Highlands History | March 13

The Great Southern Railway opened from Picton to Nattai (Mittagong) on March 1, 1867, and to Bowral and Moss Vale on December 2.

RELOCATED SERVICE: When Moss Vale’s Railway Refreshment Rooms opened in 1891, the Mittagong facility closed. Photo: BDH&FHS.

RELOCATED SERVICE: When Moss Vale’s Railway Refreshment Rooms opened in 1891, the Mittagong facility closed. Photo: BDH&FHS.

Thus 2017 marks the 150th anniversary, or sesquicentenary, of the stations at Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale. An overview of Mittagong Station’s heritage continues here.

Extra locomotives and rolling stock were needed for the southern line which opened to Goulburn in 1869, and for the western line to Bathurst. Nine E-17 class 0-6-0 goods locomotives were purchased from Robert Stephenson & Co of England and nine G23 class locomotives for passenger services from Beyer Peacock & Co of Manchester. All these entered service between 1865 and 1867. Additional rolling stock obtained included open and covered wagons for goods services and rigid-frame, eight-wheel passenger cars.

STEADY GROWTH: Mittagong Station in the 1880s showing extended platform and new parcels.

STEADY GROWTH: Mittagong Station in the 1880s showing extended platform and new parcels.

The NSW Great Southern Railway was built through to the Victorian border, opening at Albury in 1881.

By the mid 1880s, due to an increase in rail traffic, a two-storey Railway Refreshment Room opened at Mittagong, providing food, beverages and accommodation. As well, the original platform was extended by 15 metres and a parcels office and toilet facilities were built.

An expansion of mining industries on Mittagong’s outskirts from the 1880s generated greater traffic.

In 1880 the Australian Kerosene, Oil & Mineral Company (AKO) extended a private railway from its Joadja Creek shale mining works to terminal sidings at its transhipment depot on the main line. The depot was located at the south end of Mittagong railway yards, near Bessemer St.

AKO had established a refinery, producing kerosene, candles, soaps, waxes and lubricating oils. These were shipped to Sydney. The company also established orchards at Joadja. Fresh fruits including apples, pears, cherries, plums, apricots and grapes were packed and sent by rail via Mittagong to Sydney.

The depot sidings were so arranged that Joadja trains could be unloaded at a dock and goods transferred into Government Railway wagons. The Joadja line, which also provided a basic passenger service, operated until the works closed in 1901.

In 1888 the Mittagong Coal Mining Company built a private 4 mile (7 km) standard-gauge railway to transport coal from its Nattai Gorge colliery. The line skirted Nattai reservoir and ran parallel with the Joadja railway up to the main line. In 1889 the company was renamed Box Vale Colliery and prospered for a time but closed in 1896. A section of old line near the colliery became a walking track in 1996.

In 1891 Mittagong Station’s two-storey Railway Refreshment Room was closed and replaced with one built at Moss Vale Station. This was at the request of Governor Baron Carrington who alighted at Moss Vale for his Sutton Forest country residence, and did not want to be kept waiting at Mittagong. The Mittagong Refreshment Room was opened again briefly during the wars.

By the 1890s Mittagong’s platform fronted the main through line, rather than the loop it had previously faced. This change was achieved by diverting the main line at the platform’s north end onto the former loop which then exited the station southward along a new main section to proceed through the Mount Gibraltar tunnel to Bowral.

The section of old main line left unused by this reconfiguration served from 1891 to 1899 as a siding for the Government trachyte quarry on Mount Gibraltar ridge, where ballast was obtained for railway use.

By the early 1900s, the volume of passenger and freight traffic on the Southern Line had grown considerably. Live sheep and cattle were hauled to the Sydney markets in railway vans. Wheat production in southern districts expanded significantly from the 1890s and, as exports grew, ever greater loads were carried by rail.

With this growth in traffic, delays became more frequent, particularly on the steep grades of the Picton-Mittagong section, where up and down trains had to wait to pass each other on the single line. Traffic and the length and weight of trains had reached the limit of efficient operation.

Calls began in the 1890s for the entire Southern Line to be duplicated, but 20 years would pass before work commenced.

  • Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part Two of a three-part series. To be continued.
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