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2006-12, 352, John R Newland, Railways

Some Books in my Railway Collection

Some Books in my Railway Collection

John R Newland

The subject of a talk given at the Sydney September 2006 Meeting of the Book Collectors’ Society of Australia.

I DON’T REMEMBER when my interest in railways began or what had attracted me to it. I do remember that during the Depression of the 1930s our family moved from New South Wales to Sale in the Gippsland District of Victoria where my father obtained employment as a telecommunications engineer with the Post Master General’s Department. Our house was quite close to the local railway station and the railway yards and my younger brother and I would often wander there to see the overnight passenger train depart for Melbourne every afternoon. The railway station and yards were then located on a spur line within the town but these have since been moved to another site on the main line well out of town.

In late 1941, my father was transferred to the Department’s head office in Melbourne and of course, the family moved there, our house being located in the eastern suburbs at Ashburton, the then terminus of the railway line. Apart from the usual suburban electric train service, there was a weekly goods train hauled by a steam locomotive. We stayed in Melbourne until 1947 when my father was promoted to the position of Divisional Engineer at Dubbo in New South Wales and, of course, the family also took up residence there.[nggallery id=1]

Dubbo, located in the Central West Region of the State, had a population of only 7,500 in 1947 and was a major commercial, wool grazing, wheat growing and railway centre. On Sunday mornings when railway traffic was almost at a standstill, my friend and I would wander into the yards to photograph the locomotives and to talk to the few employees working on shift. There were no thoughts then of being prosecuted for trespassing on railway property, but one still had to be very careful and to watch out for the few engines on shunting duty.

I still do not know what had attracted me to take on such an interest which has lasted me for so many decades. I do remember only too well the rigours of travelling on the overnight Coonamble Mail between Sydney and Dubbo on many occasions with the soot and grime emanating from the 36 Class steam locomotive combined with the freezing temperatures of the Central West Slopes, and the Lithgow-Blue Mountains areas of New South Wales in the 1950s when I was attending the Sydney Technical College. I also travelled extensively in the 1970s on the South West Mail between Sydney and Narrandera to inspect water distribution works then under construction for the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission (later the Department of Water Resources) where the same sort of travelling conditions prevailed—the steam locomotive of the 1950s then being replaced in the 1970s with a diesel-electric unit giving a somewhat better timetable running but still the same freezing conditions. Having endured these discomforts, one should have therefore been sworn off rail travel or anything pertaining to railways—forever! However, railways were still a fascinating subject to study.

Books on railway subjects do, nonetheless, cater for only a small ‘niche’ market in the overall population sample with print runs ranging from only a few hundred to a couple of thousand copies being the norm. Railway books do not always appear on the shelves of the ‘big’ bookshops but mainly in rail enthusiast societies and railway museums which, most often, are the publishers of these works. Some organisations are quite parochial in their outlook. The National Railway Museum shop in York caters exclusively for UK railways; the State Railway Museum of California in Sacramento and the ‘Railfan’ shop in Union Station in Washington DC cater exclusively for US railways. But none of these shops stock books about Australian railways. The Australian Railway Historical Society’s bookshop does, however, stock books predominantly on Australian railways as well as some books about other countries’ railways. This Society and the NSW Rail Heritage are in the course of establishing bookshops on the concourse of Central Railway Station in Sydney and were opened in November 2006. Of course there are countless video tapes and DVDs available to enhance the commercial viability of such shops.

Practically every country in the world except Afghanistan, has constructed railways. The most recent country to build a railway is Tibet, parts of that railway reaching altitudes of over 5,000 metres. The reasons for the establishment of railways are varied, some being:

  • Improved and faster methods of transport over those of roads and canals;
  • Mass transit systems in large cities;
  • Development of isolated areas;
  • Mining and transport of minerals;
  • Construction of works projects;
  • Heavy industrialised locations;
  • Very fast trains;
  • Conveyance of armaments to war zones; and last but not least—
  • To win votes at elections!

Despite the discomforts of travelling by rail many years ago, the interest is there. Railways introduced such wide sweeping social changes and speedy passenger and freight transport from the time of the Industrial Revolution in England during the 18th century right up to the present time of very fast trains. The history of railway development, like all things historical, does hold a special interest for me and this is illustrated by some books in my collection.

The Last Journey of William Huskisson.

This book by Simon Garfield (published in 2002) is a recent acquisition and sets out the development of the first railway in England namely, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) which opened to the public on 15 September 1830. There were other privately-owned railways earlier than the L&MR but these were built to convey coal, iron and clay products only; the most notable of these being the Stockton and Darlington Railway which opened on 27 September 1825 as a 25-mile length of single line track linking the abundant coal fields in the western part of Durham with the market town of Darlington, then easterly towards the navigable waterway at Stockton-on-Tees. The first train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway was hauled by George Stephenson’s Locomotion (or No 1 Travelling Engine as it was then still called). It was the intention that this line carried coal traffic and not passengers. However, except for one Directors’ coach and there being no passenger coaches available, the interested populace did not seem to mind travelling in empty coal wagons to ride on the trains!

The second Liverpool and Manchester Railway Bill was petitioned in February 1826, some three days after the defeat of the first bill, which had been introduced in 1824. The first bill brought much heated objection from local landholders, road and canal companies alike, who claimed that their livelihoods were threatened by the new railway, which had claimed that faster travelling times for passengers and goods could be achieved. The second bill introduced by William Huskisson, the popular MP for Liverpool as well as being some time Secretary of State for the Treasury and some time Secretary of State for the Colonies, sanctioned the construction of the 31-mile length of double-tracked railway. It was passed by the House of Commons on 5 May 1826. When opened by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, on 15 September 1830, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway became the first passenger railway in England. Goods traffic commenced operation in December 1830.

The day of the official opening of 15 September 1830 was a glorious day and a public holiday was declared. There was great excitement and crowds of people came from near and far to witness this memorable event, the opening of the railway by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington and of the first trains leaving Liverpool for Manchester.The Prime Minister’s (or Ducal) train hauled by the locomotive Northumbrian would travel exclusively on the southern track and the other seven trains for passengers (hauled by locomotives Rocket, Arrow, Novelty, Sans Pareil, Planet, Wildfire and Perseverance) would all occupy the northern track but travelling at distances behind the Prime Minister’s train.

William Huskisson rode in the Ducal train with the Prime Minister and all went well until the train stopped in a cutting at Eccles, six miles from Manchester, to take on water. Several of the official party got off the train to exercise their legs when it was realised that there was another train rapidly approaching on the other line. Many were able to scramble aboard the official train but Huskisson, who was not the best at physical agility, struggled to get on board. He caught hold of a door handle whereupon the door swung outwards—right into the path of the oncoming George Stephenson’s Rocket. Huskisson was fatally injured. (He may also be accorded the dubious honour of being the first ever railway casualty).

As news of the dreadful accident spread along the line, the euphoric mood as demonstrated earlier in the day quickly changed to that of dismay. Memorials were shortly afterwards erected to perpetuate Huskisson, the popular MP for Liverpool and for his work to progress the railway but sadly, these memorials are now in states of disrepair. The town of Huskisson on the shores of Jervis Bay in New South Wales was named after him as Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Story of the Life of George Stephenson, Railway Engineer

This little book was discovered in a local Balmain bookshop for quite a small price.The author, Samuel Smiles, not only sets out George Stephenson’s biography, but also the history of the early railways in England and other places. Published by John Murray, Albermarle Street, London as the tenth thousand edition in 1860, the book, originally priced at six shillings, contains a portrait and many other ‘illustrative woodcuts’. George Stephenson was better known for his highly successful locomotive Rocket which incorporated many mechanical innovations adopted by later nineteenth and twentieth century steam locomotives.


The book also covers the achievements of Robert Stephenson, George’s only son. Robert, born 16 October 1803, unlike his father who never went to school, did receive an education and later was sent to Edinburgh University to receive ‘a proper training in technical science’. Robert was both a civil and mechanical engineer and built some of the early English railways, notably the London and Birmingham Railway. Robert also established his own locomotive manufacturing works at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which also employed his father. These works also produced the early locomotives for the New South Wales Railways.


Robert was also great friends of Isambard K Brunel, a renowned engineer and builder of the Great Western Railway. The GWR (nicknamed as God’s Wonderful Railway) was built to the enormous gauge of 7 feet 0¼inch, or broad gauge, whilst Robert Stephenson’s railways were built to the standard gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches. Thus England had two different railway gauges at the same time. Although it was conceded that the broad gauge possessed advantages in railway operation, Parliament decreed that all railways constructed in Great Britain be of the standard gauge solely on the fact that there were a greater number of railways built to standard gauge than there were broad gauge.

The Sunset Land or the Great Pacific Slope

This little book was discovered at the local Rozelle flea market for quite a cheap price. The author, the Rev John Todd DD, describes in his book (published in 1870), the tours of the Pacific Coast of USA after the gold rushes of 1849, the scenery, the Indians and the Mormons. Instead of being a ‘ho hum’ sort of book prevalent by ministers of religion, the book towards its end, gives a detailed history of the petitions for a continental railroad linking the Eastern States with the West. He sets out the political atmosphere of the US Congress at the time; war was increasingly becoming a reality. The Northern States were in favour of the construction of a continental railroad but the Confederate States were bitterly opposed to the proposal as they argued that the North could thus form an alliance with the West and attain numerical strength, which would not be in the interests of the later Confederate States.

Although a possible route was suggested over the Rocky Mountains and Emigrant Pass (the site of a wagon train of settlers who tragically perished there) over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, no location survey had ever been done. Congress in 1853 appropriated $240,000 for some nine parties from the Corps of Topographical Engineers to survey ten different routes beginning at Fulton, Arkansas, up to Minnesota on the east, and from San Diego, California, to Puget Sound, Washington Territory, on the west. The surveys were reported with illustrations and maps in thirteen bound quarto volumes, a copy being housed in the US Library of Congress.


Congress deferred acting on the survey reports but one of the middle routes was eventually adopted; the surveyed line from Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California. The author describes in good detail the topographical features and the difficult construction conditions that would be encountered on that line. During the height of the Civil War, Congress in 1862 considered the political climate to be advantageous and enacted the Pacific Railroad Bill. Although the railway from Chicago to Omaha had not then been constructed, the continental route commenced with a very slow start in January 1863 with any real work being delayed till after the war.

It is amazing that of the ten original surveys, some eight routes or parts thereof were eventually built.

A Work of Giants:

Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

The author,Wesley S Griswold, presents a well researched definitive account of this remarkable construction undertaking. The book (published in 1962) is profusely illustrated and tells the story of the Union Pacific Railroad and the rival Central Pacific Railroad companies as they bridged two-thirds of the USA continent. The term Work of Giants is attributed to General Sherman who stated that he did not expect the work to be completed in his lifetime.

The construction work was divided into two sections:

  • The contract for the western section was awarded to the Central Pacific Railroad Co whose principals, Leland Stanford (later Governor of California), Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, Theodore D Judah and Collis P Huntington, all of whom had no railroad construction experience whatsoever. The Western USA was relatively free from the ravages of the Civil War so some work commenced on the first 18 miles in January 1863. The project was left to Judah and Huntington to rally financial support, expertise and labour to continue the works, and abridging the story, to tackle the construction over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to completion. In all, 12,000 men were employed, some 10,000 being imported Chinese.
  • The contract for the eastern section was awarded to the Union Pacific Railroad Co. Like the Central Pacific, the Union Pacific was also beset with financial problems. Work by the Union Pacific was stalled for some 2½ years by personal conflicts, political difficulties and shortages of labour and materials following the Civil War. President Grant co-opted the services of General Dodge, an experienced engineer, to take charge of the project. Work then proceeded with some impetus.


The book details the overcoming of the immensely difficult constructional problems, the financial dealings (some very shady), the land scandals, the social misbehaviour and lawlessness—Washington DC was just too far away to impose any curbing influence. The eastern and western sections were approaching each other, north of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Quite surprisingly, no one wanted to join their rails and each section continued rail laying some five miles past the other. President Grant then directed that the rails be joined at Point Promontory, north of the Great Salt Lake, with the driving of the ‘golden spike’ on 10 May 1869, some seven years after the enactment of the Pacific Railroad Bill.

The White Pass: Gateway to the Klondike

The author, Roy Minter, who was once the vice president of the White Pass and Yukon Corporation, describes in his book (published in 1987), the construction of the 3 feet 0 inch gauge railway located in difficult terrain between Skagway in Alaska to Whitehorse in Canada. Alluvial gold was discovered in the Yukon River near Dawson City in the Yukon Province of north western Canada in 1896. When news of this strike later reached the outside world, one of the most hectic gold rushes was triggered in 1898. Hordes of seekers came from everywhere— mostly from the United States and Canada and some from Britain and Europe—to obtain their fortunes and ‘to get rich quick’.

Two routes were available to reach the Klondike:

  • By rail travel across the United States to catch a vessel from the Ports of Seattle or Bellingham in Washington State, Portland in Oregon State, San Francisco or San Diego in California (or from Vancouver or Victoria in Canada), and disembark at either of the frontier towns of Skagway or Dyea in Alaska; thence ascend either of the White or Chilkoot Passes to Lake Bennett which was the headwaters of the Yukon River; construct their boats from the local forest timber (which never regrew); and drift down the Yukon River with its dangerous rapids till Dawson City was reached. The Canadian Government enforced a law that non-Canadian people entering Canada were to be self-sufficient for the ensuing year and to bring their own supplies and equipment with them which amounted to one ton, thus requiring some 40 to 50 ascents of the White or Chilkoot Passes before being permitted to travel into Canada.


  • By steamer from Seattle or Bellingham to the mouth of the YukonRiver thence by river boat up the Yukon River travelling upstream to Dawson City. The biggest disadvantage was that summers in that part of the Northern Hemisphere were so short that the Yukon River would freeze over thus trapping river boats in the ice for eight or nine months till the next spring thaw.




As an aside, James A Michener’s novel Journey describes the trek by a party of British gold seekers who sailed from the Port of Liverpool, England, by vessel to Montreal in Canada, travelling by rail to Edmonton in Alberta Province (then the end of the line); walking to Lake Athabaska, thence drifting by boat in a northerly direction down the Mackenzie River to a suitable western river tributary, portaging their boats over the Rocky Mountains to the Yukon River, and finally drifting downstream to Dawson City. That part of Canada at the time was largely unexplored and it would have required considerable guess work or language skills with the local Indians, to ascertain the location of a particular Mackenzie River tributary in the Rocky Mountains which would have brought any would-be prospector to the correct tributary of the Yukon River. There is no record that anyone ever took such a route. Still, like other of Michener’s books, it is quite a good yarn.

A considerable number of the ‘would be’ miners never reached Dawson City, giving up in disgust, frustration and with no money: those who did reach Dawson City were only to find that the gold strike had already petered out. Some of the more entrepreneurial people decided not to proceed any further than Skagway and resided there instead, the majority reaping huge fortunes from the tens of thousands of immigrants passing through.

A syndicate was formed to construct a railway from Skagway to Dawson City. Anticipating good returns on future shipments of gold, a number of London financiers and investors eagerly provided the capital. A chance meeting occurred in a Skagway saloon bar where a Michael Heney, an engineer from the Canadian Pacific Railway, overheard the conversations of the syndicate principals also present in the saloon, whereupon he introduced himself, and in due course, he was appointed superintendent of construction. Construction commenced at Skagway in June 1898 and encountering difficult excavation and low temperatures in steeply mountainous country, reached Whitehorse in 1900, a distance of 175km. As the Klondike gold was diminishing, the proposed railway construction to Dawson City was abandoned.

It is interesting to note the provision of British capital in a venture located in two different countries. There had been no final fixed definition of the United States and Canadian borders since the War of Independence and its location had been subjected to many changes of position. The Canadian Pacific Railway had been constructed in an otherwise not recommended location to prevent incursion by the United States into Canada and the Northern Pacific Railroad likewise to prevent Canadian incursion into the United States. The border between the two countries was not fixed and pegged until 1904. Railways, it would seem, also serve as a political expediency to suit the particular situation.

The White Pass and Yukon Railway prospered for several decades. During the Second World War, the railway came under US Army control, reverting to civilian management after the war. Following construction and upgrading of the Trans Canada Highway (also known as the Alaskan Highway or the Alcan Highway), the railway declined in passenger and freight patronage and closed in 1982. However, in May 1988, the section of line between Skagway and Fraser in British Columbia was reopened as a tourist railway for summer visitors and has been most successful.One could say that the gold was being put back into them thar hills!

Sydney Railway 1848—1857:the building of the first railway from Sydney to Parramatta

Don Hagarty, the author, was the last person to occupy the position as Chief Civil Engineer of the State Rail Authority of NSW. His well researched work was published in 2005 by the Australian Railway Historical Society for the 150th anniversary of the commencement of railways in New South Wales when the ‘First Official Train’ carrying the Vice-regal party, dignitaries of the Colony and other passengers steamed out of Sydney Station on 26 September 1855, arriving at Parramatta 40 minutes later. The 15-mile journey made by the Official Train was the culmination of a campaign initiated by a group of Sydney businessmen meeting in 1846 to establish railways in the Colony which ultimately, became the fore-runner of the expanded system so familiar today.

The book is the story of the formation of the Sydney Railway Company, the survey of possible routes that the proposed railway from Sydney to Parramatta should take, its construction, the extensions from Parramatta to the South and to the West, the interaction between the Colonial Government and the Company’s management representing the shareholders, the personalities and the early engineers-in-charge of railway construction. The decisions made by the Company’s managers and agreed to by the Government are also detailed in the book, the ramifications of which would affect railways in Australia forever.

In 1855, the assets of the Sydney Railway Company were finally transferred to the Colonial Government appointed Commissioners who extended the railway south to Liverpool and Campbelltown and west beyond the present day Parramatta.

Some of the popularly held beliefs about the Sydney Railway Company have been revealed in the book to be not all that correct! The book is illustrated with drawings, copies of plans, lithographs and woodcuts. Unfortunately, the photographs included were taken after this particular period when photographic processes became more developed. No illustrations were ever done or published in the Sydney newspapers or illustrated news of the railway’s progress of construction.

One Fourteenth of an Elephant.A Memoir of life and death on the Burma—Thailand Railway

The author, Ian Denys Peek, was a soldier of a British Volunteer Regiment sent for the defence of Singapore. He gives a most graphic account of his (and of his brother’s) three years’ duration on the ‘building of this accursed railway’ in 1942–45. The book (published in 2003) goes into great detail of the harsh treatment and the brutality given by the Japanese, the poor rations and of their deficiencies for subsistence, primitive sanitation conditions, the tropical diseases suffered by the Allied prisoners of war, together with lack of adequate medical treatment, the atrocious working conditions in the jungles, the incessant heavy rainfalls during the monsoon seasons and of the great sense of loneliness from being cut off from the rest of the world for three years with no mail deliveries or communications from the Red Cross. Those who contracted cholera would die of it.



The author does make some surprising revelations: not only were the attitudes of the Japanese quite dismissive of the plights of their captives, but a majority of the senior British officers also demonstrated a similar indifference to their own troops. Those officers instead of pleading for better living conditions, food and medical treatment from the Japanese, would keep well away, retire to their tents and read books all day. Other surprises were that the POWs were paid 25 satangs (or three pence) per day for which they could purchase bananas and eggs from the local Siamese (as they were then known) merchants on their one day per fortnight rest day, which the Emperor ‘has kindly bestowed and for which thanks must be given for his benevolence’. The author does mention that a few of the Japanese were more humane and they were referred to as Japs; the other more brutal types were termed Nips. He was determined to survive this ordeal however long it took: to obtain justice for the Japanese brutality incurred, for the indifferent attitudes displayed by those senior British officers towards their own troops and for the British government for having sent them to Singapore in the beginning, only to become captured by the Japanese army soon after their arrival. He does speak quite well, however, of the humane and friendly attitudes of the Australian officers towards their own men and of the others ‘employed’ on the railway.








The railway was completed in the amazingly short period of 15 months and trains commenced operation. I had always wondered how the best route of the railway could be located within that time but the author explains this: at the request of the Burmese Government, the route of the railway was surveyed by a detachment of British Royal Engineers in 1912. As the Siamese Government were not interested in the railway, the project lapsed until the Japanese resurrected those surveys and undertook the detailed designs and construction in 1942. The Japanese army did not possess many officers with extensive railway engineering experience to properly manage the project. Survey parties quite often would survey and peg out lines which would not line up with that of another party or end with serious differences in levels. Time was wasted in correcting these miscloses. The author cites other examples of supervision deficiencies. At times, the work had become so disorganised that the POWs themselves would take over as a last resort in an effort to obtain some relief from the Japanese administrative incompetence, or more likely, to get away from such an unpleasant location.

Elephants were used to transport heavy materials. An elephant would sometimes refuse to carry a log, so fourteen men would be needed to carry it; hence the book’s title—each man was worth one-fourteenth of an elephant!

The author describes the amputation of his brother’s lower leg due to infection from tropical ulcers. He was lucky—not too many amputees survived. The author himself contracted beri beri caused by a deficiency of vitamin B; his legs becoming so swollen that he thought he would die. The Japanese would sometimes provide rice husks or ‘polishings’ which were quite unpalatable. By eating these, he became cured of his beri beri.

After completion of the railway, the POWs were re-housed in other camps where life was a little easier. As the Japanese were now losing the war, there were increasing air raids on the railway and there was concern of being bombed by the Allies. Also, there was a great fear that the Japanese would slaughter the POWs before any pending invasion of Thailand by the Allies. None of these occurred and the POWs were liberated, medically treated and repatriated. The author did not seek retribution after the war but his feelings of bitterness did not leave him for long time afterwards.

The book is not illustrated. Sketches of the living conditions drawn by the POWs do exist in other publications but photographs of the Japanese railway are extremely rare. Despite such omissions, a map showing the various sites of the railway at which the author worked should have, in my opinion, been included—it is somewhat difficult to locate these sites without the aid of a good atlas.

The railway still operates in Thailand but the Myanmar (Burmese) section was abandoned soon after the war and which the jungle has since reclaimed.

Record of Recent Construction: Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia

This undated book [c1899] was published by the Baldwin Locomotive Company both as a catalogue and as a record of their achievements. It is a collection of ten separately issued parts bound into the one volume. It is well illustrated with photographs and descriptions of their Philadelphia Works and specifications of the many types of locomotive designs built for the United States and overseas markets in gauges ranging from 1 foot 11½ inches to 5 feet 0 inches.

Two of the locomotives depicted in the book were built for the Government of Victoria for use on their narrow (2 feet 6 inches) gauge, which are illustrated. These items are indexed under ‘G’ being for ‘Government of Victoria’. (These locomotives became known as the Puffing Billy.)





A Century of Locomotives 1855—1955


A Century Plus of Locomotives 1855—1965

Both these book were published by the Australian Railway Historical Society on New South Wales Department of Railways locomotives. The first book on steam locomotives was issued to celebrate the centenary of railways in NSW; the second book was re-issued to include diesel-electric and electric locomotives that appeared in service during the period 1955 to 1965.

Each book had short printing runs and has since become quite scarce. Copies in pristine condition are eagerly sought after and therefore command quite high prices. In 1955, I spotted a distributor quietly handing out a book to a customer and I rushed over to obtain a copy.

“Gee”, he said, “I was only given 40 copies and these were not to be sold until tomorrow and I have sold 30 of them already!”

So I proffered my 18 shillings and 6 pence and purchased my copy of the first book. The second book was not readily available and I had to wait another 10 years when I located one in an ‘Op Shop’ in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond at the remarkable price of $20.

The Shale Railways of New South Wales Gifford H Eardley and Eric M Stephens (Third printing 1981)

I have provided this example of a mining and industrial type of railway. They assembled and documented those in connection with shale oil mining and manufacturing of petroleum products during the period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, all of them being located in the Sydney geological sedimentary basin. Oil shale was mined and retorted to obtain the kerosene and light oil fractions for lighting and machinery lubrication respectively, the products transported by rail tanker to the NSW Railways loading points. The petrol fractions at the time were discarded by tipping into the nearest watercourses and the heavy oil fractions used as fuel for the retorts.

The book is well illustrated with maps (though not drawn to scale) and with several photographs, which thankfully exist in private collections as well as in the archives of some rail enthusiast organisations and of the Government Printer (now in the Office of State Records). Locomotives and rolling stock used are also described. The first edition (1974) sold quite quickly and is now an elusive item to obtain and commands quite a high price. A fourth and reformatted edition (printed in 2000) including additional notes and contemporary photographs is likewise an elusive item to obtain.

Vestiges of some of the mining operational sites have since disappeared. Some are quite discernable: Joadja, west of Mittagong; the railway formation from Newnes Junction to Newnes in the Wolgan River Valley in the western Blue Mountains, now a walking track (of sorts!); and the Scenic Railway tourist venue at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains together with the level graded bush walks at the bottom thereof. Oil-bearing shale still exists at many locations but pressure brought to bear by the oil companies forced the remaining oil shale mining operations to close.

The Goondah—Burrinjuck Railway

In this book I set out the history and operation of a 26 mile length of narrow (2 feet 0 inch) gauge construction railway built between Goondah, a small station situated between Yass and Harden, New South Wales, to the site of Burrinjuck Dam that was being built on the Murrumbidgee River between 1906 and 1928 for the conveyance of workers and their families, tourists, cement for concrete manufacture, construction materials for use in the dam’s structure and buildings, and firewood for the power station boilers. The site of Burrinjuck Dam (or Barren Jack Dam, as it was first known) was rather isolated from the rest of the world, despite being less than 200 miles from Sydney, and the narrow gauge railway offered the only practical solution to the otherwise difficult transport problems in conveying materials that were required to be supplied in such enormous quantities.

The book is profusely illustrated with maps and diagrams drafted by the author and photographs from the Department of Water Resources Heritage Project Collection. Both the first edition (1994) and second edition (1999) were quite popular with railway enthusiasts, the Yass and District Tourist Office and the Burrinjuck Waters State Park and both issues have completely sold out.

Work is presently underway on a completely revised third edition.

The Bankstown Line: Sydenham to Belmore 1895

The author, Lesley Muir (1995), has researched this rather small work to mark the centenary of this Sydney suburban railway, which was one of the first such undertakings. She sets out in some detail the political manoeuvring by some of the vested interests and the Colonial Government that culminated in the adoption of the final route of the railway. These interests had acquired large land tracts and other estates for the purposes of subdivision and sale and the construction of a railway would better serve these interests.



Both the Government and the NSW Government Railways were not favour-ably disposed to the building of suburban railways as much of the Sydney residential and commercial development was concentrated broadly within the area between the Quay and Newtown. As the area was adequately served by trams and horse buses, there was no need for commuter railways. After the Government commenced the building of a southerly line from Redfern to the Illawarra which opened at Hurstville in 1884, pressure was exerted by these interests and resulted in the construction of the Sydenham to Belmore Line. That was quite a departure from Government policy as the country was sparsely populated and largely undeveloped.

The Outer Circle.

A History of the Oakleigh to Fairfield Railway

The authors, David V Beardsell and Bruce H Herbert have, in their book published by the Australian Railway Historical Society (1979), set out the development of this Melbourne suburban railway, built in the late 19thcentury. Melbourne not only had a population greater than that of Sydney but was more spread out around Port Phillip Bay and to the east of the city. Despite the conservativeness and cautious warnings of a few, a programme of suburban railway construction was commenced to serve as many of these remote areas as possible. Completed in 1891, the railway carried only few passengers and the advent of the Depression led to its closure in 1897.




In 1898, the Camberwell to Riversdale section was re-opened followed by the Deepdene to Ashburton section in 1900. A small train affectionately known as the Deepdene Dasher plied the rails for the next 25 years. All other sections of the Outer Circle Line including some expensive structures were abandoned. Later the section between Deepdene and Riversdale was closed but the section from Camberwell to Ashburton, extended to Alamein in 1948, still function as part of the Melbourne MET electrified system. Only some short sections of the abandoned line survive as walking trails, the remainder have disappeared.

Was this railway built too far ahead of its time?

Railroad Construction, Theory and Practice

Compiled by Walter Loring Webb CE, Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, this is a text book (Ninth Edition, 1932) for the use of students in colleges and technical schools and a hand book for the use of engineers in field and office. The detailed text, profusely illustrated with diagrams, geometrical and trigonometric tabulations and other mathematical functions, sets out all situations required for the design and construction of railways and appurtenant timber structures and earthworks. The Americans produced handbooks for a number of engineering practices and, being the size of a small bible with soft covers, such an item was sometimes referred to as a ‘bible’.




Over time, practices are modernised such as the greater use of steel, prestressed and post-tensioned concrete together with the diminution of timber in structures that, unlike the ‘holy bible’, such reference books do become outdated. Nonetheless, this is an interesting item of industrial heritage. The Japanese found a great usefulness in following those ‘tenets’ as published for their Burma-Siam Railway.

The Huntington Library

This library situated at San Mineo, near Pasadena in California, USA, houses a large range of books on railway subjects in addition to many other rare book items including a Gutenberg bible, printed on vellum, and works of art. The library complex is set in spacious surroundings comprising many garden settings with botanic specimens from other countries including Australia.

Henry Huntington, the nephew of Collis P Huntington and one of the founders of the Central (later the Southern) Pacific Railroad, was the manager of the successful railway and tramway system that served Los Angeles and environs. Following the death of Collis Huntington, Henry married his widowed aunt who was a passionate art and book collector. Henry became so interested in his wife’s collecting that he retired from the railway administration to further the collection. They founded the library and continued its development. The greatest enhancement to acquisition occurred after the First World War when most European countries were impoverished as a result and many purchases of rare items were made by American collectors.

I had the good fortune in 1997 to tour the inner workings of the Huntington Library through the introduction of my friend, the late Mel Kavin of Kater-Crafts Bookbinders of Pico Rivera. The Huntington is first and foremost a research library in that actual items maybe retrieved and studied by readers as well as a repository for rare items. The system for the storage of books is most interesting. Being located in an earthquake prone area, the storage cabinets are of steel, and are braced together to the adjoining cabinets and also across the tops of aisles to other cabinets and fitted with doors which are kept closed at all times. Books are therefore not thrown about and out onto the floor thus requiring several months to tidy and return them in their catalogued order.

The Library also houses a large collection of railway books, copies of some of which are in my own collection. Henry Huntington was instrumental in creating this collection.

Australian Railway Historical Society

Reference has been made to this Society in this paper. In May 1933, a small number of interested people formed the Railway Circle of Australasia, changing its name to the Australian Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. In 1951, there was a further name change to the Australian Railway Historical Society. The Society has a division in each state and regular meetings among members are held.

The Society also houses collections of Department of Railways’ publications, historic photographs and slides and publishes a number of books and monthly publications of current railway interest and of historical interest.



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