Merriwa Railway Society Incorporated

History Page


 

Above is a plan of the Railway Station in its final configuration and the complete Merriwa Railway Precinct. Supplied by the UHSC and the ARTC.

Early History

It took 30 years of lobbying by locals back in the late 1800's lead by Mr Alan McRae to have a committment from the NSW Government to build a rail line to service Merriwa and the surrounding district.

The Merriwa Brach Line was opened in October 1917. The Branch started at Muswellbrook and locomotives were provided at Muswellbrook Loco Depot for all freight and passenger workings. A number of branch line locomotive clases worked the line but over time it was most common to have C30T and D50 class locomtoives working the goods traffic and CPH Railmotors on Passenger duties.

Stations on the Merriwa Line were: Roxburgh, Mangoola, Denman, Myambat, Sandy Hollow, Gungal, Wappinguy and Merriwa. During construction of the section from Denman to Merriwa, Denman had a small loco depot and servicing area and was the terminus from 1915 to 1917. After Merriwa Station was opened, the depot at Denman was closed with the turntable relocated to Merriwa.

 

Later Years

In 1970 Merriwa was the last  branchline in NSW with steam locomotives in regular service. The last working of CPH Railmotors on pasenger duties on the Merriwa line occured in 1973. From that point only diesel hauled goods trains could be seen on the line.

In the late 1970's a temporary depot was built at Sandy Hollow to house diesel locomotives used during construction of the New line from Sandy Hollow to Ulan and further on to Gulgong. As part of this work the section from Muswellbrook to Sandy Hollow was rebuilt to mainline standard to allow heavy unit coal trains to work to the new Ulan Coal Mine. These trains were usually hauled by the relatively new 81 class Diesel Electric Locomotives, introducted by State Rail from 1982. and coal trains to Ulan commenced running in 1984.

 

A wheat train at Merriwa in 1988. Photo supplied by Steve Preston.

Closure of the Line

The Merriwa Line was now shortened with a junction arrangement provided at Sandy Hollow. General freight and wheat working continued to Merriwa hauled by 48 class diesels until 1988 when services were suspended. No maintainence work has been carried out on the Sandy Hollow - Merriwa section since. The juction at Sandy Hollow has since been striaght railed as part of upgrade work on the Ulan line.


Railmotors that ran on the line

The railmotors that ran on the line were from the 42 Foot CPH's nicknamed the "Tin Hares" These were first built in the 1920's for country branchlines where a steam locomotive hauled train was uneconomical to use. These were used on the lightly laid 'Pioneer Lines' throughout the state with much success.

In later years they were converted from petrol to diesel powered units which significantly improved their reliabilty. In the 1970's with many country branch lines closing many of the CPH's were transfered to suburban workings on the Richmond line in tandem with the CTH Trailers which were also built in the 1920's to provide additional capacity for the country services.

The CPH's and their Trailers soldiered on with the richmond line services until withdrawal in the early 1980's. Many of them havee since been preserved with several in operational condition.

Serveral CPH's were noted as having been allocated to the Passenger services on the Merriwa Line at various times. They include CPH5 (originally preserved at the Parrmatta Park Steam Tramway. Severely damged by fire), CPH16 (Preserved by the Hunter Valley Railway Trust), CPH27, CPH28 and CPH37 (Preserved by the Australian Railway Historical Society ACT Division)

Railmotor number 5 at Denman?. Photo from the Merriwa Historical Society Collection.

 

 

CPH about to travel across the Merriwa Road (now B84 Golden Highway) Level Crossing outside of Denman. Photo from the Preston Collection

 

Information sourced from the Book Byways of Steam 10 by Eveleigh Press, The DVD Steam in New South Wales Part 3 The North by Ross Rail Video and from local historian Bryan Baker.

There is more information about this Branch line on Rolfe Bozier's Website at, http://www.nswrail.net/locations/show.php?name=NSW:Merriwa&line=NSW:merriwa:0

Also look up the merriwa line on Wikipedia at Merriwa Railway Line on Wikipedia

The Early Years of the MRSI

The start of the MRSI took place during August 2009 when one of our original founders, Paul Bird, posted photos on Railpage and started the original Facebook page. A group of Rail enthusiast's got together on the Facebook page and commenced talking about the project and sharing ideas. An informal initial meeting took place at the historic Neath Hotel in September 2009.

Above is a Photo from Brian Leedham's Collection.

This was followed by our first public meeting at the Merriwa RSL on October 24 2009 with plans discussed and a committee formed. Like all Heritage Societies we have had our ups and downs but we continued to work behind the scenes to further the project. In October 2010, the MRSI had gained a lease on the Merriwa Railway Station Precinct with the assistance of the Upper Hunter Shire Council. Our first working bee was held during the weekend of 13-14 November 2010 and since then we have strived to clean up and restore the site in order to open up a museum in the station building showcasing some of  the history of the Merriwa Branch Line.

We have now been attending working bees for nearly 2.5 years.

Our progress is encouraging but we have a long way to go to achieve our long term goals for the benefit of the local community. Part of this success can be attributed to Paul's initial efforts.

Paul's email address is, railfan84@hotmail.com

 Above is a recent photo of the Railway Station. Taken in Feb 2013.

Our group has been very fortunate to be donated 10 very rare photographs from Malcolm McKenzie's/John McKenzie's Collection. These photographs were taken in 1928. These are now on display in the Museum.

Information about the Station has been forwarded to our group giving dates when parts of the building were built. In 1915 the Station building consisted of 3 rooms only. In 1916 the ladies waiting room and a toilet was added. In 1918 an Out of Room was added. In 1926 the front awning was added to the building. This information is very interesting.