Murwillumbah railway line

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Murwillumbah Branch
North Coast line to Sydney
Old Casino
North Lismore
Booyong Junction
Binna Burra
St Helena
Byron Bay
Crabbes Creek

The Murwillumbah railway line is a disused line in far north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. The line ran from Casino to Lismore, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah, and opened in 1894.[1] It is one of only two branches off the North Coast line, (the other being the Dorrigo line). Services on the line were suspended in April 2004.


The first section opened between Lismore and Murwillumbah, connecting the Richmond and Tweed rivers. Passengers and goods were transported to Sydney by coastal shipping from Byron Bay. Nine years later, an extension from Lismore to Casino opened (and later south to Grafton - it was not until 1932 that the line was fully connected to Sydney). As early as 1889, feasibility talks took place into extending the line north from Murwillumbah into Queensland, discussions that continue to the present day. The line became a branch line when in 1930, the North Coast Line was extended from Kyogle to South Brisbane.


The North Coast Mail was the premier train between Murwillumbah and Sydney after the North Coast line was completed in the 1930s.[2]

Additional local trains plied the tracks between Casino and Murwillumbah, connecting with other services such as the Brisbane Express and Brisbane Limited. The extension to Condong was for sugar mill traffic. 620/720 class railcars also worked this line (set 638/738, which was specially modified, and also hauled a small van). From 1973, the Gold Coast Motorail provided passenger and car transport between Sydney and Murwillumbah.[3] In February 1990 the Gold Coast Motorail was replaced by an unnamed CountryLink XPT service.[4]

In September 1997, FreightCorp contracted out of the operation of freight trains on the line to Northern Rivers Railroad.[5][6] These services ceased in 2002. Freight traffic primarily consisted of bananas and flyash from Wyee.[7]

In April 2004, services on the line were suspended.[8]

Ballina Branch[edit]

In 1930, a branch opened between Booyong and the town of Ballina. In 1948, flood damage and landslips saw services suspended on the line, and it was officially closed in 1953.[9][10]

Proposed extension[edit]

When Queensland's South Coast line reached Tweed Heads in 1903, there were immediate calls from local Members of the Parliament of New South Wales to extend the Murwillumbah line another 18 mi (29 km) to Tweed Heads so the two railways could meet. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works Committee examined the proposal[11] but narrowly voted against it in 1904.[12] There were three other proposals to extend the railway to Tweed Heads before the idea was dropped in 1928.[13]

In 2011, the NSW Department of Transport commissioned a feasibility study to reopen the Murwillumbah line, including to extend rail services in northern NSW to connect with the Queensland Rail system and Coolangatta Airport. The feasibility report was released in April 2013 and that concluded it would take $952 million to bring the line back to a required standard (over $7 million per km).[14][15]

Future Uses of Railway[edit]

Bridge at Mooball

A heritage rail shuttle service will begin operations in Byron Bay. It is believed this will commence in May 2017. The 3.4 km section of track to the north of the town centre has been fully restored by private investment at a cost of only $330,000 per km (about $7 million less than the Government prediction).[4] Track work on the section commenced on 23 May 2016 and was completed in late November 2016. With the new platforms and storage shed now largely complete, the focus is now on the recruitment and training of drivers and station staff as well as the solar-hybrid conversion of the railmotor set. At the moment services will commence in May 2017, after testing can be undertaken. A two car self-propelled diesel rail car train (Number 661/720) has been refurbished by the Lithgow State Mine Railway Ltd. to provide a service between the town and the Elements of Byron resort for the benefit of resort guests and the general public. This restoration was completed in 2015. It is was officially confirmed in early January the train would run on solar-hybrid operation. Parts for this conversion arrived in March 2017, and preliminary work has begin on the installation of the solar system. The solar service is believed to be a world first.

On 25 August 2016, The Byron Line proposal was announced by Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson. The Byron Line is a proposal including the refurbishment of the rail line from Bangalow to Billinudgel for light rail or rail shuttle services to be used by the local community and tourists. It will also investigate construction of a rail trail beside the tracks, where practicable.

There is a proposal for the line to be converted to a rail trail from Casino to Murwillumbah, to boost tourism to the villages and towns along the line. On 19 June 2015, the Rail Trail proposal missed out on state funding.[3] A 2.6 km pilot Rail Trail section from Murwillumbah railway station to the Tweed River Art Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre is no longer supported by the newly elected (2016) Tweed Shire Council.

There was a proposal for a 25km Tweed Rail Trail, stretching from Murwillumbah railway station to the Shire border at Crabbes Creek but again the Tweed Valley Rail Trail proposal missed out on state funding due to community division over the cost of construction compared to the return to the community.


  1. ^ "Legislative Council Questions and Answers No. 25" (PDF). Parliament of New South Wales. 2 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study Transport for NSWApril 2013
  3. ^ a b Elloise Farrow-Smith. "Northern Rivers rail trail runs out of puff - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  4. ^ a b "Rail costings put govt study into doubt – Echonetdaily". 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  5. ^ "Northern Rivers Railroad Beats Austrac as First Private Rail Freight Operator" Railway Digest October 1997 page 8
  6. ^ "Northern Rivers May Target Export Traffic to Brisbane" Railway Digest November 1997 page 7
  7. ^ "Flyash to Murwillumbah" Railway Digest April 1990 page 129
  8. ^ Closure of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail service NSW Parliament 24 November 2004
  9. ^ The North Coast Line "Railway Digest" August 1996 page 24
  10. ^ Ballina to Booyong Railway (Cessation of Operation) Act, Act No. 13 of 1953 (in English). Retrieved on 07 Nov 2016.
  11. ^ "Public Works Committee. Murwillumbah-Tweed Heads Railway.". Sydney Morning Herald. 29 May 1903. 
  12. ^ "Murwillumbah to Tweed Heads Railway. The Scheme Rejected.". Sydney Morning Herald. 10 March 1904. 
  13. ^ "Proposed Railway. Unfavourable Report. Murwillumbah-Tweed Heads.". Sydney Morning Herald. 20 September 1928. 
  14. ^ "Legislative Council Questions and Answers No. 25" (PDF). Parliament of New South Wales. 2 August 2011. 
  15. ^ [*Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study Transport for NSWApril 2013

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]