Railway arrival in Wodonga

The arrival of the railway from Melbourne to Wodonga was celebrated on 21st November 1873.

The railways Ministry issued 1,100 invitations to celebrations at Wodonga and provided four special trains to transport the guests.  Some of the guests on the early trains arrived in Wodonga for the luncheon.  Others intended to arrive for the ball that evening to be held in the goods shed.

The Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers 4 December 1873 described “a procession was formed, consisting of about five thousand persons”.  The population of Wodonga would only have been around 1000 at the time.  The dignitaries and guests were led to the large marquee where luncheon was provided, but the guests arriving earlier must have been hungry.  “The greater portion of the visitors had commenced and had nearly finished luncheon before the Governor’s party arrived, so the effect was neither so pretty nor so pleasant”.  It seems there were not enough waiting staff and not enough food for the large number present.  Nor were there enough chairs with many (including Government officials) having to stand for the duration. ”.  Fortunately there was a portion of the marquee reserved for the Governor’s party, so they did not go without.

A ball was held in the goods shed that evening with about 500 in attendance.  Due to delays the train bringing guests from Melbourne for the ball was an hour late, and it detained the ball train from Wangaratta.

The Governor Sir George Bowen, Lady Bowen and, two Misses Bowen, were among the guests.  They stayed overnight at de Kerrilleau and Sir George planted a Moreton Bay fig tree in the ground of the homestead, the tree still stands today.

It was to be another ten years before the rail link between Wodonga and Albury was completed.  Even this project did not go to plan, and required a temporary bridge 480 feet long as the original plan fell 30- feet short of actual requirement.

In 1883 Albury celebrated the rail arriving from Sydney and possibly learning from the Wodonga experience they had two hundred waiters in attendance at their celebratory banquet.