Sunday November 28, marks 100 years of the local railway.
The railway enabled the transportation of goods and for people to be able to travel by means other than horse and cart from 1917.
In June, 1887, a meeting was held in favour of the construction of a north coast railway. It appeared that “many of the people of the Macleay had never yet seen a railway, and also that they didn’t want to see one”.
“It was said the horses would go mad at the sight of the puffing monster; the cows would withhold their milk, and the hens would refuse to lay their eggs.”
In 1892, Sir Henry Parkes laid down the railway as part of the program of the Government in power.
In March, 1906, the Premier, Mr J Carruthers visited Kempsey and on November 17, 1906, his government passed an Act for the construction of the railway where it was stated the line would be completed five years after the letting of the first contract.
By June, 1910, the survey of the line between Taree and Kempsey was completed.
In 1913, a large deputation from the North Coast met with the Minister for Works, Mr Griffiths, and asked for the railway to be connected up between Taree and South Grafton and to start bridge work on all the rivers.
In November, 1913, construction of the Wauchope-Kempsey section and the Kempsey-Macksville section began.
In September, 1917, the Kempsey Railway League held its last meeting, its objective being achieved after 30 years of effort. Of the original members the only surviving ones were Messrs PJ O’Neill, Flatt and Elton.
The official opening of the Kempsey Railway was on November 28, 1917.
Over the past 100 years a number of accidents have occurred for various reasons. Before the line was fenced, animals were a constant worry.
In July 1921, the mail train smashed into a stationary horse, dragging its body to the end of the bridge.
In 1925 the butter van of the mail train left the rails 10 miles north of Kempsey, causing delays.
In August, 1949, a disastrous flood struck the Macleay Valley and 10 months later a similar fate would happen again.
In June, 1950, the North Coast railway line was subjected to cyclonic conditions.
The most serious accident to occur was when two two trains hit head-on in the Kempsey yards on March 26,1935. The fruit train smashed into a stationary train causing bananas and pineapples to be scattered everywhere. The driver and the fireman were taken to Kempsey Hospital with injuries.
Lucky for us things have since improved on the railway. Be there on Sunday to mark this special occasion.