Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Frazer Memorial Church, Springwood

Frazer Memorial Church c.1910
the jacaranda tree in front is newly planted

In the early 1890s Springwood's Presbyterians were on the pastoral fringes of their Church. Few in number and without a building, they had been worshiping God for a number of years in a variety of makeshift locations - in the open air beneath a clump of turpentine trees, in the lounge of the Oriental Hotel, and on the screened verandah of Braemar, the private home of one of their congregation.

By 1896, however, things had changed. A picturesque church fronted the Western Road in the centre of town, its solid sandstone construction proclaiming to all the permanent position it would henceforward occupy in the evolution of Springwood's townscape.

The key to this sudden improvement in the circumstances of the town's Presbyterians was a man whose original profession had been the same as that of the Galilean founder of his faith: John Frazer, a carpenter and joiner, migrated to Australia from Ireland in 1842. He was one of those men who, arriving with little, prospered on the colonial scene, becoming, by the 1880s, an influential figure in the business and political circles of Sydney.

Like many of his social class in the colony, he viewed the Blue Mountains as the ideal summer retreat from the heat and stench of the city. To this end, in 1882, he built his country residence, an imitation Swiss-styled villa he named Silva Plana, on the elevated north side of Springwood. However, his enjoyment of the mountain climate was to be brief and he died at his Woollahra home in October 1884 at the relatively young age of fifty-seven. His death, nevertheless, was to prove of great significance to Springwood's Presbyterians for John Frazer bequeathed them five hundred pounds and three and a half acres of land in the centre of town to help provide a church worthy of their faith.

Unfortunately, the trustees of the Frazer estate showed considerable reticence about granting the bequest to what they considered at the time an inadequate congregation. Indeed, more than a decade passed before they were sufficiently convinced of the strength of the Springwood faithful to release the funds.

When the foundation stone was laid on 17 August 1895, construction, using locally quarried sandstone, then proceeded with relative speed. Four months later the first stage of the church was opened, while the following year the project was completed with the addition of the spire and a rear section incorporating vestry, chancel and organ recess.

The Church in 2010

While expressing a quiet elegance the building complied appropriately with nonconformist aesthetics. Thus, the Nepean Times’ assessment was in the following terms: "The building, which is chaste in appearance, is designed in a simple treatment of Early Christian architecture, effect being obtained rather from the general lines and grouping of the features than from any undue richness in ornamentation or detail."

With a sermon preached on the theme of the building of King Solomon's temple, and to the strains of a thirty strong choir who sang their praises to the accompaniment of an American organ, the new church was officially opened on Sunday 8 December 1895. The regular minister to the Springwood congregation, the Rev. James McKee of Penrith, swapped his pulpit for the day with the Rev. John Walker of the Frazer family's home church of Woollahra.

The church was classified by the National Trust in 1978. It had, said the Trust, "an architectural quality rare in buildings in the area".

Source: Historic Blue Mountains, text by John Low, paintings by Richard Smolicz, Blue Mountains City Council, 1987.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Bridge at Emu Pass Lennox Bridge, Blue Mountains NSW

The Western Road Proves Difficult

On Monday 31st May, 1813, Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth looked out from the summit of a high hill, later named Mount Blaxland, over a vast expanse of forest land that spread away to the west. Almost immediately upon their return to Sydney, their success was confirmed by the expedition of George Evans, the surveyor, who assured the authorities that a practicable route over the Blue Mountains had indeed been found. By mid-January the following year (1815), William Cox and his party had completed their rough but serviceable road to the site of Bathurst, and the west lay open to the expansion of European settlement from the confines of the coastal plain.

While government restrictions on travel over and settlement beyond the Blue Mountains were early enforced, a thriving wool industry was soon established on the newly discovered grazing lands in the west. In the 1820s this was to provide the foundation upon which emerged a small but powerful pastoral gentry, who were to influence significantly events in New South Wales for the next two decades.

The Western Road over the Mountains was the life line that sustained the growth of pastoral capitalism during this period. Supplies and stock went west while the wagons, loaded with wool and drawn by teams of oxen, became an increasingly common sight (and sometimes a major hazard to other traffic) negotiating the narrow mountain road and winding their way precariously down the Lapstone Hill to the coast.

As use of the road increased, the difficulties of ascending and descending at both the Lapstone and Mount York ends began to stimulate thinking toward improvements. At Mount York, the precipitous nature of the descent saw the search begin in the early 1820s for an alternative route, culminating eventually in the opening of Victoria Pass in 1832.

At Lapstone, Cox's Road remained the main access route until 1824, but was particularly hazardous in wet weather suffering badly from washaways and creek flooding. It was replaced in that year by the Lapstone Zig Zag Road, believed to be the work of William Lawson, which was opened a couple of kilometres to the north. Avoiding the flood-prone crossing at Jamison Creek, it rejoined Cox's Road at Blaxland and remained until the mid-1830s, the principal route up the eastern escarpment. It is still in use today as the Old Bathurst Road.

Milestone on Mitchell's Pass

Major Mitchell

In 1827 Major (later Sir) Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, veteran of the Peninsular War, restless, irascible, ambitious and talented, arrived in New South Wales to become John Oxley's Deputy. Following Oxley's death in 1828, he succeeded to the office of Surveyor-General, an office to which, at the end of 1828, Governor Darling transferred the responsibilities for roads and bridges.

As Surveyor-General, Mitchell was, in the late 1820s and early 1830s, greatly occupied with the surveying and marking out of permanent lines for the colony's main roads. He believed strongly that the definition and establishment of the lines of direction of roads "should precede, as much as possible, the progress of colonization" (Mitchell 1839, 156). With the most advantageous direction ascertained, "the public means may be applied with certainty to their (the roads) substantial improvement, by removing obstructions and building bridges" (Mitchell 1839, 156). The establishment of towns could then also be planned with confidence in their future.

Towards the middle of 1830, Mitchell, having completed the marking of the lines of the main roads north to the Hunter River and south to Goulburn, turned his concentration back to completing the re-definition of the line west to Bathurst, a task he had recommended in a Report made in November, 1827 (In Mitchell 1855a, 3-10).

By 1830, Lapstone Hill was again causing concern to the authorities. In January 1830, the Colonial Secretary wrote to Mitchell informing him of the Governor's suggestion "that there are several places, 'Lapstone Hill1, for example, (which from the steepness of the ascent, suffer extremely in heavy rains) where it would be advantageous to station a few men with an overseer permanently for the purpose of immediately repairing any damage which may be occasioned" (In Mitchell 1855a, 13). Two years later, in May 1832, following representations from the carrier of the Royal Mail to Bathurst, James Watsford, the Surveyor-General was once more informed of the Governor's desire for a permanent road-gang to be stationed on Lapstone Hill (Mitchell 1855a, 31).

As well as this direction, Mitchell had, the previous year (1831) , been ordered by the Governor to lay out plans for a township on Emu Plains. In line with his views on establishing the direction of roads in advance of settlement, he declared that the planning of Emu could not proceed until the line of the Western Road was finally established in relation to its ascent of Lapstone Hill.

From his own examination of the area, he settled on "the gully which descends most directly from the Pilgrim (Inn) towards the proposed site, and I found that it would admit of the most direct and least inclined road that can possibly be made between that point and Emu Plains" (Mitchell 1855a, 33). Having satisfied himself as to what should be the permanent line up the Lapstone escarpment he recommended, in his Report of June 1832, that its construction be undertaken as soon as possible in preference to the Governor's earlier suggestion of placing a permanent repair gang on the old road.

A Bridge is Needed

Work on the new Pass commenced in August, 1832, when the Assistant Surveyor, John Abbott began the preliminary clearing work along the line Mitchell had marked. While construction proceeded satisfactorily, there was a major problem which had to be solved. About half way up the proposed route, Mitchell had decided to take the road across the creek, a plan that would require the bridging of a 30 foot deep gully with a span of 20 feet.

To Mitchell, this problem was both a practical and an aesthetic one. An admiration for classical times reinforced his belief that the possession of well-designed bridges was one sign of a civilized society. Bridges were "the most indispensable of public works. Such works constitute the capital of a nation - no country is thought anything of that does not possess them", (Mitchell 1855b, 602).

Here in the Emu Pass at Lapstone, the opportunity presented itself to experiment with a bridge designed to stand the test of time, a bridge that would be the forerunner of others built to improve the system of Great Roads he had recently surveyed.

However, to transform his vision into reality would require the services of someone who possessed both the necessary technical knowledge and the experience. Such a person would not be easy to find in a country where the art of bridge construction was virtually unknown and where flimsy wooden structures, easy victims of flood and fire, predominated. The only bridge of a substantial and permanent nature was the Richmond Bridge built in 1828 in Tasmania.

A sketch by Robert Marsh Westmacott, 1840s.
David Lennox

The right man did however, appear in the person of David Lennox, a recently arrived "mechanic" with considerable bridge-building experience. The combination of the talents of these two men, Lennox and Mitchell, at just this particular time was, in many ways, a remarkable coincidence. Lennox was a master mason of twenty years' experience who had worked on a number of bridges in Britain, including two of Thomas Telford's major designs - the Menai Suspension Bridge (opened 1826) and the stone arch Gloucester Bridge (completed 1827). Following his wife's death in 1828, he decided to come to Australia. Arriving in Sydney in . August 1832, he found work as a day labourer constructing the stone wall outside the Legislative Council Chambers in Macquarie Street.

At this time the work on the Emu Pass was just beginning and, on . making Lennox's acquaintance, Mitchell lost no time in arranging for him to re-direct his talents to the construction of the required bridge. On Mitchell's recommendation, Governor Bourke, in October 1832, granted Lennox a provisional appointment which was sub­sequently confirmed from London, with the official title of "Superintendent of Bridges" being awarded him in June of the following year.
The element of chance in his discovery of Lennox and the speed of the latter's appointment were alluded to later by Mitchell when, in a lecture to the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts in 1855, he described how David Lennox "left his stone wall and with his shirt sleeves still tucked up - and trowel in hand - undertook to plan stone bridges for this colony" (Mitchell 1855b, 601).

Lennox's job required him to "furnish the designs, construct the centering, and direct the application of convict labor to stone cutting and setting, and to all the branches of carpentry and masonry necessary for the construction of a bridge". (Mitchell 1855a, 277).

Lennox Bridge c.1890
The Bridge Takes Shape

By November 1832, Abbott had cleared the road almost to the Pilgrim Inn. Much of the stone for the bridge had been quarried and cut, and obtaining lime from Windsor, Lennox began the laying process. The bridge work party was selected from the larger road gang by Lennox himself. Made up of about twenty convicts, an overseer, a constable and an armed sentry, it worked at the site from about 7 o'clock in the morning, returning to the stockade at Emu Plains in the evening after 4.00 p.m.

Lennox's relationship with his convict workers was, it seems, a good one and, despite the absconding of one convict which for a time held up the sawing of timber for the arch centering, he was very successful in conducting on-the-job training of the men he had picked to carry out the often difficult tasks required in bridge construction. Abbott described him to Mitchell, in a letter dated 10th November, 1832, as "indefatigable in instructing than how to work". Indeed, so effective was he that Governor Bourke let it be known that he would try to prevent the services of these newly skilled workers from being lost to the Department of Roads and Bridges after the Lapstone job was finished.

Lennox's confidence in his men was emphasized later, in May 1833, when he was beginning to transfer operations to his next job. At this time he petitioned the Governor to remit the remainder of the iron gang sentences of eight convicts he wished to take with him. Although some of the sentences were, he said, "for heavy crimes, it appears to me to have been more the effect of a bad system at that time in regard to prisoners than any particular depravity of the prisoners themselves". (Lennox to Bourke, 8th May, 1833.)

The convicts in question were:

William Brady
John Carsons
Robert Hyams
John Johnson
Patrick Malowney (or Maloney)
Thomas Nelson
James Randall
Daniel Williams (an "American black")

The sentences of Brady, Carsons, Malowney and Nelson were remitted while Randall and Williams were promised remittal of their sentences after a further six months good behaviour.

During March 1833 the approaches to the bridge were dry-packed with square-rubble to raise them to the level of the road while the road approaches themselves were quarried to a satisfactory width. The keystones were also inscribed at this time, with the date on the downstream side and the builder's name on the upstream side, and set in place.

By May 1833 the work on the bridge had progressed to the point where Lennox could direct his attention to his next assignment - the construction of a substantial bridge over Prospect Creek, on the Great Southern Road near Liverpool. By the end of the month he had moved his headquarters to the new site, leaving the completion of the Qnu Pass bridge under the supervision of his young overseer, George Neilson, to whom he paid periodic inspection visits until the work was finally completed toward the end of June. Lennox reported the bridge finished in early July 1833. The Pass itself, while traversable, was not completely finished until March the following year.

On Sunday 28th July 1833, Governor Bourke and his party rode up the Pass to the Pilgrim Inn and were, according to the Sydney Monitor's report, suitably impressed with the "rural splendour" of the new bridge, the simple design of which merged harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. Following the U-turn which the road took at the point where it crossed the gully, the single arch bridge traced a gentle curve to form the connection at the bottom of the "U". Its curving sweep demonstrated Lennox's command of geometry and earned the bridge the later nickname of "The Horseshoe Bridge".

Lennox Bridge c.1920
Bridge Use & Restoration

"A somewhat experimental work", as Mitchell (1855a, 277) described it, Lennox Bridge formed part of the main route to the west for almost one hundred years until the Great Western Highway was channelled across the Knapsack Viaduct and along the old Railway route to Blaxland in 1926.

The Bridge has borne traffic of which Lennox and Mitchell could have had no conception and, during the 1950s particularly, it suffered severely from the increasing load of fast modern cars and heavy vehicles. Damage to the stonework eventually rendered it structurally unsound and it was closed first to heavy lorries and then to all vehicular traffic, while negotiations took place with both State and Federal Governments to obtain funds for its restoration.

Finally, in the latter part of the 1970s, serious work began with the assistance of grants from the National Estate and the Heritage Council of New South Wales. The restoration work was designed to recreate the shape and appearance of the original bridge while, at the same time, providing the structural strength necessary to prevent damage by modern traffic. A reinforced concrete road deck, concealed behind the bridge's existing facade, was laid over the old stone arch. Abutments and approach walls were strengthened, damaged balustrading repaired and paving blocks re-laid along the bridge footpath. The work to aesthetically restore the bridge included the removal, cleaning, grouting, redressing and replacing of the original sandstone blocks as well as the quarrying of new sandstone to replace those blocks damaged beyond repair. The tender for the restoration of the old bridge's stonework was let to the Sydney firm of Melocoo, whose subsidiary, Loveridge and Hudson, carried out the work. Much of the new sandstone was quarried at Gosford.

The Bridge was officially re-opened to traffic by the Mayor of the Blue Mountains City, Alderman Peter Quirk, at a public ceremony on 14th December, 1982 - almost one hundred and fifty years since Lennox's convict work gang toiled in the gully on the Emu Pass.

Blue Mountains City Library
John Low

Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol. I, 1788-1850. (1966). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Contains entries on Lennox and Mitchell.
HAVARD, Ward L. 1933. Mitchell's Pass, near Emu Plains. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, XIX (Part VI): 352-363.
HERMAN, Morton. 1954. The Early Australian Architects and Their Work. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Chapter XIV is about David Lennox.
Historical Records of Australia, Series I (Vol. XVII): Governors' Despatches to and from England. (1923). Sydney: The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament. Contains correspondence relating to Lennox's appointment.
KULLAS, Henry. 1977. Lennox Bridge - 'Horseshoe Bridge'. Springwood: The Author. Describes in some detail the method of constructing the stone arch.
LENNOX, David.  1832-53.  Various Papers Relating To.  Held in the Mitchell•Library, Sydney.
LOW, Jim. 1983. Lennox Bridge - Spanning The Past Into Tomorrow. Mount Riverview: The Author. Contains suggested creative activities for children.
MITCHELL, Thomas Livingstone. 1839. Journal of An Expedition Sent to Explore the Course of the River Darling in 1835. In Three Expeditions Into the Interior of Australia Vol. I. London: T. § W. Boone.
MITCHELL, Thomas Livingstone. 1855a. Report Upon the Progress Made in Roads and in the Construction of Public Works in New South Wales from the Year 1827 to June 1855. Held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.
MITCHELL, Thomas Livingstone. 1855b. Lecture to the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts. In 'Papers of Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell Vol. VIII, Miscellaneous'. Held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.
SELKIRK, Henry, 1920. David Lennox, the bridge builder, and his work. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, VI (Part V): 200-243.
SMITH, A.I. 1955. David Lennox. Springwood : Macquarie Historical Society. A paper read before the society on 21st October, 1955.
SPEIRS, Hugh. 1981. Landscape Art and The Blue Mountains. Chippendale (N.S.W.): Alternative Publishing Co-operative.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bills Horse Troughs

Bills trough at Medlow Bath

Horse Troughs in the Blue Mountains are located at:
  • Railway Pde, Medlow Bath - at the Somerset St intersection
  • Glen Rd, Woodford
  • Falls Rd, Wentworth Falls - near the Fletcher St intersection
  • Glenbrook - near the theatre
  • Blackheath - near the Govett's Ride statue in the park on the highway - not a Bills trough
  • Ardill park, Warrimoo
  • Douglass Square, Lawson - now lost.

There are also carved, stone troughs on Berghofer Pass and near the former Katoomba Baths at Leura Cascades.

Their story
The story begins in 1859 when George Bills was born in Brighton England. He came to Australia as a young man, and with his brother established a wire mattress manufacturing business in Kent St Sydney, which operated successfully over many years.

During his lifetime, George was a philanthropist who took a keen interest in seeking out cases of human need and gave many thousands of pounds anonymously to assist the needy folk.

George Bills died 14 Dec 1927 and his wife, Annis died on the 20 Jun 1910. After providing some personal bequests, his will directed the income from the residue of his estate to be used to provide troughs for horses, and for the purpose of preventing cruelty, and alleviating the sufferings of animals in any country.

Around 700 troughs were erected in Australia, mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, and some 50 in overseas countries - England, Ireland, Switzerland [for donkeys] and Japan.

In the early stages of trough supply, each was individually designed and constructed. One of the first was a granite Memorial trough, hewn in one piece as a memorial to Mr Bills. It was situated in Barton St Hawthorn, Melbourne; the trough has long since been removed.

Later a standard design was adopted, and Rocla concrete products supplied many hundreds of the troughs in Victoria and New South Wales. Troughs were supplied on application to the Bills Trust by Councils, and truckloads of 10 would often leave the Rocla Factory for installation by a team of men in country towns. Most of the troughs were made and supplied in the 1930's in Victoria.

The cumbersome steel and concrete moulds were later moved to a Rocla factory at Junee, NSW; where about 20 troughs were made in 1938. The moulds were transferred to Sydney where about 200 troughs were made and supplied to various areas. But the growing use of the motor car and trucks caused a halt in demand for the troughs and none have been installed since World War II.


John Merriman
Local Studies Librarian

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Railway & the Blue Mountains

A D255 locomotive at Bowenfels, c.1885

During the 19th Century, improvements in transport and communication were of vital significance for the development of New South Wales. In 1815 it took Governor Macquarie nine days to travel by coach from Sydney to Bathurst. This time was substantially reduced during the next thirty years as improvements were made both to the Western Road and to the type of coaches operating along it. However, travel and the transportation of goods remained uncomfortable, hazardous and sometimes impossible in bad weather. The construction of the railway to make transport to and from the west both more reliable and more rapid was seen as essential for the future of the state. This would have a dramatic impact upon the development of the Blue Mountains area, opening it up to those with the resources and the leisure to enjoy the environment for its health and recreational value; as well as providing the means for exploiting the coal and shale resources being discovered there, and ultimately making it practical to commute to work in the city.
Baldwin 4-6-0 locomotive c.1900

Construction, Problems and Later Improvements
From the late 1840’s there emerged a strong demand for the building of railways in Australia, which was strengthened by the discovery of gold. From the 1850’s railway construction began which transformed eastern Australia. New lines opened from Sydney to Parramatta (1855), Campbelltown (1858) and from the Port of Newcastle to Maitland. Maitland had become the centre of trade for most of northern New South Wales and was the first section of what was to become the Great Northern Railway. Extension of the railway westward from Sydney to Bathurst was also considered a priority to tap the rich natural and rural products of the Bathurst plains and western areas, although there would be significant obstacles to overcome. Indeed in 1857 a survey of a route across the Blue Mountains stated that, “a direct line between Sydney and Bathurst cannot be obtained” (Royal Engineers Report, 24.1.1857). However by January 1863, the Western Railway was completed as far as Penrith and for the next four years this was to be the train terminus and departure point for the coach services to Bathurst. As they had been earlier, the Blue Mountains were again seen as a major barrier to westward progress, for the extension of the railway line was proving difficult.

Three alternative routes were considered by government planners:

1. Bell’s Line of Road via Mount Tomah and Kurrajong.
2. Grose Valley to its head and proceed by way of a tunnel to Hartley Vale.
3. The three explorers' route already favoured by the road builders.

The third alternative was finally chosen as the one offering the least problems, both physical and financial. But, as in the case of the road, the difficulties of ascent and descent at each extremity of the mountain barrier were to occupy the technical and imaginative talents of those concerned for many years. A railway requires easier grades than a road, so the problem was a formidable one.

John Whitton, a man with considerable experience in railway construction in England, had been appointed Engineer-in-Chief of the N.S.W. Railways in 1856: to him fell responsibility for finding a solution to the problem. While he personally favoured the construction of a tunnel through Lapstone Hill, the finance available could not match the expense. As an alternative, Whitton and his staff designed a Zig-zag railway with two reversing points. It ascended the escarpment with a grade of 1 in 30 to 1 in 33, and incorporated a magnificent seven-arched sandstone viaduct across Knapsack Gully.

Knapsack viaduct, c1870

By July 1867, the railway was completed as far as Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls), and by May the following year had reached Mount Victoria. Whitton again employed the zig zag technique to descend the Blue Mountains in the west as the route down diverged from that of the main road lines and offered no possibility of a suitable grade.

The Great Zig-zag, Lithgow c.1870

The Lithgow or Great Zig Zag is an impressive piece of engineering. Two reversing points were again employed, but being considerably larger than its Lapstone equivalent, it required the construction of three large viaducts. Work on it began in 1866 and by October 1869, the railway line was completed as far as Bowenfels.

The top of the main ridge is the only viable route to cross the Blue Mountains. It was necessary, therefore, that the railway shared this often extremely narrow area with the road. This resulted in the railway crossing the road at various points and also meant that in some places the road itself had to be moved to make the best use of the limited space available. Such places are often indicated where the present road closely hugs the railway boundary.
Valley Heights station with gate-keeper's cottage c.1880
At locations where the original railway crossed the Bathurst Road, level crossings were constructed. There were twelve of these between Emu Plains and Mount Victoria, all numbered for easy identification and all except one, No. 7 at Springwood, provided with stone gatehouses. When the major part of the Blue Mountains line was duplicated in 1902, most of these original level crossings were removed and replaced by under bridges or over-bridges. At the time of duplication many of the present station buildings (e.g. Blaxland, Faulconbridge, and Valley Heights) were demolished and the original stations converted into island platforms. Indeed, Springwood, Wentworth Falls and Mount Victoria were the only brick station buildings then existing to survive duplication.

Originally of light construction, the railway line over the Blue Mountains was characterised by steep grades and curves imposed by the Government’s emphasis upon economy. As traffic increased over the years, considerable relocation work has taken place where possible, to ease grades and straighten curves. While it is difficult in many places to identify the original centre line, the abandoned cuttings and formations can still be seen. For example, between Linden and Woodford, the line was moved from the original deep cuttings during extensive relocation work in 1896, removing several bad curves. In some areas the abandoned rail route has been used to improve the alignment of the highway, as seen in the Lapstone-Glenbrook area.
Glenbrook Tunnel construction
As with the road approaches to the Blue Mountains, significant modifications have also occurred over the years to these sections of the railway:

1. Lithgow end: by 1885, westbound traffic caused a bottleneck and a deviation to avoid the Zig-zag came under consideration. A new route involving extensive tunneling was opened in October, 1910.

2. Lapstone end: increases in rail traffic caused similar bottlenecks to those occurring in the west, while the shortness of the reversing stations meant a limit on the length of trains. This posed a severe disadvantage as freight increased and more powerful engines were introduced. In December 1892, a deviation avoiding the Zig-zag and incorporating a tunnel through the Lapstone Hill was opened. Evidence of the original Zig-zag route remains on Lapstone Hill. By 1911, because of the discomforts caused by the tunnel ‘spoor ventilation, the severe 1 in 30 to 1 in 31 grades, and the bottlenecks that occurred following the duplication of the line from Glenbrook to Mount Victoria, a further deviation following the gorge of Glenbrook Creek, incorporating a new tunnel through The Bluff and a new brick viaduct across Knapsack Gully, remains the present rail route. The grade was improved to 1 in 60. The old tunnel still exists and much of the old rail route, including the old Knapsack Viaduct, has been incorporated into the Great Western Highway.

Stimulus To and Influence Upon Town Settlement and Development
In the decades that followed the opening of the railway line, a large number of the present Mountains townships emerged and took shape around the new railway platforms. The railway provided incentives for town growth and development in a variety of ways:-

Various inns spread at intervals along the Western Road provided the nucleus for the sparse settlement occurring during the first half of the 19th century. With the development of the railway, many of the early platforms were located in close proximity to established places of accommodation, thus reinforcing the early stages of human occupation.

• Blaxland began as Wascoe’s in 1867. John Outrim Wascoe was the current landlord of the “Pilgrim Inn”.
• Springwood was established in 1867 near the popular Springwood Inn, better known as Boland’s Inn.
• Woodford was opened in 1868 as Buss’s Platform. William Buss had been the popular licensee of the King’s Arms Hotel, or Buss’s Inn as it was more generally known, until his death in October, 1867.
• Lawson began as Blue Mountain in 1867. The Blue Mountain Inn, established in 1840, was nearby.
Wentworth Falls opened as Weatherboard in 1867. The Weatherboard Inn was one of the oldest of the mountain inns, established in 1827. This was for a time the railway terminus, and a bustling itinerant community developed around it.
• Blackheath had a railway platform built in 1869. This was the location of the Scotch Thistle Inn, though evidence suggests it was closed at this time.
Rail accident, Springwood 1923

During the 1870’s, the more reliable and rapid travel provided by the railway encouraged Sydney’s more affluent people (judges, politicians, businessmen, etc.) to purchase land and build country residences in the Blue Mountains. For a number of these, private railway platforms were provided to service their families, while others established their estates in proximity to already existing stations. The “country estate” trend soon attracted others including the businesses and services required to satisfy the needs of new communities. Many of these large properties were eventually subdivided in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Various specific railway activities provided growth incentives to those areas in which they were located. Water was essential for the operation of steam engines and a regular supply had to be maintained until electrification was introduced. Thus at a number of points along the railway line facilities for water storage and reticulation were established. From 1867 at Glenbrook (Watertank) water was gravitated from the lagoon to a tank by the rail line, while dammed supplies were constructed at Woodford/Linden (from 1885), Lawson (from 1867), Wentworth Falls (from 1878) and Blackheath (from 1867). The supply at Linden eventually became public, serving towns on the Lower Blue Mountains, while Glenbrook and Wentworth Falls were converted to public recreation lakes and Lawson and Blackheath to public swimming pools.
Katoomba platform and staff c.1880

With grades varying from 1 in 33 to 1 in 66, the climb between Valley Heights and Katoomba is one of the steepest in Australia. During the age of steam, both Katoomba and Valley Heights, with their turntable facilities, benefited as terminus points for the pilot engines. Valley Heights still retains its significance in relation to the railway with its roundhouse and workshops.

Mount Victoria’s position as a terminus for both tourist rail traffic to Jenolan Caves and commuter trains contributed to its early growth. For many years Mount Victoria was also one of the principal refreshment stops on the western line. Full meals were served in the substantial refreshment rooms built in 1868 and now occupied by the historical museum.

The numerous railway navvies and labourers who worked on the Mountain line also contributed to the growth and development of the towns along its route. For example:

·         In 1866-67, while the railway was being built, labour had to be supplied. At Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls) for example, Charles Wilson erected an accommodation house on the site of the present post office, which served the railway workers as a hotel, store, butcher’s shop and baker’s shop.
·         In the 1870’s the Springwood area contained a large proportion of railway families whose numbers contributed significantly to the early establishment of a public school in 1878 and, to business growth in the town around this time.
·         A similar stimulus for town development occurred at Glenbrook where a public school was established in 1892 in response to the many children in the work camps during deviation work to replace the old Zig Zag. Glenbrook-Lapstone was again the site of major construction camps during the 1913 deviation.
Lapstone Zig Zag

A further influence the railway has had on the pattern of development in the Blue Mountains arises from re-emphasis of the earlier division already imposed on the landscape by the road. The road and the railway both dominate the crest of the ridge, the principal area where settlement could occur. Many of the towns that developed found themselves bisected by the road-rail route. Additionally, many parish boundaries (e.g., Coomassie and Magdala; Linden and Woodford; Blackheath and Kanimbla) had been partly defined by the road route and many towns have grown half in one parish and half in another. As a result of this bisection there have been, in some towns, noticeable variations in settlement patterns on either side of the road-rail. Towns such as Katoomba and Blackheath, where a Crown subdivision was established on one side of the railway, separate from those areas where development occurred through subdivision of earlier grants.

Electrification of the suburban line between Parramatta and Penrith in 1915 was completed in 1955. By the end of the following year, an electric service was operating to Valley Heights and this was extended by the end of 1957 to Lithgow. Electrification of the railway had considerable effect upon development in the Blue Mountains. Along with the improved performance and general ownership of motor cars, it encouraged a shift in tourist emphasis from the extended holiday to the one-day excursion, an effect felt most in the Upper Mountains. Also, by improving access to the city and its western suburbs, it stimulated the trend to “commuter” or “dormitory” settlements, an effect most noticeable in the Lower Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains Heritage Study – Final Report, Croft & Associates with Meredith Walker, for Blue Mountains City Council, 1982.

Links:  http://www.slideshare.net/srnsw/ble-mountains-railway-the-train-that-thought-it-could  

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
Blue Mountains City Library

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Remembrance: Springwood District Honor Roll 1914–1919

The official unveiling of the Board was performed on Anzac Day 1921, in the grounds of the Springwood Public School where it was hung temporarily against a background of Flags of the Empire, with the Australian flag most prominent. It was intended to move it to a permanent position in the School of Arts. More than 300 people assembled for the ceremony, which was performed by Cr Savage, President of the Blue Mountains Shire. He had been present at a memorial service at Katoomba the previous Sunday and had met Sir Charles Rosenthal who had said in his speech at that event:
Possibly you may not find some of the boys who come back all that you would like them to be, but you must be patient with them. You must remember the hell they have lived and fought through, and give them time to settle down — not one year, but many years — for some of the lads may never be as they once were.
Other speeches were made by Mr Hedley D. Meagher, the Rev. Kellett and the Rev. Father Brauer. School children, members of the Rifle Club, Red Cross members and private people placed wreaths at the foot of the board. One of the official guests at the unveiling was Cr Wall whose son, Private John Douglass Wall died at Fleurbaix, France, in 1916. His name is not on the Roll. Hedley O’Meagher conducted the ceremony and other guests were the Governor, Sir Walter Davidson, Mr James Lawson and Mr Broughton. At the conclusion of the unveiling ceremony the trophy machine gun captured by the 5th Machine Gun Section was officially declared in position outside the School of Arts, and its working was demonstrated by Sergt W. Hall, M.M. assisted by Gunner L. Mills. The disposition of the balance of funds raised is not known and the present whereabouts of the souvenir machine gun is also a mystery.

Unveiling the Honor Roll, 1921
The Springwood District Honor Roll


Ever since Australian troops scaled the heights of Gallipoli in 1915, war has played a major role in the way we see ourselves and the ‘digger’ has become for many the quintessential image of the typical Australian. We have also made the war memorial a prominent feature of our cultural landscape, present in just about every city, town and hamlet across the country. Some are on a grand scale while others are more modest and discreet in both design and location.

‘Honour boards’ fall into the second category, although ‘modest’ may misrepresent their importance. While they could be as elaborate as budget and imagination allowed, to many in the community they offered a more economical but no less respectful way to recognise wartime service and sacrifice. They were produced in vast numbers and can be found in public buildings, churches, sporting clubs, Masonic lodges and even commercial premises throughout Australia.
There are many honour boards in the Blue Mountains, containing hundreds of names that once struck deep and personal responses in the community. Inevitably, time has eroded this immediacy and most, if not all, of these names have become – well, just names!  To all but a few local and family historians these people have lost their identity. On memorial occasions they are honoured, not as individuals, but as a vague, abstract group.   

This is why this present book is so important. The World War I Honor Roll preserved by the people of Springwood has been given new life and the historians responsible are to be commended. Their research has rescued the men recorded here from the creeping anonymity that would have been their fate and given them back to their community as individuals who lived and breathed their own special human uniqueness. It also places their enlistment and war-time experiences within the social context of the time. We get a glimpse into what the Springwood they came from was like.  

These were men who like most of us lived ordinary lives and worked at ordinary jobs, but who were thrust by one of those moments of history into something extraordinary. But for a quirk of fate we too might have had to endure what they did. Some had exemplary military records, some found the discipline difficult to handle. Some survived unscathed physically, others were wounded and some were killed in action. But all of them were individuals, unique expressions of humanity. Think how much more meaningful Anzac Day ceremonies in Springwood will be when those participating have read this book!

This has been an important project and hopefully the work of these Springwood historians will be seen as a part of a wider community work-in-progress. What an achievement if, eventually, all the honour boards throughout the Blue Mountains were given the same re-birth!

John Low

From: Remembrance: Springwood District Honor Roll 1914–1919

Shirley Evans and Pamela Smith, Springwood Historians, 2008

The Plucky Rescuer – the story of Hindman Street, Katoomba

 The origins of the older street names in the Blue Mountains are, in some cases, not easily determined. This is a great shame for, behind th...