Friday, 25 October 2013

The night the 'stars' came to Cowra

I was recently reading Chris Banger’s wonderful book on the Southern Aurora. Among the many stories was the first time the Aurora was diverted from it normal route and travelled via Cowra. This was on Saturday 6 March 1965. The previous day a major bushfire broke out between Goulburn and Taralga and over the next 24 hours travelled east to the towns of Marulan, Towrang and Wingello ultimately causing damage to the Main South in the area. Damage to the line caused its closure and the railways decided to divert all services via the Demondrille – Blayney line (today they would do nothing and the freights would just have to wait).
I researched this and found an article in the March 1965 Railway Digest and started having a look at how this was done. Ultimately the following passenger trains traversed the line on the Saturday night:

  • No. 16 Up Riverina Express
  • No. 66 Up Intercapital Express
  • No. 10 Up South Mail
  • No.2 Up Southern Aurora
  • No. 4 Up Spirit of Progress
  • No. 1 Down Southern Aurora
  • No. 2 Down Spirit of Progress

Demondrille at the southern end of the cross – country line was still totally intact, the coal stage having seen use on 20 June 1964 only nine months earlier and with the triangle connection from Demondrille South to the cross-country line the rerouting of trains was simple - there being no need to run into Harden and reverse.
At the time the cross country line had no less than 11 staff and crossing stations between Demondrille and Blayney. They were (from Demondrille):

  • Demondrille (467.347km) – Demondrille West Junction
  • Kingsvale (456.974km)
  • Young (440.063km)
  • Monteagle (420.724km)
  • Koorawatha (393.596km)
  • Wattamondara (381.389km)
  • Cowra (365.540km)
  • Woodstock (346.371km)
  • Swan Ponds (334.120km)
  • Lyndhurst (321.097km)
  • Carcoar (309.842km)
  • Stanfield (301/905km)
  • Blayney (290.369km)

If the below narrative gets complicated please have a look at the train graph at the end.
No. 16 Riverina Express was the first train to be diverted but it had already got as far as Goulburn on time at 15:49. It waited for the Canberra-Monaro Express to arrive from Cooma and Canberra and finally departed Goulburn almost four hours later at 19:34 with 4411 hauling RUB set 145. Harden was reached at 22:02 where it departed five minutes later for the adventure on the cross country line. It was actually the second Up passenger as No. 66 Intercapital Express had proceeded it.
The Up Intercapital Express, 10 cars hauled by 4460 and 4205, had been held at Junee waiting for a pilot driver and arrived at Demondrille at 18:43. After sitting at Demondrille for 58 minutes (for reasons unknown) it departed at 19:41. As far as can be ascertained, no crosses were made on the whole trip to Blayney. The train stopped at Cowra for 45 minutes (21:45 to 22:30), passed Blayney 00:04/00:07 (Sunday), Bathurst 01:09/01:16, Lithgow 02:41/03:02, finally arriving in Sydney at 05:52 some eight and a half hours late.
Despite at least eight extra trains running on the cross country line that night the normal services still had to find paths. No. 22 diesel train was the next train to run north from Demondrille. With the Intercapital Daylight almost two hours in front of it there was no delay at Demondrille and it ran virtually to time through to Cowra. The 27 minute stop at Cowra was shortened to about 15 minutes to facilitate crosses between Cowra and Blayney. The train departed Cowra at 23:30 and running 15 minutes early crossed No. 25a Rail Motor at Lyndhurst (00:55 – 01:00) and the Down Southern Aurora (more of below) at Stanfield) 01:30/01:47) and arrived at Blayney on time at 02:02.
‘The Riv’ reached Demondrille at 10:15 and traversing the junction at Demondrille North signal box headed for Blayney. It had a free run all the way to Cowra (Young 22:50 – 23:15) arriving at 00:46. 22 minutes were consumed refuelling the PHS power car and it departed Cowra at 01:08. By this time there were diverted trains coming the other way. At Woodstock it crossed No. 25a the Cowra- bound railmotor. At Lyndhurst it was put in the loop to cross the Down Aurora (02:03 – 02:19). Once it left Lyndhurst it got a free run through to Blayney where it arrived at 03:06. After a three minute stop to change staffs it continued through to Sydney (Bathurst 04:11-04:16, Lithgow 05:54 -06:12 to replenish the buffet and he train finally arrived in Sydney at 09:12 on the Sunday morning some 13 hours late. Despite this the buffet car facilities were available for the whole trip. Apparently there were some Enfield crews on this train that had travelled from Goulburn.
The next train from the south was No. 416 Fruit Express. This train reached Demodrille basically on- time at 22:45. It followed ‘The Riv’ one section behind and had to wait line clear at some locations (Kinsvale for around 25 minutes and Cowra for the railmotor from Blayney. The freight was looped at Woodstock for the Aurora, and spent 45 minutes at Carcoar waiting for the Down Spirit of Progress. It cleared Blayney at 05:10.
No. 10 South Mail was next and it arrived at Demondrille at 12:40 and departed at 01:08. It was put into the loop at Wattamondara (03:14-03:49) to cross the Aurora, Swan Ponds (04:49-05:05) to cross the Spirit of Progress  and reached Blayney at 06:05 – after five minutes it departed for Sydney with stops at Bathurst (07:10-07:23) Lithgow 09:05 – 09:25 and arrived in Sydney at 12:08 – just over six hours late.
Now it was the turn of the ‘stars to head north on the cross-country line. No. 4 Up Spirit of Progress, hauled by 4447/4415 which had departed Albury at 23:05, changed crews at Junee and reached Demondrille at 03:06. It was stabled to wait for the Up Aurora which by this time was only 20 minutes behind, to run through it – Presumably it was drawn forward and stopped on the Up Main between Demondrille South and North signal boxes. After waiting for the Aurora to clear Kingsvale it departed Demondrille at 04:08. Crossing the Down Aurora at Young (04:45 -05:37) and its Down counterpart at Koorawatha (06:38 – 07:09). The cars were watered at Cowra (07:40-08:15), it passed Blayney at 09:47, Bathurst at 10:44-10:50, Lithgow at 12:17-12:30 and arrived in Sydney at 15:10.the Junee crew had run as far as Cowra, while the Cowra crew had run to Lithgow.
As seen the Up Aurora, hauled by 4449/4443 had run past the Up Spirit at Demondrille (03:28-03:40) and Young was 04:14-04:16. It arrived at Monteagle at 04:33 to find its Down counterpart in the loop – it had arrived only a few minutes earlier. A quick change of the staff saw it on its way quickly. Cowra was reached at 06:00 where it crossed the Down Spirit. After a 30 minute stop it departed, passing Blayney at 08:00, Bathurst (08:55-0915)where the cars were watered, Lithgow (10:35-10:43 and it arrived in Sydney at 13:13. The locos were crewed Albury – Cowra, Cowra – Lithgow and Lithgow – Sydney.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Maclaughlin Meat Works

The Maclaughlin Meatworks which was built in 1938 is located at 484.958km approximately 10.5 rail kilometres south of Nimmitabel. On Tuesday 2 May 1939 a loop siding, with 78 metres (255 feet in the clear) was opened for use (WN18/1939). The siding located on the down side of the line was accessed by points at either end, release by a key on the Nimmitabel – Bombala staff.
Located beside the original Nimmitabel – Bombala road and literally in the middle of no-where, the meat works were constructed of concrete with a corrugated iron roof the structure contained a killing floor, refrigeration floor and offal handling floor and primarily was used to kill, cattle, sheep and pigs. At its peak it employed 90 people.
The first indication of the loop siding is a working sketch dated 20 January 1939 detailing the layout with two lever frames at each end of the loop. The meat works commenced operation around the time the siding was opened. The siding cost 1,510 pounds to install.
The first year (by June 1940) had seen 1,456 cattle, 10,156 sheep 1,563 lambs, 449 pigs and 211 calves killed. Despite the good start a year later (on 12 August 1941) an auditors report quoted a loss of 24,008 pounds since May 1939. A year later it was all over brought about by the first hot summer when the refrigeration failed and all the meat was lost. The works were closed to install a new roof and additional insulation. This on top of the intermittent water supply from the Mclaughlin River and the resulting need to pump water for the town weir and industrial troubles.
It is believed that the works never reopened after the 1942 closure and the end came in 1951 by which time the works owed approximately 120,000 pounds. On Friday 18 May 1951 the Cooma Monaro Express had a article titled ‘White Elephant Being Dismantled’ detailed the commencement of the removal of the equipment and the sale of the buildings.
On 26 April 9141 a platform was provided – the working sketch indicates this was on the Up side of the line opposite the meatworks, there is a small flat area at that location indicating this to be more than likely the case.
A working sketch with a note and dated 15 January 1957 indicates that the siding and points will be maintained by the railways but paid for by the company.
On 17 July 1962 as detail in WN29/1092 the points to the siding were spiked and secured by an XL lock with note that the siding will be out of use until further advised.
WN23/1963 detailed that the lead of the conection to the siding was removed on 30 May 1963 and John Forsyth’s notes indicate that the points and sidings were removed on 19 April 1973.
All of the below pictures were taken on 19 September 2003.

The bridge over the Old Bombala Road just to the
north of the meat works.
The bridge over the Old Bombala Road just to the
north of the meat works.
A view of the meat works from the north or Up
side, the road in the foreground is the Old
Bombala Road.
 closer view from the north side.
A large culvert located between the Old Bombala
Road bridge and the meat works. This creek
is un-named.
Looking in the Down direction along the meat
works loading dock. The loop siding was
between the dock and the surviving main line.
Looking up while standing on the loading dock.
This and the next shots are of the power plant
that supplied the steam etc to the meat works.

Looking in the Up direction from the 'balcony'
above the loading dock.
The top or killing floor of the works. Large stock
went in via the big door while sheep and pigs
went in via the small opening to the right.
Note the lobsided nature of the building.
The Down side of the building.
This and the following shots are of the interior of
the top floor.

The stairs to the lower floors
The 'offices' on a 'half floor above the 'killing floor' level.
The sheep and pig entrance from the inside.
The manager's quarters located approximately
40 metres up the hill from the works.
A surviving water tank located above the works,
near the manager's quarters.
A drainage canal above the meat works.

The north (Up) side of the building.
Detail of the north side of the building.
Detail of the north side of the building.
Detail of the north side of the building.
Detail of the north side of the building.
The refrigeration floor.
The south (Down) side of the building.
The south (Down) side of the building.
The south (Down) side of the building.
The south (Down) side of the building.
The south (Down) side of the building.
A culvert on the south side of the building.
he front of the building.
The front of the building - again note the lobsided
nature of the structure.
The front of the building.
Looking along the line from the Down side.
Looking along the line from the Up side
An overbridge on the Old Bombala Road near the works.
An overbridge on the Old Bombala Road near the works.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Cowra's Water Tanks

Cowra is located on the Lachlan River some 366 rail kilometres from Sydney on what is known as the Blayney to Harden cross country line. The railway reached the present Cowra station in August 1887 with the bridge across the Lachlan River being completed late the same month. This completed the cross-country line in its entirety, the line having reached the south bank of the river from Harden (Demondrille) some 15 months earlier in May 1886.
Within months of the line opening an engine shed, turntable and coal stage were completed. By 1920 the railways had outgrown the site and the decision was made to move the loco depot to a new site on the down side of the line near the junction of the Eugowra branch some 600 metres south of the station.
The two water tanks are located within the confines of newer loco depot. The depot is leased to the Lachlan Valley Railway and is used as a museum and storage of the Museums rolling stock and locomotives.

Cowra Station Water Tank

The tank at Cowra Station is located on the top of a cutting above the tracks between the station yard and the road. The evolution of the watering facilities at Cowra are complex and require explanation. When the line opened in 1887 a pump house was provided on the Lachlan River to pump water to a 20000 gallon tank with an 8 inch swinging jib located at the Blayney end of the platform. As far as can be established this was the only watering facility at Cowra when the line was opened, this included the original loco area immediately opposite the station.
In December 1902 an additional 20000 gallon tank on a brick base was constructed as part of the enlargement of the loco depot. It is not known how many columns were supplied from this tank but it can be assumed that there was one column at the Harden end of the depot.
In 1923 construction commenced on the new loco located approximately 500 metres on the Harden side of the station. The tank with the swinging jib (located at the Blayney end of the platform) was relocated to the new loco area along with an identical tank from another location.
The second tank, which is still in situ, was constructed in December 1902 and was used for the first time on the 13 December of that year. This tank of 20000 gallons was constructed only four years after the last circular tank and was among the first of the ‘new’ square tanks. The tank was supported by steel RSJ’s on a fully enclosed brick base approximately 6 foot high. Four timber vertical supports are located under the tank as additional support.
With the move of the earlier tank to the loco depot in 1923 a 9 inch column was provided in its place.
The location of the tank on top of the embankment above the track required only a low level structure hence the low brick base rather than the usual type of stand. The reasoning behind it being fully enclosed can only be assumed to provide storage space with the removal of the building associated with the old loco.


Cowra Loco Depot Tanks

There are two tanks at Cowra Loco, located on the southern structure (closest to the turntable) was built with the line and was located at the northern end of the platform on the Up side of the line at Cowra, the panels of the tank were supplied by Albion Engineering Works of Pyrmont in 1886. A swinging jib was attached to the tank, the water flow being controlled from a screw valve at ground level. The structure was with the exception of an enclosed area under the tank identical to the water tank at the Down end of Swan Ponds.
The northern tank is an identical structure and was constructed at the same time by the same company although its history is more vague. The tank came from either the original Cowra Loco, Nargong or Carcoar/Coombing Park.
When both tanks were moved they were reassembled in a different manner. The panels of the tank when cast had an internal flange on three sides (bottom and two sides) with the top of the panels having no flange. The bracing was provided by flat bars secured to each side panel and the adjacent panel on the floor of the tank. When moved both tanks were reconstructed with the angle stays at the edges of each panel, this being the standard practice by 1924. The panels still have original attachment points for the bracing.
The stands of both tanks are identical in virtually every way and the construction used seems to be a combination of practices from the 1880’s (when the tanks were originally built) and the 1920’s (when the tanks were moved). The brick base/foundations are of a full brick construction around all four sides of the base with larger section at the piers, this is indicative of the method used in the 1880’s when the large majority of tanks were constructed by private contractor, the contractor invariably being the one that constructed the line. The piers and bracing are indicative of the standard construction used by the railways post 1920 when the standard design for wooden stands was used.
The timing of the movement of the tanks from the original positions to the new location suggests that the structure was either an experiment to assess the viability of the standard design or more probably a hybrid version reusing the available timbers from the old tanks. The actual piers are not the piers used in the when the tanks were built, the original piers being considerably lower at around 13 feet where as the current version is around 23 feet in height.
The two structures are an example of water tanks constructed in the 1880s and when relocated, modified using the updated practices of the time.
The two tanks supplied three 8 inch columns, one on the exit road from the turntable and two 8 inch columns at the entrance to the depot between the two coaling roads.

The two structures at Cowra Loco are also an example of the continued development that occurred over the 40 years between 1880 and 1920 in the Railways. This development being one of design and construction by private contractors through to the standard designs developed between 1915 and 1925.
There are also only three tanks of this type surviving, the other one being at Swan Ponds, but the adjustments made to the bracing when they were moved (as discussed above) make them unique. The stands are the only surviving examples of their type, both as the hybrid version and as a double height wood construction.

The original tank at the northern end of Cowra Station that was relocated to the loco depot.