Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Recycling Rail


Recycling Rail


A comment from Robert McKeown on my Blog post on the Docker street sidings, advised of a new book on the Tumbarumba railway – “Recycling Rail” by Ron Frew.  Robert said that it covered aspects of railway stockyards, and timber mills in the Tumbarumba area.

The book was available at the ARHS bookshops.


Well, a check on-line showed that the book had been produced by the Tumbarumba Historical Society, to coincide with the opening of the Rail Trail between Rosewood, and Tumbarumba.  Described by the author

as a social history more than a traditional rail history of the Rosewood-Tumbarumba section of the old line that served the local communities so well from 1921 until it closed in 1974


The rail trail opened in April 2020.  So I thought I would head up to the mountains, and see for myself.

On the way I detoured via Humula.  

The visitor center in Tumbarumba was open, and I secured the book.  The Visitor center also had extremely nice displays by the Historical society, including a sawmill model, and many photographs that I have included in this blogpost.  Many of these pictures also appear in the book.


The Case mill was situated on a siding within the Tumbarumba Railway yard. This is the side that visitors to my layout will see. 

A water driven sawmill operated in the Tumbarumba area until 1915.  The display in the visitor's center was a idealised representation.



The book is a softback, 154 pages, extensively illustrated.  The book is loosely arranged to cover the history of the Tumbarumba area, the construction of the line, short biographies of “people of note”, a chapter on the sawmills, gold mining, stock movements, and many quotes from people who travelled and loved the railway.    There are also some details of the station masters at Tumbarumba, and some railway incidents.     The final 40 pages deals with the conversion of the Rosewood to Tumbarumba section to a rail trail, and the efforts in preserving much railway history.

The photographs are worth the price of the book.  Some notable ones

-         the construction of the cuttings, and embankments in the Downfall area, involving narrow gauge skips

-        The Downfall navvy village

-        Timber tramways

-        Sawmills

-        Gold mining

-        Huts

-        Loading wagons with timber


 And my questions I asked on the Docker Street sidings blog-post were also answered.  I know now that Hardys Wagga was just the retail/wholesale outlet for sawmills owned by Hardys (and others) in the Tumbarumba areas, and they transported timber by rail on a daily basis – up to 10 - 12 timber trains per week was planned in the years prior to WWII.    The Case mill, owned by Hardys, in the Tumbarumba station precinct was a major user of the line, producing softwood for fruit boxes, used in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation area out towards Griffith.  The book says that the mill closed in 1962, although it was still there in photographs after 1970.  The nearby Hardys “Ribbon Mill” stayed operational until 1971.  A good enough excuse to have the timber trains operational for my layout operation.

Some random images of the Tumbarumba end of the Rail Trail


The milepost peg close to its original location

Downgrade out of the station

Restored gates.  These were restored by the local Mens Shed. 


The original Barracks building, after being recovered from a nearby farmer's field, and fully refurbished.  It is not in its original location in the yard. 

Important as the physical aspects of a model railway are, having the background of why certain things happened gives me a better appreciation of the operational aspects.  Thank you Ron for authoring such a wonderful book, and thank you Robert for making me aware of its existence.



A bonus if you visit Tumbarumba in winter, is that you can be greeted with scenes of snowy mountains off in the distance (around 70km away).  This shot was taken close to the railtrail at Glenroy.  One of my other aims for my trip was to gather images for possible backscenes.  And I took a number of closeup overlapping pictures of this scene (and more left and right), and hope to produce a panorama using photoshop.

And, if you happen to visit Tumbarumba, bring along your pushbikes, and ride the trail, around 20km, then turn around and return.  The scenery is magnificent.


  1. You're welcome :) My family and I are coming down to Wagga Wagga in about 2 weeks for a farewell visit (we are moving to Western Australia before Christmas) and we are going up to Tumbarumba for a day trip. I love that photo of the mountains - beautiful!

  2. Sounds like it was an enjoyable field trip Rob. I'm guessing it will be a wintery mountain backdrop on your layout judging by that great picture!

    1. It was an enjoyable field trip, so much so, that I explored more of the line 2 weeks later, including the Downfall area in the forests. As for the time period - you could be right Phil. A distant view of snow has an appeal that is hard to ignore.

  3. A new book on the line has just been published by the Ladysmith Tourist Railway & The Wagga Wagga Rail Heritage Association - "Wagga Wagga to Tumbarumba Railway - An Era of Change". I'll be picking up my copy at the ARHS Bookshop this week to complete my collection of all 4 books in the series :) The trip up to Tumbarumba was a bit of a downer due to the weather (rain and storms), but I did manage to see a bit of the old line as we drove along, so not a complete loss.

    1. I had the luxury of being able to choose the time of my visit, but I am sorry that the weather was not good for your trip.
      Re the book - I will have to acquire. As an aside, a larger book is planned to co-incide with the 100th anniversary of the line's opening to Tumbarumba next year.

    2. Thanks for the heads up - moving to WA next week, so please let me know when it's out so I can order it online.