By G. A. King
The Sydney Morning Herald
14 June 1933
Linking New South Wales and Victoria. To-day is the fiftieth anniversary of the linking up of the railway systems of New South Wales and Victoria by the completion of the railway bridge over the Murray, and by the extension of the lines from Albury, in New South Wales, and Wodonga, in Victoria, to the River Murray.
The notable event was made the occasion of a great festival at Albury on June 14, 1883.
A banquet was held In the locomotive shed at the border town the building being trans- formed into a fine banqueting hall-and the function was attended by Lord Augustus Loftus (Governor of New South Wales), the Marquis of Normanby (Governor of Victoria), the Ministers and members of Parliament of the two colonies, the Judges, and leading civil, naval, and military officials, with other prominent residents of both colonies, to the number of 1000.
An honoured guest at the banquet was Mr. Thomas Boyd, who, 60 years before, had crossed the Murray as a member of the Hume and Hovell expedition.
Many speeches of a fraternal character were made at the banquet, and the tenor of the addresses was summed up by the "Herald" of the day by the statement that "the great event may be looked upon as the first step towards the federation of the two colonies."
Progress of the Railways. The linking-up of the New South Wales and Victorian railway systems in 1883 was consumated 28 years after the opening-on September 26, 1855 of the first railway line In New South Wales.
That pioneer line was, of course, from Sydney to Parramatta or rather to Granville Junction, as the terminus was then called.
During the period of 28 years, from 1855 to 1883, remarkable progress was made in opening up New South Wales by railways.
At the time of the establishment of through railway connection from Sydney to Melbourne, the Main Western line had been completed to Nyngan (June 9. 1883), and the Main Southern line to Albury station - but not to the river -was completed on February 3, 1881.
The completion of through communication to the north was delayed by the crossing of the Hawkesbury River.
By 1883 the northern line had been built from Newcastle to Armidale (February 3, 1883), but the last of the sections from Hornsby to the Hawkesbury River, Gosford to Newcastle, and from Mullet Creek (Hawkesbury River) to Gosford, was not completed until January, 1888.
Through connection from Sydney to the north was made on May 1, 1889, when the Hawkesbury River Bridge was opened to traffic. In the meantime, the New South Wales and Queensland systems had been linked up at Wallangarra on January 16, 1888.
When the New South Wales and Victorian lines were joined up fifty years ago, a start had already been made in the building of branch lines.
The north-western line had been built from Werris Creek to Narrabri West; the south-western line had been opened to Hay; the Mudgee line had been completed as far as Capertee: and the Campbelltown Camden line had been opened.
The first section of the Illawarra line (Sydney to Hurstville) was not opened until October 15, 1884.
Early Days of Albury. The opening of the Sydney-Melbourne service naturally transformed Albury into a very important centre.
Hume and Hovell had crossed the River Murray (named, in the first instance, the Hume) in 1824, and even 20 years later there were only two houses in Albury, which formed the nucleus of the town.
All store goods were brought from Port Phillip at very heavy rates of carriage, and it was not always easy to obtain them at that. Flour was a luxury undreamt of, and the damper which formed the staff of life at Albury in the early 'forties was made from wheat carried from Yass and Gundagai, and ground by hand.
Tobacco was 20/ a pound, and most other store goods were proportionately dear. Beef was the only article which was cheap, 30/ being considered a fair price for a fat bullock.
The first notable improvement was the starting of a mill by Richard Heaver, who in 1845 managed to turn out a tolerably good sample of flour.
Postal conditions of this period were of a very primitive nature. The mail left once a week for Sydney, via Gundagai, the postage being 11d. A weekly service was also established to Melbourne.
The method adopted in crossing the river up to 1849 was by canoe or dugout, made of hollow logs, and hauled across the river punt- wise by means of a lope stretched from side to side. In 1849 this method was replaced by a proper punt.
Up to 1850 the population of Albury had not reached more than 100. About this time the facilities for communicating with the Victorian side of the river were increased by the establishment of a more up-to-date punt, which proved a great convenience to the residents, and remained in use until September, 1861, when the bridge which now spans the Murray at Albury was opened for traffic.
Of course, as facilities for communication with Sydney and Melbourne improved, so the population of the town Increased, and in 1875 there were 2000 people in the town, and 15,000 in the police district.