The Australian Railway Monument and Rail Journeys Museum

On 1 October 2005 the Australian Railway Monument in Werris Creek (NSW) was opened by the NSW Minister for Transport (and on that day Acting Premier) Hon John Watkins as part of the celebrations of 150 years of rail in NSW. The monument comprises a number of large sculptures set around the Monument amphitheatre. The centre of the amphitheatre has three lines crossing it representing the three railway lines that form the junction there. Around half of that space is a stone faced mound which contains two concrete faced cuttings. On the opening day most of one wall of a cutting, known as a Wall of Remembrance, contains panels inscribed with the names of over 2,000 NSW railway personnel who were killed on duty or as a result of injuries sustained on duty. At each radial point of the three lines are the metal figurative sculptures, semi-abstract, but recognisable interpretations of workers on the rail network. Other figures are located in the precinct. Workers represented include a signalman, gatekeeper, driver, guard, shunter, station-mistress and others.

So why is it called the Australian Railway Monument, rather than just the NSW railway monument? Simply that this striking display is an opportunity for all states to pay tribute to all the railway men and women of Australia who lost their lives on duty or as a result of injuries sustained on duty and at the same time, represent the railway industry and all its employees and their contribution to Australia’s development. 

Why Werris Creek?

Werris Creek Railway Station precinct is of great heritage significance to NSW and also has some national significance. With the reduced use of the station by Rail Corp (though it is still a passenger stop), the challenge was to provide a future use that supported both the heritage of the buildings but also of the rail community in this town.

Werris Creek is termed ‘the first railway town in Australia’ as it began in 1885 as a railway station in a paddock to begin the branch line rail network. There was no town and the nearby towns were not interested in becoming a junction, so a new town was born – a true railway town. It became a major rural rail complex with traffic and mechanical operations, in NSW it was reputedly the largest outside Sydney. Architecturally it is most unusual with triangular platform and similarly shaped main building.

Associated with the Australian Railway Monument is the Rail Journeys Museum. The first room is open but there are plans for more in the former two-storey Werris Creek Refreshment Rooms (NSW RRR included accommodation for travellers). The intention of the combination railway theme was to create a regional tourist attraction that would have broad appeal. Inside the Rail Journeys Museum the focus is on telling rail stories through the workers’ eyes and words. Apart from the various themed panels along the timeline, there are artefacts and stories related to the various operational personnel, for example, the shunter, the station master and the fettler. The professional presentation is impressive.

The opening of the Monument was accompanied by a weekend-long fair and festival of rail with a wide range of modern and vintage passenger trains, a market, and many and varied performers in several venues around the town. It was an appropriate ending to the four-day National Railway Heritage Conference. 

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Signalman statue with amphitheatre behind and female ASM (assistance station master) statue on the horizon

The couple in the photo of the Signalman are Trevor Horman and Judy Richardson, the key drivers of the Friends of the Northern Australia Railway at Adelaide River in the Northern Territory who attended the Rail Heritage Conference and the ARM opening, which meant there were delegates from every state and territory at the Conference.

Photo: Courtesy Bob McKillop

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