Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Railway Guide of New South Wales (part 2)

The expansion of the New South Wales railway network led to the NSW Government publishing the The Railway Guide of New South Wales: for the use of Tourists, Excursionists, and Others in 1879 and 1884. Further network expansion led to an updated illustrated editions in 1886. Below we read part of the entry on the recently completed Wallerawang to Mudgee branch line transcribed from the 1886 edition. 

Zig-Zag railway, illustration by J C Hoyte
from 1886 Railway Guide of New South Wales 

Extension Wallerawang to Mudgee

The history of the Railway Extension to Mudgee shows a splendid proof of the success of persistency. For many years this extension was fought for determinedly by the Mudgee people; but various Governments, deterred by the heavy estimates given as to the cost of the line, and the dim prospect of a remunerative return, would not for a long time listen to the appeals of those interested, until at last one Ministry, seeing beyond the mountain barrier a wealthy land of promise and the opening up and development of mineral resources and wide areas of land, determined to propose the line, a proposition which met with the approval of the then Parliament. Accordingly the line was proceeded with, and in September, 1884, the Mudgee people heard the whistle of the iron horse as it gaily made its way across the plains bordering the quiet Cudgegong. The line starts from Wallerawang, which long enjoyed a greater share of prosperity by reason of its position as the junction of the Mudgee road with the Western Railway.

Piper’s Flat, 110 miles; 3,187 feet above sea-level. – The line runs north-west from Wallerawang outwards to Piper’s Flat, the first station; the country is uninteresting, the land being poor and timbered with stunted specimens of white gum. The station is kept busy only by the mineral traffic, the Wallerawang Company’s Coal-mine being in the vicinity, which, in 1884, had a contract to supply the Government with some 75,000 tons [of] coal at the remarkably low rate of 5s. per ton. The district is essentially a mining one, near the station coal is in abundance, and spread over the locality are extensive deposits of lime, which is principally shipped from the next platform, Ben Bullen, at 121 miles.

Capertee, 127 miles; 2,739 feet above sea-level. – The line from Ben Bullen to Capertee is uninteresting until within a short distance of Capertee, when, after emerging from the darkness of the Capertee tunnel, the traveller sees spread before him a glorious panoramic view of Capertee Valley. The railway skirts round its edges, and down below him extends the valley, its uneven and thickly timbered surface heaving, it would appear, like mighty waves. Far back stands a frowning battlement of dark bold rocks forming a head and crown to the body of the valley below, these cliffs wonderfully square and regular being aptly termed the Crown Ridge. The train in the fall of the year clears this spot towards sunset, and the long golden sunbeams of the evening as they gleam across the waving tree-tops in the valley, light up this crown with golden refulgence of light smoothing down its forbidding sternness and setting gems over its rocky face. The railway runs round this valley for some distance on its way to Rylstone, and between the steep cuttings a fair vista of this picturesque valley is every now and again seen. The valley contains good timber; but of course the difficulty of transit militates against any use being made of the forests. Good sporting is to be had in among the tall grey-gums, game being plentiful in the valley, and the kangaroos are as thick as sheep on a good run. Capertee cannot be called a thriving place; it boasts of one inn and occasionally sends a little traffic over towards the Turon (14 miles), where some gold seekers are working.

Ilford, 149 miles; 2,450 feet above sea-level. – Between Ilford and Capertee the line runs for some distance as already mentioned along the head of the Capertee valley, the line crawling as it were along the side of the cliffs that drop down into the valley. The cuttings are both numerous and extensive, and at times an uneasy feeling creeps over the traveller, that one of the overhanging rocks above him will fall across the ironway. The nature of the country at this place is that known as “rotten,” and in order to make traffic secure, and to prevent the probability of danger, the trains always run through in the daylight. The scenery is bold and striking, the mountains towering hundreds of feet overhead and the passing views are sufficiently varied to show a long succession of panoramic views as the trains sped onwards.

The original article continues with further descriptions of the trip towards Mudgee. The Railway Guide to New South View can be viewed at Lithgow Library or the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney.

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