Wild Weather And Wrecks – Dunbar Rock

dunbar-rock-south-head-sydney-the-gap-front

This week, with the weather so unpredictable and so many storms about in recent days and weeks, it seemed the ideal time to share this image of Dunbar Rock in South Head. Sydney, and Australia more generally, with its abundance of coastline, also has an abundant and tragic history of shipwreck and loss.

The loss of the Dunbar, which happened off the coast of what is now known as Dunbar Rock at The Gap, remains Australia’s worst peacetime maritime disaster. The Dunbar was, at the time of its launch, the largest timber ship to have been constructed at the Sunderland dockyards, and was constructed as a response to the demand for passage to Australia and the booming gold fields. Yet it was not until 1856 that the ship began to ply the route to Australia, as before then The Dunbar was deployed as a Crimean War troopship.

The wreck of The Dunbar happened within a year of this, occurring on the night of the 20th of August, 1857. The ship, which was on just its second trip to Australia, was approaching the entrance to Port Jackson in the midst of a violent storm. The Dunbar was driven by the storm into the cliffs of South Head, just near Dunbar Rock, and rapidly broke apart. Of 122 passengers and crew aboard, only one survived, Able Seaman James Johnson. The disaster was later blamed on insufficient navigational aids, and in response the Hornby Light at South Head was constructed.

Yet the Hornby Light is not the only reminder of this tragic shipwreck. On Dunbar Rock itself, there is an anchor which is believed to come from the wreck of the Dunbar, and was retrieved in 1910. There is also a rock cut inscription which commemorates the terrible wreck, and which is actually believed to have been first carved by an onlooker watching the tragedy unfolding. This inscription was later recut, probably on an anniversary of the shipwreck.

Brooklyn

brooklyn-hawkesbury-river-front

This week, with so many Sydneysiders hearing about or spending rather a lot of time in the general vicinity of Brooklyn, due to the major crash on the M1, it seemed the perfect time to share this beautiful image. Brooklyn is a beautiful little town on the Hawkesbury River, but though it might be a small town, it has a big history!

Brooklyn is a small town north of Sydney and is often considered to be the most northern town in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area. For much of its history, Brooklyn was actually known as Peats Ferry, but then in 1884 a survey was made for the subdivision of the area and the name and suburb of Brooklyn was officially registered. Yet Brooklyn probably wouldn’t exist as a town if it weren’t for the development of the Northern Railway. Transport has indeed had a long and central role in the history of Brooklyn.

In 1887 a single track section of the railway was extended beyond Hornsby to the Hawkesbury River. From there, passengers would be ferried across the water to continue their journey north. It wasn’t long before it was recognised that a bridge across the water, to create a continuous railway journey, was needed. In fact, before the railway even opened, in 1886 the contract for building the bridge was awarded to the Union Bridge Company from New York. The bridge, which was known as the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge was the final link in the railway, and also an engineering masterpiece of its time.

Even when the bridge was completed the station at Brooklyn, known as the Hawkesbury River Railway Station, was a vital place in the train network. The climb from Brooklyn up the hill to Cowan is quite steep, and before diesel and electric trains, steam trains could not make the climb alone. Instead, the trains would stop at Brooklyn, which was a ‘staging post’, and have what was known as a ‘push up’ engine attached to the end of the train. This engine would then provide the extra push needed for the trains to make it up the steep incline!

Dawes Point – Part 4

Dawes Point From McMahons Point Front

Dawes Point From McMahon’s Point

As we have been learning over the past three weeks, Dawes Point is a fascinating place, with layer upon layer of history to be discovered. From the first observatory and a vital contact place for European Colonists and Aboriginal People, to a fortified defence post, Dawes Point has served Sydney in a variety of ways. Yet, perhaps one of it’s most vital roles came in the 20th century.

In 1902, the Dawes Point battery stopped being used as a defensive point. With Federation, there had been the formation of a regular Australian Army, and Dawes Point was no longer seen as necessary to defence. Following this era, the main role played by Dawes Point for the next years was as a landing place for ferry services crossing the harbour. These services date right back to Billy Blue, who began a ferry service in the early 1800s, and even ferried Governor Macquarie across the harbour! By 1900, Dawes Point was the landing place for the Horse Ferry. There were also public baths in the area of Dawes Point, and of course many buildings which were now unoccupied. In 1909 the Water Police moved into the guardhouse, and we also know that, from 1918, the Officers Quarters were used by the Department of Repatriation as a tractor training school for returned soldiers. Other areas were reserved for public use, including a promenade.

By 1925 though, all the buildings were empty and awaiting demolition to make way for a new crossing of the harbour, the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. Many of the buildings, including Francis Greenways contributions, were demolished and the cannons were removed and placed at Taronga Park Zoo, where they remained until 1945. Other buidlgins, including the Officers Quarters were used as offices and accomodation for the engineers building the bridge, Dorman and Long. In 1925, Dawes Point also became home to one of two u shaped tunnels. These tunnels, one on each side of the harbour, contained massive cables which held back the bridge arches as they were being built. When the bridge was complete, the cables were no longer needed and removed, and the tunnels were filled in. Dawes Point is also the site of the Southern Pylon of the famous bridge, which soars above the heads of those visiting. During construction of the bridge, the area was of course closed to the public, but following the opening of the bridge, the area was opened as a public park, which today remains a popular area, especially for watching the Sydney Harbour fireworks on New Years Eve!

Mullet Creek Railway

Mullet Creek Hawkesbury Front

This week, The Past Present turns its attention to one of the important areas in Sydney’s transport history. Many Sydneysiders head north during their holidays, or even just for a day out and about. On reaching the Hawkesbury River, they cross the bridge, either by car or by train, little thinking of how different this trip must have been before the bridges were built! The photo above shows Mullet Creek, and important are in the train journey, both before and after the Railway Bridge over the Hawkesbury River was installed.

The Hawkesbury River is a beautiful waterway which today is a popular place for people to visit and even holiday. Yet once, this beautiful waterway was also a major barrier to travel. It was also a lucrative opportunity for George Peat, who in 1840 established Peats Ferry, a service which allowed people to cross the river by boat, between Kangaroo Point and Mooney Mooney Point. Peat even built a hotel at Peats Bight to allow people to break their trip!

Then, in 1887, a single line railway track was opened between Hornsby and the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn. People could now travel and move goods by rail, but still, the river was a barrier. Passengers and goods who were travelling north had to be unloaded at the River Wharf Platform at the eastern end of Long Island. From there, they would board the double decker paddle steamer, The General Gordon. At first, they would then have a three hour trip, as the steamer transferred the passengers and goods along the waterways, out to Broken Bay, up the Brisbane Water and to Gosford, where everybody could reboard the train. Then, Woy Woy Tunnel was opened in early 1888, and the journey by steamer shortened – travellers just had to cross the river and travel the lower branches of Mullet Creek, until they reached Mullet Creek Station (about 400 metres from todays Wondabyne Railway Station). The image above shows a section of the railway along Mullet Creek, a section of the journey which even today is viewed as particularly beautiful!

Messing About In Boats On Lane Cove River

Lane Cove River Sydney 1 Front

This week, The Past Present shares a beautiful, vintage image of one of the delights of Sydney, the Harbour City. Many Sydneysiders will agree that one of the wonderful aspects of a city complete with Harbour and river tributaries is the ferries which ply the waters, offering a special kind of public transport. The image above shows one of the old Lane Cove River ferries, part of a service which continues today.

In the history of early European colonisation, the land along the Lane Cove River was widely used for farming and many orchards were established. Soon after, a thriving river trade was established, with boats used to transport goods to and produce from the properties established along the river. Some of the families, including the Jenkins who established the orchard Millwood in 1852 and whose kitchen still stands in Lane Cove National Park, even had their own steamers and wharves! As time went on, public services on the river were established, with 17 ferries operating on the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers between 1885 and 1920.

After 1900, orcharding on the Lane Cove River went into sharp decline for a number of reasons, and river traffic no longer needed to carry produce to the Sydney markets. Yet the river remained an important mode of transport for the local residents, and visitors alike. In 1908 the local residents formed their own ferry company, the Upper Lane Cove Ferry Co, which carried passengers, along with mail, merchandise and even animals! The ferries operated between Killara (in an area known as Fidden’s Wharf) and Figtree. The company operated two boats until 1918, when the service ceased and the ferries were sold to the Swan Family. From this time on, the focus of the service was very much pleasure, with the boats carrying picnickers to the Swan family pleasure grounds, Fairyland.

Trams In Sydney

Spit tramThis week, The Past Present is sharing a postcard image of a road many Sydneysiders are familiar with, Spit Road. Yet there is a feature of this card that many Sydney residents may wish was still in place – this postcard features a tram.
Once, Sydney had a vast network of tramway which, at it’s height, was the largest tram network in all of Australia and one of the most extensive in the world! The first trams in Sydney were horse drawn, and travelled between Sydney Railway station and Circular Quay, but the track stood up from the road and caused accidents, so campaigning led to its closure in 1866.
By 1879, the tramway had been replaced by a steam tram system and this was a great success. The system rapidly expanded, covering more of the city itself, and even extending to some of the inner suburbs. Electrification of the lines began in 1898 and most lines were fully electric by 1910. At their height, the tram lines travelled to places as varied as Watsons Bay, Manly, Balmoral, Chatswood and, as the postcard shows, also to The Spit.
The system began a gradual decline in the 1930s and the last of the original Sydney tram services ceased in 1961, with the last route to close being that to La Perouse.

Sydney Airport At Mascot

MascottThis week, The Past Present is sharing a photo of a place which residents and visitors to Sydney alike are often familiar with – Sydney Airport at Mascot. Yet as this postcard image reveals, this is not Sydney Airport as we know it today!
Sydney Airport is actually very significant, being one of the oldest continually operating airports not just in Australia, but in the world! The first plane to leave the airport at Mascot, piloted by J.J. Hammond, took fight in April 1911 and eight years later, just after the end of World War One, the site was selected by Nigel B. Love as an aircraft manufacturing facility. In 1920 the Mascot Aerodrome was officially named and opened, but soon after that the federal government acquired the site, transforming it into a national airport.
At this early time, the airport was nothing like the large passenger terminal buildings filled with shops, restaurants and amenities which we see today. In fact, it wasn’t until after World War Two that a true passenger terminal building was constructed!

The Scenic Railway

The Scenic Railway Katoomba Blue Mountains2This week, with the holidays rapidly approaching, it seems the perfect time to turn attention to one of the many attractions not far from Sydney. The Scenic Railway is a popular place for tourists to visit, and today is a reasonably comfortable, safe and not particularly terrifying ride. The historic and unique railway has quite a history though, and in its early days, as the postcard above demonstrates, was quite a different ride.
The Scenic Railway may be today a historic ride, but it was a working railway for the mines which were once situated at the bottom of the escarpment. By 1878 the mines, which mined not only coal but also kerosene shale, were in full operation and a system of cable tramways serviced them. The scenic railway we see today was one of these, carrying the mined materials to the summit of the mountain where they were transferred to another railway to be taken further, to local businesses who purchased the coal, and also to markets in Sydney.
Even before Scenic World was created, the railway carried more than just mined materials. Many miners caught a lift up from the mines in one of the coal carts, and later on weary walkers would also make the journey. A 12 seater car was built, named Jessie, and this was used on weekends and public holidays to carry passengers, even while the mines remained in operation.The car only carried 12 people, and rides cost sixpence. During the Second World War, American troops on leave heard of the railway and came to the Blue Mountains to visit and ride the engineering marvel. In fact, it was while Harry Hammon was loading coal for transport to Katoomba that he met up with a group of American soldiers. They had come to see the railway, and were disappointed to discover that it was only run on weekends. When the mine closed, Hammon and his sister Isobel Fahey took over the lease and began to operate the railway as a tourist attraction.

Milsons Point Ferry Arcade

Milsons PointMilsons Point is an area which Sydneysiders and visitors alike are very familiar with. As the place where the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge connects to Sydney Harbours north shore, it is a place which most of us pass through at the very least, on a regular basis. Yet the postcard above shows a very different view of the area to that we are familiar with today.

Even before the famous bridge was built, Milsons Point was an important area for travellers wishing to cross the beautiful harbour. From Milsons Point to the opposite shore was the smallest distance of water, so it was naturally the place where many early ferry services developed. The first ferry services were offered by local residents, the most famous of whom was Billy Blue (whose full name was William). Regular services soon followed, and they increased in frequency dramatically between the 1830s and the 1860s.

Then, in the early 1860s James Milson junior and some of his colleagues formed the North Shore Ferry Company, which was also known as the North Shore Steam Ferry Company and later as simply Sydney Ferries. They ran ferries between Milsons Point and Circular Quay and were licensed to carry up to 60 people at a time. In fact, the steam ferries were able to carry more than simply human passengers – they also ferried horses and carts! When cable trams began to run to and from the Milsons Point Ferry Terminus, the future of Milsons Point as a transport hub was assured. A grand ferry arcade (also known as the North Shore Ferry Company Building) was also constructed at this time, a building which dominated the Milson Point area until 1924 when it was demolished to allow the Sydney Harbour Bridge to be built.

Signal Boxes At Sydney Station

Signalling

The image above is a beautifully captured glimpse into what Sydney Station, now known as Central Station, looked like in days of yesteryear. It is an intriguing glimpse though, showing something which most passengers would likely not have seen, or at the very least, not noticed.
The site where Central Station now stands preserves evidence of the very first phase of railway in NSW. Not only does it encapsulate the changes from steam to electric railways, but also changes in the technology which has been used for signalling. Over time Central has had a variety of signal practises, including the signal boxes pictured above. Signalling had not always been part of railway practice in Australia. In the earliest years it had seemingly been assumed that trains would, if they kept to the time table, and even if they operated on the same line, not crash into one another. The earliest use of signalling came in the late 1870s, when there had been several very close misses between trains. Then, in 1878 two trains collided at Emu Plains, and this crash (which killed three) put an end to trains running on single lines. As more lines were introduced, and the system became more complex, signalling became vital to safely running the railway system.
In 1906, when Central Station expanded to include platforms 9 and 10 four signal boxes had to be added. These were overhead signal boxes which used a mechanical system for signalling, but in 1910 electro-pneumatic technology was introduced and only 2 signal boxes were needed. By the 1920s the signal boxes were vital parts of the complex railway system at Central, which had complicated lines, cross overs, junctions and points. The signal boxes kept the passengers, and the valuable railway system and machines themselves safe.