Frank Johnson well remembers the celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the railway's arrival in Goulburn.
It was May, 1969 and the young district engineer of railways had only been posted to the city for one year. He was 21, "the ink hardly dry" on his civil engineering degree and he was in charge of 50 men maintaining 80 miles of track.
But he also had another duty that month.
Goulburn was going all out for the 100th anniversary celebrations, welcoming NSW Governor Sir Roden Cutler and his wife to town.
"There was a special train from Sydney, Sir Roden planted a tree in Belmore Park, there was a street parade and a ball on the Saturday night," Mr Johnson said.
"My boss, Don Hegarty, was on the organising committee and he got me involved. The railways in Sydney sent down a lot of photos and memorabilia from Sydney and my job was to transport them to the Lilac Time Hall."
Now living in Sydney, Goulburn holds a special place in Mr Johnson's heart. The city was his first posting but he met and courted his future wife Nadia Koschenow here before transferring to Broken Hill two years later. Nadia was among the first intake at the new Goulburn Teachers College.
Family ties and heritage have drawn the couple back for regular visits. The Post first met them enjoying the Our Living History festival in March. They are also members of the Goulburn and District Historical and Genealogical Society.
"It's a lovely place and not nearly enough is made of it or recognition given to its history," Mrs Johnson said.
Her husband has documented his career for Australian Railway History. He is also a member of Engineers Australia heritage committee.
Mr Johnson worked in government railways for just over 40 years, rising to the rank of divisional engineer. Later he managed major projects.
When he first came to Goulburn as assistant engineer, the sector employed about 1000 people locally and 45,000 statewide.
"It was the first time I had absolute responsibility for people," he said.
"They were real salt of the earth people and were hard workers. I generally found that country people had a better attitude to work. I learnt a lot from them."
At that time, Goulburn was a thriving rail city with a train control centre, the Per Way workshops for maintenance and a large yard.
He managed a vast district from Goulburn and out along the Bombala branch line. Mr Johnson dealt with his first derailment in June, 1968 when a mixed passenger and freight train derailed at Jincumbilly, between Cooma and Bombala.
He also oversaw the manual fettling gangs that maintained the line and had the odd brush with trains while checking the tracks on his 'trike.' On one occasion he jumped clear just in time, before an express goods train smashed the trike into "small pieces."
Another time, the Intercapital Daylight Express was bearing down on him but and while he managed to escape, the trike met the same fate.
"A lot of maintenance is highly mechanised now but we had gangs every four or five miles. They moved on to much larger gangs and replaced the timber sleepers with concrete."
Mr Johnson said the considerable advancement in technology was necessary to remain competitive but he was sad to see the loss of jobs.
Similarly, the sale of the railway's freight division in the early 1990s and later, leasing track maintenance to ARTC had fragmented the sector.
But he has fond memories of his time and credits his career with giving him experience across a broad spectrum.
After Goulburn and Broken Hill, Mr Johnson worked in many country centres around NSW before finishing his career in Sydney. He retired three years ago.
While lamenting Goulburn's 'demise' as a railway town, Mr Johnson remains vitally interested in its history and the feat of constructing the line.
"It arrived in Goulburn just 14 years after the first railway was built from Sydney to Parramatta. Would they be able to do that today?" he asked.
"To do 200km in 14 years was remarkable given the technology and resources."
Not surprisingly, the couple plan to return for next month's 150th railway celebrations in Goulburn.
While you're with us...
Did you know the Goulburn Post is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up here.