Thursday, 15 January 2015

Burringbar: big boomerang, no trains!

Burringbar on the former Murwillumbah branchline in the far North Coast of New South Wales hasn't seen a train pass through town in ten years. Not that it mattered much anyway, because Burringbar Railway Station closed in 1974. But the big boomerang alongside Upper Burringbar Road marks the entrance to the site of Burringbar's former railway station.

The land beside the former Burringbar Railway Station is now used as a visitors rest area, 2014.

The tiny township just off to the west of the former Pacific Highway lost a lot of passing traffic when the new Pacific Motorway was opened a few miles to the east to dodge the hills of the Tweed Valley and the notorious Burringbar Range to which the town lent its name. Today the township survives thanks to local patronage and the overnight campers that pull up alongside the former railway tracks for the night while leisurely following the Tweed Valley Way. A quick check in my NSWGR Country Passenger Train Timetable from 1972, shows that a Mondays to Saturdays mixed train to Murwillumbah was scheduled to stop at Burringbar at 9.20 am returning through town at 4.03 pm as it headed back to Casino. While Sundays to Fridays a passenger train to Murwillumbah stopped at Burringbar Railway Station at 11.23 pm returning through Burringbar at 1.07 pm on Mondays to Saturdays on its way back to South Grafton. But that was 1972. This was 2014, and at exactly 1.07 pm while standing on the exact location where the Burringbar Railway Station platform once stood, I waited and waited for the train to come. There was nothing.

The spot where Burringbar Railway Station once stood, photo taken 2014.

It was then that an old-time-caravaner made his way over to me to ask if there were any trains that still used the line. I stood and looked at him for a moment, and then at the track towards the Murwillumbah end of Burringbar Station that was at least ten feet high with overgrown shrubs and tall grass before finally turning to him and saying, "it must be running late."

The rail line at Burringbar Railway Station is still visible looking towards Mooball, 2014. 

I smiled and fortunately the old-time-caravaner appreciated the joke. We then proceeded to swap stories of riding trains on the old line, me and my 1990's expeditions on the Countrylink XPT, he from the late 1970's recalling bringing his car on the Pacific Coast Motorail so they could then drive on to visit the Gold Coast. That's why they'd stopped for the night in Burringbar, so he and his wife could recall the good old days of taking the train to Murwillumbah. Now they were making the trek to the Gold Coast in their own 20 foot slice of retirement paradise complete with full kitchen and en-suite. I guess whatever happens with the old railway line, people should never under-estimate the power of sentiment. Perhaps the boomerang in the park is mounted in the garden for a reason. A reminder that although the rail service through this neck of the woods may have been thrown away, the memories of riding trains through the Northern Rivers still draws people back.

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