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Upper Murray Railway Heritage

Train travel over spectacular bridges through the beautiful Upper Murray mountains is a romantic notion to many today, but in reality train travel meant much more to the people of the Upper Murray during the early to mid decades of the 20th century. The railway brought economic opportunities for the region.
It was the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s that hastened the arrival of train travel to Victoria, but it was not until 1873 that the main rail track between Melbourne and Wodonga was opened to passenger and freight travel. It was around this time that members of the Upper Murray community began to dream about train travel to the Upper Murray. Mountains, creeks and rivers were expensive barriers to rail development. It took until 1891 before the branch line from Wodonga was opened to (Old) Tallangatta. This is where the rail terminus remained for twenty three years before serious moves were made to begin construction on the rail line to the Upper Murray. Progress towards the Upper Murray continued eventually and by 1916, the railway line development had reached Shelley. By 1921, the small town of Cudgewa became the terminus. The official opening of the Cudgewa Railway Station in May of that year was launched by Harry Lawson, the Victorian Premier. The grand occasion was attended by most of the Upper Murray community. The Wodonga to Cudgewa railway line required the construction of 35 timber trestle bridges to allow trains to traverse the challenging mountainous terrain. Many of these old bridges remain today, decaying relics of a very important era in the history of the Upper Murray. Arguably the livestock producers, who could truck their animals to Wodonga and then on to the Melbourne market, were the happiest with the arrival of rail transportation. Prior to this option, drovers had to walk these animals to (Old) Tallangatta so they could be trucked to market.
In the early 1930s, a 'Better Farming Train' visited Cudgewa. This train had a series of carriages decked out with government information and displays aimed at improving farm production . Many district farmers and their families welcomed the new ideas it brought, including the idea of using super phosphate on pastures. Regular passenger services to and from the Upper Murray ended during the Second World War but freight continued to arrive and depart by train. Once or twice a year a 'special' train ran with passengers as part of a organised community occasion. The beginning of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme in 1949 heralded in a new era of rail use in the Upper Murray. During the 1950s, the Cudgewa Railway Station was remodelled to facilitate more efficient handling of goods and large equipment and machinery brought by train to the Upper Murray, for further transportation into the Snowy Scheme's mountain work sites. The rail infrastructure also needed reinforcement and the local economy enjoyed the benefits of more people and employment. After the Snowy Scheme was completed in 1974, activity on the Wodonga- Cudgewa railway line sharply declined.  From a peak of three trains a day in the early 1960s, line use declined to several times a year until 1978, after the last freight train journey. Cudgewa was the terminus for sixty years until the official line closure in 1981. The station’s infrastructure was dismantled and sold soon after. Aside from several old bridges, and the Shelley Station siding, little evidence remains of the rail era in the Upper Murray. Information boards with several photos, one opposite the Cudgewa Hotel and another at Shelley, tell more of this time.
“The Man From Snowy River’ Country of North-Eastern Victoria & Southern NSW