State of New South Wales State Railways

3 February 1941 Wellington Times (NSW)

For nearly 70 years after the arrival of Governor Phil lip's fleet in Sydney Harbour in 1788, trade in New South Wales was unassisted by railways.

During this long period all land transport of persons and goods was by means of animal power, and such vehicles as bullock waggons and stage coaches played prominent parts. 

Early Roads

In absence of navigable rivers, the colonists built roads in order to develop the natural resources they had discovered to the north, west and south of Sydney, the first road over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst being opened in 1815.

The roads they made, however, were quite different from the modern highways we have today, and actually were little more than the rough tracks of bullock wagons through the bush.

As late as 1859 the Great Southern Road, which extended from Sydney to Albury, via Liverpool, Goulburn, Yass and Gundagai, a distance of 380 miles, was only metalled for a distance of 12 miles. 

The experience of early road conditions has been attested by Mr. R. Lloyd, in a letter to the Select Committee on Railway Extension in 1870.

He said ''Every Australian traveller will admit that so-called roads in the interior are mere tracks narked over the plains and through forests, which teams of bullocks and   horses deviate hundreds of yards on  each side.

Often in wet seasons these tracks become totally unfit   for the transport of heavy goods; upon some of these track in the north-west 20 teams of ten horses each pass per day during the season of the transport of wool, skins and other produce, and frequently a dray will be detained for weeks before it can be drawn through the  slough of several miles wide.' 

Early Railway History 

With such conditions it is not surprising that the pioneer's turned to railways as a   a means of solving their problems.

The first fruitful attempt in this direction was made in  January, 1846, when a public meeting was held in Sydney to consider the wisdom of establishing railways. 

The meeting appointed a committee to investigate the possibilities, with the result that a petition was presented to the Legislative Council in 1848, stating a belief of the members that railways were desirble in certain parts of the Colony. 

After consideration of the matter, the Legislative Council passed a series of resolutions endorsing this view. In consequence, in the next year (1849), the Government financially assisted in the establishment of the Sydney Railway Company, whose object was to build railways from Sydney to Goulburn and Bathurst.

The actual work of construction by this company began in the following year, 1850.

The Government also assisted in the formation of the Hunter River Railway Company in 1853, to build a railway from near Newcastle to Maitland. 

Both these companies, however eventually found it impossible to carry out their plans on account of financial difficulties, and their assets were purchased by the Government in 1855.

In September of that year the first railway NSW, from Sydney to Parramatta, a distance of 13 miles, was opened as a State enterprise.

Railway Tentacles

From the short railway line of 13 miles opened in 1855, the railways during the subsequent 85 years threw out tentacles in all directions until a State-wide network of over 6000 route miles has been laid. 

The Great Southern line reached Liverpool in 1856, Goulburn in 1869, Cootamundra in 1877, Wagga Wagga in 1879, and Albury in 1881. 

The Great Western line extended to Penrith in 1863, to Bathurst in 1876, to Orange in 1877, and to Bourke in 1885.

The first section of the Great Northern line from near Newcastle to East Maitland was opened in 1857, the line was extended to Singleton in 1863, to Quirindi in 1877, to Tamworth in 1882, and to Wallangarra in 1888.

The Hawkesbury River Bridge was opened in 1889 completing the last link in direct rail communication between Sydney and the Queensland Railways.

Thus by 1890 the main trunk line were constructed and thereafter, for the most part, railway extensions have been in the nature of pioneer branch lines and cross-country connections which have interlaced the State. 

State's Trade Expansion

With the vast extension of the State's railway system there has been a corresponding trade expansion.

During the past 70 years alone, the annual value of primary industry production has increased from 13,000,000 to 90,000,000, the annual value of secondary industry production has increased from 3,000.000 to 90,000,000, and both import and export trade have increased from 5-6,000,000 to 50-60,000,000 per year. 

There are many factors which have had an influence in bringing about this vast trade expansion, but it cannot be denied that the State railway' system has been an indispensable fact or and has had an (enormous influence. A brief glance at the growth in traffic carried by rail is interesting. In the year 1860 there were less than 500,000 railway passenger journeys, in 1900 there were more than 26,000,000, in 1920 there were nearly 115,000,000, whilst at the present time there are approximately 180.000,000 journeys made by passengers in a year.

Similarly there has been a considerable growth in railway freight traffic. In 1856 (the first complete year after the establishment of the State Highways), the tonnage of goods carried was less than 2500.

In 1860 the tonnage was about 50,000, in 1880 it was nearly 2,000,000, in 1900 it was 5,500,000, whilst at present it is over 15,000,000 tons per annum.  

Existing Railway Facilities

The railway facilities available in N.S.W. today represent an investment of approximately 150,000,000 a sum which is roughly 40 per cent. of the total State debt.

These facilities include the 6000 odd route miles of railway track with its modern signalling equipment, over 700stations and depots for the despatch and receipt of traffic, and rolling stock, consisting of over 1000 loco- motives, nearly 3000 passenger cars and over 22,000 freight waggons

Detailed consideration of some of these facilities is interesting.

For example, the route mileage of railway trade in N-S-W. is so great that it would extend a quarter of the distance round the earth at the equator.

Over this track the trains run a distance of 30,000,000 miles in a year, which is equal to an average of three and a half times round the world every day of the year.

The 1000 odd locomotives have a combined tractive power of35,000,000 lbs. and some of them are capable of working with such efficiency that they only consume one glass of water and a handful of coal weighing about 3 oz- for every ton of freight hauled a distance of one mile.

The rail passenger cars carry 180,000,000 passengers in a year, thus providing about 70 journeys per-head of population and carrying as many as the entire population of the State in less than a week.

Taking into consideration the average mileage travelled by railway passengers, it is found that the passenger cars perform the equivalent of hauling each year, over a distance of one mile, a total of 2,000,000,000 passengers, ie, equal to the total population of the world. 

The freight waggons of the State Railways, if coupled together, would form a train that would extend from Sydney to Newcastle - a distance of 104 miles.

These waggons, carry 15,003,000 tons of freight each year, which is equal to over five tons per head of the population. 

The Railway Staff 

In the handling of this enormous business the railways employ a staff of over 40,000 men and woman who have been trained in a wide range of duties.

During the last eight years since the railways have been under   the administration of the present Commissioner, Mr. T. J. Hartigan, there has been a marked improvement, not only in the efficiency of the railways, but in the courtesy extended to the Department's clients by the railway staff. Mr. Hartigan on assuming office as Commissioner gave the staff the slogan "Service to the public of the State" and he set out to build up a spirit of good will and cooperation between himself and the staff in which he has been singularly successful.

That spirit today is reflected in the treatment of the Department's customers by the staff and to put it in Mr. Hartigan's own words, 'If there is a more loyal, and contented body of men in the State to-day than in the ranks of the railway men, I have yet to see it.'