Situated 681.320 km marker and at 3507 feet, from Sydney on the former Main Northern Line to Wallangarra, Glenn Innes was a modest station for its era which was built in 1883-1884. In 2012 it still stands but reused in a vastly different manner.
The town of Glen Innes was created from 1851 and grew over time as more people moved to the high mountain range town. With people moving the need for a railway in the 1870s was becoming a key concern and after political debate saw the railway system extend their way. The contract for railway construction work between Uralla and Glen Innes was issued in January 1881. The contract for work at Glen Innes for a railway station, turntable as the station was the then terminus, an engine shed, coal stage, Station Master’s residence, goods shed was issued in August 1882.
On August 19 1884 the grand opening of the next extension to the suitably named Great Northern Railway to Glen Innes from Armidale was carried out. Glen Innes new rail service and the expansion of mining in the region contributed to a growing new prosperity in the regional towns in the late 1880s. This expansion of the town is still visible today and is shown by the designs of some of the beautiful buildings in Glen Innes.
In 1884 the single track line was initially opened to Glen Innes and this was later extended over the next 2years to the next major terminus station on the line, Tenterfield (which will be covered in a future issue). Meanwhile Glen Innes was a significant addition to the Northern Line operations, which was shown that it was the most prominent station on the northern section of NSW until the completion of the Tenterfield station in 1886. This prominent title back then may help explain why the Glen Innes railway station still survives in 2012.
The station at Glen Innes was designed in the early 1880s as a functional yet simple single-storey structure with capacity to handle the regional demand which was expected to use and need its services. The large brick with cement facing station building was designed to the style of the type 5 railway station which saw it being built as a first-class Victorian era building. The features included the entrance way, booking office, waiting room, colonnaded verandah on both platform and road side and pavilions on each end which housed the male and female toilets. The porters and lamp rooms were housed in the building at opposing ends. A parcel office and out of was also built to handle mail and small parcel movements.
As the NSW railway system grew, so did the station, which saw more infrastructure added such as a timber signal box, a carriage dock, a water tank, associated water column and across from the station in an unusual location was the local stock race. A over bridge was built further down the yard at the Sydney end of the station for people and coaches to use to go over the rail line. Other early additions to the railway infrastructure saw a wool stage added in 1890, refreshment rooms added to the station in 1896, a loading bank and a larger 60ft manual turntable in 1900 to accommodate the larger steam locomotives and their tenders. With more patronage coming, in 1901 a boiler for a foot warmer was built, a few more a water tanks were added in 1904 and 1905 to meet the demand. At one stage the railway yard also held a locomotive shed with had engine pits and work areas but this was removed when Tenterfield became the depot for the end of the line. Also nearby was inspection pits and coal stage. A goods shed was located north of the station for handling all large goods to be shipped into and out of the town.
The Great Northern Line was known as the main line to Brisbane with changing at the border town of Wallangarra until the North Coast railway line was built all the way to the Queensland border which was semi coastal via Casino in the early 1930s. This inland main line operation saw frequent passenger and goods services come through Glen Innes as they took people to regional towns and Queensland. This inland line became an important asset during WW2 as it was secure from sea attack as it moved many military personnel and items up the coast. As the 1950-60s came around the increased use of vehicles saw patronage on the Wallangarra line decline as the small towns used less and less railway services. (This loss of traffic to the road industry is still a major issue in 2012 for governments and the railways across Australia to somehow turn around.)
Glen Innes once saw famous trains stop such as The Brisbane Express which was initially steam hauled then diesel hauled in its later years. Diesel locomotive hauled daylight passenger services to Glen Innes and Tenterfield ceased in 1986. The other famous train which is remembered for was the overnight mail services which operated for several days a week. The last ever northern line and one of the last few NSW mail trains still running, then left Glen Innes after stopping and headed south into the history books in November 1988. The New South Wales government in 1988 decided to remove all rail services to the Northern Tablelands and cut back these services to terminate at Tamworth instead. This sadly saw the majority of the once Great North Railway now become an uncared and pretty much abandoned section. The line north of Glen Innes also lost their freight services in 1989. After some issues the operational main railway line was in 1993 extended back to Armidale where it has remained ever since as the terminus. Passenger trains and goods trains serviced Glen Innes for 104 years until the NSW Government deemed the service no longer viable. Now it is just a distant memory to those who once saw it in action.
With the closure of the line in 1988, the station decayed as did all closed railway stations across NSW. Glen Innes station is in 2012, a surviving example of a well-designed and proportioned NSWGR era country railway station. The station remains a landmark building in Glen Innes and is a good representative example of first-class Victorian architecture rarely seen in northern NSW. There is still significant remains to be seen at the station and yard, which bears testament to the consideration given to meeting the requirements of rail service to the town way back in 1880s. After 128years the station remains but radically different from the purpose it was built for.
The station has in the last few years found a new lease on life, with readapative use by local business operations, when it became a bar/club and craft shop. With a striking red and cream paintwork – which was repainted in 2011 – on the exterior showing off its railway heritage and the sounds of a pub and foods inside, it has certainly changed from being a passenger hub for transport. The railway and yard infrastructure that remains nearby includes the dual track yard, water column and water tank, ground frames, dock siding and north of the station in a siding is found a former NSWGR railway carriage, FR 1233 which was restored but reported in 2009 was burnt out and damaged by vandals. It is not known if this will ever be restored again.
Since 1988, there have been a few attempts to revive freight and tourist rail traffic to the Northern Tablelands to remove freight carrying trucks and buses off the road, as far as Glen Innes and Guyra but none of these plans have become operational. In the last few years the Glen Innes station was “readapted” and was recently again repainted in 2011 in heritage colours. The historic station now sees a small trade of tourists and local visit, who can still see what railway travel to the town once meant.