Friday, 23 March 2012

NSWR Water Facilites Part 3 - 1892 to 1915

This period can be described as the second period of expansion. By 1892 the South, West and North mainlines had reached their termini – Albury, Bourke and Wallangarra respectively. It was now time to commence construction of the branchlines, some of which in the last 30 years have become the virtual main line. There are three distinct sub-period in this section and they are:
  • 1892 to 1898
  • 1899 to 1906
  • 1906 to 1915
Most of the lines built during this period were done so with an expected high percentage of return although some were of a speculative nature.

1892 to 1898

In 1888 two new bills were introduced into the New South Wales Parliament, 'The Public Works and Railway Management Bills'. These were introduced as a direct result of the government's desire to ‘manage’ the railways rather than the Commissioners. The bills combined with the subsequent demise of Whitton from the Railways in 1890 due to ill health saw a great change in the way railways were constructed in New South Wales. By late 1891 the Public Works had for all intents taken control of new line construction.
The result was a significant re-design of the railway's infrastructure – station buildings, bridges and watering facilities being among those that saw major change. While the re-design was as a result of updated materials and methods it can be safely said that the Public Works took the opportunity to stamp their authority on the Railways by the implemenation of new designs.
The first line constructed that was impacted by the new designs was the branch from Nyngan to Cobar which was opened on 1st July 1892. The designs on this line were a mixture of the classic Whitton and the new Public Works. The bridges and stations were Whitton designs while the watering facilities were of the Public Works design. The branch is 131 kilometres long and as the area is of low rainfall the placement of the watering facilities was entirely dependant on the availability of water. Apart from the terminus at Cobar there was only one place where there was the sufficient availability of water – Boppy Mountain (or Mount Boppy as it was known until 1930).
The structures built at Boppy Mountain and Cobar were the first of 20 round tanks built between 1892 and 1898 in three variations. All were associated with the construction of new lines.

The First Round Tank

The first and most elaborate design had 12 examples built and was confined to the Nyngan – Cobar, Culcairn - Corowa, St. Leonards – Milsons Point, Cootamundra – Temora, Molong – Forbes and Lismore – Mullumbimby sections of new line. In construction order the tanks were (the dates indicate the approximate time the tank was available for use):
  • Boppy Mountain - February 1892
  • Cobar  - June 1892
  • Brocklesby - August 1892
  • Corowa - September 1892
  • Milsons Point - April 1893
  • Springdale (called Possum Power when constructed) – July 1893
  • Meranburn – September 1893
  • Mandagery – November 1893
  • Parkes – November 1893
  • Forbes – December 1893
  • Lismore – January 1894
  • Byron Bay – March 1894

The 20000 gallon round tank at Meranburn.
It is interesting to note that the only other line built in the same period, the section between North Kiama (Bombo) and Bomaderry did not have a water tank built as the facilities at Dapto and Minnamurra and a set of 400 gallon tanks at Nowra were sufficient for the needs of train running, there being only 40 kilometres between Minnamurra and the terminus at Bomaderry. It was not until 1910 that facilities were constructed at both Kiama and Nowra
A circular brick stand of 20 foot internal diameter and 21’ 6" above the ground supported a wrought iron tank of 20000 gallons capacity. Milsons Point was slightly different in that the brick stand was only 12’ 9” as the tank was located on the side of the cutting a considerable distance above rail level. The structural rigidity of the stand was increased by the addition of eight pilasters placed every 45 degrees and an extra ring of bricks near the base of the stand.
The wrought iron tank was 10' 8.5” high and 20’ 9” in diameter and as there was no internal bracing a lipped extension 12” high and extending 6” from the tank was provided at the top. Three wrought iron rings each of seven panels made up the tank. The panels in the bottom ring were 3' 6” in height and were 5/16” thick. The middle panels were 3’ 6” high and were ¼” thick while the top panels were 3’ high and 3/16” thick. The middle ring was arranged so that it was overlapped by the bottom and top rings. The base of the tank was made up of 18 triangular shaped panels 5/16” thick resulting in a concave arrangement. Riveting was used where each panel joined. Water was supplied to the tank via an exterior pipe with a float valve and was fed to either an attached jib or column located nearby via an outlet pipe in the base of the tank.
The only example of this type of tank that did not survive until the end of steam was at Milsons Point which was demolished shortly after the station was replaced as a result of the opening of the Harbour Bridge. Since the demise of steam all examples with the exception of Byron Bay and Meranburn have been demolished (Brocklesby was demolished in the 1980s or early 1990s). The foundations of the tank at Mandagery can also still be seen.
The Second Round Tank

The second type of round tank was of a similar but simpler design resulting in a cost saving although the time to construct did not change to any great extent. The new design saw the iron panels of the tank change to the same height and thickness, the pilasters on the stand removed and two of the three windows removed, the remaining window being located opposite the door.

The tank at Murwillumbah – note the extra ring of bricks at the base of the stand.
The tank at Condolbolin.
The rings continued to be made of wrought iron and were 3/16” thick. The plates while of the same size were shorter than the first design as eight were required for the circumference of the tank. Like the first design the top and bottom ring of plates overlapped the middle ring. The tank again did not have internal bracing and a strengthening ring was provided at the top. The ring was 9” wide and was angled slightly above the horizontal. The floor of the tank was made up of 16 triangular plates ¼” thick. The brick stand was slightly wide in diameter at 21’, but sightly smaller in height at 20’ 8”.
These tanks were built between 1894 and 1899 when the Byron Bay – Murwillumbah, Moree – Gravesend, Bogan Gate – Condobolin and Berrigan – Finley sections were constructed. The tanks were constructed in the following order:
  • Murwilllumbah
  • Carlachy
  • Condobolin
  • Warren
  • Finley
  • Yagobie
Some of this type of tank had detail differences and both Murwillumbah and Yagobie has an extra ring of bricks at the base of the stand while both Carlachy and Yagobie had attached jibs and were thus located very close to the running lines – all other examples being some distance from them.
All of this type of tank survived to near the end of steam but today only Condobolin and Murwillumbah are still standing.

The Third Round Tank

The third series of round tanks saw only two examples built. Both were constructed as part of the extension from Narrabri to Moree. This line was the first in the series of lines built to a cheaper standard. These lines were called pioneer lines and were constructed using cheaper methods – ash ballast, no fences and minimal infrastructure being the major examples of this type of line. The general view being that traffic on these lines would be light and thus smaller locomotives would be required.
The watering facilities on the line were provided at Bellata (called Woolabra during construction) and at Moree. Both structures were identical and were for all intents a reduced version of the second type of tank – the storage capacity being only 10000 gallons.
The tank was constructed of the same 3/16” wrought iron and consisted of two rings of five plates. Both sets of plates were 4’ high but were slightly different in their length. The bottom plates being 8’5 ½” long, the top plates being 3/16” longer. The resulting difference in lengths allowed the top ring to overlap the bottom. The panels of the tank were riveted together making it 7’10” high and 16’2” in diameter.
The base of the tank was made up twelve triangular segments that were riveted together meeting in a 3’ diameter centre piece that had the delivery pipe bolted to it.
The brick stand was of a similar design to the second type and even had the same height. The diameter though was only 17’ the centre line of the bricks being in line with the smaller sized tank.
The two tanks were supplied from an artesian bore located a short distance from the tank, at Moree it was near the current location of the local swimming pool and artesian spa. The tank at Moree was located at the very north end of the yard where the original loco depot was located and was demolished prior to 1950. The tank at Bellata was on the western side of the line and survived to the end of steam working – it has since been demolished although the foundations can still be found.

1898 – 1906 - The First Standard Plans

The construction of the state's railway system continued apace and as had occurred since 1855 there was a constant enhancement in designs. The brick stand and round tank construction was found to be both time consuming and costly, the structure taking probably twice as long to erect as the previous timber and steel designs that were used prior to 1892.
The result was a return to a design that was virtually identical to the types built after 1877 but before 1892. On 17th May 1901 the line from Koorawatha to Grenfell was opened. This was the first line to be opened in over 14 months, the previous line being Moree – Gravesend in February 1900 (where the tank at Yagobie was erected).
In late 1898/early 1899 a series of plans were drawn for the stands of tanks of 5000 and 15000 gallon tanks. These plans show a timber stand using round poles of 12” diameter with bracing 8” x 3” in size. The poles were embedded in concrete foundations. 12” square bearers were placed on top of the poles and 12” x 5” joists supported the actual tank. 12” square wood poles were also used.
The tanks also reverted to the square design made up of iron panels. To provide strengthening the panels were buckled so that they extended 3” at the centre. The panels were bolted together by numerous ½” diameter bolts. Cast iron 'T' shaped brackets were attached to the base of the tanks and these rested on a series of cast iron shoes. The tank was strengthened with the addition of diagonal bracing from the sides to the base and steel rod across the top of the tanks.
The tank that was erected beside the Down Starter at Locksley was an example of this type built on the round timber poles. The tank that was at Koorawatha and has been relocated to Gundagai in 2000 is an example of this type of structure using square poles.
It is interesting to note that the structure at Grenfell which was identical to the example at Koorawatha was significantly rebuilt in 1946. This was as a result of the failure of the actual tank which was replaced with a later design. Traffic requirements no longer need a tank of 20000 gallons capacity and a 10000 gallon tank was used instead. The size of the tank resulted in the stand going from 16 legs to 9 legs. The bracing was adjusted as a result.
Within 12 months of the drawing of the plans with the timber stand a further series of plans was produced in December 1900 for steel stands with tank capacity varying from 5000 gallons to 20000 gallons. These plans were for the buckled tanks in particular but were with minor differences the first of what became the standard series of designs for water tanks.

The structure at Koorawatha before its relocation to Gundagai.
The interior of the tank at Koorawatha showing the bracing across the top and the diagonal braces from the sides to the base.
The plans issued in 1898/1899 were first used for the construction of watering facilities at Koorawatha and Grenfell on the Koorawatha – Grenfell line, this was followed by Lockhart, Brewarrina, Tarrion, Inverell, Holbrook, Mount Horeb, Tumut, Barmedman, Wyalong, Wee Waa, Burren (Junction), Clearfield, Gurranang, and Grafton. The last location constructed being Burren where the line was opened on 2nd December 1906.

The Second Standard Plans 1906 – 1915

The plans drawn in April and May 1901 were as far as can be ascertained not used until the construction of the section from Bogan Gate to Trundle. As this was the first section of the line to Tottenham a watering facility was provided at the temporary terminus.
The new designs came in two parts – the tanks and the stands. The tanks were made with 5/8” thick cast iron panels that were 4’2” square. The panels had a 3 1/8” lip around the edge. Each side had seven 5/8” gussets to provide strengthening at the edges. Between each gusset was a 7/8” square hole. These holes were provided to attach the panels together by ¾” bolts. A total of 8 bolts were used on each side. The exterior of each panel was provided with scalloping that was purely for visual purposes. The interior of each panel also had a cross shaped gusset to improve rigidity of the panel. The gussets were 5/8” wide and sloped from flat to 2” high at the centre. Bracing was also provided as this was attached by the same bolts that were used to attached each panel. The bracing was between the base and side of the tanks – each panel had two braces.

The exterior of a panel of the standard design first constructed at Trundle. This example is from the tank at Coonabarabran.

The interior of the panels of the first standard design showing the strengthening gussets and the method of attaching each panel. Note also the interior bracing on each panel. This example is the tank at Ungarie.
The base and corners of the tank were made of the same cast iron and were curved on a 9” radius. These separate pieces provided the connection between the horizontal and vertical panels of the tank.
The design of the panels was fundamentally the same as panels that were used some 20 years earlier during the initial expansion of the railways. The difference is that the panels on the base and the sides of the tank were identical and thus interchangeable. The major advantage of this was that a second tier of panels could be attached if required, thus doubling the capacity of the tank.
The legs of the stand were constructed of steel “I” beams 8”x 4” x 25/lbs in size. Each leg was embedded in 2’ 6” square concrete foundations. The depth of the foundations varied according to the soil at the location. Bracing was provided by 1” diameter rod in a diagonal arrangement between two legs. Where the rods crossed each other a steel ring of 9” internal diameter was used to tension each rod. Across the top of the legs a steel beam of similar size to the legs was placed and the tank rested on these bearers. At every point where the beams met the bearer angle gussets were used with bolts. The height of the stand was 14’ above rail level.
The next four diagrams show the plans drawn in April and May 1901 that were the first set of standard designs for water tanks.

The plans drawn in mid 1901, with minor differences, were used for the large majority of tanks constructed with steel stands from 1906 thorough to 1946. These plans allowed for a stand height of only 14’ above rail level and this was very quickly to be found insufficient in some situations. As a result additional plans were drawn in November 1910 for a steel stand for a 20000 gallon tank with a stand 20’ high. Where as the second set of standard plans had only one level of bracing in the stand, this plan had two levels of bracing with a cross member 9’5” above the foundations. The other change was that of the 16 separate foundations the inner 4 were 3’ square whereas the outside 12 were only 2’6” square.

The plan for the 20000 gallon tank on a steel stand drawn in November 1910.
The base of the tank at Canowindra showing the earlier style of embedding the steel columns in the concrete footings.
The second set of standard plans was used for a large number of water tanks constructed between 1906 and 1915. During this period the following locations (in approximate date order) received water tanks of this design:
  • Barraba
  • Beckom
  • Tullamore
  • Gulgong
  • Kyogle
  • Canowindra
  • Peak Hill
  • Dungog
  • Nimmitabel
  • Oaklands
  • Taree
  • Gloucester
  • Garah
  • Tocumwal
  • Mungundi
  • Kendall
  • Wauchope
  • Denman
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Glenreagh

The Parachute Tanks - 1911

The origin of the Parachute Tanks can be placed with the railways of Britain and predominately with the Great Western Railway. The exact date of the first design is not known but there were examples in the l890’s in England. The first design in New South Wales was drawn in August 1911 when a set of four drawings were made covering all aspects of the design. The drawings were for the Cast Iron Base and Column, the tank, the water crane and various details and a general arrangement. Six months later a separate plan was drawn for the foundations. All five plans are plainly labelled Parachute Tank – the term Pillar tank coming at a later date.
The locations where parachute tanks were used were wide and varied although they are predominately in areas where space was at a premium. It is also noteworthy that following discussions with a noted engine driver (Ken Groves) it was established that the pillar tanks with the attached jibs filled the loco tenders faster than any other type of tank or column. At locations like Moss Vale on the Up Main and Valley Heights on the Down Main their placement was conducive to the loco being serviced while the train was at the platform performing passenger duties.
The foundations were a concrete slab some 10’ square and a minimum of 3’ deep. The rail sleepers were actually above a section of the concrete. Six 1” bolts, 3’ long were attached, two each to three separate lengths of bull headed rail that was embedded 2’ 6 deep in the concrete. The cast iron circular base of 6’ foot diameter was attached to the foundation by the previously mention six bolts. A further 12 bolts were used to attached a 16’ cast  iron column to the base. The column narrow from 2’ 6 internal diameter at the base to 1’ 7” internal diameter at the top. A 9’ 6 external diameter and 9’ 10” high circular tank was attached to the top of the column by a further 12 bolts. The total height of the structure being 28’3”. The tanks were made from six or eight (the plan indicates either) 3/16” thick plates on the sides and the bottom of the tank from one or two ½” thick plates. The tank was internally braced from an extension of the supporting column. One set of bracing went from the top of the column to the outside base of the tank while the other went from the top of the column to the outside top of the tank. The tank had a capacity of 4000 gallons. A 12” diameter swinging jib was attached to the base of the tank and the tank column.
The exact date and location of the first tank of this type has not yet been established. The example at Lismore was constructed in 1914 and this would have been one of the first built.
The Parachute tank seems to be an example of a situation where there was the desire to place the tank as close to the rail as possible. Space did not allow a full sized tank so the Parachute style was the only option. Some of the locations that the tanks existed do not prove this theory as at both Toronto and especially Warilalda on the Inverell line there was plenty of room for a full sized tank. Toronto could have been an example as it rarely had more than one loco at any one time and the 4000 gallons was more than enough capacity for a loco tank.

The general arrangement of a parachute tank dated August 1911.
Since the first tanks were constructed they had all been built without any roofing or cover. In certain situations this allowed the stored water to be polluted by materials being blown into the tank. In cooler areas there was also an issue with the parts of the water freezing on occasions. The solution was to place a roof on the tank and in 1920 a plan was drawn that covered the three types of square tanks that had been constructed.
The roof was made of numerous timber frames supporting a galvanised iron roof although some examples were built using asbestos type roofs. To allow access to the tank a small trap door was provided at one end of the gabled roof.
The roofs were used in various locations and for various reasons and their use is by no means consistent. Some of the locations that had roofs were Canowindra (the only example still surviving in original form) and Kiama.

The plan drawn in February 1902 for the proposed roofs on water tanks.

The interior of the roof on the tank at Canowindra. 15 March 1993 

External photo of the roof at Canowindra. Note the wire mesh to stop bird access.15 March 1993



  1. Great stuff. Thanks for posting such rich history.
    The tank at Byron was there a year ago - has it now gone?

  2. I have not been to Byron for a few years but according to nearmap which took an aerial on 29/2/2012 it's still there.

  3. I enjoy reading your Blog, the detail you provide really makes a difference. If you know how and why something was done, it really makes doing the same in modelling form so much easier.

    The Canowindra tank roof explanation makes perfect sense, although being there a few years ago I did scratch my head and wonder why it was there, but I'm sure probably the cold in winter might have been the reason.

    I'm currently building a water tank and I've referred to your photos often, thanks for maintaining such a quality blog,

  4. Thank you for this series of essays which should be published in the ARHS Australian Railway History. The information has helpedme in my attempts to discover details for the water tank at Crookwell. From what I can gather from one slightly grainy photo it was a type 1 Buckled Plate which fits in with the 1902 opening date for the branch. The tank was removed in early 70s and on site now is the footings. thats where the mystery starts as they are a combinatoin fo concrete blocks and some 12x12 timber columns. The layout and markings on the concrete blocks does not seem to match up with the columns and I need a more learned opinion. Are you going to MRNSW30 or is there another contact I can use to send more details and photos. Regards, Peter Simpson