Welcome to Ben Lomond!
Ben Lomond is the highest village in Northern NSW (1370 m) and the main turnoff is exactly half-way between Glen Innes and Armidale, on the New England Highway. The town’s origins date back to the mid 19th century, when the 17,000 acre Manooan station had the Ben Lomond Ranges as its southern boundary.
Once the lifeblood of the local community, the Ben Lomond railway station opened in August 1884 and was part of the Main North Line that rain between Dumaresq and Glen Innes. The Station closed in December 1985, but the line continued in operation until October 1993. Similarly, the village’s Post Office opened in 1879 and closed exactly 100 years later, while the only store closed its doors about six years ago. Such are the realities of life in a tiny rural hamlet...
At 4473 feet (1363 m), Ben Lomond station was the highest railway station in New South Wales until the Skitube opened in 1987. It was also the highest passenger railway station in the southern hemisphere at the time of its construction.
Ben Lomond station has long since fallen into decay and, I believe, is owned by a young couple who live across the road. Although the railway tracks are still in place you’d never know it and about the only movement through the station these days is occasionally grazing cattle and the odd, curious visitor.
Despite its general state of disrepair the station still has a surprising number of original fittings, like these signs.
The station’s interior is in surprisingly good condition. A ticket to, um, oh never mind...
Rusted into their final resting place, these old track controls stand as a forlorn reminder of a time long since past.
Locals told me of the longest hand-hewn railway cutting in Australia, “About three kays down that dirt road”, so off I went. After a nine kilometre drive and failing to find the (supposedly obvious) walking track that lead off to the cutting I backtracked, hopped a fence and took this shot. I doubt it’s the right one but it does give an indication of what they had to cut through, without mechanical assistance.
Field of dreamers? St Patrick’s Catholic Church now holds services on the first Sunday of each month. Ben Lomond’s official population is around 300, but in reality only about 30-50 live in the village. Despite the small numbers the Community has a strong social life and each year Ben Lomond plays cricket against Glen Innes. Despite its tiny size, the local team is usually victorious!
As I drove into town I saw this lady gathering sticks by the side of the road. “Although it’s nearly November we had heavy snow just a week or so back and I’m stocking up again just in case,” she explained happily as she walked home, embracing a huge armful of kindling.
The Ben Lomond Soldiers Club – circa 1919 – would once have been a (relatively) bustling local institution. These days it sits quietly near the middle of town but is kept in good condition and doubles as the community hall. I found the Honor Roll from the Second World War particularly interesting because of the section at the bottom for “Females.” Fortunately they all survived; unlike five local men who answered the call to war. Soberingly, the fatality rate for those serving in WW1 was considerably higher.
The young couple who live directly opposite the railway station saw me taking photos of some of the husband’s welding handiwork (including a whimsical dog) on their front fence and invited me to check out their amazing Aussie lean-to bar at the rear of their house. Beautifully put together and incorporating plenty of local memorabilia, photos fail to do it justice. You’ve just have to love country hospitality!
Find Ben Lomond HERE on Google Maps
For the full article download Issue 17 of iMotorhome eMagazine by clicking on the link below.