BlogStepping back in time on the Great Northern Railway

5 March 2020by Scott McGregor0

The Main North Line, also known as the Great Northern Railway, completed in 1888, was once a major railway in New South Wales.  It began construction in 1857 and runs through the Central Coast, Hunter and New England regions. It connects with Queensland Railways at Wallangarra and continues through Warwick and Toowoomba to Brisbane. In 1932 this once hectic line was upstaged by a new route from Sydney to Brisbane via the Coast and the line became the second fiddle to the faster option with the last ‘through’ train hauling its sleeper and mail carriages to the border and beyond in 1972.

While parts of the line have been closed in stages from the mid 1980’s much of this iconic railway is still in use and occasionally a special steam-hauled tour brings it to life. In spring-time, Railway Adventures operates a tour to experience this unique part of our country and trace the history of this once crucial interstate link.

A journey on the old Great Northern line requires a change of gauge at the border of NSW and Queensland at Wallangarra. On our tour we will stop here to explore the rich history at the station’s in-house museum before we settle in for a lavish lunch on the platform, reliving the busy days of ‘Changing Trains’ from Queensland’s narrow gauge to NSW’s standard gauge.

Changing train at Wallangarra circa 1915, (photo BHRC)
Changing train at Wallangarra circa 1915, (photo BHRC)

As of 1988, the Great Northern Railway line was closed progressively north of Armidale with services gradually withdrawn until political agitation saw trains running from Armidale once again in 2004. On our journey we will explore the remnants of this great engineering project where trains still run along the line, and at either end of the tour.

We will celebrate the living history of this important original transport link with a re-enactment on a vintage steam train hauling 120-year carriages on the original line, across the Granite Belt and up the Great Dividing Range all the way to the NSW border. This scenic trip is without a doubt a highlight of this Queensland rail tour and a rare treat for travellers and enthusiasts alike.

On this escorted train tour, you will also embark on a steam train journey in Swanbank and a smart modern ‘Explorer’ train from Armidale. You will get a chance to visit historic homesteads in Armidale and Tenterfield, explore old foundry’s and museums, Cobb and Co history, rural and industrial heritage sites and a great collection of fine dining options and hotel accommodation are all included.

On this Queensland rail travel package you get to explore Brisbane, Toowoomba, Warwick, Wallangarra, Tenterfield, Armidale and the Liverpool Plains from the 21st to the 28th October.

Scott McGregor’s Railway Adventures tour is more than just a holiday, it is a unique way to experience the world. By train you are completely immersed in culture and adventure, exploring the most scenic corners of the world in the comfort of a luxury train. Whether you are an experienced traveller or just beginning to explore this wonderful world, Railway Adventures has something for everyone. Transform your holiday into the most unforgettable adventure of a lifetime with Railway Adventures.

Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales – By Rail, Road and Special Steam Train. Call 1300 800 977 now for a brochure, more information or to reserve your place.

Southern Downs Steam Railway to Wallangarra, photo Ben Francis
Southern Downs Steam Railway to Wallangarra, photo Ben Francis
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