A huge crowd headed back to Binnaway last Saturday, 1 April, to help mark 100 years since the opening of the Binnaway Rail Station on 2 April, 1917.
Organised by the Binnaway Rail Heritage and Preservation Group, the event paid tribute to the role rail had played in the community.
“The group was absolutely over the moon with the response to the day,” said secretary, Marg Haley.
“The railway has always been a very important part of Binnaway’s identity.
“It was great to see so many people turn out to help commemorate the centenary of rail and honour this strong rail history.”
A short history
In the 1920-1930s Binnaway was a busy railway town, located on the Gwabegar branch line.
During the steam era, water tanks, loading banks, gantry cranes, goods sheds, a roundhouse, a turntable and the silos were built.
At its peak in the 1950-1960s, up to 20 steam trains travelled through the town each week.
The population of Binnaway swelled to 1500 people, many of whom were directly employed by the railway.
When diesels took over from steam in the 1960s, it spelled the demise of the railway depot, with the depot and roundhouse demolished by the early 1970s.
By 1975 all passenger services along the line had ceased.
Today, Binnaway remains an important part of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) infrastructure, as it is located at the junction of two lines; one from Dubbo and the other from Werris Creek.
The town still maintains its links to its rail background, referencing it in the main street with the railway signal display.
The Binnaway Bowling Club holds a Railway Bowls Day each year and the historic Railway Barracks have been restored to provide budget accommodation for visitors.
A century later
In addition to street artwork, working exhibits, memorabilia and vintage car display, the highlight of the centenary celebrations was the arrival of a train from Paterson Rail Motor Group, which was offering return journeys to Merrygoen.
In a fortuitous twist of fate, the two small rail motors due to arrive were experiencing maintenance issues, meaning two larger rail motors were called in for the occasion.
“This was very lucky because we would not have been able to accommodate the number of people wanting train rides if we had the smaller rail motors,” Mrs Haley said.
“We deliberately kept the cost of the tickets low for to allow the opportunity for anyone who wished to take a trip on a train. We especially wanted to allow as many children as possible to enjoy the experience.
“We sold all the first trip seats and half the second trip seats in 40 minutes from the back of the ute! We didn’t even have time to get our table and chairs set up on the platform!”
At the end of the day, 340 tickets had been purchased and four sold- out train trips had been conducted.
“We had positive comments and smiles all day - one lady from Tamworth thanked us for such a ‘friendly day’,” Mrs Haley said.
“We would like to express our appreciation and heartfelt thanks to everyone who came along to our Celebration of 100 Years Rail in Binnaway event to make it such a success.
“We are so lucky in Binnaway to have some very talented people who are committed to town improvement and are always willing to volunteer their time and energy to the community.
“Two such people, Warren Petherbridge and Melissa Simmons, spent many hours creating our artworks for the new street display depicting a railway station as it would have looked in 1917.”
Mrs Haley said the Rail Heritage Group was grateful to the financial support given by Warrumbungle Shire Council, Binnaway Small Bore Rifle Club and the ARTC.
“The donations from these groups have allowed the hiring of the rail motor and crew for our event.”
Hundreds of people lined up to take the rail journey from Binnaway to Merrygoen on Saturday, 1 April.