Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway - A Discovery

Route of Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway -1883
An interesting afternoon as we traversed the route of the Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway. This was the third and last zig-zag railway built in NSW (after Lapstone and Lithgow).

It was constructed in 1883 by railway contractors, Amos & Co, as a branch line coming off the main Northe
rn Railway Line just north of what is now Thornleigh Station and descending to a quarry some 35 metres below. The quarry supplied "stone ballast (white metal - metamorphised sandstone) for a southern section of the Homebush (Sydney ) to Waratah (Newcastle) railway line" [Historic Engineering Marker 2006, Thornleigh Quarry].

The zig-zag facilitated the steep descent/ascent to/from the Quarry for the railway trucks carrying the stone to the top for use along the route of the railway line.

While much of the route of the Zig-Zag Railway has today been taken over by residential development, we followed the descent from the top point across Pritchard and Wells Streets to the bottom point neat Janet Street. Then entering the bush from a track off Morgan Street, we came to Zig-Zag Creek (photo at left above) and then up a little further up to the Quarry (photo at right above). It is a huge excavation site. We climbed to the top just below to what is now Oakleigh Park.

On our way back we were attempting to ascertain the actual route for the Zig-Zag, when we discovered an old railway sleeper embedded near the creek (photo above and at left below). Its position would suggest that it is probably part of the original line.

Also nearby was a piece of narrow gauge rail line. (photo at right).

So at least we were close to the original route which appears to have run close to the Creek.

History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors database has many entries for railway contracts awarded by the NSW Government for the period 1832-1900.

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