Sunday History Photo / NSW

Submitted: Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:21
ThreadID: 98318 Views:5871 Replies:5 FollowUps:1
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There are nearly 100 Klms of tunnels in the cliffs near The 3 Sisters at Katoomba, Coal mining began in that area in 1878 There were about 40 mines at various times.
John Britty North was a man on the lookout for opportunities and having a mining background he purchased 640 acres from Captain Robert Henry Reynolds and eventually additional land as a mining conditional purchase.
In 1878 he initiated exploratory adits in the coal seam below Orphan Rock in the Jamison Valley, utilising a natural tunnel in the edge of the escarpment, he enlarged it to provide a route for a steam driven dual incline haulage to provide access to the coal seam 219m below the cliff top.

One of his ventures was to extract an approximately 200Kg block of coal, have it man handled up the 200m high escarpment and then displayed at the 1879 International Exhibition in Sydney. Based on the sample it is believed he was awarded a Government contract to supply coal to the NSW Railways.
It took some years to raise the necessary capital and install the equipment needed, but by 1883 the mine was in full production.
A double incline had been constructed up from the base of a small self acting incline which brought the coal down about 40m from the mouth of the adit to the base of the main incline. At the top of the main incline a dual tramway was constructed covering the 3 Klms to a railway siding on the main Western Line
and then transported to Sydney. By 1888 there were 23 men employed underground and 60 men on the surface, the total output for the 6 months June to December 1888 was 65,680 tons of coal.

The incline Railway was designed by Sydney civil engineer Norman Selfe it was initially built with twin tracks and was completed in 1882. It passes through a natural tunnel in a slot in the cliff face between Orphan Rock and the present site of the tourist center, a substantial amount of rock blasting was necessary to provide a uniform grade of average 44 degrees from the cliff top 200m down to the valley some 30m below the outcrop of the Katoomba seam.

This section of the tramway above was photographed in 1892, at that stage 154 men worked at the various mines in the area and the extracted 22,000 tons of shale during that year.
The cliff in the background is now the famous Katoomba Landslide, this particular section of the tramway ran between the Mount Rennie tunnel through Narrow Neck and the Daylight Tunnel through the Katoomba coal mine, the skips visible in the photo carried oil shale from the Glen Shale mine in the Megalong Valley to the base of the incline, which is now the Scenic Railway.

The last mine closed in the late 1930's , today the incline railway transports tourists.
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Reply By: Member - peter & dawn m (QLD) - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 07:22

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 07:22
and they did,nt have computers ! just a brain & incredable imagination . swampy
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Reply By: Fred G NSW - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 08:20

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 08:20
Was there three weeks ago and certainly is a beautiful place. When one sees those escarpments, it gives you a whole new respect for the engineering feats of those miners.

AnswerID: 495912

Follow Up By: Life Member Tour Boy( Bundy) - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 09:29

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 09:29
Fred, in your last pic the mountain to the left is Mt Solitary and if you follow the saddle to the right, you will see a small "hill", this is the "ruined castle" rock formation. It was a huge undertaking to remove the product from the mines in that area and get it back to Katoomba.
Incidently the overhead ropeway was constructed right across the Jamison Valley in the foreground and if I recall correctly it collapsed after transporting 500t of material and was never reconstructed.

Behind Mt Solitary and to the left from Echo Point you can see the backwaters of Warragamba Dam (Lake Burrargorrang) if the level is high.
There are also numerous mines along the Darling Causeway near Mt Victoria and in Hartley valley, Clarence and Lithgow.
The seam runs right through from Pt Kembla to the Hunter Valley.

About 10 years ago, 100m south of the Katoomba Police station on the corner of the small park at the bottom of the hill, a small 300mm pothole appeared in the road. Under this pothole was a 40' x 25' cavern. It was caused by a sewer pipe leaking and over years it washed the material down into the mines untill it became apparent on the surface.

Thanks again Doug
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 11:29

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 11:29
Interesting read, Doug, and some good old photos.

I grew up in the Blue Mountains, and used to go to a farm in the south of Megalong Valley, during school holidays. That Glen Shale Mine was quite visible, on the west side of Narrow Neck, as you travelled through the southern end of the valley. Doubt if it would be so now, unless you knew exactly where to look.

We took the kids down the Scenic Railway a few times, and walked along the escarpment for a bit. Many of the old drives are sealed with grating etc, so are not accessible. I'd reckon anyone working in those seams would have suffered greatly, if they were over medium height. Definitely a job for the vertically challenged!!!

Terrific engineering, considering they only had steam power, and hand tools.

While at the farm, I used go out with the late Bert Carlon, cutting mill logs, as well as cutting a lot of mine props, for the mines in Lithgow. Don't think they use much timber in mines now?

Thanks Doug,

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Can't remember most of it.

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Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 14:08

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 14:08
Hi Doug,

Thanks for another Sunday history lesson and especially the map and photos.

I have been to Katoomba and ridden the Scenic Railway many times. I have also walked along from the railway, across a scree slope, to look through the grille into that low space that men worked in.

The picture of the railway does not convey how terrifying it was for the first timer. But every time we went to Katoomba the railway was a 'must do'.

AnswerID: 495938

Reply By: Stretchlizard2 - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 20:21

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 20:21
Evening all
My father took my mother to the Blue Mountains for their honeymoon at the Hydro Majestic. One afternoon he took his new bride to the funicular railway and they took the trip down. It so scared my mother that it was late in the night when they finally walked out of the valley and the marriage was nearly short lived.
My daughter went on it a few years ago. She kept her eyes tightly shut on the trip down. She stayed in her seat and went straight back up with the eyes still firmly clamped shut.
Obviously in the genes.
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