I RECKON it’s more than appropriate that a bloke who watched Australia’s first passenger train 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 16-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 in 1851. Like her husband she had come to New South Wales at a young age, and was 12 when she arrived 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Licensees
License issued December 1878: Patrick Lohan
1879 – 1912: Patrick Lohan
1912 – 1914: James Byrnes
1914 – 1916: Beitram E. Gamboni
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