Redfern Railway Station, Sydney 1894

Excerpt from an article titled: Railways and Tramways by R. L. Nash. – published in “New South Wales: the mother colony of the Australias”. (1896.)

Historical Retrospect (written in 1896)

The early history of railway construction in New South Wales was one of slow progress. The 14 miles from Sydney to Parramatta involved no great engineering difficulties, and it was at first proposed that they should be constructed upon the 5 feet 3 inches gauge. But the Sydney Railway Company, to which the work was entrusted, in 1853 obtained power to alter the proposed gauge to its present dimensions, and being in financial difficulties, the Government took the work in hand, and it was opened on the 26th September, 1855, together with the mile and a half connecting Redfern with Darling Harbour. These are the two costliest lines in the colony, averaging nearly £150,000 per mile, with the widening since effected. Thus the first lines became State property,and it has been a clear advantage that the whole system, with the exceptions of the short sections named, has remained in the hands of the Government.

The earliest extensions, from Granville, near Parramatta, to Liverpool and Campbelltown (opened in 1856 and 1858) and from Newcastle to Maitland (1857-8) were also works upon which the gradients were comparatively light. But then, the problem of surmounting the mountain ranges which approach the whole coast-line of the colony, had to be faced, and it presented serious difficulties. These ranges to the west of Sydney rise to the height of from 3000 to 4000 feet and in the north and extreme south to yet higher altitudes, and, although they tend materially to keep the climate of the coastal region temperate in the summer months, to the railway engineer they presented grave obstacles. They rise abruptly, and although they were mostly surmounted during the ‘sixties, many of the gradients were as steep as 1 in 30 to 33,and the haulage power of the engines was thus greatly reduced and the wear and tear much increased. 

On the Western and Southern lines the difficulties of the mountain slopes on both sides were fully overcome by 1875, and then the progress of extension became rapid. The line to Albury connecting with the Victorian system was completed in 1881,and the Murray Bridge was opened two years later. The branch of the Southern line to Hay was opened in 1882, as well as that of the Northern line to Narrabri. The prolongation of the Western line right through to Bourke on the River Darling was completed in 1885, and the extension of the Northern line to Wallangarra on the Queensland border at the commencement of 1888. In the next year the costly, but essential, connection between Sydney and Newcastle was finished, and Sydney was placed in direct communication by railway with the two neighbouring colonies. In 1889 the branch of the Southern line as far as Cooma was opened, and in 1893 the South Coast line was finished as far as Nowra, and the branch of the Western line to Forbes was also brought into operation. These are the principal developments of the system; but there are other branches in operation, and in time the isolated Lismore line will have to be connected with the Northern system, though it presents many difficulties and will be a costly work.

Provenance: “New South Wales: the mother colony of the Australias“. Frank Hutchinson, Edited by F. Hutchinson.
Author: Frank Hutchinson
Date of Publication: 1896
Publisher: C. Potter
Place of Publishing: Sydney
Copyright status: Out of copyright
Courtesy: The British Library

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