100 years on after rail reached Kempsey

ON NOVEMBER 27, Kempsey will celebrate the coming of rail to the ‘Triple City’ as it was known at the time. Over the next three months we will be publishing weekly articles on railway events over the past 100 years.

The Beginning

In June, 1887, a meeting was held to support the movement in favour of the construction of a north coast railway. However it was a humiliating experience as it appeared that “many of the people of the Macleay had never yet seen a railway, and also that they didn’t want to see one”.

“It was said the horses would go mad at the sight of the puffing monster; the cows would withhold their milk, and the hens would refuse to lay their eggs.”

In 1892, Sir Henry Parkes laid down the railway as part of the program of the Government in power.

Fortunately plans were kept on the burner until July, 1901, when a combined Railway League dinner hosted about 90 delegates from Wingham to Grafton and moved that a deputation proceed to Sydney to urge for the absolute necessity of including the North Coast Railway in the State’s railway policy. The conference was also resolved that the Macleay Railway League be the executive committee to carry out the resolutions.

Four years later a huge meeting was held in Kempsey to again urge for the construction of the railway to connect Maitland with Grafton.

In March, 1906, the Premier, Mr J Carruthers visited Kempsey where he met a deputation concerning the railway which had been guaranteed by his government. He was as good as his word and on November 17, 1906, his government passed an Act for the construction of the railway where it was stated the line would be completed five years after the letting of the first contract.

By June, 1910, the survey of the line between Taree and Kempsey was completed.

In 1913, a large deputation from the North Coast met with the Minister for Works, Mr Griffiths, and asked for the railway to be connected up between Taree and South Grafton and to start bridge work on all the rivers.

In reply Mr Griffiths stated that since he took office in 1910 there were now 115 miles open for traffic as far as Taree with three other sections under way and his cabinet had a proposed scheme for the line to be be finished in two-and-a-half years.

Finally, in November, 1913, the Wauchope-Kempsey section and the Kempsey-Macksville section were begun. In September, 1917, the Kempsey Railway League held its last meeting, its object being achieved after 30 years of effort! Of the original members the only surviving ones were Messrs PJ O’Neill, Flatt and Elton. - Macleay River Historical Society