A large group of sulkies waiting outside Bathurst railway station c1910. These would either be waiting for fares or friends and the assumption is that it would be the daily train from Sydney they were there for.
Bathurst railway station opened in 1876 and is still largely unchanged from that year. The importance of Bathurst getting a train line cannot be overestimated. Prior to rail travel, a journey across the full expanse of the Great Dividing Range could take several days. There was also a physical risk involved in such travel.
Steam trains made the trip easier as they moved both people and goods back and forth from the coast. Estimates give a general figure of maybe 5 hours for the one-way trip in the late 19th century. This included the Zig Zag section east of Lithgow.
The base time of nearly 5 hours could vary greatly depending on the nature of the train. Some mail trains into last century were about as quick as today’s service but others that stopped at each station could take much longer. Mail trains tended to leave at horrendously early hours of the morning.
It seems that a major limiting factor on the decrease in travel times is the physical environment the train needs to pass through and the curves it needs to negotiate. Line straightening late last century between Tarana and Wallerawang took a bit of time off the overall trip.
The main line west was electrified as far as Lithgow in the 1950s. In fact the inter-urban electrics went as far as Bowenfels but were cut back to Lithgow terminus being a little more logical.
Passengers waited on the station for the steam train to be brought up. The refreshment rooms were open but even so, Lithgow station was a cold place to be for those minutes.