Rail freight just the ticket

Super freight: Railway wagons loaded with superphosphate at Walcha Road in April 1977 – Aubrey Levingston photo.
Super freight: Railway wagons loaded with superphosphate at Walcha Road in April 1977 – Aubrey Levingston photo.

Joseph Conlan erected the station building, stationmaster’s residence and goods shed at Walcha Road, all of which were completed in time for the station’s official opening on August 2, 1882.

A weighbridge and crane were then installed in 1888.

A 60-foot diameter locomotive turntable was added in 1899.

The platform was extended in 1904 and a night officer’s residence was built in 1906, and the goods shed extended in 1914.

During the year 1926 a new portion of track was laid on the far side of the platform, and the old crane was replaced with a 5-ton capacity crane.

The turntable, goods shed and the portion of track laid in 1926 have all been removed.

The weighbridge platform is still in place, but the associated scale beam and shed in which it was housed have also been removed.

Record shipments of wool and livestock have been railed out of Walcha Road together with significant amounts of timber and manganese ore.

The superphosphate revolution, which began in the early 1950s, saw record tonnages of that material coming in by rail.

Early freight records show that 12,000 tons of super arrived at rthe station in 1953.  Sixteen thousand seven hundred and ninety two bales of wool were dispatched in 1954.

For many years almost all of the goods sold in the district arrived by rail, including foodstuffs, clothing, motor vehicles, hardware, machinery, fodder, fuels, lubricants, beer and ice cream.

Beer was delivered in 36-gallon capacity wooden barrels while the ice cream arrived packed in heavy insulated sacks, each containing four cans of ice cream and an amount of dry ice to keep the contents frozen.

The cans were sized to fit neatly into the standard refrigerated counters used at cafés and milk bars.

The Transport Co-ordination Act of 1932 was designed to make life difficult for road hauliers who chose to operate where a rail freight service was available.

They were obliged to get a permit and pay a Road Tax calculated on a ton-mile basis.

Those caught competing with the railways without a permit had a substantial fine added to the Road Tax that should have been paid.

The Act was amended several times before being withdrawn entirely in the 1970s.

Freight volumes at Walcha Road dwindled over the years and ceased in the 1980s when the Department decided the freight service on the northern line would terminate at West Tamworth.

For a while it also seemed that northern passenger services would terminate at Tamworth, but the Department relented after public protest and decided that, as from December 1985, passenger services would terminate at Armidale.