Preserved between the two bridges over the Clarence River in South Grafton, is a historical and significant piece of local infrastructure.
Although it is no longer operational, it holds a special place in the hearts of railway enthusiasts and local historians, and its proud history is now on display for everyone to read and reflect upon as they pass by.
Built in the early 1900’s, the turntable located at the riverside end of the South Grafton rail yard, rotated several steam engines and diesel locomotives a day during it’s working life and it played an integral role in the North Coast railway prior to the completion of the Grafton Bridge in 1932 when ferries were used to transport trains between both sides of the Clarence River.
Originally a 50-foot turntable, it was replaced by a 60-foot turntable in the 1920’s to accommodate bigger locomotives.
It remained in use until 2000.
As the Grafton bridge project delivered a $240 million, 525 metre bridge which opened to traffic in December 2019 and gave residents a second and much longed for river crossing, the project also established a shared pathway which links the old and new bridge and takes pedestrians directly past the turntable.
Recently, a new sign was installed by the turntable as part of the Grafton bridge project, ensuring its history is forever accessible to locals and visitors.
Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) General Manager, Asset Management Interstate Network, Brian Green, said Grafton has a rich rail history dating back to 1903 when the North Coast railway network first reached the city.
“ARTC is keen to recognise the history and the importance of the railway in the development of Grafton,” he said.
“The railway played an integral role in the prosperity of the Grafton region and it is fitting that the location of the turntable is marked in this way.”
Mr Green also said ARTC is proud to support the initiative, alongside the NSW Government, Clarence Valley Council and Sunshine Sugar, which will maintain the site.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the turntable is clearly visible from the pathway in South Grafton, and the new sign allows passers-by to read about the turntable, its previous use and its significance to Grafton’s rail history.