The Upper Murray
“The Man From Snowy River” country
of North-Eastern Victoria & Southern NSW
© Copyright 2017  The Upper Murray Business Directory  All rights reserved.

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.