Between May 1864 and 31 August 1953, Morpeth was linked to East Maitland by a 4.7km branch railway line.
Today the only reminders of this rail line are the siding at East Maitland, glimpses of the rail easement and the terminus station building at Morpeth.
The opening of the first section of railway between Newcastle and East Maitland in 1857 and subsequent northward extension led to agitation for the construction of a railway linking Morpeth to the Great Northern line to facilitate shipment of produce to Sydney and intercolonial markets.
In November 1860, 2033 people petitioned for a Maitland to Morpeth rail line.
Parliament, late in 1860, debated and rejected the provision of £20,000 for the extension of the Great Northern Railway spur line from East Maitland to Morpeth.
A local company, the Maitland and Morpeth Railway Company, presented a Bill to Parliament requesting authority to build a line three-quarters of a mile longer than the proposed Government line, which terminated at Queen's Wharf.
In May 1862 Joseph Martindale won a contract to construct a rail line from East Maitland to Morpeth at a cost of £8,846/10/1. The first sod was turned on 18 June 1862.
Martindale's contract was later cancelled and taken over by Benjamin Ventors and the first section was opened for traffic on May 2, 1864. The line crossed what is now the roundabout of Melbourne and Cumberland streets and Morpeth Road.
The railway did not extend beyond Queen's Wharf, failing to connect the Northern line to the steamer wharf. However, a spur line was built to the waterfront at Queen's Wharf for the loading of coal into small colliers.
In 1895, due to the economic depression, a steam tram replaced the railway service
Persistent agitation by the locals forced the Government to let a contract to William Pendall on July 1, 1867, to construct an extension of 633/4 chains (1282m), terminating at Edward Street.
Opened for traffic in May 1870, the new terminal station was located centrally between George and Edward Streets and consisted of a brick platform, a brick station building and Station Master's residence.
In 1895, due to the economic depression, a steam tram replaced the railway service. This worked until 28 July 1915, when the line reverted to railway operation.
The Northumberland Street bridge over the Hunter River was opened in 1898, limiting navigation upstream of that point only to vessels without masts, resulting in the demise of the Queen's Wharf station.
Sidings were built for Baker's Brickworks at Raworth in 1914, and to the Bowthorne Co-operative Butter Company, in Morpeth in 1917.
In August 1951, the Newcastle and Hunter River Steam Ship Company closed its siding, and together with restriction of shipping due to bridges across the Hunter River, the advent of efficient road transport, and development of Newcastle as a major port led to the closing of the rail line in 1953.