News National On This Day: Trains link Sydney and Melbourne in 1883

On This Day: Trains link Sydney and Melbourne in 1883

The official opening of the Albury-Wodonga link in 1883. Photo: Albury & District Historical Society
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For most of the 19th century, Australians had two options if they wanted to travel from Sydney to Melbourne.

They could walk, or they could go by horse-drawn cart.

That changed on this day in 1883, when Australia’s two most populous cities were finally linked by a train line at Albury-Wodonga.

“The connection of the New South Wales and Victorian railway systems at Albury-Wodonga gave a dramatic boost to the cause of Federation,” reported The Australian National Heritage List.

“The connection was a long-heralded and much-vaunted engineering achievement, which was crowned with the architectural triumph of Albury Railway Station Building.”

It was revolutionary.

At the time, Australian manufacturing was being turbocharged by the Industrial Revolution in Britain, which started 80 years earlier in 1760.

Fuelled by the life-changing use of steam power and advances in engineering, goods that had once been painstakingly crafted by hand started to be mass produced by machines in factories.

Within decades, Britain’s economy rapidly developed from relying upon agriculture and handicrafts to industry and machine manufacturing.

The British locomotive building industry expanded rapidly in the latter half of the 19th century and cultivated a thriving export market. Photo: Getty

It was an exciting time for innovation and, as a penal colony, Australia reaped the benefits.

Local manufacturing of small steam engines began as early as the 1830s.

In 1882, New South Wales and Victoria agreed to share the cost of connecting the states’ two rail systems with a double line across the Murray River.

The Railway Station on George Street, South Sydney, NSW, circa 1885. Photo: Getty

A temporary wooden bridge was built until the lattice girder bridge could be completed.

Then on June 14, 1883, the official linking of the systems took place.

Leading men of each colony attended the celebrations.

Eventually, a standard gauge line between Albury and Melbourne was completed in 1962 and became known as the Sydney-Melbourne railway.