Located at the 393.738 km marker from Sydney, in south west of NSW, are the lingering remains of the station and yard which once served the country town of Boorowa.
Until the railway connected the town, the town name was known as Burrowye. For reference purposes, this article will use the more commonly known name of Boorowa.
TERMINUS STATION - HISTORY
Boorowa station was constructed as the terminus station of the Galong to Boorowa railway branch line, a line which once saw varied and frequent local rail traffic. The history behind the building of the railway branch to Boorowa stretches back to the late 1800s and somewhat parallels other NSW country branch lines, which saw intense local pressure and needs taken into account by the NSW government. The local residents saw the need to service the town and surrounding agricultural area via a rail link.
The main south line had, by 1877, extended through to the Galong district, in spite of local petitions to have it come through Boorowa via Crookwell as one plan had it to be. With this snub and missing out on a railway link, Boorowa residents started to agitate for their own branch line service. The Boorowa district had a healthy out flow of agricultural and mining products and the railway was deemed important to the continuing commercial success of these products.
In February, 1884, a public meeting was held in Boorowa and it was resolved to send a group to the Minister for Public Works to state again the need for a local railway. The local member, Mr Slattery, led a vocal group to meet the Minister for Public Works in 1884 in Sydney to discuss the town’s issues. In the same year, the locals formed the Boorowa Railway League to keep the matter before Parliament as it was not being resolved to their satisfaction. This hard work resulted in their railway line being put on a short list of lines to be constructed across NSW in the late 1880s. By the following August, the Galong to Boorowa branch was included in a list of branch railways under consideration. On October 1884, the NSW Parliament confirmed the Boorowa branch line as part of list of lines to be constructed in the near future. In that era such an inclusion resulted in the town holding a big celebration with fireworks and bonfires.
PROGRESS ON BRANCH LINE STALLS
There was much talk locally about the hope and vision that Boorowa, could be a likely suburb if Yass became the national capital. At that stage in Australia’s history, the idea of a national capital was being discussed. Canberra and the ACT didn’t yet exist.
As it is known.... progress takes time and the railway to Boorowa was no different….. Even tho approvals had been given, the people of Boorowa had to now endure further delays as various reports in 1888, 1890 and 1903 all recommended against bringing the rail to the district. Another reason was that a junction location couldn’t be decided upon easily by the law makers. They became stuck as they debated no less than 7 different locations which were to be considered for the junction to Boorowa. The delays left many wondering in the Boorowa region, if the idea to serve the town of Boorowa was going to be defeated due the inability of the NSW government to act on the regional NSW needs. Just like in the modern era - procrastination went on as the parliamentarians bickered over what was best….
After a few years of no visible progress, the Boorowa Mayor re-opened the railway debate again during1906, which subsequently saw the Boorowa Railways League reformed to push the idea again at state political levels. After more public pressure and debates, eventually progress reached the stage where approval was given to enact the line into law. The line to Boorowa was now coming after nearly 40years since it was suggested.
BRANCH LINE APPROVED AND STATION CONSTRUCTION
In March 1912 a bill was passed in the NSW Parliament, authorising the building of the branch line from Galong to Boorowa. What was authorised was a 29km pioneer type rural branch line to be built to service the district with selected stops at St Clements, Nanong, Goorama and finally Boorowa. On 15 June 1912 the first sod was turned by the Premier, the Hon J.S.T. McGowan in front of a large crowd of visiting politicians and delighted Boorowa and regional resident who were finally pleased that their hard work had paid off.
The laying of the timber sleepers started soon after and it took nearly 2 years for the railway line to be constructed from Galong junction, through mostly undulating and open countryside, to reach the terminus of Boorowa. As this branch line was of pioneer style, the timber sleepers were merely supported by a thin layer of ash ballast.
This pioneer line ash ballast wasn’t a strong or sturdy base, when compared to what was used on mainline operations, which was generally high quality gravel ballast. Using cheap materials such as ash was just adequate enough to allow the operation of trains on the pioneer lines and was the major downside of the “cheap” pioneer line construction methods.
The branch line opening ceremony was held on October 10 1914 and from this date onwards, the town of Burrowye was now to be known as Boorowa. The Chief Secretary, Hon J.H. Cann formally opened the Galong to Boorowa railway branch line and on the grand day the ministerial party marched from the Post Office to the station watched by over 2,000 people.
Even though the branch line was opened in late 1914, the station wasn’t in official use until it was handed over to the government for revenue for a few more months. With the branch line opening, came another change to the final branch design, in which the original main south line formation station at Galong / Galong Junction was closed after the duplication of the main south line was constructed in the same period. This duplication saw the new main line formation moved and built further south of the old station location. As a result of this move, a new Galong station was built again to allow services to the town - this move to a new station as the main line was duplicated is identical to Binalong’s railway history.
The other main change resulting from the new south line was that the Boorowa line junction was modified again, which saw the Boorowa branch line curve away downhill from the new Galong station and rejoin the old Galong station formation. The railway line then proceeded as originally planned out to Boorowa along the formation as built.
When the first official government train ran from Galong to Boorowa at 3.45am on 2 Feb 1915, it had taken nearly 40 yrs for the railway branch line to become a reality. Some thought it would never happen.
BOOROWA YARD INFRASTRUCTURE
Boorowa station was a modest station for such a branch line terminus location. It had a medium sized timber and corrugated iron roof station building. The 76m long platform featured a timber edge with soil and gravel topping. The station had a goods loading bank / siding located opposite the building along with a loop line in the middle for running around of the locomotives and shunting of wagons. A gantry crane was built to unload and load the goods into the goods wagons. An additional siding was built near the goods loading bank to service the grain silo located further north of the station.
A small coal stage and a 50ft turntable were built south of the station. Located near the up end of the station platform, was located a water tank for use by the steam locomotives when the crews needed to replenish the boiler’s water supply To access the water, a single water column was placed between the up station and loop railway tracks in line with the water tank.
The Boorowa yard had lever frames, throw over ground frames, landmark signal and home signals to ensure safe working of trains was carried out and protecting the various sidings from any unwanted accidents.
BOOROWA UP / DOWN SERVICES
To access the branch line a staff labelled Galong to Boorowa was used. Services to Boorowa originated from Harden station/depot located on the main south line.
Boorowa didn’t have a strong enough normal demand to run pure passengers trains so the passenger services were catered for by using mixed operations. The town was provided with three scheduled services a week running on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
On a Tuesday there was a goods up service with passengers accommodated at the end of the consists by use of a either HCX or BL carriages. The only exceptions were the occasional tour trains which used all passenger carriages. Other passenger services were run on Thursday and Saturdays. All services transported people to the main line stations of Galong and Harden.
The main goods out of the town were wool and wheat, which were the primary industries found in many other southern NSW railway towns. Assorted other goods included movements of superphosphate, cattle, sheep, dairy farming and timber which were shipped onto the rest of NSW.
ROLLINGSTOCK USED ON BOOROWA BRANCHLINE
A variety of motive power was used on the line over its 73 years such as CPH railmotors, steam locomotives such as the 24 class and 25 class 2-6-0s, 30-T class 4-6-0s, 32 class 4-6-0s and 48 class diesel locomotives.
CPH railmotor service was introduced during the late 1920s, running on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The CPH railmotor services which saw diminishing patronage were discontinued by 1949, leaving the thrice weekly mixed train to service the district. In 1937, a 4-wheel Rail-bus was introduced on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but it was discontinued by 1942.
Steam operations on the branch line ended in October 1967 and diesel power then took over as the motive power. Dedicated passenger services were completely withdrawn on 11 August, 1974 and all mixed services ceased by 1980. From then onwards the only passenger traveling was the occasional private tour groups which continued up until 1987 using CPHs.
As the region saw much demand for agricultural and animals, a variety of wagons saw use on the branch line which included types such as CSV, GSV, NSSF, various louvered wagons and S trucks to move all the goods. On all the mixed services guards were found in either MHG or LHG brakevans. The brakevans would be either located in middle or at the end of the consist for shunting purposes.
Rollingstock noted to have worked on the Boorowa line were CPH 16, Steam locomotives 2532, 3324, 3245, 3267, 3374 and diesel locomotive 4895.
THE END OF SERVICES AND BRANCH LINE OPERATIONS
Boorowa station was demolished in 1983 as part of the ongoing state wide removals of unwanted railway station infrastructure. The last recorded passenger train to travel on the Boorowa branch line used three CPH rail motors, carrying 100 members of the Railway Historical Society in early 1987. The last goods train traversed the branch line on 23 October 1987, with the branch line closing officially during early December 1987.
After 73 years of frequent use and many services, the Boorowa branch line was deemed surplus to the needs of the NSW government, as roads carrying trucks and car replaced the ability of a train to service the town’s needs.
No one in the NSW Government had foresight to preserve the Boorowa railway station, as a reminder of the days when rail service to Boorowa actually mattered. All of the station and all rail tracks were removed.
In 2012, all that remains of station infrastructure is the single water column - that once provided water to the steam locomotives – which is to be found derelict and rusting away…. The water column is to be found standing tall amongst cut grass, as the railway yard has totally changed from being a station yard, to part of a local golf course.
All is not totally lost tho, as there are still some other reminders of the railway found nearby which include the turntable, home signal and several of the railway bridges along the railway line leading into the town. One of the bridges has been noted as having a section cut out and placed onto the structure to deter people (and trains) from using it.
As much as Boorowa has nearly lost all of its hard fought for railway infrastructure and associated railway heritage, the local historical society has ensured it remains remembered by photos and information which are presented to visitors. Anyone visiting Boorowa is still able to view the various remains of the railway and as well the many 1800s / early 1900s era heritage buildings - which once had a direct relationship with the railway service.
Acknowledgements to Boorowa Historical Society, Train Hobby Publications – Country branch lines – Boorowa, Crookwell and Yass Town book and photographer Frank Jones for making this article possible. Do not reproduce any photos without the various photographers exclusive permission.