Road Trip: Railway Hotel, Spring Hill

railway hotel Spring Hill car
Railway Hotel, Spring Hill. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

I RECKON it’s more than appropriate that a bloke who watched the first passenger train in NSW puff its way between Sydney and Granville in 1855 names his pub the Railway Hotel.

Among the thousands of Sydneysiders who gathered to watch that first train, no doubt dressed in his finery at Granville, was 25-year-old, Patrick Lohan.

Pat had recently arrived in Sydney from his native Galway, Ireland and was ready to take on the adventures in a young and promising country.

Twenty four years after witnessing history at Granville, Pat established the Railway Hotel at Spring Hill, 18km south-east of Orange in central west NSW.

Continuing our road trip from Forest Reefs Tavern, we made our way to Spring Hill for lunch at the Railway Hotel and to delve into the history of this quiet farmers’ pub.

Pat Lohan made his way to the district in 1856, and after his marriage the following year, took up contracting work with the Orange Council.

During 1860, the young Irishman had the contract for clearing and forming many of the principal streets in Orange. Pat and his wife Ellen later took to farming, and when the free selection Act was passed by the NSW Government they took up a block at nearby Forest Reefs.

Pat’s wife, Ellen was also from Ireland, and was born in Dublin. She had come to New South Wales at a young age, arriving in Sydney with her parents.

When the Main Western Railway Line from the foot of the Blue Mountains reached Orange in 1877, a station was built at Spring Hill, where Pat would later opened his Railway Hotel.

The small timber single storey inn was licensed in January 1879 to take advantage of the increasing traffic in the area.

railway hotel spring hill C1900
The original timber Railway Hotel, Spring Hill C1900. Picture: Railway Hotel.

Pat and Ellen, with their large tribe of children, hosted the small timber inn, opposite the Spring Hill Railway Station for over 30 years.

When Ellen, the matriarch of the family died at the age of 72 in 1911, Pat decided to pull-up stumps, and sold the freehold of the historic inn to James Byrnes, of Orange, later that year.

Pat retired to his farm where he died two years later in 1914 at the age of 85. He left behind nine children, 11 grandchildren, and two great grand children, and was buried in Orange cemetery.

The freehold of the hotel was later sold to 67-year-old Edward Henry Davis, a Spring Hill farmer, who rebuilt the old timber pub in 1916.

The landmark pub had become run-down, and covered in ivy. In order to bring the premises up to the standard of the licensing Act, Davis was notified that he would need to spend about £l00.

Davis though had other ideas, and, as the vacant half acre block of land, adjoining also belonged to him, he decided to build a new pub next door.

This meant spending about £2,000 and, after consulting J. E. Lundholm, architect, the work was placed in the able hands of M. E. Hector, contractor, of Millthorpe.

Railway Hotel Spring Hill 1924 ANU
Railway Hotel, Spring Hill, 1924. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

On completion the front covered a space of 21m, the footpath in front was tarred, with a verandah the full width of the footpath. There were two direct entrances, with small porches, finished off with glass swinging doors, one leading to the bar, and the other to the private portion. From the latter a hall extended to the rear, and access was gained to the bar through a tap room, which was also connected by a sliding window.

The bar was large, being 7m by 4.8m. The counter was finished off with “Wunderlich steel”. At the side of the bar, behind the counter, was a small office, and archway lead to the family apartments.

railway hotel spring hill nsw sept 1930 anu
Railway Hotel, Spring Hill, 1939. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Two bedrooms were on the north side, which opened onto a tile side verandah. On the opposite side of the hall was the commercial room, and from there a large dining-room, 8.2m by 4.5m was entered. This was connected with the kitchen by a serving door. Off the kitchen were a pantry, cook’s room and laundry. The main hall lead to a dining-room, bar, back verandah, and a cross passage to four bedrooms, with a linen press at the end.

A bathroom and an additional bedroom were situated off the back verandah. An elevated tank supplied the water to the bathroom, bar and kitchen.

Out the backyard was a four-stalled stable, with brick floor, feed-rooms, buggy-shed adjoining and outhouses.

The bricks used in the pub’s construction were manufactured in Bathurst.

The license of the old hotel was transferred to the new premises at the Orange Court House on August 7 1916, with William Norris as the first publican.

After Davis’ death at the age of 85 in 1934 the pub was sold to Tooheys Limited for £2,450 in March 1935. Tooheys previously had had a tie on the house.

railway hotel spring hill nsw roast of the day 2018
Good old fashioned roast dinner at the Railway Hotel.

After failing accommodation requirements the hotel was forced to close for trading on June 1 1973. The Railway Hotel was re-licensed as a tavern on June 27 1975 by Laurence O’Reilly.

The name of the pub was officially changed to the Whistle Stop Tavern on August 3 1976, and it continued trading with the Bennetts and later the Fairbairns in control during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

When we called into the pub in June 2018, the sign had reverted to the Railway Hotel.

We enjoyed a delicious home cooked ‘roast of the day’, with all the old fashioned vegetable trimmings, on our visit, and were made more than welcome in front of a roaring fire place.

Railway Hotel Spring Hill map ANU
A map of Spring HIll, showing the Railway Hotel, C1930. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.
forest reef to spring hill map
Map showing distance from Forest Reef Tavern to Railway Hotel, Spring Hill. Picture: Google Maps.
railway hotel spring hill nsw 2018 c
Railway Hotel, Spring Hill. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

Railway Hotel, Spring Hill, Licensees

License issued December 1878: Patrick Lohan

1879 – 1912: Patrick Lohan

1912 – 1914: James Byrnes

1914 – 1916: Beitram E. Gamboni

Hotel rebuilt

1916 – 1917: William Norris

1917 – 1920: Angus Frank Howison

1920 – 1921: John Dewar

1921 – 1922: Walter Kemp

1922 – 1923: James Robertson

1923: A. C. Gunning

1923 – 1926: C. Francis

1926: Joseph Williams

1926: J. R. Leslie

1926 – 1927: W. Lawson

1927 – 1928: W. M. Hughes

1928 – 1929: Harry Pickard

1929 – 1934: William Wilmott

1934 – 1935: John J. Jones

1935: John Sampson

1935: Percy Preston

1935 – 1938: William Gladson

1938 – 1939: Giacomo Wodar

1939: Wilfred Spicer

1939 – 1947: George Burton

1947 – 1948: Daisy Thomson

1948 – 1949: Arthur Nicholson

1949 – 1950: Robert Buckby

1950 – 1952: Una King

1952 – 1953: Melba Morris

1953 – 1962: William Burt

1962: Gordon Furner

1962 1963: Ethel Cunningham

1963 – 1973: Walter Casley

1973: Annie Casley

Hotel Closed for Trading June 1 1973.

Hotel reopened as a tavern on June 27 1975.

1974 – 1975: Anthony Kelly

1975 – 1976: Laurence O’Reilly

Name change Whistle Stop Tavern August 3 1976

1976 – 1977: Anthony Bennett

1977 – 1979: Leila Bennet

1979- Gwenda Fairbairn


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Categories: NSW hotels, review, Reviews, Road Trips

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