When the first steam train puffed its way into the Gunnedah rail station on September 11, 1879, it was William Robert Sanderson who was manning the controls.
One-hundred and forty years on, his great granddaughter Pamela Sipple will honour the part he played in the historic moment when she steps onto the platform for the railway's birthday celebrations on Saturday.
Mr Sanderson left school at an early age to work as a teamster hauling coal from Maitland pits to Morpeth wharves. He joined NSW Railways in 1863 and was the first driver to cross the original Hawkesbury river bridge.
It was Mr Sanderson's 34th birthday when he drove the first train to Gunnedah and Boggabri, and almost the whole town turned out to see the train pull into the station, which was decked with colourful flags.
The tracks may not have run through the town if it hadn't been for proactive residents who sent a petition to then Minister for Public Works, Mr Lackey, when they discovered the station might be built three miles away.
Mr Lackey decided in the town's favour and added three miles to the total length of the track.
The contract was awarded to William Watkins who started construction from Werris Creek in late 1877.
Less than two years later, the call went out for tenders for the goods yard, engine shed and a coaling stage.
When all of the work was complete, the railway was officially opened by Great Northern Railway traffic manager John Higgs and Gunnedah police magistrate TK Abbott.
As for the train driver Mr Sanderson, he retired from the railway at the age of 61 and purchased 2560 acres at Boggabri, which was named Hinebury.
Together with his sons William and Farley, they built a homestead and started clearing and fencing the property. Mr Sanderson died in 1926 at 81 and was buried in the Boggabri cemetery.
Locals have the chance to ride on a vintage rail motor from 9:30am on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at the station.
Memorabilia, historic artefacts, vintage machinery and model railways will be on display until 2pm.
There will also be live music, food stalls and giveaway bags and prizes for those in period costume.
- To book train rides, contact Gunnedah's customer service attendant Karen Neader on 6740 2060.