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The termination of the Newcastle railway line at the Newcastle Interchange has been controversial in recent years with opponents disappointed to lose a convenient public transport service to the east end of the city, and supporters keen to reconnect the city with the harbour. Going back over a century and a half, the initial construction of the railway was seen as a triumph and a blessing. When the Hunter River Railway Company applied to build a railway to carry produce from the Hunter Valley between East Maitland and the port at Newcastle in 1853, Honeysuckle Point, then owned by the Church of England, was chosen as the terminus. Up to 80 houses, boat sheds and a lime kiln were on the land the government resumed for the rail line and associated workshops and goods yards, and most were removed after work started near the site of the present Civic Station in 1854. Having borne the expense of bringing out plant, machinery and workers (see the Ellensborough story) for the project from Britain, the company ran out of money in 1855 and sold the unfinished line to the NSW colonial government. The Honeysuckle to East Maitland line was officially opened by Governor Sir William Denison on 30 March 1857 as the Great Northern Railway, just the second railway in the colony after the Sydney to Parramatta line. Mr. Beverly was the engine-driver, George Callow, the fireman, and John Martin, the guard, on the 50 minute first journey of the train. The engine that pulled it is now in the Newcastle Museums collection. At Honeysuckle Point, the opening was celebrated with a roasted bullock and a hogshead (250 litres) of free beer. The line was extended to Newcastle Station the following year. The railway reorganised space at Honeysuckle, creating a corridor which could be a barrier and had to be treated with caution. Access to Mr Hannells home and Nainbys soapworks (later the Great Northern Soap and Candle Works run by Charles Upfold) was cut by the railway so a gated crossing was created for vehicles. . While it caused inconvenience for some, Sir William Denison summed up the general mood when he said in 1858, every step towards the improvement of the means of communication in the valley of the Hunter must have the effect of facilitating the growth of produce, of opening up the mineral wealth of the districts and of increasing the shipments from the harbour on the shores of which your city is built and this increase in trade must have its result in the increased value of the property and the increased wealth of the inhabitants.



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The Great Northern Railway