Riding the Bombala Line – Day Three – From Yass to Goulburn (and back)

Yass Junction and Town

Down daylight XPT service to Melbourne arriving into Yass Junction station, passing the old signal box.
Down daylight XPT service to Melbourne arriving into Yass Junction station, passing the old signal box.

The Yass Town Railway is the other railway line near Canberra to have been closed to traffic, originally running from Yass Junction to Yass Town. The day started with a nod to history, with ST33 Daylight Melbourne XPT service arriving into the platform at 11:29. In years gone by, passengers would normally have changed from the Sydney train to a local service along the branchline into Yass proper. In a nod to history, a road coach was waiting to transfer passengers to various towns along the railway line. Passengers from Canberra and Yass were also brought to Yass Junction by coach to allow them to begin their journey by train south to towns and cities such as Junee, Wagga Wagga, Albury and Melbourne.

The remains of the once branch line into town are apparent, with the platform and signal box still in good condition, although the level crossing near the station has been covered over by road resurfacing in the years since the branch was closed to traffic.

There is a substantial grain silo with rail loading facilities adjacent to the station, although the tracks were rusted and the whole facility looked a bit dated and disused. Whether this is the result of the recent drought across New South Wales, or if the silo has been out of use for a while is unclear. Certainly, the sidings around the station and the silo see occasional use – to store track machines when not required by the work being undertaken in the area (Sydney to Melbourne resleepering project).

The impressive, abandoned bridge facilitating the crossing Yass River by the Yass Tramway
The impressive, abandoned bridge facilitating the crossing of Yass River by the Yass Tramway

Following the line into the township of Yass, the line is mostly intact, complete with a large bridge over Yass River. The line along Dutton Street is also more or less intact (although, not in gauge, with some sleepers so rotten there is little left but a handful of splinters!). The line along Dutton Street runs along the centre of the road, right up to the original site of Yass Station, which is now a museum in its own right, with a number of preserved items of rolling stock. It is the line along the roadway which has earned the Yass Branch the name of “Yass Tramway”, despite being operated by standard gauge branch line steam locomotives, and passenger/freight rolling stock over it’s operating years.

When I visited Yass, the museum was closed, a number of items of freight rolling stock are located adjacent to, and easily visible from, the road (albeit, behind an impressive, non-camera friendly chain link fence). Steam locomotive 1307 and diesel shunting unit X203 were also in the yard. It seemed to be an interesting looking museum, looking worthy of a future visit.

8107 and 8177 power through Gunning with a loaded wheat train
8107 and 8177 power through Gunning with a loaded wheat train

Gunning to Goulburn

That same day, while heading back to the freeway from Yass Town, 8107 and 8177 were sighted hauling a loaded rake of NGPF grain hoppers north through Yass Junction, either bound for Port Kembla for export or for the new Allied Flour Mill at Maldon.

Giving chase to Gunning for a photo, they were easy to follow up through the Cullerin Range, although once they got close to Goulburn the crew were able to really open up along the flats – not as fast as it might seem on the locomotive, but when the photographers are contending with a bumpy old road complete with curves and hills, it’s not easy to keep up, even when the train is only doing 80km/h.

Canberra to Goulburn

Following a quick lunch in Goulburn, we returned to Canberra to pick up the afternoon Xplorer service to Sydney (the fuel train often doesn’t run over a long weekend). The first shots of the Xplorer were obtained as the line skirted the border, where the line is crossed by The Kings Highway. Although the train beat us to Bugendore Station, we caught up with the train again at Tarago just south of the station, and again near the original site of Lake Bathurst. After Goulburn, it was no contest, with the train beating us to Towrang at level crossing, and it was time to head back to Canberra.

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One thought on “Riding the Bombala Line – Day Three – From Yass to Goulburn (and back)

  1. when I was a kid living in Dutton Street Yass in 1963, my brother, sister and I used to hitch a ride out to yass main line and back on the branch train, it was the last year of the steam train and the first year of the diesel, we rode in the cabin and in the brake van on both trains, great fun. How things have changed, now OH@S and liability would stop all of this; not to mention fourteen, twelve and ten year old kids going for a jolly with people your parents didn’t know. The world is not a better place, just a shrill, stressful place with a media blowing every story up to panic proportions, aah for the simple pleasures of the past.

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