Don’t you hate it when you are waiting over 15 minutes for a late train or bus?
Contemplate the plights of our forebears who waited unceasingly for more than 15 years for a Mudgee rail link to be built.

It was the mid 19th century, and many NSW towns had been lobbying the state government for train lines to be built, and the Mudgee people wanted in on it too.

To their credit, these residents weren’t ones to give up. After a train line through the Mudgee plan fell off the rails, residents created the Mudgee Railway League to further their cause.

Sandy Sheridan from the Mudgee Museum said local department store owner James Loneragan was a significant dealer behind the rail petitions, desiring an easier passageway of this wares.

“He had a department store here, and was a part of the railway league, and had been pushing for the rail line to open,” she said.

Storekeepers like him at the time relied on deliveries from Maitland, and according to the Orange Leader archives, Loneragan had become one of the most ‘principal purveyors of the west,’ and ended up probably having the largest business in the area.

Finally, in 1884 the railway building was constructed, and opened amid much celebration.

But Sandy said there was a sad turn of events at the opening.

“On the day of the opening Loneragan’s wife died, so he wasn’t able to celebrate,” she said.

Left with a large, young family to rear, he nevertheless re-married two years later, according to the Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative archives.

Yet, the town went all out in celebrations of the iconic day they had been waiting for. A picnic was held in present-day Robertson Park, along with a parade of music in the streets, and food festivities.

The rail line had a somewhat brief life of 100 years - so as Madonna was hitting the charts in 1984, it ceased operations.

Sandy said the upkeep costs, less foot traffic and unsafe, derelict rail tracks contributed to its closure.

“People weren’t using rail as much, and the costs of keeping it going with diesel prices, and the like was too much,” she said.

“I can remember getting up at 3am around that time and getting on a train, because I wanted to see the Capertee Valley,” she recalled. “We got as far as Lue, and we were told we had to go back to Mudgee, as the state of the tracks was dilapidated.”

Nowadays, the current state heritage registered Mudgee rail station functions as an art gallery, a vintage car club office, and a Veterans’ drop in centre. But Irene from the art gallery said the building could be in a better condition.
“I admire the building a lot, it’s beautiful, and I love working here,” she told the Mudgee Phoenix. “But there’s a lot more that could be done to restore the place, as there are a lot of cracks.”

Ken Atkinson, who set up the Veterans’ drop in centre at the spot six years ago, also bemoaned the state of the building.

“There’s a lot of white ant damage that needs repairing,” he told the Mudgee Phoenix. “They also came four years ago, and chipped the paint away outside, but didn’t come back to finish it.”

Still, Ken chose the site because it had exactly what he needed in terms of office space, and meeting rooms to turn the cogs of his veteran advocacy work.
And the vintage car club makes a whole lot of noise each month with a coffee and car event, where you may see the likes of a thunderbird, hot rod or even a souped up tractor.

So the Mudgee rail station, with its rich history of many souls passing through - and in spite of its demise - still to this day hosts an eclectic mix of community life 137 years on.

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