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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 7 (November 1, 1928)

Australia's First Railway

Australia's First Railway.

Owing principally to the limited population of Australia in the early days of railways, no definite proposals for the construction of lines were put forward until 1845, when the railway mania in England had reached its greatest height. Several companies applied to the British Government for the necessary powers to construct railways in the Colony of New South Wales.

When this news reached Sydney the railway question was revived, and at a public meeting held in 1846, a Committee was appointed to collect information towards the obtaining of which the Government granted financial assistance.

In 1848 the Legislative Council, on the recommendation of a Select Committee which had investigated the subject, passed a number of resolutions affirming the necessity of constructing railways in the Colony, and also recommending the granting of financial assistance and a restricted area of land required for the way of the railroad. The Governor-General, in transmitting the resolutions to the Secretary of State in England, recommended that the encouragement offered by the Council to private enterprise be granted.

“The Sydney Railway Company Act” was assented to in 1849, and the Government granted financial aid and land for the right-of-way. The first sod of the railway from Sydney to Parramatta, 15 miles distant, was turned on 3rd July, 1850, but owing chiefly to the gold discoveries, which caused a depletion of the labour market, the Company found itself in such serious difficulties that it became evident that private enterprise could not carry out the construction of railways. The Government acquired, therefore, the whole of the Company's assets in 1854.