Pamela Sipple and Barbara Barnett, were both finding it quite surreal to think that their ancestor had played a major role in such an historic occasion.
The steam train crossed the Breeza Plain and puffed into Gunnedah station on William Sanderson's 34th birthday. Last Saturday, the CountryLink train to Sydney pulled into the station just in time for the crew and passengers to see the cake cut.
The weekend was filled with nostalgia as volunteers from Paterson Rail Motor Museum ran shuttle trips on the heritage rail motor to Emerald Hill and Watermark. Families lined up with their tickets and children waved excitedly from the windows as the rail motor pulled out regularly throughout the weekend.
The official part of the day was held in the recently completed station garden, where a new information board was unveiled by deputy mayor Rob Hooke and NSW TrainLink acting chief executive, Peter Allaway, who spoke with great enthusiasm about the future growth of rail in regional areas.
Gunnedah Historical Society secretary Marie Hobson presented a colourful history of the fight to see the rail line extended to the north and the great excitement on that day, September 11, 1879, when the whole town population of 300 turned out to greet the very first steam train.
Area customer service manager Keith Ostler welcomed the crowd and commended station manager Karen Neader for the enormous contribution she made in organising the celebration.
Mr Ostler also introduced Marlie-Rose Thomas who delivered the Acknowledgement of Country in both English and her native Kamilaroi language.
There was great excitement in the Edmunds family as birthday girl Sienna accepted the prize of a trip for a family of four by train anywhere in NSW for taking the time to dress in period costume. Every entrant received a swag of gifts courtesy of NSW TrainLink.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Support Group manned the barbecue, while Red Cross members tempted one and all with their Devonshire teas, all enhanced with wonderful music from Gunnedah Shire Band.
Gunnedah Rural Museum had a vintage steam engine on display huffing its way through the day, along with a vintage car, truck and tractor and a vintage rail trike and platform trolley.
Rail groups Aurizon, Pacific National and ARTC also had stands with give-aways for the kids, while a CountryLink miniature train was a big attraction in the NSW TrainLink marquee.