Waterways and Bullock Tracks
Transportation of supplies to the towns and stations of inland New South Wales prior to the construction of the Great Northern Railway in the mid 1800s was undertaken by steamship, barge and wagon. Goods were shipped to the port of Newcastle, then by steamer or barge up the Hunter river to Morpeth and from there, overland by dray or wagon, to Maitland town. Waiting carriers loaded up wagons there and led their teams of bullocks or horses on long journeys over rough tracks, mountain ranges and rivers, to outlying stations and settlements.
Having traversed the Liverpool Range and reached Tamworth, some set off towards Armidale, Glen Innes and Tenterfield or Bundarra and Inverell, via the Moonbi Range, a treacherous trip for both man and beast which would continue to test the resolve of carriers for the best part of the century to come. Others walked onwards to the northwest, via Manilla and Barraba, to stations further north along the way to Bingara, Bundarra and Tenterfield. These 3 bullock tracks were surveyed to assess the best terrain for building the Great Northern Railway.
The Great Northern Railway
In 1853 the Hunter River Railway Company was established by the Commissioners for Railways to make a start on the Newcastle-Maitland section of 'The Great Northern Railway', later renamed 'The Main Northern Line'. The Company imported both plant and workers from England for the first stage between Newcastle and Maitland.
The company was dissolved in 1855, as was the Sydney Railway Company, responsible for the Parramatta line west, with all interests passing to the management of the Government Railway Committee. The line to Maitland was completed in March 1857, with the track extended to Victoria Street Maitland in 1858, in preparation for construction of the line westward. The northern railway line reached Singleton in 1863, Muswellbrook in 1869, Scone 1871, and Murrurundi in 1872, the distance to be travelled by local carriers progressively reduced at each stage.