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Paterson River history

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North Coast Railway at Paterson

The North Coast Railway Act 1906 became law on 17 November 1906. It provided for the construction of a railway line from Maitland to South Grafton, which would take the line through the village of Paterson to Dungog and further north.

The first practical step in construction of the line occurred in November 1907 when a tender was let for building two steel bridges, one over the Hunter River near Maitland and the other over the Paterson River at Paterson itself. Work on the Maitland to Dungog section of the line itself began in May 1908 and by August that year about 1,000 men were working on the cuttings, embankments and timber getting. Work had reached to within four miles of Paterson while a large gang was also busy tunnelling through 'Wallarobba Mountain' between Paterson and Dungog (Dungog Chronicle 26 November 1907, 20 May and 20 August 1908).

The line cut the village of Paterson in two and caused significant disruption. For example the new line cut the playground of Paterson Primary School in half and required the demolition of the headmaster's residence. School was temporarily held in the Oddfellows Hall. Once the school moved back to its own premises, an extra classroom was added in 1909 to cope with the increased number of pupils from families of navvies working on the line.

Construction was plagued by strikes and heavy rain. The Maitland to Dungog section of the line was eventually opened officially on 14 August 1911 with much celebration and fanfare (Maitland Mercury 14 August 1911 p4). Paterson was now connected via Maitland to the wider NSW rail network including Sydney along with southern and western parts of the State.

The line also brought Paterson's coaching era into sharp decline. The last Fry & Co coach from Maitland to Dungog run on the same day the railway line was opened. From then Fry's coaches connected with trains at Paterson to provide a service to Vacy, Gresford and Allynbrook that were not on the rail line.

Today the north coast railway line runs from Maitland to Brisbane and, following the truncation of the main northern line at Armidale, now provides the only rail link between Sydney and Brisbane .

construction of the rail bridge at Paterson

Above: Construction of the rail bridge at Paterson c1909. (Paterson Historical Society)

construction of the rail bridge at Paterson

Above: Construction of the rail bridge at Paterson c1909. (Paterson Historical Society)

waiting for the first scheduled train at Paterson, August 1911

Above: Waiting for the first timetabled train at Paterson, 15 August 1911. (Paterson Historical Society)

the level crosssing at Paterson before boom gates and lights were installed

The level crosssing at Paterson before boom gates and lights were installed. The gatekeeper had to shut the gates each time a train was about to pass through, and open them again afterwards. (Paterson Historical Society)