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Murwillumbah railway line

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The Murwillumbah railway line is an out-of-service railway line in far north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. The line connected the town of Casino with Lismore, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah, and opened in 1894.[1] It is one of only two branches of the North Coast line, (the other being Dorrigo), and the last to have its services suspended (in 2004).

HistoryEdit

The first section opened between Lismore and Murwillumbah, connecting the Richmond and Tweed rivers. Passengers and goods were transported to Sydney by coastal shipping from Byron Bay. Nine years later, an extension from Lismore to Casino opened (and later south to Grafton - it was not until 1932 that the line was fully connected to Sydney). As early as 1889, feasibility talks took place into extending the line north from Murwillumbah into Queensland, discussions that continue to the present day. The line became a branch line when in 1930, the North Coast Line was extended from Kyogle into South Brisbane.

ServicesEdit

The North Coast Mail was the premier train between Murwillumbah and Sydney after the North Coast line was completed in the 1930s.[2] Additional local trains plied the tracks between Casino and Murwillumbah, connecting with other services such as the Brisbane Express. The extension to Condong was for sugar mill traffic. 620/720 class railcars also worked this line (set 638/738, which was specially modified, and also hauled a small van). From 1973, the Gold Coast Motorail provided passenger and car transport between Sydney and Murwillumbah.

In September 1997, the Northern Rivers Railroad (now Interail) subcontracted for FreightCorp for the haulage of cement and flyash freight trains to the Sunstate Cement depot in Murwillumbah. This was the last freight service to use the line, and ended in 2002. From 1990, passenger trains were operated by a daily XPT train,[3] until its truncation to Casino in 2004, when the branch line was considered too expensive to maintain, and all services were suspended indefinitely.

Ballina BranchEdit

In 1930, a branch opened between Booyong and the town of Ballina. In 1948, flood damage and landslips saw services suspended on the line, and it was officially closed in 1953.[4]

Proposed extensionEdit

When Queensland's South Coast line reached Tweed Heads in 1903, there were immediate calls from local local Members of the Parliament of New South Wales to extend the Murwillumbah line to Tweed Heads so the two railways could meet. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works Committee examined the proposal[5] but narrowly voted against it in 1904.[6] There were three other proposals to extend the railway to Tweed Heads before the idea was dropped in 1928.[7]

In 2011, the NSW Department of Transport commissioned a feasibility study to reopen the Murwillumbah line, including to "extend rail services in northern NSW to connect with the Queensland Rail system and Coolangatta airport".[8]


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