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MURWILLUMBAH Railway Station now houses the Visitor Information Centre, bringing new life to the building previously closed in 2004. Helen Manning, who volunteers at both the visitor centre and the museum, has researched and written the history of the railway station for this week's column:
THE Lismore to Tweed Railway was officially opened on May 15, 1894.
The first train arrived in Murwillumbah from Lismore on Christmas Eve, 1894, the culmination of 10 years of lobbying, planning, design and construction for a railway line to transport agricultural produce to markets through the deep- water port at Byron Bay.
Despite the long wait for their railway, the people of Murwillumbah did not seem to be overly excited about the first train arriving.
The Northern Star reported, "The train arrived at Murwillumbah up to time at 11.35. Visitors were struck with the apathy which people at the other end of the line viewed the opening”.
M13-12 Murwillumbah Railway Station, C1900, showing the cylindrical water towerTweed Regional Museum
"There was no display of bunting, no banners or mottoes to bid the visitors welcome ... merely a few people numbering probably a score, attracted apparently by mere curiosity. As an opening day, and completion of a line, it was perhaps the coldest ceremony ever witnessed in the annals of New South Wales' railway openings,” the article read.
A railway line from Lismore to Murwillumbah was first mooted in 1884, as at the time all agricultural produce had to leave the area by ship and could be delayed from market because of the uncertainty of the Tweed River bar.
The line originally had 24 stations together with additional hailing stops but became known as the line from "nowhere to nowhere”.
Although the rail line continued north from Murwillumbah to the sugar mill at Condong, Murwillumbah was the terminus for the passenger service.
By 1905 the Murwillumbah Railway Station comprised a three-room, skillion-roofed timber building.
In 1909, rest house accommodation was built for the use of train crews, and the platform was constructed in 1916. The current station building was constructed in the 1920s.
Opposite the station was the loco area, comprising a water tank and column, coal stage, 60-foot turntable and a single-track engine shed which held about two-and- half engines under cover.
The lower half of the cylindrical water tower housed the fuelman's office which still stands today.
Workers load bananas at the Murwillumbah Railway Station, circa 1910.Tweed Regional Museum
s well as providing a passenger service between Sydney and Murwillumbah, the railway transported produce, such as butter, corn and cream heading for the butter factory at Murwillumbah, and pigs destined for bacon production.
Two banana trains left Murwillumbah each week, some carrying 44,000 cases bound for Sydney.
The cane train travelled from the Crabbes Creek area to the Condong Sugar Mill.
When it reached the mill it had to cross the then- Pacific Highway and blocked it as it was being unloaded, to the frustration of motorists. After the sugar was produced, bags of raw sugar and tankers of molasses were railed south.
The station building, showing why Murwillumbah won many state railway garden competitions.Tweed Regional Museum
Murwillumbah Railway Station was a busy place: a 1955 timetable showed 14 arrivals and departures on a particular day, carrying goods, mail, passengers and fruit and perishables.
After 1973, the Gold Coast Motorail carried cases of prawns and fish, and bags of oysters daily to Sydney.
For many years a train left Murwillumbah every Sunday in the summer picking up passengers at all stations for a day at Byron Bay, returning just before dark. It was a very popular and crowded train.
The station was a tourist attraction in itself - a sub-tropical paradise covered in beautiful staghorns, crows nests and tree ferns - and took many prizes in state railway garden competitions.
During the 1960s, diesel engines replaced steam, and in 1973 the Gold Coast Motorail was introduced which carried passengers' cars and offered a sleeper service.
In 1990 the popular Motorail was discontinued and replaced by a daily XPT service.
Rail services to Murwillumbah were discontinued in 2004, replaced by a bus service to the rail terminus at Casino.
* Talking History is a column supplied by the staff of the Tweed Regional Museum. It features the stories behind their rich collection.
This article first appeared on www.tweeddailynews.com.au
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