Spring Hill is a small township between Bathurst and Orange, in country New South Wales. In the middle of 1988 I happened to drive through Springhill. I noticed the old railway station that was situated at the top end of the main street. The railway had reached the town by the late 1870s and in 1884 the station building had been completed.
On nearing the station I saw that a couple of men were busily engaged in the construction of a wire fence around the station site. Since 1988 was Australia’s bicentennial year, I assumed that the fence was being erected to protect the site while restoration work was carried out on the building. This must be Spring Hill’s bicentennial project, I conjectured. So I stopped to enquire and also to ask permission to take photographs of the old station. What a disappointment to learn that the fence was being built to signal the start of the building’s demolition. The railway had again passed another town and evidence of its existence was being removed.
I took my photographs but my initial, optimistic spirit was gone. Later that night I wrote the following lines in my diary.
CHANCE VISIT Spring Hill Railway Station When the railway came You were built And proudly you stood A belief in future prosperity You sheltered the waiting traveller I bet your fires always warmly glowed And smoke gushed from your chimneys Comforting, until departure In a roar of engine The clang and clash of metal And his of steam You welcomed the homesick traveller When you were the journey’s end. And now today Broken and bruised by time and human hands I stop to take a photograph And ask the men who built around you wire walls Are you being restored? A knowing smile: ‘No mane, she’s coming down.’ So on film I capture some final moments I cross your life line that has now passed you by I know we can’t keep everything, I know. I didn’t wait to see you die I was just passing through But captured an image Your final, proud, defiant stand In this bicentennial year Your final year. At Millthorpe, nearby Your death was already being eulogised. 25-6-88
Curiosity occasioned my return to Spring Hill before the end of 1988. The only evidence remaining of the station were the ghostly foundation markings on the ground where it had stood. Even they were disappearing in the long grass.
I have visited Spring Hill a number of times over the years. Driving through Spring Hill on my way to Millthorpe, in December 2009, I was intrigued to discover that the local council had erected an information sign. Positioned on the roadside adjacent to the former station, the sign included a photograph of the station. Accompanying text informed the passer-by that a railway station had been there in the past. I could not help sarcastically mouthing the words ‘I know that’ and again lamenting the old station’s demise. It’s all just memory!
But what are we really remembering when we reflect on Spring Hill railway station? Is it the importance of the railway in the history of this region or could it perhaps be the needless destruction of an historic building that could have been given a new life? After all, the neighbouring township of Millthorpe was able to repurpose its former railway station. And it provides the traveller with a good idea of what Spring Hill station looked like, since they were identical buildings.
Two years after my first visit to Springhill in 1988, I developed the previously quoted, rudimentary lines from my diary into a song.
© Jim Low
Jim is a singer/songwriter and published author. His background is in education and he has also developed learning materials for the NSW Department of School Education. His passion is Australian history.
- Read the lyrics and listen to Jim’s song about Spring Hill Station