Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Secrets of Berry's Bay

Down the hills to Berry's Bay - Roland Wakelin  1916
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Inspired by a 1916 painting entitled "Down the hills to Berry's Bay" by Australian artist Roland Wakelin, we set out today to explore Berry's Bay along the Waverton Peninsula in Sydney Harbour.

We had a bit of difficulty in locating the exact spot form where Wakelin may have sat in 1916 to do his work. The area is so changed: the trees have grown, there are a lot more boats and of course there is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Nearby Waverton Park was a popular haunt of Wakelin  and fellow artist Lloyd Rees, and yes Wakelin probably did take some artistic licence. But we did discover some very interesting history of the area. 

Berry's Bay - May 2012
We parked in Larkin Street and walked along the ridge of the present day Waverton Peninsula Reserve. Wakelin's position was probably fairly close to the spot in the photo above. But the site had had another life from its use in 1916.

BP Site - Waverton Peninsula Reserve, May 2012 showing
the remains of the main Bund Wall.   
From 1922 to 1993 it was a major oil storage facility operated successively by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Commonwealth Oil Refineries and BP Australia. It housed an extensive piece of infrastructure containing thirty-one above ground tanks and at least thirty kilometres of associated pipelines. There were bund walls, an administration building, roads and wharves -the remains of which can still be seen in various stages today.

Overlooking Sydney Harbour from the site -May 2012

When BP cease operations in 1993 the tanks were demolished and environmental rehabilitation commenced. The site, along with the Caltex and Coal Loader sites on the western side of the Waverton Peninsula were opened as public parkland on 12 March 2005.   

Another piece of history found in the Wakelin painting is the steam train in the upper left-hand corner. In our current photo today, you can see a Sydney suburban train. But what is this railway line and where did it go ?

It is, in fact, the 1893 extension of the North Shore Railway line from St Leonards to Milsons Point along the Sydney Harbour Foreshore. Before the coming of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the original station at Milsons Point was located near the site of the present northern pylon. Passengers were transported to Sydney by ferry. 

Most of the North Shore line was duplicated between 1900 and 1900 but was not electrified until 1927. Hence our steam train.

When construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge commenced, the southern terminus of the line was moved to Lavender Bay where a station was opened on 27 April 1924. New stations at North Sydney and Milsons Point were built on the northern approaches to the Bridge. After the Bridge  was opened on 19 March 1932, the North Shoreline was diverted to its current route. The Lavender Bay site became a storage depot for electric trains which remains in use today. It joins the main line today at Waverton Station. It was reduced to a single track which can be seen in the photo below.

Lavender Bay Railway Line - Munro Street overbridge
May 2012

The history of the Lavender Bay Railway is very interesting. But that is an excursion for another day!


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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Battle Bridge over Hawthorne Canal

Battle Bridge  at Taverners Hill - May 2012
Battle Bridge is a stone arch bridge located on Parramatta Road at Taverners Hill in Sydney. It crosses the Hawthorne Canal at this point.

Parramatta Road, linking Sydney to Parramatta, has always been one of Sydney's busiest roads. Its beginnings date back to the earliest Colonial days when convicts carved out a three metre wide track through bushland between 1789 and 1791 to link the two settlements.

By 1822, Parramatta Road was fifteen miles long and had thirty-seven timber bridges. One of these would likely have crossed Battle Creek (also known Long Cove Creek).

By 1865 however this section of the road was described as "notoriously bad". A new sandstone arch bridge to be known as Battle Bridge was constructed in 1873 to replace the timber bridge. Although it was widened on both sides by steel beams and reinforced with a concrete deck in 1937, the high quality of the stonemasonary of the original arch  is still evident today.

Original stone arch of Battle Bridge - May 2012
On a recent visit, I was able to get good access under the Bridge and have a look first hand. 

History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors Database has the record of a contract being awarded by the Department of Public Works in 1873, to William Wadsworth for the "erection of a stone bridge at Long Cove, Parramatta Road.

A good research item and an interesting find!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whipple Trusses at Lewisham

Lewisham Viaduct circa 1886 
On our previous walk along the Hawthorne Canal in Sydney's inner-west, we came across the above photo of the construction of the iron Whipple truss railway viaduct which crossed Long Cove Creek, west of Lewisham.

This put me in mind of some old railway trusses that I had previously seen in the area. But where are they now?

Continuing along the Canal across Parramatta Road, we duly located the Lewisham Railway Viaduct at Longport Street in Lewisham. (photo below). This shows a combination of the past, present and future transport history of Sydney. Firstly we can see the old Whipple Trusses to the left, then above, the plate web girders of the current bridge, and to the right, the rail lines for the extension to the Light Rail.

Lewisham Railway Viaduct May 2012 
The Whipple Trusses
When the main railway line from Sydney to Granville was opened on 26 September 1855, the original viaduct over Long Cove Creek was an  8-span stone arch structure (shown being demolished in the top photo). This was  replaced in 1886 by three pairs of Whipple trusses. These were designed by Max Thomson for the New South Wales Government Railways and were significant in that they pioneered the introduction of American bridge technology on our railways. They were pin-jointed trusses of the type developed in America by Squire Whipple.

When they were replaced in 1993 after 107 years of service on the main railway line, one pair of the Whipple trusses was placed on display on the southern side of the Lewisham Viaduct in Grosvenor Street, as a testament to their engineering heritage . An Historic Engineering Marker was dedicated at this spot in 1994 by the Institute of Engineers Australia and the State Rail Authority, NSW.

Whipple Trusses in Grosvenor Street, Lewisham  - May 2012
History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors Database has details of a major contract awarded to G.H Royce & Co, by the NSW Government Railways in 1884 for the "Construction and supply of the whole ironwork required for the superstructure of a new viaduct over Long Cove Creek, Petersham, Great Southern Railway". [NB At the  time of construction, Lewisham Railway Station had not been built so reference was made to the nearest  station at Petersham].

In the Government Contracts and Contractors Database, there are also some 60 records of contracts awarded for work on the Petersham section of the main railway line in 1880s and 1890s.

As a footnote, descending into the Cadigal Reserve, it is possible to walk under the massive structure of the Lewisham Viaduct which boasts four types of bridge engineering. (Photo below).

View of Lewisham Viaduct from Cadigal Reserve - May 2012
A very interesting day of Railway history!