Saturday, 14 July 2012

Sometimes NSWGR took their time

Been a while since an entry and I need to do something different from Water Tanks.......
Recently I was reading through the latest Eveleigh Press book - Steam Across the Border - there are two pictures of the northern (Up end) of The Rock on pages 57 and 65.
Both pictures were (as the caption says) taken in the early 1960s and they both had the signals for clearance from the Main and Loop onto the Westby line. Now this got me thinking as the Westby line closed in the mid-1950s and that the signals for the Westby line could not possibly exist five or six years after the line was closed.
My initial thoughts were that the date on the photo was incorrect - so off to the research files I went.

The Westby Line was one of NSW's shortest living lines - lasting only 32 years. The line opened on the August 1925 with stations at:
  • Birdlip (558.935km/250.8m)
  • Mangoplah (566.126km/263.0m)
  • Burrandana (579.722km/297.4m)
  • Pulletop (585.116km/315.1m)
  • Westby (591.946km/338.0m)
The line was built during the pre-cast concrete era and all stations except Pulletop had pre-cast station buildings - surprisingly three of them (Mangoplah, Burrandana and Westby) still survive. Following bushfires in the Pulletop area in the summer of 1952 the line was cut back to Mangoplah on 24 January 1952, the last train beyond Mangoplah being the weekly mixed on 16 January. Complete closure of the line came on 10 July 1956. Unusually this was the date of the act of parliament closing the line so presumably trains ceased following the 1955/56 wheat season. The exact date of the last train from The Rock is not known.
Anyway - back to the junction...

The Westby line joined the Main South at the north end of The Rock with an Up facing connection on the Down side of the line. The junction was operated from Frame E which was released by an Annett Key from Lever 12 in Frame A in the signal box.
Frame E's levers were:
  1. Spare/Space?
  2. Up Home from Branch
  3. FPL 4 Points (Branch end derail)
  4. Points (Main/Branch)
  5. FPL 4 Points (Main  Line end)
  6. Release (Key from Lever 12 in Frame A)
  7. Spare/Space?
  8. Up Starting from Main or Loop to Branch
No. 2 signal (Up Home from Branch) was also controlled by Lever 33 from Frame A)
No. 8 signal (Up Starting Main to Branch or Loop to Branch) was controlled by Lever 9 (from the Main) or Lever 36 (from the Loop).

As indicated above the line was officially closed by an act of parliament on 10 July 1956. My research has found that the signalling at the branch junction was not removed until 17 July 1962 (Weekly Notice 28/1962) some six and a half years after the line had been officially closed.

The work undertaken on 17 July 1962 saw the disconnection of Levers 9, 33 and 36 in the signal box, the junction points spiked pending subsequent removal, the removal of Frame E and associated equiipment and the renaming of three signals in the signal box:
  • No. 30 Down Home Main to Loop (formerly Down Second Home. Main to Loop)
  • No. 32 Down Outer Home, Main (formerly Down Second Home, Main)
  • No. 34 Down Outer Home (formerly Down Home).
Interestingly the following day the post of the Up Starting Signal (Lever 3 in the signal box) was renewed without the bracket for the signal to the branch which was no longer needed.

Further research found two pictures of the junction taken on Boxing Day 1961 (Remember When, page 65 ) show the line at the Branch Home signal very overgrown.

All this research has answered some questions (including confirming that the date of the pictures in 'Steam across the Border' are correct) but has led to some more:
  1. Why did it take over six years following the closure of the line to remove the signalling equipment?
  2. When was the actual last train on the branch?
  3. Between 1956 and 1962 was the branch ever used to stable trains if The Rock yard was full.
  4. When was the staff for the branch  removed?
  5. The line when opened was provided with electric staff (20 staffs in total) - was this changed to ordinary staff (as there was only ever one train a week timetabled) and if so when did this happen.

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