Like many regional towns across Australia, the arrival of the railway opened Tenterfield up to the rest of Australia and proved to be one of the greatest factors in the prosperity of the region.
In 1884 the Great Northern Railway had reached Glen Innes in New South Wales and was continuing northwards. As it approached Tenterfield, accompanied by its bush pubs and host of navvies, the old town awoke to a new form of life – a wild and uproarious kind.
The line was completed to Tenterfield on 1 September 1886. The opening took place on 19 October 1886, with the Governor, Lord Carrington, attending to declare the line officially open. Thousands of people travelled from Sydney to celebrate with the people of Tenterfield. It is said to be one of the largest openings of a NSW railway at the time.
Tenterfield was originally to be the junction for the NSW and QLD rail lines, however inter-colonial politics lead to a new township and station being built on the Queensland side of the border. Wallangarra, meaning ‘the meeting place of the tribes’ in local Aboriginal language, became the pivotal station that connected the rail lines, creating a direct link between Sydney and Brisbane.
The Queensland line had already been completed from Brisbane to Stanthorpe. When the NSW line was approaching the border, the QLD line was pushed from Stanthorpe and reached the border a little before the NSW line. Each state used a different rail gauge, which meant that passengers had to disembark at the station and change trains in order to travel through the neighbouring state.
The Historic Tenterfield Railway Museum and Wallangarra Railway Museum are must visits when in the region.