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Railway Bridge Gang at the Umeralla River 1887
Thomas Edward Tompson (1857 - 1943) 
Pioneer Bridge Builder

*Photos submitted by Ruth Kennaway, they were the property of her grandfather, Thomas Edward Tompson, pictured above.

The linking up of Cooma with the existing Railway system of the Colony was first mooted in 1877, when Mr. Alexander Montague M.P. called for a trial survey from Goulburn to Cooma.

A public meeting was called, over which Mr. James Litchfield presided, and a resolution, proposed by Mr. J. H. Montague, that the Government be memorialized, was duly carried.

At a meeting of the Municipal Council on 23rd October 1883, the minutes refer to the receipt of a letter from Mr. Wallace regarding a Railway to Cooma, and authority to call a public meeting on 28th October, was sought. This appears to be almost a direct consequence of the authorization of the Goulburn to Bungendore Railway Extension, given on 20th March 1883, and the expectation that a further section would shortly be sanctioned. On the 29th April 1884, the necessary authority for the construction of the line from Bungendore to Michelago, was accorded. This brought the tail within 40 miles of Cooma, and the agitation for its extension to the latter town was very insistent. Amongst those who took a prominent part in. the movements were Messrs. James Litchfield. J. G. Beazley and T. W. Faulkner, and there was much satisfaction and excitement when it was announced that the necessary authorization was made for the Michelago-Cooma Section Extension on 2nd April 1885, the work on this section being started by the Contractors, Messrs. Walker and Swan in January 1886. The mileage of this length is 40 miles 431 chains, and this was taken over and opened for traffic on 30th May 1889, the cost of the work on this section being £1380,000, and the value of resumption thereon £8,000. The Michelago-Cooma Section was officially opened by Mr. Bruce Smith, Minister for Works, Sir Henry Parkes being Premier at the time. The occasion was one of much rejoicing.

A commemorative card was printed and a Committee of twenty representative citizens, with Alderman T. W. Faulkner, Mayor, organised an opening demonstration with a Ball and Banquet at night.

The total cost of the line from Goulburn to Cooma, was approximately, £1,327,585.

Cooma remained the terminal point of this line till 30th April 1912, when an extension to Nimmitabel of 24 miles 25 chains was officially opened. Approval for this section had been given on 21st December 1908, though work was not actually commenced by the contractors, Messrs. Henrikson and Knutson, till May 1910. The amount of the accepted tender was £99,879/10/- though the total cost of construction was £146,561. The value of resumption on the line was £3,500. The opening ceremony was performed on 20th April 1912, by the Hon. W. A. Holman the Attorney-General in the McGowen Ministry, the Minister for Works being the Hon. Arthur Griffith.

The line has been again extended and now runs from Nimmitabel to Bombala.

The figures which follow representing the earnings of the line at the end of each decade from 1905, show the progress that has attended the opening up of the District by rail.


Year ended
30th June

Tickets &    

Goods & Live


1915                      £3668             £7728             £11396
1925                        1573              2939                 4512

Transcribed by Pattrick Mould, May 2003, from the book "Back to Cooma" Celebrations, Felix Mitchell, 1926, p100

From Ruth Kennaway
2nd September 2003

I was particularly interested in the section on Railways in the Monaro Pioneers section.  Recently I came into posession of my Grandfather's work diary.  He was Thomas Edward Tompson (1857-1943) and worked building railway / road bridges all over the colony of NSW.  There is an entry in his diary which says:




I left Sydney for “Monaro” to work on Railway Construction for Walker & Swan Contractors. 10/- per day

His next entry is for 1889 building the Port Kembla Jetty for Kirl and Kirl Contractors at 12/- a day.  So I assume he worked on Railway construction for Walker & Swan in the interim.
Thought you might be interested in this.  Also, I am researching the places he worked and would be interested if you had anything which might help me.
Regards Ruth Tompson Kennaway, Brisbane kennawayz@optusnet.com.au

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