Monday, May 14, 2012

Tumut town

It is about time to offload a few more photographs into cyberspace.  This time it is the turn of the picturesque village of Tumut in southern NSW.

In May 1981 I was (notionally) busy studying for the NSW Higher School Certificate.  To remove myself from the distractions of the two television stations broadcasting into the Illawarra (yes, children, two channels – not 200), a mate and I decided to head south to his Aunt’s place in Tumut for a week.

We booked seats on the South Mail from Sydney, with a rail-motor connection through to Tumut.  While I didn’t record the event, I do remember my surprise at arriving at Central on a very chilly Friday night to find that we had been booked into a blue Victorian Railways carriage, which was on hire to the NSW Railways.  I also remember that a 421 class had the responsibility at the noisy end of the Mail.  

By far my most vivid memory was the cold in the carriage’s compartment that night as we travelled through the southern highlands.  The cold did not seep into the carriage; it poured in through gaps around the windows and doors.  I swear that every time the 421 class accelerated, the carriage grew a little longer as the gaps widened. 

It was probably escaping from the cold that made the large plate of baked beans at Cootamundra’s Railway Refreshment Rooms perhaps the most memorable dish I have ever tasted  - Okay, so that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it came pretty close.   

Staggering out of the Rooms, we discovered that our connection to Tumut had been cancelled owing to flooding and washaways along the line.  At this time there were real questions as to whether the whole branch line would be abandoned, so this was a blow I felt particularly keenly.  The replacement bus gave us a good view of the damage to the line, especially around Gilmore.

Knowing that the branch line was out of action reduced the number of times that the station was visited that week.  The dull weather was certainly in evidence on the first day that I ventured to the station, as shown in the following photographs.

The dog was a stray, but we got to know and respect each other soon enough.

I spent a considerable period of time that morning walking the yard, sketching the lay of the land as best I could.  Then, of course, I went up onto the station platform to find that the job had already been done for me.

While the engine (loco) shed and the car shed had vanished, the goods shed and yard crane remained.

So did the rather substantial dairy factory, though it was well under threat at this time.

At the other end of the yard there was the rustic 50’ Sellars turntable.

Further along, sitting quietly, was some rather unique rolling stock.  The dentist was in town! 

And so, just as I was getting ready to head back to my lodgings, there was a very, very familiar noise.  Although it was only mid-morning, through the gloom CPH 16 hurtled into the yard at a full 20 kph.  Apologies for the slight blurring of the shock – it was a combination of the dull day, my utter surprise at seeing a train moving on the branch line, and the usual incompetence at estimating focal length and F-stops on primitive SLRs.

After the half-dozen passengers disembarked and disbursed, things went quiet once more.  Rather curiously the CPH was stowed just out of the station, possibly as an anti-vandalism measure?  Anyway, it cast a nice touch against the poplars which framed the yard. 

I don’t remember much else about that holiday, apart from the enduring cold.  We also got a ride in CPH 16 later in the week, resplendent in its silver trim.  I recall sitting next to the driver, peering out at the rough ride back to Cootamundra, and the constant roaring of the little rail-motor’s engine as it climbed hill and dale over the couple of hours it took to return to the mainline. 

It was the first and last time that I got to travel that branch-line, and it remains a very fond memory.   All in all, a very enjoyable week!


  1. Hi Don
    Could we use your photos on the Gundagai railway museum webpage on the Tumut section we have?


    1. Sure mate, go for it and thanks for asking!