Tuesday, 12 July 2011

What’s on the inside (of those water tanks)

Many moons ago (1993 to be precise) I was exploring the Stockinbingal to Parkes line and came across the station at Milvale. Now, by the time I arrived there was not much left as the station had closed as a crossing loop on 30 Sept 1986 and all of the station buildings had been demolished. There was though the water tank and in the scrub was the remains of the lever frame. The discovery of the water tank has led me on a journey that has continued to this day – the history of the watering facilities of the railways of New South Wales.
Now on first impressions the water tanks are a box-shaped structure and a stand (in the case of Milvale made of steel), but the tanks are just one part of the watering infrastructure – there being pump houses, excavated tanks, conditioning plants, storage tanks and water columns.
The journey started with the photographing of the many (there are 83) surviving tanks and it was not until I climbed up the wheat silo at Milvale and took a photo (below) that the insides of these tanks opened a whole new area of research.
Now in regards to climbing these ladders – it’s dangerous and you are usually in the middle of no where – so if you fall off – you are stuffed. In my mis-spent youth I have climbed some of these tanks when I have been by myself – I don’t recommend this. In fact it is more than likely illegal anyway.

The tank at Milvale taken from the top of the wheat silo
showing a long distance view of the interior

There is a plethora of bracing on the insides of these tanks, the style depending on when the tank was constructed – as with everything the NSWR built, the later it was built, the more simpler the design and construction materials.

The tank at Milvale was constructed with the line and opened for use in August 1916 – with no watering facilities at Stockinbingal every train stopped for water. The 40,000 gallon tank is the standard design for the time and one of three 40,000 gallon tanks on the line - the other two being at Quandialla and Wirrinya – Quandialla is virtually identical to Milvale. The tank was fitted with a 8 inch swinging jib and it also supplied a 9 inch water column located between the main and the loop at the down end of the platform.

An interior view of the tank at Milvale looking towards the track.
Note the outlet valve for the swinging jib and the different style
of bracing (from the base to the walls) for the upper and lower tiers
of panels and the additional three layers of bracing in the corners.

Another wider shot of the interior of the tank at Milvale looking towards Stockinbingal.


There are two tanks at Binalong and I will concentrate on the tank on the top of the cutting. This tank is somewhat unusual in that it is a single tier 40,000 gallon tank. The bracing of this tank is identical to that of the first tier at Milvale and research has found this to be the standard design used for a long period. 

An overview of the tank at Binalong
Detail of the bracing of the tank at Binalong

Bullenbung Creek

Bullenbung Creek, the only watering facility on the Kywong Line, is an earlier style tank that was relocated from another location when the line opened in 1928 – while the tank is a single tier 20,000 gallon type, the panels of the tank and the bracing are of an older style. This was also one of the few tanks provided with an American type lifting jib (more of them in a other blog entry in the future).

The interior of the tank at Bullenbung Creek showing the earlier style bracing

Another more detailed shot of Bullenbung Creek Tank

Yannergee is located approximately halfway between Werris Creek and Binnaway and was one of two locations on the line to have watering facilities – the other being Caroona although it was removed in 1941. As a result of it being the only facility on the line since then all trains stopped to take water at Yannergee. The tank was initially a 20,000 gallon tank but it’s capacity was doubled in March 1941 – it is possible that some of the required parts came from Caroona. When the capacity was increased the bracing of the first tier was renewed in the current style. The overall bracing of this tank is the one of the final variants of bracing used in NSW.

An overall view of the interior of the tank at Yannergee.
Note that the only bracing of the top tier is across the corners.

A more detailed view of the bracing at Yannergee.
Note the the bracing is made of angle whereas earlier
examples (Binalong and Milvale) above are of a flat bar type.

 Some more examples will follow in due course.


  1. Graeme,
    You are a brave man for climbing up to get these photos for us modellers. Bit hard to get to see the interiors unless you get up there

  2. Graeme, thank you for taking the time to post these photos, they are a real resource for the modeller wanting to go that extra step in their modelling. the notes to go with them are a real good read, again thanks, Geoff.