Grand parade greeted arrival of rail at Kempsey

‘Bellbrook Express’ in the Railway Opening Procession
‘Bellbrook Express’ in the Railway Opening Procession

ACCORDING to the Macleay Chronicle, nearly 10,000 people thronged the town to watch the grand procession make its way from the northern end of Smith St to the railway via Belgrave and Elbow streets to celebrate the arrival of rail in Kempsey.

Prior to the grand procession Mr Jno T Walker marshalled all the entrants.

The procession was led by the Mounted Police and included the Taree Brass Band, ‘Charles Chaplin’ and many humorous floats including Mr AW Scott’s disguised traction engine, the ‘Bellbrook Express’ featuring the ditty: 

Kempsey stops at all barns

Up hill and down dale,

Over mountains without rail,

Bellbrook and back without fail.

Robinson Brothers featured six decorated motor cars while in contrast Master Boler travelled in a billy-goat cart. As the schools had been given a holiday for the opening, many school children participated in the procession where the Euroka children received a special mention.

Many private citizens carried placards and dressed in fancy dress including Mr PJ Moran as ‘The Commissioner’. One such placard read “The cockies have got their way”.

At the Belgrave St gates, a special satirical opening ceremony was held. The procession then proceeded to the Railway Station for the opening.

After the procession prizes were awarded to GPL’s tea lorry which won 2 guineas (£2/2/-) while the ‘Bellbrook Express’, along with one of Robinsons’ cars each won a guinea.

Following the official opening the citizens of the Valley were entertained at a Sports Afternoon at the Kempsey Showground.

The sports were quite varied with such events as the £5 Railway Handicap, a blindfold boxing match, and a beer race where contestants had to run 75 yards while drinking a bottle of beer.

Event 16 on the program was the 75 yard Railway Workers’ Handicap which was open only to workers who had worked on the construction of the North Coast Railway.

The handicapping was deemed to be fair as the handicapper was the Central North Coast Racing chief stipendiary steward, Mr J Curley.

This is the final instalment of a series of columns promoting the centenary of rail in Kempsey. The series ran weekly in the Tuesday Argus, and online.

The centenary culminated with three days of celebrations, including trips on historic trains – across the weekend, with the official cutting of the ribbon this morning, and small aircraft fly-overs.

Copies of the photographs are available from the Macleay River Historical Society, phone 6562-7572.