Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The sad story of the Dorrigo to Glenreagh Railway 2 - building the line

My first post in this series, The sad story of the Dorrigo to Glenreagh Railway 1 - ghost railway, simply set the scene,  

For those who don't know Dorrigo, it lies on the Dorrigo Plateau perched on the edge of the New England escarpment. This is truly beautiful country, although the colours are not quite your Australian stereotypical colours as so often presented. It is just too green because of the high rainfall.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Dorrigo was heavily forested. Lumbering and clearing began, but the high escarpment made it difficult to get produce to the seaboard. Timber in particular had to be hauled over rough roads to Armidale or Grafton.

This type of difficulty was was true to greater or lesser extent across New England. Fights for east-west rail links helped fuel the discontent that generated the desire of so many New Englanders over more than 150 years to gain Northern self-government.

In 1905, work finally began on a north-south North Coast line. Settlers on the Dorrigo Plateau began an intensive campaign to link their area to the projected railway. On 28 December 1910, the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Railway Act was passed, providing for the construction of a line linking Glenreagh on the coast to Dorrigo. This would allow timber and other produce to be shifted through the small port at Coffs Harbour. However, the protagonists saw this as a first step in a longer inland east-west line.  

The photo shows bullock teams at work at the Coffs Habour port in 1928.

Survey work on the new line did not commence until 1914, actual construction a little later. In 1917, the war interrupted work, with construction beginning again in 1920.

Construction was no mean feat because of the rugged terrain and regular rain. Land slips were common and were to plague the line throughout its life.

The new line was finally opened on 23 December 1924, providing a Christmas present to residents of the Dorrigo. Next step, construction of the Dorrigo-Guyra line begins.

Next post. First post


I felt a bit sad writing this post. It's not just a story of lost dreams, but today everything is so tied up in rules, regulations, proscriptions, evaluations, impact statements, cost-benefit analyses, performance measures etc that the Government in Sydney struggles to build a single railway line. 

Further reading

For those interested in a little more: