Mudgee residents were delighted to hear in late 1925 that their town was one of the 62 areas selected west of the Great Divide to receive a visit from the Great White Train. Part of the 1926 journey through the Central West was to start at Werris Creek on January 7, move onto Binnaway, Merrgoen,
Dunedoo and Gulgong, reaching Mudgee for two days. The next stops were at Rylstone, and Lithgow before moving onto Bathurst.
The concept of the Great White Train as a touring exhibition was founded on a proposal put forward in 1924 by an organisation comprising several New South Wales manufacturers who called themselves the Australian Made Preference League.
The purpose of the League was to promote to the Australian public to give their first preference for the purchase of Australian manufactured products, before choosing those of other nations.
Doing so, would enhance the development of the Australian Manufacturing Industry in becoming self supporting and to have an economically viable secondary industry. The League believed that although preference for British and Empire manufactured products had been generally satisfactory in the past, what was wrong with giving preference to Australian first.
Entering a position in a shire council office in the year 1942 I can still clearly remember Section 517A, of the NSW Local Government, introduced in 1926, which required a Council in purchasing any goods to give effective and substantial preference to goods manufactured or produced in Australia.
If such Australia goods could not be purchased or delivered within a reasonable time, or insufficient quantities or of a quality unsuitable, preference was then to be given to British goods over foreign goods.
The Great White Train, consisting of 15 coaches was 1019 feet long (309m) in length, exclusive of the engine and was said, at the time, to have been one of the longest trains to have been seen in Australia.
The N.S.W Government contributed 5,000 pounds towards the cost of preparing the train for the rails. The work was carried out by State Rail being of a grandiose scale differing from anything ever assembled at its workshops.
In addition to the exhibition displays that were required to be housed on the train, sleeping accommodation and meal arrangements for the travelling exhibitors, lecturers, demonstrators, and attendant railway staff had to be provided. The train composition also included – a locomotive, travelling tank, 2 Pullman cars, I dining car, a sleeping car and one bogie goods van containing toilet facilities.
Of the 15 coaches, 13 were used for carrying and displaying units, one was set up for a wireless broadcasting unit for radio transmission to the local communities. Another was fitted to provide electrical power generation for interior and external lighting.
The train had search lights that could be projected into the sky and seen for a distance of 40 miles around. The train also had its own radio transmitting station. At the time, 1926, few in the community had radios, so many had to do with their crystal radio sets, which had a limited range of reception.
After its arrival a civic reception was held in the Dining Room of the train where the Mayor of Mudgee, Alderman, A E Marsh extended a welcome to R B Orhard, Manager of the Train , his staff and others.
From August 29, 1926, to November 22, 1926. The Great White Train visited 16 locations in the Metropolitan and south coast area, and 26 rail stations from Newcastle to Murwillumbah. The usual procedure was for the Train to arrive at a station early in the morning.
After breakfast the representatives would visit the local trades people. From midday the exhibits on the Train were available for inspection. During the evenings the Train was illuminated , lectures given and moving pictures shown.
Roy Cameron OAM