Photo gallery, videos: Blue Mountains rail celebrates 150 years

When the Great Western Line opened up 150 years ago there was no pomp and ceremony, unlike the bacchanalian feast in February of the same year of 1867, to celebrate the opening of the Great Southern Railway from Picton to Mittagong.

As Professor Robert Lee, Emeritus Professor of History at Western Sydney University told the crowd of more than 300 in Coronation Park at Wentworth Falls, adjacent to the station, “there were no festivities, because there was nothing here other than an inn known as the Weatherboard, the very name suggestive of gimcrack, cheerless and chilly accommodation”.

But on Friday July 21, in 2017, the community of the Mountains and beyond, celebrated on a NSW Rail Museum steam train, the 3642 Blue Mountains Flyer, marking the advent of that first passenger train from Penrith to Weatherboard years earlier.

Back then the train stop was “at first merely a transfer point in the middle of the bush for the Bathurst mail and passengers between train and coach” but the line opened up the Mountains to the world”, Professor Lee said.

It brought tourists and saw the Mountains grow quickly as land and jobs became available.

The community celebrated in the park with a donated cake from Patisserie Schwarz, music and speeches from Wentworth Falls Public School and Blue Mountains Grammar. Station master Edward Griffiths cut the cake with Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle. The event was hosted by the Wentworth Falls Chamber of Commerce with help from Track 150 campaigner Bluey Quilty.

Transport Heritage chair Rob Mason said Friday’s commemorative trip –travelling up a 1 in 33 metre incline, the steepest section of railway line in Australia –  had been so popular, “we could have sold it ten times over”.

A weekend of steam events followed, organised in conjunction with the NSW Rail Museum and the Valley Heights Rail Museum.