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.