The 7th of July saw a 12 coach train hauled by Pm 706 and a "C" class diesel travel out to the wheatbelt town of Goomalling to celebrate 100 years since the arrival of the railway to the town
Just under 400 passengers joined our train at City, Midland and Northam stations for what was an enjoyable run up the Avon Valley and then out to Goomalling
©All photos here are taken by Neil Blinco
GOOMALLING Bits of History (12/07/02)
by Len Purcell
Riding along the railway to Goomalling together with 390 other passengers on July 7th one had time to ponder upon, and wonder about, the past activities along the railway as the train headed through agricultural lands north east from Northam. One also had time to note that the crops are not exactly away to a sensational start for the season. A detailed brochure issued to passengers provided a list of the sidings that once were part of activities that made the railway quite a busy place. Eleven sidings, including East Northam and Racecourse, in their early days would have seen truck loads of bagged wheat rolling out and fertilizer rolling in, behind steam locos working hard to pick their way along the comparatively light railed undulating track. Easily identified by information on the brochure most of the siding sites are now little more than weed covered areas to which local roads gravitate. Think of the horse drawn wagons that delivered loads of bagged wheat to the line-side. The present day grain receival areas at Jennacabine and Goomalling certainly have left those labour intensive days far far behind. No doubt the sidings were centres for community interactions. People met people there when the siding facilities were in use. Maybe the mail and papers came to even the lesser of them? Although Jennacabine still exists most of the other “stopping places” were eliminated in a period between 1962 and 1984, although Frenches extended its life until 1997 when a crossing loop was removed.
As the Centenary Celebrations very successfully indicated, the railway to Goomalling was opened on July 2nd, 1902. Extension from there, northwards to Wongan Hills was opened nine (9) years later and the eventual extension through to Mullewa was completed in 1915. The branch railway running east from Goomalling was opened as far as Dowerin in December 1906 and eventually, to Merredin in 1911. Twenty years after its opening Goomalling was listed in the working timetable as being an electric staff station with loco watering facilities and a turntable. Our Sunday train was cheered along its way by ‘linesiders’; people with a variety of cameras. A steam locomotive is always a magnet for such activity these days. Yet cameras weren’t all that prolific, when traffic was really humming through Goomalling, probably post depression, in the war years and beyond the 1940’s. Then there would have been quite a variety of assorted locos and loading, not to mention the ADE “Governor” railcars, “Wildflower” diesel trains and ADH diesel mechanical railcars that visited in their hey day. All that would have been a bonanza compared to these times of occasional block trains.
As shown by working timetables the best running time for trains travelling between Northam and Goomalling in 1922 was 1 hour 32 mins for a Fast Mixed. The average was 2 hours. Twenty years later the Friday night “Express” to Mullewa had reduced the best time by 10 minutes. Generally running times had improved slightly but the time for a Fast Mixed bound for Merredin via Dowerin was 1 hour 44 mins. In 1962 the named train “The Mullewa” was timetabled to travel Northam to Goomalling in 1 hour 13 mins, with diesel power by then, of course. We here at Hotham Valley have a particular interest in that train because buffet car AQL290, named in its honour, is still doing excellent work for us at Dwellingup. On August 31st, 1969 at a cost of $3.50 for an adult ticket, the Railway Historical Society ran a steam special to Goomalling, using PMR loco No. 729. They did well on the day and covered the 55kms between Northam and Goomalling in 1 hours 20 mins which was only slightly more than the time we took with Pm706 and C1703, although we handled a bigger load. All in all, considering the vast difference in track geometry and motive power, not a great lot has changed in the 100 years, even if the present day block trains do make the original trains look like toys and passengers trains come only once a year (to the Dowerin Field Day), the railway is still a major landmark in the Central Heartlands.
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