The place goes back to 1840 when graziers moved in and set up huge pastoral leases throughout the area, with the then-named ‘Jewnee’ emerging soon after. In the 1860s as the town grew several hotels were built. These became the centre of attention when the infamous Kelly gang raided the village and held them up.
The next 40 years saw the discovery of gold, and subsequent infrastructure growth such as the railway being built through the town. In 1876 a chap by the name of Mr Christoper Crawley decided to buy 840 acres in order to realise a vision for the railway to subdivide his land. He built the grand and beautiful Railway Hotel that still stands and trades today, with its magnificent wrought iron displays and original timber-work. As the town boomed, he made a fortune by selling his land off at high prices and after eventually selling his Railway Hotel to retire, he built an exorbitant mansion overlooking the town named the Monte Cristo.
Monte Cristo was the most stately house in the district; an impressive two storey Victorian-inspired mansion. Complete with stables at the rear, servants quarters, ballroom, workshops and storage sheds, it was very grand indeed. When Mr Crawley passed away and his wife soon after, the house fell into disrepair and noone lived in it for nearly 20 years.
The present owners have restored the heritage homestead to its former glory and its rooms, museum and grounds are open to the public daily. Monte Cristo is now known as the most haunted house in Australia…. now to know if this is true or not, you’ll just have to visit the estate and see for yourself.
Being midway between cities, the railway was integral to the area. It carried troops north for the war effort and transported livestock, passengers and grain. In 1953 the largest wheat terminal in the southern hemisphere was built nearby and Junee became known as ‘the railway town’.
The centre of town revolved around the railway station, and when the original timber one was lost to fire, a French-inspired building took its place. Built in 1883, it was set as a square covering two storeys, including staterooms, fully furnished bedrooms, sitting rooms and much more. These days the station still operates but the adjoining buildings have been repurposed as glorious coffee houses and delightful gift shops.
In 1947 a huge round building was erected to house a 100 foot turntable with a 42 bay workshop inside. When built it was the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Here they serviced engines, washed them and used the turntable to reconfigure the way the engines pointed. It operated right up until 1993.
Original plans were to bulldoze the site but thankfully the town rallied together to save this magnificent building and workshops. Today most of the building houses rail memorabilia from the surrounding area, as well as a huge working scale model rail set kindly donated to the Junee Roundhouse Museum. Sitting proudly on 20 of the tracks are restored rail carriages, engines from different eras, and other track machinery. You’re even allowed to climb inside to view these stunning pieces of history. The turntable still operates with work crews maintaining and restoring engines.
In 1934 the Junee flour mill was built to compliment the huge amount of grain being shipped from the area. Production soon slowed and it eventually closed shut down, but in its day it was regarded as one of the most efficient mills in Australia. This stunning stone building has now been restored and houses the Junee Liquorice and Chocolate Factory where you can tour the inner workings of how they make these delicacies, and for an extra fee even make your own. The owners of the factory also own a 1100 acre organic olive farm. It’s from here that the liquorice-making process starts, the original way with the highest level of organic certification.
It’s hard to believe this unassuming place could hold so much history. Century-old buildings have been restored and are being reused, the hub of the town is clustered around the station square where no less than 4 pubs still operate and where another 20 historical buildings will no doubt sit proudly for another 100 years. Junee is one town not to be overlooked on your next central NSW road trip.