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News: Mountains rail marks 150 years: Celebrating history with a puff of steam

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

As Professor Robert Lee, Emeritus Professor of History at Westem Sydney University told the crowd of 300 in Coronation Park at Wenworth steam Falls, "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 last Friday July 21, the community of the Mountains and beyond celebrated on a NSW Rail Museum steam train, the 3642 Blue Mountains Fluyer, marking the advent of that first passenger train from Penrith to Weatherboard years earlier.

Back then the train stop was "merely a transfer point in the middle of the bush for 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.

Professor Lee, biographer of John Whitton, engineer In chief of the NSW Railways from 1856 to 1890, said Whitton "fought tooth and nail" to have the railway built.

"Governor Denison was a Royal engineer. and thought he knew better how to cross the Mountains, he wanted to lay a cheap horse-drawn tramway on Cox's Road. Whitton took Denison on [and] proved the more expensively and better built a railway was, the better it was as a long term investment."

The 2017 community celebrated in the park with a donated cake from Patisserie Schwarz and music and speeches from Wentworth Falls Public School and Blue Mountains Grammar students. Station master Edward Griffiths cut the cake with Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle.

Transport Heritage chairman Rob Mason said Friday's commemorative trip - travelling up a 1 in 33 incline - had been so popular, "we could have sold it 10 times over. Herltage trains traversed the Mountains all weekend to mark the occasion.

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