all knowledge of the item’s newly acquired fault.  So, on the back of modem #3 for 2011, we move along the line to Gular.

Gular lies 48 kilometres from Gilgandra.  It is 14 kilometres from Armatree and 111 kilometres from Dubbo.  It is also two kilometres outside of the village of Gulargambone.  The district takes its name from the original pastoral property in the area, Gullargambone, which was established by a Mr Toilby in 1841.

After the initial settlement the village grew steadily in size.  A public school was opened in June 1881.  While there were clearly other villages, Gulargambone was named along with Gilgandra as the only settlements of worthy of particular note north of Dubbo during the NSW Parliamentary Debates over the construction of the railway.

During the construction of the Coonamble branch line Gulargambone remained the title for the railway yard.  However the railway authorities decided that a name change was in order as Gulargambone could be confused with the already-established stations of Girilambone and Garah.  The chosen name of Gular saved both confusion and printers’ ink.

The commencement of services along the branch line brought the establishment of a 219 metre crossing loop at Gular.  The yard also possessed two shorter sidings.  The first at the southern end of the yard provided a stockyard with a combined cattle/sheep race.  The second siding passed around the eastern side of the crossing loop.  It provided a loading/wool bank and a substantial goods shed.  All up, Gular possessed standing room for 219 four-wheel wagons – suggesting a degree of optimism by the Railway Commissioners about the level of commerce emanating from Gulargambone. 

Intending passengers were provided with a decent-sized waiting shed for shelter, though it appears that the shed was not available until October 1903, so the first winter of railway operations may have been fun. 

A 90kl water tank south of the Dubbo-end of the platform and fed from the Castlereagh River, enabled crews to refill tenders of the steam locomotives. 

As with other locations the initial years of operation brought numerous improvements to the railway infrastructure.  At some stage a 5 ton crane and a 20 ton weighbridge were installed.  December 1910 brought extensions to the platform, while January 1921 brought the roofing of the water tank.

The most substantial capital improvements at Gular during the 20th century came in the latter half.  After nearly five decades of bagging wheat in 1951 a wheat bulkhead was built at Gular.  Before the end of that decade a wheat silo was also under construction, while 1964 brought a second wheat silo.  Ryan notes that the C Depot grain facilities provided 49,800 tonnes of capacity at Gular and were constructed with concrete walls and ends and a corrugated roof.

Not all changes were capital improvements - Gular’s demise paralleled the stripping of similar items at other locations along the branchline.  The demise of passenger services occurred in the mid-1970s, along with the demolition of the water tank took place in April 1976.   A decade later in July 1986 the wrecking ball came for the station.

Entering the 21st century, Gular was formed by an 890 metre loop on its eastern side.  Alongside the loop is a 958 metre stub-end siding to service the grain receival facility – including a gravity hump at the southern end.  It remains worthy of recognition as the third largest township on the branch line, only eclipsed by Gilgandra and the terminus.

08 August 2011


A new month, and a new location.  I am aiming to reach Coonamble (in this blog) before spring so today its time to cover off the mighty metropolis of Armatree.

Armatree lies within the Allamurgoola Parish, which is also part of Ewenmar County.  It is a 560 kilometre rail journey from Sydney.  White settlement existed at Armatree prior to the coming of the railway, sufficient to justify the establishment of a public school in the location in 1885.

Armatree’s railway station lies 15 rail kilometres from Curban and 97 kilometres from Dubbo.  It was initially known as Armatree Platform, although early publications also refer to ‘Armitree’.  This confusion was reinforced by postal officials who named the local outlet as ‘Armitree Railway’ between 1906 and 1916.

The earliest track diagram of Armatree hardly tested the skills of the colonial drafters.  Right now I am going to reproduce the initial station diagram for Armatree Platform, sourced from the very most-excellent Australian Railway Historical Society's NSW Track & Signal Diagrams to demonstrate this point ...

 The distinguishing feature of this complex railway yard, the timber-faced platform, measured 52 metres.  The station building provided a ladies’ waiting room, a general waiting room and a booking office.

At some stage during the first decade of railway operation, a siding was established – presumably on the eastern side of the line as the western side contained the platform.  On 21 August 1911 the siding at Armatree was extended at the Sydney end, bringing the total capacity of the siding to 26 four-wheel trucks.  In late August 1912 a 20 ton cart weighbridge provided at Armatree. 

In the middle of the following year a medium-sized goods shed was provided at the location.  Interestingly Forsyth appears to contradict this announcement in the Weekly Notices when he notes that March 1916 brought the erection of a more modestly-sized goods shed.

On Thursday 22 January 1914 a new dead-end wheat loading siding was brought into use on the Up side of the line, 260 yards on the Dubbo side of the goods siding.

Armatree was classified as a booking station for parcels traffic from 1 February 1917.  A solitary member of the Railway Department was assigned to the location.

Trucking yards were established in December 1918.  On 18 December 1918 sheep and cattle trucking yards with permanent sheep and cattle races were brought into use, with room for 16 trucks without a loco lead. 

The railway yards presumably contained a 5 ton crane as in late 1935 the crane’s jib was replaced from cast iron to cast steel.  It also appears that a loading/wool bank was installed during the early part of the 20th century.

Grain facilities at Armatree were also increased in incremental stages.  Initially bagged wheat was loaded from the loading bank.  Bulk facilities arrived in 1935 when a wheat silo was constructed.  The silo was increased in capacity in 1960.  In 1964 a wheat bulkhead was constructed and in 1966 a Wheat ‘D-type’ depot was erected.  Currently, Armatree has a 22,850 tonne capacity grain storage facility.  'D-type' depots are the most common type of storage on the Coonamble branch. All but the Armatree version have the same capacity of 15,000 tonnes- the Armatree D120 depot has a lower capacity of 12,000 tonnes.

Armatree’s passenger facilities did not appear in time for the line’s official opening.  However by 18 November 1903 a station was available for opening.  At some early stage passenger traffic seemingly warranted additional facilities.  On 10 May 1924 this increased demand was sated through the extension of the platform.  Most station platforms on the Coonamble line were constructed by an earthen embankment, faced by wooden sleepers.   However the extension at Armatree was constructed from pre-cast concrete sections.

Armatree’s delayed opening of its passenger accommodations also foretold of its delayed demise.  While it lost its status as an unattended station in 1970, Armatree Station was only closed officially on 26 April 1976, approximately six months after the cessation of passenger rail facilities.

Today Armatree is composed of a single loop serving two purposes.  Entering from the south, a gravity hump provides a means to propel wagons along a 461 stretch of track servicing the grain receival facilities.  The northern end of the loop traverses 229 metres adjacent to the loading bank.

Two kilometres beyond Armatree lies the site of a ballast siding, which operated between July 1908 and March 1937.