It is hard to imagine what life was like in Merriwa one hundred years ago.
But when work started on building a Muswellbrook to Merriwa railway line, the local drays and bullock teams must have breathed a sigh of relief.
Merriwa railway restoration committee member Bryan Baker said the railway was an important event in Merriwa’s
“The town up until then was relatively isolated,” Mr Baker said.
“People relied on bullocks and horses for transport, but when the railway opened, everything changed.”
To celebrate 100 years since work on the railway first commenced, Upper Hunter Shire mayor Lee Watts re-enacted the turning of the sod on Saturday at the newly restored Merriwa Station.
“Allan McRae was given this honour, and I am very honoured to be able to turn the ‘second sod’ with the actual spade that he used 100 years ago,” Cr Watts said.
“Allan was very passionate about Merriwa and very passionate that the town should have a railway.
“He lobbied for more than thirty years before the government agreed to build a line between Muswellbrook and Merriwa.
“It is fitting that Allan McRae’s granddaughter, Philomena Constable, will now plant a tree here in his honour,” Cr Watts said.
Merriwa was a very different town in 1912 than in 2012.
It had a population of little more than a 100 people with most of them reliant upon horses and bullocks for transport.
“When the railway opened, isolation was reduced and access increased which together allowed the town to grow and prosper,” Cr Watts said.
The station remained in operation from October 1917 until 1973 for passenger services, and 1988 for freight.
In 2010, a group of railway enthusiasts decided to bring the Merriwa railway
station back to its former glory.
After much fund-raising and over a thousand hours of volunteer labour, the restoration of the old station house is now almost completed.
The project has so far included sourcing original photos, signage and station
memorabilia, repairing the station house, replacing windows, painting, partitions and landscaping.
A work in progress, the committee now plans to renovate the lines and outbuildings.