The Argus at KellyGang 1/8/1870
A BRANCH RAILWAY TO BEECHWORTH
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS
Sir,- Although you for some time doubted the advisability of constructing a direct line of railway from Melbourne to Wodonga (Belvoir), you always gave me and others every facility for expressing an opposite view in your columns. I feel the less hesitation, therefore, in addressing you on a subject concerning which you have, as yet, given no opinion. Your readers will, no doubt, remember that in all the original plans for railway communication with this district, the township of Beechworth was one of the chief features. Even now the line is frequently spoken of in Melbourne as the "Beechworth Railway," many persons apparently believing that the most important town between Melbourne and Sydney has not been put on one side. It is easy to explain how the first idea arose, and how the change was effected. The importance and influence of the town made it perfectly natural, as I shall presently endeavour to show that it must of necessity be accommodated. But the opposition which the whole North Eastern line met with, both in and out of Parliament, made it abundantly evident that all our efforts must be directed to that one issue. To the honour of the people of Beechworth, be it said, they did not hesitate for one moment; but abandoning for the present all consideration of their own claims, they were foremost in the movement for a line through Wangaratta and Chiltern. It is perhaps natural that this conduct should be forgotten by these towns, although it left Beechworth unprouded with a railway, to the great detriment of its traders and property.
Many persons may not be aware of the importance of Beechworth and the district to be served by the proposed branch line. The town is situated on a small tableland at the extreme edge of the spurs stretching from the Snowy Mountains towards the flat country, which commences within a few miles, and reaches almost uninterruptedly to the sea. It forms, in fact, the natural depot between the sea-hoard and level country on the one side, and the hill country on the other. It follows, as a matter of course, that there is a considerable rise within the last ten miles. Although a portion of the municipality rests on granite, that rock is by no means universal. There is fine agricultural land in all directions. Even the heavily-timbered country around Stanley and Yackandandah, which is so often pronounced to be worthless, is deeply covered with red volcanic soil, which, although too elevated for grapes or semi-tropical productions, could not be surpassed for growing cereal, root, and green crops, or fruits suitable to the climate.
Beechworth is the assize town for the immense district reaching from the Murray to Wood's Point in one direction, and from the heads of the Murray to the Goulburn in another. It is the head-quarters of a mining district with almost precisely the same boundaries. Here, too, are the receipt and pay office, and other public offices of the surrounding district. It contains a spacious court-house, a benevolent asylum, an hospital which contains 80 patients, a gaol which cost the country £30,000 (and will hold, when completed, 250 prisoners), and a lunatic asylum, built at an expense of something like £100,000, which can accommodate 300 inmates.
The alluvial diggings are, with an artificial water supply, practically inexhaustible; and the quartz-reefs may be said - owing to the cost of machinery - to be almost untouched. Nor need I refer to the diamonds, precious stones, and indications of rich tin iodes found not only at the Eldorado, but in the immediate vicinity of Beechworth. I may add, that 1 believe the Branch Railway Committee are within the mark when they compute that the line would accommodate 20,000 souls to whom Beechworth is more or less commercially, socially, and politically the centre. And yet it would almost seem a matter of doubt whether the depot and capital of the district will not be brought to the brink of ruin by the near approach of a railway which it took a most active part in establishing.
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