Train travel over spectacular
bridges through the beautiful Upper Murray mountains is
a romantic notion to many today, but in reality train travel meant much more
to the people of the Upper Murray during the early to mid decades of the 20th
century. The railway brought better
economic opportunities for the region.
It was the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s that hastened the
arrival of train travel to Victoria, but it was not until 1873 that the main rail
track between Melbourne and Wodonga was opened to passenger and freight
It was immediately after the Wodonga Railway Station opened that
members of the Upper Murray community began to dream about train travel to the
The obvious difficulty linking Wodonga and the Upper Murray was
the kind of terrain to be covered. Mountains, creeks and rivers
were expensive barriers to rail development.
By 1891, a rail branch line from Wodonga had been built as far as
(Old) Tallangatta but that is where the terminus stayed for twenty three years
before serious moves were made to begin construction on the rail line to the Upper
By 1916, the railway line development had reached
Shelley. By 1921, the rail line
had reached Cudgewa. The official
opening of the Cudgewa Railway Station, launched by Harry Lawson, the Victorian
Premier of the day, was attended by most of the Upper Murray
Competing interests at Tintaldra and Corryong vied for a further
extension of the rail line but it was not to be. Cudgewa remained the terminus for
the next sixty years, until the line closure in 1981.
In all, the railway line between Wodonga and Cudgewa required the
construction of 35
bridges to allow
trains to traverse the challenging mountainous terrain. Many of these old bridges
remain today, decaying relics of a very important era in the history of the Upper
Train travel created many opportunities for the Upper Murray
Arguably the livestock producers, who could truck their animals to
Wodonga and then on to the Melbourne market, were the happiest that train travel
Prior to this option, livestock producers had to walk their
animals to (Old) Tallangatta so they could be trucked to
In the early 1930s,
a 'Better Farming
Train' visited Cudgewa. This
train had a series of carriages decked out with government information and displays
aimed at improving farm production . Many district farmers and their families
welcomed the new ideas it brought, including the idea of using super phosphate on
Regular passenger services to and from the Upper Murray ended
during the Second World War but freight continued to arrive and depart by train.
Once or twice a year a 'special' train ran with passengers as part of
a organised community occasion.
The beginning of
the Snowy Mountains
Hydro Electric Scheme in 1949
heralded in a new era of rail use in the Upper Murray.
During the 1950s, the Cudgewa Railway Station was
remodelled to facilitate more
efficient handling of goods and large equipment and machinery brought by train to
the Upper Murray, for further transportation into the Snowy Scheme's
mountain work sites. The rail infrastructure also needed reinforcement and the
local economy enjoyed the benefits of more people and
After the Snowy Scheme was completed in 1974, the Wodonga-
Cudgewa railway line became very quiet. From a peak of three trains a day in
the early 1960s, line use declined to several times a year until 1978,
when the last freight train completed its journey.
In 1981, the railway line was officially closed and the station
infrastructure was eventually dismantled and sold.
Aside from several old bridges, little evidence remains of the
rail era in the Upper Murray.
The Shelley Station area has been restored and information and
pictures about its glory days can be seen in the railway
An information and photo board, opposite the Cudgewa
Hotel, marks the location of
the Cudgewa Railway Reserve, where the busiest trucking
yards in Victoria once existed.