Thursday, 18 July 2013

Turning of the First Sod

Prior to the arrival of the railway in 1882 the village of Capertee was an ‘insignificant place’ on the road between Lithgow and Mudgee. While there were a few houses, farms and inns in the area the arrival of the railway was, arguably, the foundation event in the settlements history. In the Town and Country Journal (25th September 1880) we read of the excitement in the district when construction works began on the first section of the branch railway from Wallerawang to Capertee Camp (as Capertee village was then known).

Capertee Railway Station - the end of the first section of the Wallerawang to Mudgee branch line

Turning of the First Sod of the Mudgee-Wallerawang Railway

The small and quiet town of Wallerawang situated just beyond the Blue Mountains, is to-day the scene of the turning of the first sod of the railway to Mudgee, whose inhabitants are evincing great interest in the ceremony, and for their conveyance Cobb's coaches and almost every other description of vehicle has been brought to use. A good number of people from Mudgee and the surrounding district arrived yesterday and during the night. Two special coaches, heavily laden with passengers from these places reached Wallerawang at 9 o'clock this morning, and other people, many on horseback, are pouring into the hamlet. The few who arrived from Sydney and stations along the line by the mail train at half-past 1 o'clock this morning, found it impossible to secure accommodation, and several who came just before by the Mudgee coach were compelled to go to Lithgow, some 10 miles down the line. The Royal, Commercial, and Railway Hotels, and most of the private residences were crowded to their utmost extent with visitors. The night was frosty, and piercingly cold - so cold that your representative is conscious of the fact that he, thanks to the good nature of one of the station officials, escaped from freezing by being allowed to remain bedless and beddingless in the ladies' waiting-room. He passed a miserable night, and in a half-hour's slumber dreamt that he was undergoing some approved though prolonged process of refrigeration, and contemplates for a reason, afterwards thinking he is in Wallerawang. Daylight broke magnificently fine, and so far the sky has continued cloudless. For the special indulgence of the navvies, the contractors have furnished several large casks of beer; it is somewhat significant that where it is placed there are no holes, but abundance of water; the navvy force has been considerably augmented from the surrounding neighbourhood.

This section of the line to Mudgee is 22 miles 54 chains in extent, branching off the Great Western line at a point some quarter of a mile distant from the Wallerawang railway station, thence proceeding in a north-west direction, and ending at an insignificant place named Capertee Camp. The contractors are Messrs. Monie and Mathieson, who constructed the Dunolly and St. Arnaud line, and other large public works in Victoria. The amount of their tender for this section of the Mudgee railway was £180,600, and the time allowed for the completion of the contract is 19 months from the time of commencing. Operations were started on the 3rd of the present month. The work done up to the present consists principally of clearing the timber from the junction onwards. Already the timber has been cleared for some 11 miles, and cuttings scattered over the first eight miles are in progress. the timber for bridge piles has been hewn, and large quantities of bricks, stone, and earthenware pipes, for culverts and drains, are in readiness for use. Over 300 men are now employed, and in the course of a few months the contractors expect to have fully 1000 on the works, the number employed being increased every day. They have had no difficulty in procuring men, and none is anticipated, although good navvies are rather scarce so far. Bricks are brought from Lithgow, but the contractors propose to erect kilns and make their own bricks. The timber for piles can be obtained in abundance along the route, any kind, provided it is round, being used - except white gum, which is disallowed - and pile driving will commence next week. It is probable that, after the construction of the first few miles of railway from Wallerawang, various sub-contracts will be let by the contractor-in-chief. As is evident from the cost of this section, there are many cuttings to be made, more particularly towards the end of the section, in some places the ground being extremely hard and the cuttings deep. The deepest will be over 50ft, and the largest nearly 100,000 yards, including the only tunnel, which will be 187 yards in length. This cutting and tunnel will be made towards the end of the section, and others at different parts of the route. the line, in consequence of the roughness of the country over which it must pass, will be rather circuitous, and the curves almost continuous, though not near so great as those on the mountains. The deepest gradient will be one in 48, others varying from that downwards. The carrying out of this section will include the erection of seven timber bridges, all of one size, namely, 86 yards , crossing small creeks. No station will be required at any part, except at the end of the first section, for some time after the opening of the line, unless during its construction an impetus to settlement on some of the intermediate parts is given. The length of the line, when finished right through to Mudgee, will be 86 miles, to be made up of three sections. Whether or not the Government will await the completion of the first section before they invite tenders for the second or third is not known, and on this point the people of Mudgee, whom the railway will mostly benefit, evince some anxiety. Perhaps the want of railway communication with the town and district of Mudgee, and the inconvenience or rather distastefulness of travelling long distances by coach, as compared with travelling by rail, were never more demonstrated than at Wallerawang last evening when two Darlinghurst prisoners heavily ironed were brought from Sydney bound for Mudgee. They could not be seated on the box with their keeper, consequently two well-known and highly respected ladies, the only other passengers, had preference to sit nearly 12 hours in a small coach - with these gaol birds, who were attired in prison habiliments, and could not move withought the clanking of their irons being heard.

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