Situated 534.610 km south of Sydney, is the preserved Bombala railway station. This was the terminus location of the southern end of the Goulburn to Bombala branch line.
As the railway network expanded across NSW, in the 1870s, many branch lines were being built. One branch line was built coming off the main south line from Goulburn and started to eventually head towards Cooma.A single line track was opened to Tarago in 1884, Bungendore 1885, Queanbeyan 1887 and finally reached the then current terminus, Cooma also in 1887.As the overall branch line traffic grew with needs of the locals, it was sought to expand it south of Cooma. The next extension didn’t happen until 1912 when it reached Nimmitabel. A further extension approved by the NSW Government in 1915 saw the branch line extend to Bombala. Bombala would in the end, be the furtherest the NSW railway system reached on the southern coastal side of the NSW. The Bombala extension saw construction work authorised in 1915 and over the next 5years small sidings and small stations were built along this section. At Bombala larger facilities were planned which would include a railway station, goods shed, locomotive facility and a large yard to serve the needs of the location. The building of the branch line to Bombala had given hope that the NSW branch line could continue on and extend into northern Victoria to connect up with the Victorian Railway (VR) Bairnsdale to Orbost branch line just over 160km away. Unfortunately this didn’t materialise much to the disappointment of many in NSW and Victoria. If this proposal had proceeded it would have enabled coastal NSW and Victorian towns to have another railway for the interstate movements of passengers and goods. Once completed, the Bombala extension from Nimmitabel was opened in early November 1921, with initial services being of goods movements and by late November 1921, the station was opened to the public for passenger train movements. This extension would be one of the last rural branch lines extension to open in NSW.
Bombala was constructed in the late 1910s / early 1920s in an era when the NSWGR system heavily used concrete for station and infrastructure needs. The overall station and yard length is around 900m long. The 88m long platform was located on the up side of the main line. It featured a mix of concrete face and crushed gravel base. The station building design used was a Type 11 which used pre-cast concrete construction. Next to the station building on the northern side was placed a pre-cast concrete skillion roof signal box. On the southern side of the station building was built a concrete wall / corrugated iron roofed toilet and lamp room, a skillion roof / corrugated iron fettler’s shed and a foot warmer boiler room. Located opposite the main platform was a large goods shed with a goods sidings, a run around siding and further south was the loading bank. Situated to the north of the goods shed was a gantry crane. Located 30m from the station building was the footbridge which allowed locals to access the station and platform and to also allow residents to be able to cross the railway yard safely to each side of the town as required. This was a unique footbridge design as it was the only type built in rural NSW. The yard had when operational had 4 ground frames marked A to D. Located around 400m north of the station and on the western side was the stock siding and associated yards. On the eastern side was the locomotive facilities side which included a barracks building, a 60ft turntable, locomotive shed, water tank, coal stage and inspection pits. A weighbridge and hut was located nearby also.
The train trip from Queanbeyan to Bombala was quite a challenge for train crews as it involved many tight curves and mountains as the line’s height above sea level rose to in some parts to 3,600 ft. It also saw frequent and long 1 in 40 grade sections. NSWGR steam locomotive movements saw a variety of goods, passengers consists hauled by 30, 32 and 52 classes. Passengers were conveyed in standard carriages and it was a long trip for some. Services also saw 620 series diesel railmotors frequent the line from the 1950s onwards. At other times the railway paybuses carried passengers when demand was low. Outwards goods from Bombala saw local farm produce, wool, cattle, sheep and timber transported into NSW by goods trains. Regular steam operations ceased on the branch line in 1962. As steam faded out, new branch line diesels locomotives took over with 44 and 48 class seen hauling rollingstock on the line. During the 1960 and 1970s, a noticeable decline in up and down services from Bombala was seen, as the railway system was rationalised and as trucks took away freight from the railways. The last official passenger train to Bombala was in August 1974. During the 1980s a few special steam train tour with 30 classes were operated to Bombala with the last believed to have been a double header run with 3102T and 3026T in 1984. The last goods service on the line was in March 1986.The last ever train to visit Bombala was a special railway tour which saw 3 CPH railmotors travel down in March 22 1986. Bombala station officially closed on March 26 1986. The branch line was finally closed in May 1989 after the NSW Government decided to cut regional railway services to the southern NSW “voters”.
Since 1989 the Queanbeyan to Bombala branch line has remained somewhat intact but decaying. For Bombala the railway station, the surrounding infrastructure has been lucky to survive the destruction or subsequent decay as seen across NSW in most other railway yards. The whole of Bombala’s railway yard is open to the general public with no restrictions except for a few small sections which have seen some protective bars and fencing installed. The preservation since closure has seen the station building maintained as one of the best pre-cast concrete structures in rural NSW, while other stations have decayed. The goods shed remains intact but has fencing on some of the wooden deck. The wooden footbridge over the station is still present, although during late 2012 it underwent a $100,000 repair to make it safe again with funding from John Holland railways. It has been noted that some lengths of rail track have been removed within the station and yard area. At the locomotive depot area, the turntable is locked shut, the concrete/brick flooring foundations of the locomotive shed is viewable and the inspection pit is fenced off. The steam era water tanks are long gone. The goods weighbridge hut is still standing.
In 2013, Bombala is a railway location which is still mostly intact when compared to its original 1920s opening plans. It is fortunate that the station and yard are well looked after and supported by local community efforts such as the Friends of the Railway Land and the Bombala Council who are working together to improve the railway station and ground. The longer term plans include acquiring a few wagons/trucks and a carriage to help educate tourists on the town’s heritage.
Bombala’s railway infrastructure remains pretty much intact and preserved since the last train ran in 1986.
It has station building/platform, walkway bridge, goods shed, fettler shed, turntable, signal hut, gantry crane, loading bank, toilet building, frames/switches, old locomotive building remains and within the building foundations is seen a inspection pit.