Opened for service in 1914, the Benalla – Tatong Railway was a broad guage railway which served the region between Mansfield and Benalla until its closure in 1947.
Above: The first train in 1914, and below: the station site in 2012
The railway had the following stations, travelling from Benalla:
- Benalla – the junction with the North East mainline
“Tatong Railway Line. BENALLA, Saturday. When Mr. McPherson was at Tatong Mr. D.H. Coghill mentioned the construction rate which had to be paid in connection with the Tatong railway line. He said that it entailed a hardship on the landowners. It was unjust, as no such rate had to be paid on the suburban and many of the earlier construction lines.Mr. McPherson said that the landowners had asked for the railway, and entered into a definite bargain with the Government. The Government did not expect them to repudiate that agreement.” (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/1893878 – 30th April 1923, The Argus, Melbourne, Vic.)
One of the freights that were shipped on the line was timber. A tramway was already in the area, and was being used to extract timber from the mountains around Tatong. In Tatong in January 2012 there was a replica of the log hauling trucks used to transport timber along the tramway.
Above: Replica of log truck on display in Tatong township.
“A TOOMBULLUP ENTERPRISE
Messrs. Hill and McPherson, who have already constructed about six miles of wooden tramway, with 5in x 3in rails, are about to extend it by another two miles by laying a mile at each end – the one to tap timber and bring it to the mill depot, while the other mile will be towards Tiger Hill, thus avoiding a very bad road, and enabling the timber to be got out during the spring months. If the railway is made from Benalla to Dodd’s Crossing, the tramway will be extended further back towards Tolmie, so as to enable the farmers to make use [of it] and get their produce down to the [Railway]” (Benalla Standard, Friday July 9, 1909).
In the 1920s, a time of widespread economic depression worldwide, the Tatong and Lima railway stations lost their caretakers, and there was a deputation to the Commissioner for Railways regarding that and other issues local people faced in relation to the railway.
“TATONG RAILWAY SERVICE. Protests against the reduction of travelling facilities on the branch railway line between Benalla and Tatong were made to the Minister for Railways (Mr. Tunnecliffe) in a deputation from the Tatong district yesterday. The deputation objected to the decision of the Railways Commissioners to withdraw the women acting as caretakers at the Tatong and Lima stations. It was also contended that the existing train days on the line Monday and Friday were unsuitable, and that the time-table provided was unsatisfactory.Mr Tunnecliffe, in reply, said that the financial position of the department was so unsatisfactory that the commissioners had no option but to withdraw the caretakers on the line. He promised to discuss the proposed service alterations with the commissioners.” (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/3899449 – Thursday 27th December, 1927, The Argus, Melbourne, Vic).
In the 1940s, the last decade of operation of the railway, there was also other freight that had the potential to be shipped using the railway. Evidently the service had been cut back to a once a fortnight service some time before. And as a result some potential railway customers were forced to use road transport to transport their goods instead of the railway.
“TATONG LINE Weekly Service Sought
Government to consider positionCr. F. A. Cook, M.L.A. advised the Benalla Shire Council on Monday that the time for which the Government had extended the rail service on the Tatong line had almost expired, and that unless something was done the Government might close the line down.
The Commissioners, Cr. Cook stated, regarded the line as non-paying, and were anxious to stop the service, but in response to representations which had been made the Government had agreed to repay to the Commissioners any loss on the line and the service, as a result, had been extended for a period on a fortnightly service. When he last made representations shortly before the elections, the Minister had declined to take any action which might commit and incoming government, but now that the Dunstan Government had been returned the matter would probably come before Cabinet again.
He moved that in view of the prospects of future development on the district served by the Tatong line, and particularly of the Tatong and Toombullup districts, the service on the line be not only continued, but that a weekly service be provided.
Seconding the motion, Cr. Harrison stated that when he had asked men why they did not use the line more he was told that potato growers could not wait for a fortnight to send their produce by rail, so that they had to use road transport. Traffic was falling off because there was only a fortnightly train, but if the weekly service was provided the traffic would be doubled.
The motion was carried, and Cr. Cook agreed to put the case before the Minister.” (Benalla Standard, Thursday 17th June, 1943).
More photos are available in the Tatong Railway Photo Gallery