Found on the former Gwabgear branch line is the still operational Binnaway railway station and yard. The station is located at the 458.700 km marker from Sydney, which is a long way from Sydney in the mid upper north region of NSW.
Binnaway railway station and yard was opened on April 2 1917, on the then expanding Gwabegar branch line which was built north from Wallerwang to eventually Gwabegar.
Here we see a photo on opening day with many people in attendance – http://www.nswrail.net/locations/photo.php?name=NSW:Binnaway:25
The timber station was built along with a 85m wooden edged platform to provide residents with access to the train network of NSW. As Binnaway became busier due to its cross country link location, as it was connected to the Werris creek branch line, the building of a steam locomotive depot greatly enhanced the town with more jobs. Similar railway depots at Junee, Dubbo, Cootamundra,Werris Creek and Singleton also were critical town job makers.
In the progressive 1920-30s Binnaway, was a busy and popular railway town, where locomotives hissed steam, multiple long groups of wooden and metal wagons clanked and the smell of burnt coal drifted around the town. Combined with the shrieking whistle which would herald either the arrival or departure of another train at the modest sized town, Binnaway was seen by many as a good place to work in the country.
UP AND DOWN SERVICES AND GOODS CARRIED VIA BINNAWAY
Over the last 95years the station and yard has become part of the vital railway transport link for NSW which has seen many trains carrying timber and grain from rural NSW to coastal business markets. Other types of goods which were carried on the branch line either to Binnaway or through it, included the usual north western NSW farm stock, assorted goods and grain for foods. Binnaway was also an important junction as it connected to the Werris Creek branch line, which carried iron ore from the BHP Broken Hill mines and which was transported en-route to Newcastle in various wagons.
At Binnaway in the steam era, the NSWGR department built an extensive array of infrastructure which included water tanks, loading banks, gantry cranes, good sheds, turning triangle, water columns, barracks, signal boxes, a 4 road locomotive roundhouse, coal stage, inspections pits, ash pits and a turntable, thus making it a very busy railway area. Additional agriculture infrastructure expansion saw silos for crops added in 1930s next to the yard lines.
At the peak of the NSWGR steam era in the 1950-60s, the Binnaway railway station / depot would see over 20 steam locomotives each week coming through the town on down and up services. This large number of steam locomotives would see some require some form of servicing at the depot. Some locomotives also acted as local shunters in the Binnaway yard. This scene was for some locals and traveling railway enthusiasts, was a wonderful sight to witness.
Sadly as dieselisation rapidly took over from steam operations in the 1960s across NSW, this would spell the end of the Binnaway railway depot and associated infrastructure. Much of the depot at Binnaway would disappear by the late 1960s/early 1970s. The roundhouse was demolished in 1970 and by 1975 with changes to the NSW railway network operations, all passenger services to Binnaway would also ceased.
Some more views of the original station before it was demolished in the 1970s.
THE RUN DOWN OF THE RAILWAY TOWN
With the run down the NSWGR network beginning in the 1970s and with no large scale attempt to reuse or preserve the remains of the former grand network, Binnaway railway station and dept, now became a shadow of its former self, with minimalistic railway operations and infrastructure maintained. (The run down, dismissal of preserving heritage and illogical destruction/demolition of railway stations and associated yard infrastructure, sadly even continues in 2012 across NSW, much to the digust of many heritage advocates and railway enthusiast).
As seen elsewhere across NSW, many original timber stations were demolished and simply not replaced but at Binnaway they were given a new modern station replacement, which is really just a simple demountable for safe working purposes. The new building isn’t as appealing to the eye as the classical NSWGR era station and is harsh to look at in its white colour scheme.
Sadly the small roundhouse depot was removed in 1970 along with other infrastructure during the run down period.
BINNAWAY CHANGES – 2005 – STATION BECOME THE TERMINUS
Once a station on the long and mighty Gwabegar branch line, Binnaway has now become the terminus of the branch line. This new status for the town’s railway came about due to the what many believe was a wrong decision by RIC/NSW government, which saw the closure of the upper section of the branch line north of Binnaway all the way to Gwabegar terminus on 28 October 2005 due to safety reasons such as infrastructure and track concerns. Wooden trestle bridges and constant repairs would of certainly influenced the closure.
PRESENT DAY AND HERITAGE
In 2012 there is still found in the town a fond ongoing interest for the railway system, even tho Binnaway doesn’t see that much traffic when compared to the old days. Binnaway has diesel locomotives hauling wagon traffic from the cross country branch lines through the town still and these movements use the limited yard infrastructure.
Meanwhile the branch line extension to Gwabegar remains closed and has a white painted stop block across it to ensure nothing heads north.
During the last 6years members of the local Binnaway Rail Heritage Group passionately restored, with funding given to them from a variety of sources, the 1925 era railway barracks. The old brick railway barracks were used by steam train drivers and crew as a place to rest while the train travelled on with a new driver. The restored barracks is now used as new local semi hotel accommodation destination for passing tourists to use.
Other signs of the heritage are still able to be seen around the yard such as the water tanks still standing, as an iconic connection of the past steam locomotive era. The tanks are keeping company with a restored light grey RU wheat hopper wagon mounted on some cut off rail section. The RU hopper wagon is a reminder of the many wagons which used to traverse the yard in the busy wheat crop season.
A plan to make a small museum at Binnaway is still up as a potential idea that may get the go ahead one day. A further reminder of the passion in Binnaway for railways, is the main street has a series of quadrant railway signals on display which were restored to encourage people to remember the railway heritage and why the town’s history is important to preserve for future generations.