Rail-Self Guided Tour

Where it all began

If it had not been for the construction of The Great Southern Railway, linking Sydney and Melbourne, Junee Shire may never have become the thriving town that it is today.Rail history is pivotal to the Junee Shire story and is evident throughout the town today. 

Railway Town Heritage Tour

Visitors to the region are encouraged to explore the region and learn about its past on our self guided hertiage tours. Choose from two self guided heritage walks (east and west side) or one of two self guided heritage drives/rides (Bushrangers and Rail).

This page will help you discover more about our rail history and provide further information for those travelling on the Railway Town Self Guided Trail.

You can download a copy of the Junee Heritage Tours Rail brochure here.

The Tour

Start this trail in Dobbyn Park Junee where you can read about the area’s rail history on the interpretative sign. Make your way to the Junee Railway Station and take in Railway Square and its French Renaissance style. Visit the Railway Refreshment Rooms and enjoy a coffee or bite to eat. Next visit the Broadway Museum and view the model rail spiral. Leave Junee via the Olympic Highway as you travel side-by-side with the Great Southern Rail line. Stop by the Illabo Hotel where you can have a meal and drink. There is an RV rest stop opposite the hotel. Continue along the highway into Bethungra, where the 360 degree rail spiral is located. Visit the Bethungra T House and Memorabilia Room to learn more about the important place Bethungra has in the Sydney to Melbourne rail story. Have a rest at Bethungra Dam where you can also camp the night. Take Old Sydney Road back to Junee and imagine the Cobb and Co coaches travelling along the road in the 1900s on the long haul to Sydney. Make your last stop the Railway Roundhouse and Museum where you can check out train carriages from the past and view the fully functioning roundhouse.

Highlights include:

  • Dobbyn Park
  • Junee Railway Station
  • Railway Square
  • Railway Refreshment Rooms
  • Broadway Museum
  • Illabo Hotel
  • Bethungra Rail Spiral
  • Bethungra Dam
  • Junee Railway Roundhouse and Museum 

Junee - 1870s Railway Town

Railway construction commenced in New South Wales during the early 1850s and culminated with the opening of the Sydney to Parramatta railway in 1855.

When the railway reached Junee in 1878, the township of Junee became known as Junee Junction. A line was opened between Junee and Narrandera on 28 February 1881, and later extended to Hay. Junee became the centre of rail operations in the late 1800s.

The Great Southern Railway Line from Bethungra to Junee was officially opened on 6 July 1878. At this time the train took 13 hours and 35 minutes to travel from Sydney to Junee but the return journey took only 13 hours 15 Minutes. A branch line to Narrandera was completed by 28 February 1881. The Junee Station (renamed Junee Junction) consequently became an important railway depot. In addition to the railway station, various sidings and the stationmasters house, the Junee station had refreshment rooms, an engine shed providing accommodation for nine locomotives and, by 1883, a 50 hand operated turntable.

Traffic on the southern line increased dramatically from the early 1900s. The steep grade over the Bethungra Range between Cootamundra and Junee proved a severe handicap. A bank locomotive had to be used at the rear of all goods trains working in both directions and the new D57 class steam goods type locomotives had to terminate at Cootamundra.

This was rectified with duplication and reconstruction. A second line was located more or less alongside the existing line but made use of a neighbouring hill around which the line was built in a spiral loop with 281 metre radius curves. This allowed a 1 in 66 gradient to be obtained. Once D57 class engines could operate Sydney to Junee, Junee became the most important railway centre south of Goulburn. The Junee Roundhouse began operation in 1947. When built, the 30 metre turntable was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

The extent of the Junee roundhouse, turntable, ash and coaling arrangements, workshop and repair capacities, watering facilities, and other structures show the importance of Junee as a major locomotive servicing point.

Picture this…

In the 1940s, through to the 1950s period (arguably the pinnacle of steam locomotive operations in the state), the railway precinct at Junee consisted of a large railway station, a relatively large and important shunting yard, a Train Control Centre, two large signal boxes, junction arrangements for the Junee-Narrandera-Hay-Griffith branch line and a relatively modern locomotive depot. 

Bethungra Rail Spiral

The beginnings of the Bethungra Railway Spiral took place with the outbreak of the second World War, when it was found that the single line section of the main Sydney to Melbourne rail line between Cootamundra and Junee proved to be a severe bottleneck for wartime rail transport.

The Bethungra Range (about 35 km north of Junee & 24 km south of Cootamundra) was also an obstacle to progress as a locomotive had to be maintained at Bethungra to double bank trains up the one in forty grade track over the range.

So construction began in January 1941 of the new upline to Sydney, which included a quite complex full 360-degree spiral track of a one in sixty six grade (compensated for curvature) immediately north of the picturesque Bethungra village. This deviation today is regarded as a rare feat of railway engineering in Australia and is the only full 360-degree spiral in the Southern Hemisphere.

The first train up the spiral ran on 15th July 1946 (after the wars end). This was the no.12 freight train hauled by steam locomotive 5711. The Bethungra Spiral, together with the Roundhouse Workshops in Junee were officially opened in 1947.

Today, the story of the spiral is not known to many people. Take a ride on the
Melbourne-Sydney XPT and you will notice that as the train shunters past Bethungra the speed drops slightly to about 80 km/h. You may wonder why you seem to be going the wrong way, or what the line down there is for, you are experiencing the Bethungra Spiral. 

Junee Railway Roundhouse

The roundhouse at Junee represents a good example of a once busy and extremely large and significant locomotive servicing centre.

Principal Dimensions of Roundhouse

Length of side wall: 20.4 metres (67 feet) (west-side shed) and 25 metres (82 feet) (east-side shed).

Approximate outside diameter of circle scribed by roundhouse: 122 metres (400 feet).

In 1942 the building of the Locomotive Depot/Roundhouse commenced, south of the railway yard, replacing the original locomotive shed north of the railway station, adjacent to the line to Narrandera. In 1947 engineering works, earthworks, workshops and watering arrangements were completed.
Depot officially opened 29 September 1947.

Find out more about the Junee Railway Roundhouse