The town of Yass in south western NSW used to have its own railway service for nearly 100years until late 1988 when it was suspended. The Yass Town branch line, coming off the main southern line at Yass Junction, supplied the town its required passengers services, goods and mail deliveries.The terminus station was located at the 322km marker with the platform signs showing “YASS TOWN“.
The Yass town railway came about due to locals pushing for a connection to the main southern line which was located 4.3km away at Yass Junction. The locals demanded a connecting service and eventually a limited steam tram service was introduced on the railway branch line which had a few stops and the Yass Town terminus. The branch line was unusual for NSW, as the railway track went down the middle of the local streets for parts of its journey. To pass over the Yass River, a combined timber and steel railway bridge was built.
With services approved the line was opened in 20 April 1892. By 1917 due to the locals again rallying to the NSW Government, they succeeded in having the tram service converted to a proper steam locomotive/ passenger carriage operation on the railway line to handle the demand. Passengers services were suspended in 1957 restarted but were then again suspended on 18 May 1958. A private bus service continued to carry passengers between the two locations but it also ceased on 18 May 1967. The steam era in the 1964 which then saw diesel tractor motors X200 series taking over the motive power role for rest of the lines life.The Yass Town branch line was used for general freight and mail parcels until the branch line was officially closed on 14th November, 1988.
The yard layout saw a main line service the platform, a run around road and a good shed siding. The railway yard also had a short siding extending across from the station into the Caltex depot. An extra siding road was built for storing rollingstock in 1930s but was removed in 1990s. A loading bank was built opposite the station platform. Another track was built away from the station for the servicing of the locomotives and this had 2 roads in the shed, a coal supply and a ash pit.This was removed in the 1970s. The remaining infrastructure in the yard consists of the station building, goods shed, store shed and a goods crane. A very unique feature of the Yass Town railway is the very short and raised platform section which was built to service the passengers trains when they pulled up into the station.
From early 1989 the ARHS ACT division lobbied the SRA and Yass Shire Council to allow it to manage the railway yard. After 2yrs an agreement was reached with the ARHS taking over and maintaining the station along with Yass Shire Council support. From 1991 to 1992 the volunteers worked hard to bring the station back its early 1900s setup and with new paint and tidying up the yard. In 1992 the new railway museum celebrated the station’s 100th birthday, unlike many railway stations which didnt get to see their 100th….
Since the early 1990s, the museum has grown in size with a well maintained yard, heritage preserved buildings and with assorted rollingstock on display including steam locomotive Z13 class 1307, diesel tractor X203 , S truck goods wagons, Open end American Suburban type passenger carriage 1259, BP petrol tanker, Arnotts biscuit van 13856 and HG 10834 guards vans. To compliment the rollingstock, the station has a large display of photos of the tram and railway branch line in use and yard maps.
A small team of volunteers from Yass and surrounding towns such as Binalong help run and maintain the museum. Their efforts are rewarded when visitors like myself drop in and visit the museum and rollingstock. The museum is always looking out for more volunteers for working on the many projects they have.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the railway museum with it been threatened with closure in 2002 due to ARHS ACT withdrawing from the lease. At this point the Yass Shire Council stepped in and took over the running of the lease and railway museum. Another side issue was in 2008 when Yass Shire Council wanted to remove sections of the branch line along Dutton Street but due to public demand it stopped its planned actions.
The Yass Shire Council in 2012 now sees that the Council supported railway museum does play a part in the town’s history and during 2011 was starting a 2yr review on the potential suitability of restoring the branch line back to operational standard to bring in tourist trains. No decision has yet been made public on this plan. It is hoped that one day the town will see railway tourists alighting at Yass Town’s short railway station platform.