Monday, April 15, 2013

Train not stopping at Helensburgh

These photos look like the could be from a deserted English railway line, but they are not. They are of the old Helensburg railway station. I thought Helensburg was somewhere like Bowral, on the NSW highlands, but no. It is just a mere 45 kilometres south from the heart of Sydney. Helensburgh has a newer station, which does not seem to be actually in Helensburgh but Lilyvale. Oh, next station is Waterfall, the scene of a terrible train accident. Trains so rarely go wrong, but when they do, ouch.

Let me see what else I can find out about the old railway station at Helensburgh. The line opened to Helensburg in 1888 with the intention of continuing on to Illawarra.  It was only used for less than three decades and closed in 1915. Slowly the platform became overgrown and started to disappear, but at some point volunteers cleaned it up.

I think this the Helensburgh Tunnel (no. 3). It is a short one, 80 metres long and one of a number in the area. Some of the other tunnels were nearly a kilometre long and had very steep 1 in 40 grades and it was not unknown for a steam train to stall in a tunnel, whereby it would return to the previous station and offload some carriages and have another crack at getting through. Now imagine if you were a passenger, or train crew, crawling along or stalled in a narrow tunnel with the steam engine belching out smoke, soot and steam. A less than successful ventilation shaft was added to the Metropolitan Tunnel (no. 4) in 1891. Later a monster steam driven blower was installed at one end of the tunnel which effectively cleared the smoke and soot.

The most famous disused train tunnel in the area is the Otford tunnel (no. 7), one and a half kilometres long.

The line became too busy for single track operation so new tracks were laid on a different route between Waterfall and Coalcliff. South the line continues on to Illawarra and if you catch it north to the end, you will be at Bondi Junction.

These photos came from Tumblr and I don't know whose they are as they were reposted there, so I can't credit them.

This appears to be the old railway station platform. I doubt the sign is original. A short length of track leads into the tunnel.


This must be the other end of the tunnel, somewhat less overgrown but it could be one of a number of tunnels in the area. Any corrections welcome.


12 comments:

  1. How wonderful of them to build a station named after me :) And how perfect that the line continues on to Illawarra and finally to Bondi Junction. My inlaws had their shop in Bondi Junction and their flat in Bondi, 1k from the famous water.

    Helen

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    1. Indeed Helen. It is rather standard, Jewish shop keeper at Bondi and lived nearby, like our St Kilda. At some point, maybe in the eighties, Bondi became a Maori place to be. Now it is for the rich.

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  2. Very pretty area, it looks quite rain foresty with the ferns and other greenery.

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    1. River, that is why I did not think it was near Sydney, but somewhere cooler. Pretty greenery, for sure.

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  3. Pretty amazing to find such lushness so close to the city Andrew, wonder if there's any footage somewhere of the train in action ?

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    1. Grace, it would be good to see, but 1915 would be too early for film?

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  4. Must be a very interesting place ! and so old !

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    1. Well Gattina, not old by European standards but old by ours, although I suppose our railway infrastructure would be nearly as old as Europe's.

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  5. I grew up at Loftus on the same line as Helensburgh. My friend lived at Otford. I often caught the steam train to her place going through Engadine, Heathcote, Waterfall, and Helensburgh. I wasn't aware that the station isn't used anymore and they have a new one. I remember walking through the old Otford tunnel with my friend. It was scary. I think mushrooms are grown in the tunnels.

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  6. Thanks for the extra information Diane. Wow, steam trains. What fun. I think the station that was built in the late nineteen teens is the one used now and the one you would know. I read about the mushrooms growing, in someone's written memories.

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  7. Wondeful these old railway tunnels, they always amaze me.

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    1. Indeed Thomas. There are so many in England and many still used.

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