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The Cooma Monaro Railway had its origins in a public meeting in 1992, when a group of local people decided to restore the station, which had fallen into disrepair since the closure of the line beyond Canberra some 4 years before. As you can see from this photo of the station after their restoration, they accomplished their aim very well.
Looking for new challenges, it was resolved to try and set up a Tourist Railway. Several alternatives were explored without success, and then came a stroke of luck. Four of the venerable CPH Railmotors, so long the backbone of country branch line and outer Sydney operations, became available at nearby Tumut. Brought to Cooma progressively from April 1994 on the back of lowloaders, they were a sorry sight. We were delighted when long time member Ron Geeves provided us with a collection of photos of the railway's formative days. A selection of these photos follow, depicting two of the pivotal moments in the transformation of the CMR from a dream to a reality.
Firstly, April 1994 - railmotor CPH6 and trailer car CTH55 arrive from Tumut.
Secondly, January 1995 - railmotors CPH22 and CPH8 arrive at their new home.
As evident from the photos, the CPHs were in a pretty sorry state. However,some remarkable talent and determination was contained within the small group, and restoration proceeded at a good pace. (See our Ed Ironside page for a tribute to the mainspring of the restoration effort).
Four years pass. Many a long day is spent in the freezing cold shed (still open to the elements). But thanks to the unstinting dedication of a few, the goal is realised. One by one, three of the four CPHs, two motors and a trailer car, emerge from the shed in pristine condition.
Finally, negotiations proceeded with State Rail to obtain the right to run on the line from Cooma towards Canberra. Again, fortune favoured the group, and, with extensive work by committee members, permission was granted just in time to commence commercial operations in conjunction with the Cooma Jockey Club's race meeting on December 5th, 1998.
First Run - Breaking the Tape
For much of its long history, Cooma Yard was a bustling place. Following are a few views of activities over the years.
One such great piece of history we received from Keith Bennett, in the form of this photo of a rather active Cooma Yard, date unspecified.
The two young gentlemen on the trike seem to be enjoying themselves. It is very interesting for anyone who is familiar with Cooma Yard and its surroundings today to compare it to the photo. Outside the yard has changed considerably, but the yard itself remains much as it is shown here.
The next photo shows 3325 taking on coal at the coal stage in Cooma yard. The occasion was an ARHS tour train visit on Saturday 23 September 1966. The whole business of supplying coal to steam engines was one of manual labour. The coal stage was filled by shoveling coal from S trucks and then in turn it had to be shoveled up into the engine's tender. The photo also illustrates the operation of the doors on the other end of the shed, allowing access to the stage and the two sidings behind. Our thanks to Peter Neve for supplying the photo from his extensive collection.
A 1980's Look at the Cooma Rail Precinct
The photos you see below were sent to us by Tony Woodland, who took them in September 1983. They show 4808 and a mixed freight service at the platform, a tanker wagon in the platform siding at the Bombala end and a yard virtually unchanged from its appearance today. These scenes are interesting to those of us used to seeing only CPH railmotors in the yard. The consist of the mixed freight is instructive for the CMR, as we are interested in obtaining a few goods wagons to join our 'trackwork special' L trucks in the yard.
Below is an interesting picture sent to us by local historian Wendy Hain (thanks Wendy!), that shows some of the history of our northern terminus, Chakola. The photo, taken in 1968, depicts sheep from nearby Dromore loading at the ramp, which still exists at the southern end of the station. It's a pity that the ramp isn't in the same condition now! At some stage in the future, CMR would like to obtain a double decker sheep wagon and position it alongside a rebuilt ramp as a memorial to those days.
CMR plans to have this and other pictures displayed on a board in the Chakola station building sometime soon.
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