Murray River and Snowy Mountains view, Towong, Upper Murray

Showcasing 'The Man From Snowy River' Country

 

upper murray
railwa
y heritage

The Boggy Creek Trestle Bridge near Koetong, an easily accessible example of the railway heritage in the Upper Murray, was built in 1915.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 travel.

It was immediately after the Wodonga Railway Station opened that members of the Upper Murray community began to dream about train travel to the Upper Murray.

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 Murray.

The official opening ceremony for the Wodonga-Cudgewa branch rail line occurred in May 1921.

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 community.

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 Murray.

Wodonga to Cudgewa train at BerringamaTrain travel created many opportunities for the Upper Murray community.

Arguably the livestock producers, who could truck their animals to Wodonga and then on to the Melbourne market, were the happiest that train travel became possible.

Prior to this option, livestock producers had to walk their animals to (Old) Tallangatta so they could be trucked to market.

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 pastures.

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 employment.

The last freight train to Cudgewa, 1978After 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.

Shelley Railway Station Reserve on Avondale Road, Shelley

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 shelter.

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.