Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ballast Point Park

Ballast Point Park at Birchgrove
Today we visited Ballast Point Park (Walama), located at the end of Ballast Point Road at Birchgrove on the Balmain Peninsula in Sydney Harbour. It is a 2.6 hectare parkland which was opened to the public by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority in July 2009. As a headland it stands directly opposite Balls Head, and together they mark the entrance into the western reaches of the Harbour.

Tank 101 and the Caltex sign
The site was variously:
  • A sandstone quarry in the 1850s supplying ballast to the nearby shipyards at Balmain andBirchgrove;
  • 1864-1928 - the location of the two storey marine villa, Menevia, home of Thomas Perkins and his family; and later a boarding house from 1893 to 1915.
  • From 1928, the first seaboard terminal for the Texas Company (Australia) Limited, later Caltex. Used as a fuel storage and major oil distribution point for Sydney. Caltex phased out its operations in the 1990's. 
  • Public land from 2002. Clearing of the infrastructure of tanks.
The concept of the park is unique as it stands as a  testament to the history of the site, bringing it back to life  through design, art and poetry. In one sense, the area has come full circle from the days of its Aboriginal habitation by the Dharug and Wangul peoples,to its heritage in the maritime and oil industries, and now its return to natural parkland. The Aboriginal name for the park is Walama, meaning "to return".

Tank 101
The main feature of the park is the large 'sculpture' on the site of Tank 101. It is built from panels of curved sheet steel from the tank which were rescued from demolition. It also incorporates eight wind turbines to harness the power of the sea breeze to create energy to offset the energy used in the park lighting.

Tank 101 was the largest of the crude oil storage tanks on the site and was constructed using rivet technology. The rivet typeface is used extensively throughtout the site including the etchings of lines from the poem, 'The Death Issac Nathan" by Les Murray, around the structure.

Glass display of artifacts from Menevia
Decorative Dinner Plate
Elsewhere in the park, encased in a glass display, are domestic artifacts recovered from the Menevia site during site remediation works. A decorative dinner  plate in the photo above, took my attention.

Love/friendship padlocks.      
Throughout the park are numerous walled areas made from recycled materials from the site. They are enclosed by wire meshing to which have been clipped a collection of love/ friendship  padlocks. This is a novel idea reflecting present day history.

Again another wonderful area of parkland for Sydney!


If you are in interested in early Australian History go to our website at:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Walking the GreenWay Corridor

Yesterday, following a suggestion from The Sun-Herald newspaper, Mary and I did a walk along the Hawthorne Canal starting from Hawthorne Parade at Haberfield. We were not familiar with this part of Sydney and seemingly the area was was a recreational oasis with parkland, tennis courts, a children's playground, walking and bike tracks, an extensive off-leash dog walking area and the Cafe Bones. 

Hawthorne Canal at Haberfield
But this was clearly something more and we were in for some surprises. It is part of the GreenWay, a 4.5km urban corridor which links the Parramatta River at Iron Cove to the Cooks River, via the Hawthorne Canal and Rozelle Goods Line Corridor.

A collaborative project between four local Councils  (Leichhadrt, Marrickville, Ashfield and the City of Canterbury) state agencies and the community, the GreenWay Corridor links the community to local arts, schools, parks and bushland via shared cycling and walking trails and the extension of Sydney's light rail network.

Photo showing  construction of the Stormwater Channel
By way of a bit of history, construction of the Hawthorne Canal commenced in 1895 as a Stormwater Channel* to replace the Long Cove Creek which had become heavily polluted. The Rozelle Goods Line was built in the 1920's on reclaimed land alongside the Canal. It relieved congestion on the main network by creating a direct link for freight trains to Darling Harbour.  

After crossing over Marion Street at Leichhardt, we continued along the Canal and came upon the Hawthorne Canal Community Artwork
(a project by Leichhardt Council, GreenWay and NSW Government) in a railway tunnel underpass at Lords Road. Newly opened on 26 August 2011, it the product of many volunteer hours by community members and local school students and is a celebration of the history and the environment of the Hawthorne Canal.

External Mural at the Lords Road Entrance
It consists of  an external mural, a magnificent internal mosaic made up of more than 475,00 individual pieces   with a waterways theme, and an internal wall telling the story of local residents including the Aboriginal  people of the Cadigal and Wangal tribes.

Internal Mosaic
 A closer view of the mosaic pieces

Atop the embankment on top of this tunnel  is a section of the line for the Inner West Light Rail Extension along the Rozelle Goods Line from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill. This is due to be operational by early 2014

A section of the Light Rail Extension 

There are also several bushcare site along the corridor where local volunteers undertake weed removal, erosion control and planting of native species with a view to restoring native fauna and flora populations.

An admirable environmental concept and  a very interesting day.


* In its Government Contracts and Contractors Database, History Services NSW has some 8 records of contracts being awarded by the NSW government in connection the construction of the Iron Cove Creek Stormwater Channel

Go the website at:

Crossing the Hawkesbury by Road

View of F3 and Peats Ferry Bridges
In the days of the Second World War, alongside the work on the second railway bridge, the construction of the Peats Ferry Road Bridge was taking place a little further to the west. This was too was a major engineering feat.

The Hawkesbury River had been bridged at North Richmond in 1860, but there  no road  across the Brisbane Water. In the early 1830's, George Peat, an early settler, had marked a line-of-road from Sydney to Brisbane Water and established a ferry crossing at Mooney Mooney Point.

In 1848 Governor Fitzroy had approved Peats Ferry Road  as the new North Road*. Punts were used to ferry travellers across the Hawkesbury River and Mooney Mooney Creek. These ceased in 1889 with the opening of the rail bridge. Peats Ferry Road north of the river was not maintained.

By 1930 the section of Peats Ferry Road from Hornsby to the Hawkesbury river had been reconstructed and renamed the Pacific Highway. Two vehicular ferries, the George Peat and the Frances Peat operated on the highway from Kangaroo Point to Mooney Mooney.

But an increasing flow of traffic made these arrangements inadequate and a decision was made to build a bridge.

Construction of the Peats Ferry Bridge by the Balgue Construction Company was commenced in September 1838. It was officially opened in May 1945, being the first direct road link between Sydney and Newcastle.

With the construction of the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway (F3), a new six lane bridge adjacent to the 1945 bridge was built and opened to traffic in October 1973. (Photo at top). The original  bridge is still in service carrying traffic on the old Pacific Highway route and as a backup to the Freeway.  It also provides access to the township of Brooklyn.

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*In its Government Contracts and Contractors Database, History Services NSW has some 20 records of contracts being awarded by the NSW government in connection with the Peats Ferry Road.

Go the website at:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crossing the Hawkesbury by Rail

Railway Bridge across the Hawkesbury River - the "old" and "new" 

Brooklyn, New South Wales, on the the Hawkesbury River is rich in history. From the time of the Aboriginal  people of the Dharug tribe, to the first visit by Captain Phillip on 7 March 1788, to the present day, it has been witness to some significant events.

The most important of course being the construction of the rail and road bridges across the Hawkesbury.  A visit to Brooklyn can reveal their history.

The Railway

The Main Northern Railway Line (single track) from Hornsby to the Hawkesbury River Station at Brooklyn was opened on 7 April 1887. In the days before the first railway bridge was completed,  a branch line along a causeway formed by reclaimed land on the eastern side of Long Island carried passengers to the River Wharf Station. Here they would transfer to the paddle-steamer, General Gordon*, for the journey to Gosford, and later Mullet Creek, to join the trains going north.

On a recent visit, we walked along this causeway, seeing a remnant wall of the platform of the River Walk Station (photo at left)  and the  foundations of the Gordon Wharf (photos below).
  Platform Wall of the River Walk Station

Foundations of the Gordon Wharf
The Union Bridge Company of New York, USA, was awarded the contract to construct the first  railway bridge across the River in 1886. The piers consisted of concrete under the water and then built to the required height by sandstone quarried at the head of Mullet Creek opposite the present quarry at Wondabyne Station. The spans were assembled on Dangar Island and floated onto the piers by punts

The bridge was opened on 1 May 1889 to much fanfare. It was the  last link in the railway network extending from South Australia to Queensland.

It served the line well but when cracks started to appear in the late 1930's, a decision was made to replace the bridge.  Construction of the second  railway bridge  by the NSW Government Railways was commenced in 1939.

The spans were bought to Brooklyn pieces and assembled over three docks that were carved into the rock at the northern end of Long Island. (Photos below). When they were ready, the spans were floated out on large barges at high tide and lowered onto the piers at low tide.

One of the construction docks on Long Island.......
........a close-up view.
The   second railway bridge was opened on  1 July 1946. The old bridge was removed   but its sandstone piers remain  to this day. A great view of the  new bridge and the remains of the old piers is at the head      of this blog.

Of course in  both World Wars the bridges were heavily guarded. In one of the  piers in the Photo below, you can see on close inspection that dynamite holes had been drilled in case the bridge had to be destroyed.


If you are in interested in early Australian History go to our website at:

* Interestingly In its Hotel and Liquor Licenses Database, History Services NSW has details of Packet (Nautical) Licences being granted at various periods to Alexander Sinclair Murray and John Finlayson for the General Gordon Paddle-steamer.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Boronia Park - Its Cultural Heritage

Today as a part of our Hunters Hill discovery tour we did the Boronia Park Walk, which is part of the Great North Walk.

It was a beautiful walk, descending down to the Lane Cove River and continuing along the wetlands of the mangrove swamps.

We came upon extensive areas of Aboriginal middens (some of the largest we have seen) and caves where the Wallumedegal people would have lived prior to European settlement (Photo at left above).

This area of the Lane Cove River is very accessible to the shore and so the early Aboriginal tribes would have enjoyed a prime location in which to live, just as the modern day residents of Hunters Hill do.

A little further along, we came across a Sydney Water pumping station at Thorn Street. A pipeline has been laid under the river. Even though it is a major disruption to the natural environment, the pipe is hidden beneath an embankment which forms a picturesque "avenue" through the mangrove swamps (Photo a at right above.)

On emerging back into suburbia, at the entrance to Boronia Park on the corner of Park Road and Princes Street, we noticed a horse trough (Photos below).

What is the historical significance of this?

It is a Bills horse trough , one of many watering troughs that were manufactured in Australia and installed at various locations for the relief of working horses in the first half of the twentieth century. They were funded from a special trust set up by George Bills and his wife Annis.

An interesting day!

If you are in interested in early Australian History go to our website at: