In the 1870s – early 1880s people from Gundagai area were pressing the NSW Government for a local railway service. They showed a high level of enthusiasm via their local progresses committees for a railway to be built to the town. This demand for a railway was interesting as the main railway line had not even reached Cootamundra at this stage. The line to Cootamundra opened in 1877.

Line survey is approved
After gaining much local popularity and applying pressure to the politicians to examine the ideas regarding bringing railway services to the town, the NSW Government finally agreed to undertake a survey and also plan to start work on a railway line to Gundagai.

Records are lost

The Gundagai railway survey was stored in Sydney in 1882 at the Grand Palace and unfortunately a large fire broke out in the building burning it down. The fire and loss of the Gundagai line records caused the project major upset and delays. Due to the loss of the original records in the fire, a request for another survey was applied for and approved. In 1883 a new survey was conducted to restore the documentation lost.

During 1883 after the survey was retaken, Gundagai was host to a public meeting where a large 7.6m map was put up for display. This map was to show the surveyed information / planned route of the new railway.

The locals were able to review and provide feedback on the plans.

Branch line work commences
Work commenced on the construction of the new branch line in late 1883.
Contractor service trains followed the men as the line progressed closer to Gundagai. These trains brought the rail and sleepers in and they were dumped at various locations. The work teams then man handled the wood and rails into place.

The original rail has stayed in place since 1884 / 1885 as seen by the manufacturing dates on these sections.

Many new stations and sidings were built along the railway line. These stations and stops allowed the people in the country to catch a train without having to travel too far.
At Gundagai the location for the new station was disputed initially but finally a site was chosen which is the now present railway yard. In constructing the branch line, track work involved large teams of men cutting out hills sides, preparing embankments, preparing the perways and laying timber sleepers for the steel track. It took a while but it was eventually completed after a few years.

Here is a gradient map of the Cootamundra to Gundagai branch line, showing the hills and flat sections kindly supplied to the GRM by a railway enthusiast.

Click this link to view a general railway map of the region. The line is seen as the green track – http://www.gundagai.nsw.gov.au/files/2579/File/AppendixC.pdf

The majority of the line was single track except where stations had large yards. At these stations multiple tracks existed with were called. Some of these sidings were also as passing loops for the passing of the trains when they occasionally would pass each other. The larger yards also had extra track sidings which contained stock races, loading banks and good sheds.

Gundagai branch line opens – 1886

Gundagai station was built in 1885 and completed on 21 July 1886. The NSW Government officially took control of the line and declared it open for public use on June 1 1886. First services along the new branch line were the service contractor trains and then as the line was officially opened up to Gundagai, passengers and mail/freight was allowed to be added to the train trips. The entire line construction cost amounted to $540,000 pounds.

Here are maps and diagram dating from 1930s we believe, indicating layouts of Gundagai station for railway uses.



Station layouts in the Gundagai region



Here is the actual legislation detail passed in 1900 as Act 43 – regarding the approval for the railway extension from Gundagai to Tumut – http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/sessionalview/sessional/act/1900-43.pdf.  In 1902-3 a timber and steel railway bridge was built to the south of the Gundagai railway station across the Murrumbidgee River. This was the start of the new extension to Tumut. This extension when fully built would eventually lead to Tumut, Batlow and Kunama.

Here is a map of the Cootamundra to Tumut railway branch line as fully built, click on map for better detail.

Gundagai line map

Seen at the intersection of the railway line bridge area and the old Hume Highway were signal and markers for train drivers – 1974. Credit:G.Harvey


Gundagai railway station and yard due to its status as a terminus station up until 1903. Being at 286 miles from Sydney meant it was constructed with ample accommodation as a large scale timber passenger station building. The foundations were built into the local stone earthworks.

The station design contained –

    • a general waiting room 20 feet x 17 feet,
    • parcels and ticket offices next door to waiting room,
    • porters’ and ladies’ rooms 15 feet x 14 feet;
    • the lamp-room,
    • toilets were built separated from the main building by yards and sheds  at each end,
    • the front of the station had porch and verandas to road approaches.
    • a veranda was built on the platform front.

The station design / layout shown below has been kindly measured up and donated to the GRM webpage by the Tumut Modellers Railway group. (Further information on the TRM link up with the GRM can be found on the Media/Newspaper section). The orientation of the design is the platform is shown at the top of the image and the current car park is at the bottom section in front of the main entrance.

The platform, was built with ramps on each end was 330 feet x 15 feet wide. An extra siding to hold a carriage was built on north end as a standard dock siding, this could hold carriages up to 50 feet in length.

The goods shed was built 72 feet by 22 feet, from timber and galvanised iron materials. This had two outside covered platforms 6 feet wide, extending the whole length of the building back and front, and an outside uncovered platform, 84 feet x 15 feet, with double siding for loading purposes.

Nearby a pumping engine house was operated for moving the water supply from Morley’s Creek to the station yard.

The station master’s house was built as a two-story brick building, with slate roof, contained 7 rooms, hallway and pantry. Standard veranda and balcony were added.

The sheep and cattle races and yards, with double sidings was located to the north of the railway yard.


An interesting document recently revealed, shows that the northern end of the Gundagai yard which once had an operational 100,000 gallon concrete dam/reservoir on the hill side and that it was used for some form of “water trains” / movement / water storage / railway work. possibly judging from piping bringing water down to the railway yard these were for “water trains” which were used for line side water tank refilling of fettler water tanks. The use of water for the steam locomotives does seem unlikely but cant be ruled out at this time.

This dam is found in the air to ground photo below, in the top left hand corner, as a big square on the hill surrounded by the trees and bush.


The dam had 3 pipes running down the hillside towards the railway tracks. On the rock cliff the cutting on the goods siding road, as shown by diagram below and from what remains of the cliff face, were locations for water pipes with jibbs to disgorge the water into the trains.


These piping and taps were removed in 1930s, as early as 1936 as shown by diagram below.


NSWGR Station staff/employees operations at Gundagai
NSWGR Station staff ran the ticket office, freight shed operations, refreshment rooms and maintained the grounds. Fettler teams maintained the railway track with tools and use of the manual and motorised trikes.


Once fully opened for business in 1886, the Cootamundra to Gundagai and then after 1903 the extension to Batlow/Kunama, the line was primarily used to move freight and people from southern NSW into Sydney and other parts of NSW. Tourists from around NSW could now visit the south of NSW with ease via safe and reliable train movements.

Fruit/crops, animals and timber was the main source of the freight carried on the line during its service life.

Passengers used the line to travel in NSW by connecting with the various Expresses and Mail trains which stopped at Cootamundra. The services were run according to a timetable which was printed every year and with updates as required. Here is a cover of a 1960 NSWGR timetable for the country branch lines. (Click on image for more detail)

And found in the timetable would be an example of the Cootamundra to Tumut branch line times and operations – (Click on image for more detail). An example of the NSWGR Southern NSW line timetable from 1900s.

To see more about the railway’s history click this link and you will be able to search for Gundagai Railway history as covered by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. The stories which you can browse through range from the late 1800s to 1950s.

Train consists and locomotives used on the branch line
The Tumut branch line was designed from its opening to handle light weight and medium weight train operations pulled by steam locomotives. Steam ran from 1886 until late 1960s on the branch line. As the steam era came to end in the late 1950-60s plans were already underway for the NSWGR to replace on the branch lines the steam locomotives with new diesel locomotives.
Light weight / medium weight diesels – which eventually replaced steam locomotives in NSW – were introduced in the early 1960s into service and in doing so, the new diesels eliminated most of the small locomotives depots / locomotive sidings found on the branch line.

These movements were comprised of various load consists of either “mixed” freight wagons and passenger carriages or goods trains with the passengers generally carried in a small area inside the composite van which was at the end of the consist. These composite vans were called HCX or HCS.
At other times when even few paying passengers were on board, the passengers were carried in the PHG guards van, which housed a small passenger section.

The Gundagai yard used to have a turntable to turn the locomotives on so they could travel leading end back to Cootamundra. The turntable was placed at Gundagai as the location was originally the terminus location for the branch line. The turntable usage requirement was removed when the branch line was extended to Tumut and Kunama, then cut back to Batlow in the 1950s. Batlow and Tumut then became the main sites to need and use a turntable. The turntable was still able to be used up until the end of the steam and diesel era.

The types of locomotives used on the line were generally done by a single class of locomotive either steam or diesel. The known classes to have operated on the line include:

  • 12 Class 4-4-0 steam locomotives –
  • 19 0-6-0 steam locomotives –
  • 25 Class  2-6-0 steam locomotives –
  • 30T Class 4-6-0 steam locomotives –
  • 48 Class diesel locomotives –
  • 49 Class diesel locomotives –
  • CPH diesel railmotor –
  • 600/700 diesel railcars –
  • *32 class steam locomotives were only noted on a vintage tour.

Locomotive operations on the branch line

The initial operations in 1886 used 1877 built 19 class  0-6-0 steam locomotives as motive power. These 19 classes were small in size so they were suitable for turning on the turntables due to been specially fitted with tenders. The small 50ft turntables were found on many country branch lines. The 19 class were also suited for the tight chain curves and lightweight rail as found on the branch line. At different times in the lines early use, some of the services that ran between Cootamundra – Tumut and beyond, saw a variety of other  NSWGR locomotives used such as the 12 class 4-4-0s on passenger services. The goods runs were handled by the 25 class 2-6-0s as they were more powerful and suited for the line. By the 1950s, as age and parts became limited for these elderly locomotives, they were  replaced with the more newer and powerful 30 Class 4-6-0s. The 30 class locomotives were able to be turned on the 50′ turntable at Tumut.

By the 1960s diesel locomotives were introduced to the workings and over time 48 and 49 class diesels were used to haul the freight movements.

A 48class locomotive is seen hauling various goods and freight wagons out of Tumut heading towards Gundagai in 1974.Credit:G.Harvey

As passengers services developed over time across NSW, the 1920s saw the introduction of the CPH “Tin Hares” railmotors and then later on in 1950s of the more modern diesel railmotors 600 / 700 series.  The introdction of the railmotors totally changed branch line movements all across NSW as they were fast and economical movers.

The CPH and 600-700 series railmotors became the common way to travel for most passengers outside locomotive hauled passenger services scheduled runs.

For the Tumut branch line, CPH railmotor travel ended November 1983 when the NSW Government removed all CPHs from service due to withdrawal of country branch line services. Most were replaced by buses.

To compound the passenger services withdrawal, the NSW State Government decided to close the Tumut branch line to services on 13 January 1984 due to extensive damage from flooding at Mt Horeb and the ongoing cost of maintaining the perway.

Mount Horeb station as seen in 1974. Credit:G.Harvey

With this important railway service removed, many southern communities in the region lost a local train service and now nearly 30years later is it still keenly missed. Buses have taken over the role of moving people and trucks have replaced freight trains.
The Tumut Branch line has been since 1984 been further cut or removed in several places such as Coolac and Cootamaundra, thus indicating unless repaired / rebuilt / new track plans are proposed – no more services are ever likely to run from Sydney to Gundgai or Tumut ever again.

Gundagai station is closed and left to rot 1984-1990
The station had decayed from 1984 until early 1990 with vandalism, parts missing and building material decaying due to no maintenance. Once the SRA left the station, in the following 6years every glass window was broken, intentional fires damaged part of the building and everything that could be removed was stolen.

By early 1990s the SRA was intending to bulldoze the station as was required with its abandoned station policy. This created a concern for some locals regarding their town history being demolished forever.

A local group saw there was a need to keep the station intact… read more about the restoration at this link – http://gundagairailwaymuseum.wordpress.com/restoration-of-railway-station-yard/

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