Cooma Monaro Railway
After a drive south from Canberra, Todd and I arrived in time for the 11:00 railmotor service to Chakola (currently the northernmost limit of operations). After finding a seat on the railmotor, I jumped up the front to have a chat to our driver. Jay has been driving solo for the railway for six months now. Quite an achiement when you consider he is only fourteen years of age, and is Australias youngest train driver. This is no “toy railway” either, running along over 17.5km of track, with two safeworking sections (Cooma to Bunyan and Bunyan to Chakola), and two operating railmotors to run. Especially surprising was Jays choice of hobby, in a town where the local kids spend their days (and nights) drinking and smoking and generally doing nothing else.
Despite the trip to Chakola only being 17.5km, the railmotor ambles along the line at a sedate pace, never really going faster than 40km/h. Beyond Chakola, three wooden bridges halt the progress of the railway, as all three are in varying states of disrepair. Short of massive amounts of money and labour, operation is limited to the 417km post, just 100m up from Chakola Station.
The station building and signal box at Cooma have been well restored, and the station building is home to the souvenir shop as well as a very impressive model railway, modelled on the local area. While not to scale (it’s a loop), it is easy to locate the yards of Cooma, Bombala and Queanbeyan on the layout, which has it’s own 48 Class hauled mixed goods, DEB Set and even a CPH Railmotor being restored at Cooma loco!
Although there is rumoured to be the remains of a station, the location appeared to be on private property, so we made no attempt to locate or access the station grounds. The railway line once crossed the highway at a level crossing north of town, although resurfacing of the highway in recent years has obliterated all trace of the level crossing from the roadway. We did pause to photograph the replacement “station”, which is a bus stop sign (complete with rotten wooden shelter) advertising services to and from Sydney.
As for the level crossing north of Bredbo, the level crossing at Colinton has also been lost through road straightening and resurfacing. Originally, the highway had a kink in it where it crossed the line, both to allow the road to cross the line at a right angle, and to slow traffic down for the level crossing. Once the line had been closed, the level crossing was lifted, with the remains just dumped next to the existing rail, and the road straightened. The original highway has now become a rest stop.
Restored by the ARHS ACT, who once ran trains down to Michelago via Queanbeyan, the station building is still in excellent condition. The yard has long since overgrown, along with (sadly) the lawn and garden at the front of the station building. Investigation of the still-extensive yard revealed a number of water gins, along with a couple of other wagons likely used for line maintenance either by ARTC or (more likely) ARHS ACT. Also in good condition are the up and down home semaphores at each end of the yard, although vandals or the elements have seen to the removal of the coloured glass from the signal arm. The yard also retains a number of (operational?) level frames, as well as the overgrown remains of a turntable behind the surprisingly modern looking engine shed. The remains of what appeared to be a coal stage was also present.
Little remains at this location beyond a neglected looking platform, an NTAF, NHWF and BAS wagons sitting in the loop/siding.
This location was a fair hike off the beaten track, although a short siding and large loading bank complete with lever frame and remains of a staff hut made the walk worthwhile. This was most unusual, as the location itself is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by private farms, without even a proper road (dirt track/fire trail) leading to the siding. It is possible that the siding was connected to the mainline at the southern end of the loading bank too, although if it was, it’s long since been disconnected and made into a dead-end.
As well as the log loading point discovered and photographed the previous day at the 332km post, a siding branched off the line at the 330km post. Following the siding, it remained 90lb rail, although the quality of the sleepers and ballast deteriorated rapidly along it’s length (indeed, just a few metres along the siding, the rails had spread quite severely). It seemed to have (at one point) served the rear of the Hume industrial site – although the rails ended just after branching off the mainline, the formation remains very visible and easy to follow (it has become an access track to the railway line).