Yass Railway Museum is the small local engine that could

The last train to Yass Town 1988, crossing the Yass River Bridge. Photo: Yass Railway Museum.

The Yass Railway Museum and its team of volunteers are dedicated to telling the story of the small, rugged steam locomotives that were able, and did, for many years, connect Yass Township to the Main South Line.

The bustling town of Yass was frustrated to discover in the 1870s that the railway line to be built between Sydney and Melbourne would bypass the city for five kilometers. Railways were the lifeblood of the community for passengers and the movement of goods to and from market when the roads were so often impassable and slow.

The answer was Yass Town station and a connecting streetcar that opened on Wednesday April 20, 1892.

The busy Yass Town station was manned around the clock to ensure all South Line trains were serviced by the 1301-class steam engine carrying its passenger and freight cars.

District products such as wool, wheat and fruit from the orchards could now reach the market quickly and in good condition.

In return, much-needed supplies, equipment and goods arrived reliably to supply bustling Cooma Street businesses and district farms.

Travelers could avoid the tedious horse-drawn carriage ride to Yass Junction on the main line by simply getting on the streetcar car right in the city center.

man at the railway museum

Bob Frank in the museum ladies waiting room. Photo: Judith Davidson.

The Yass Railway Museum offers a comprehensive experience of when rail was king.

Volunteer Bob Frank is happy to share his encyclopedic knowledge of Yass Town station buildings, hangars, freight cars and sidings, shunting engine, guard vans, unusual platform at ground level with classic cast iron moldings around the porch posts and wooden railings so the ladies didn’t have to show their ankles to get on the train.


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There is a beautifully restored 1307 crane and steam engine that all look perfectly at home. The so-called “tap dance” line maintenance trikes are now inactive.

In front of the platform there are four pairs of tracks with dots. It takes little imagination to see how the steam engine and cars maneuvered on these lines to allow trains to enter and exit the station on their busy schedules.

Unfortunately, the line was closed to passengers in 1959 and to freight in 1988. Residents of Dutton Street no longer had to put up with the noise and vibrations of trains steadily ascending and descending in the very center of their street, but lines are still there.

The same goes for the beautiful iron railway bridge at the end of Dutton Street spanning the Yass River.

The wooden approaches are not safe and the whole is closed to the public but the spectacle is impressive.

The line is still visible as you exit town and head towards Yass Junction – heavily overgrown but still there. At Yass Junction, the siding where this little play train stopped for passengers is still apparent.

wagon interior

A passenger car awaiting restoration at the Yass Railway Museum. Photo: Judith Davidson.

The volunteers of the museum, open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., love to tell about the good years of the station.

There are tales of milk cans and groceries being delivered to the freight shed and you can see the truck height platform where local businesses collected their freight until 1988.

The fifth line, which has now been retired, was once the siding where the dental rail van was parked for a week to provide dental service in town before the 1950s or a traveling exhibit in a specially decorated car was parked.

Huge transformers arrived by train to be trucked to the Electricity Commission plant just outside of town.

A line ran past the station and across to Crago’s Mill, still standing next to Aldi – grain came in and flour came out.

Later during the Depression of the 1930s, an ice and rabbit freezer factory established in the old mill loaded rabbit carcasses into ice-cooled vans bound for the Sydney market.

Parked next to the wool bale loading lane is the special van dedicated to transporting Arnott’s biscuits around NSW and the gasoline tanker that distributed fuel to local service stations.

For young and old alike, a set of model trains lovingly constructed by local John Harmer and donated to the museum are housed in the Old Fuel Room where the platform and signal lights were once filled.

Volunteer Ron Barton laughed, saying, “I’ve seen kids not wanting to get off the train being dragged along by embarrassed parents.”

Judith Davidson is a local historian, uncovering the stories of the Yass Shire.

Original article published by Judith Davidson on Anti riot law.

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