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The Main Southern Railway is a major railway in New South Wales, Australia. It runs through the Southern Highlands, Southern Tablelands, South West Slopes and the Riverina regions.

Description of route Edit

The Main Southern Railway commences as an electrified pair of tracks in the Sydney metropolitan area. Originally the line branched from the Main Suburban railway line at Granville, passing through the suburbs of Fairfield and Cabramatta to Liverpool. However this section was later bypassed with a more direct route from Lidcombe via Regents Park to Cabramatta and then on to Liverpool. The former route through Fairfield became known as the Old Main South. From Liverpool, the line heads in a southerly direction to Campbelltown and Macarthur, the current limit of electrification and electrified passenger services. The line continues as a double non-electrified track south through the Southern Highlands towns of Mittagong and Goulburn to Junee on the Southern Plains. The line is controlled from Junee by the Australian Rail Track Corporation. Here the line becomes single track for the remainder of its journey south to the state border with Victoria at Albury. The line then continues through northern Victoria to Melbourne.

Development of the line Edit

In 26 September 1855 the first railway in New South Wales, the Sydney–Granville railway opened. Exactly a year later, a branch was opened from what was known as Parramatta Junction (the present day Granville) to Liverpool. This line was extended to Campbelltown in 1858, Picton in 1863, Mittagong in 1867, Marulan in 1868, Goulburn in 1869, Yass Junction in 1876, Galong, Harden-Murrumburrah and Cootamundra in 1877 and Junee and Bomen (on the north bank of the Murrumbidgee River) in 1878. The Murrumbidgee River Rail Bridge was completed in 1881[1] and the line was extended to Wagga Wagga, Uranquinty, The Rock, Henty and Albury in 1881.[2] Victorian Railways' North East broad gauge line was extended from Wodonga to Albury station in 1883. To accommodate the break of gauge, a very long railway platform was needed; the covered platform is one of the longest in Australia (photograph to the right).

The section between Picton and Mittagong was replaced by a less direct route in 1919 to ease the steep grades of the original alignment, and the old line became known as the Picton – Mittagong loop railway line which is now largely closed. Other sections of the original Great South Line between Goulburn and Wagga Wagga were also replaced by more curvy sections with lower grades in the early 20th century, including a rail spiral at Bethungra.

Construction of a standard gauge track parallel with the broad gauge track from Albury to Melbourne was commenced in 1959, completing the Sydney–Melbourne railway.[3] The first freight train operating on the line on 3 January 1962, followed by the first passenger train on 16 April the same year.[3]

Branches Edit

Several lines branched from the Main South, some of which are in-part or fully closed.

  • The Bombala Line was opened from Goulburn to Bungendore in 1885, Queanbeyan in 1887, Cooma in 1889, Nimmitabel in 1912 and Bombala in 1921.[4] This line south of Queanbeyan served largely pastoral country and therefore it did not have any major freight traffic and it was closed in 1986.
  • The Canberra Branch, an 8 km branch line from Queanbeyan to Canberra, was opened in 1914.[5] A 34 km branch line from Bungendore to Captains Flat was opened in 1940 and closed in 1969, a few years after the closure of the local mines.[6]
  • The Crookwell Line opened from Goulburn to Crookwell in 1902; it closed in 1985.[7] A branch line was opened off it from a junction at Roslyn to Taralga in 1926; it closed in 1957.[8]
  • The Yass Branch, a 5 km-long line between Yass Junction and Yass, opened in 1892 and it closed about 1958.[9]
  • The Tumut line was completed from Cootamundra to Gundagai in 1886 and extended to Tumut in 1903,[20] and a branch from it was built to Batlow and Kunama in 1923. The line past Batlow was closed 1957 and the rest were closed after flood damage in 1984.[21]
  • The Yanco- Griffith connection was completed between Yanco and Griffith on the line between Cootamundra, Hillston and Roto in 1922.[24] This line is still used by passenger trains once a week.

Passenger services Edit

Commuter services Edit

Electric commuter passenger trains operate from Sydney between Lidcombe and Macarthur as part of the CityRail network. Self-propelled diesel railmotors operate south from Campbelltown to Goulburn on an irregular frequency as part of the Southern Highlands line service of CityRail.

Country services Edit

Prior to 1962, travelling south of Albury into Victoria required a change of trains (due to gauge differences between NSW and Victoria) and often an overnight stay. From 1956, a daylight connection was introduced between Sydney and Melbourne whereby a train from Sydney connected at Albury with a train to Melbourne and vice versa. In 1962, the railway south of Albury became standardised, and this allowed through operation of trains between Sydney and Melbourne. Between 1962 and 1991, the Main South was served by the Intercapital Daylight, a locomotive hauled limited stop passenger train. Operated jointly by the New South Wales Government Railways and the Victorian Railways, the Intercapital was the railways' pride and joy. The Spirit of Progress was the corresponding overnight service between Sydney and Melbourne, and in 1962 this was joined by a new limited stops service, the Southern Aurora. The Southern Aurora became the premier fast service, and the Spirit of Progress began to serve more intermediate stops.

Until 1982, locomotives were exchanged at Albury for a locomotive of the respective state that the train was entering. The South Mail operated between Sydney and Albury until its replacement in 1984 by the South XPT. In 1985, the Southern Aurora and the Spirit of Progress were merged into the Sydney Express (or Melbourne depending on the direction). In 1992, airline deregulation and falling patronage saw the Intercapital Daylight replaced by a coach service between Melbourne and Albury, connecting with the South XPT at Albury. In 1993, the delivery of additional XPT rollingstock saw the introduction of a through overnight XPT service between Sydney and Melbourne, replacing the Express, and a through daylight service from 1994.[32] In 2007, passenger service remains a twice daily XPT between Sydney and Melbourne, a daytime and an overnight service.


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