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The Great Northern Railway Extensions

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Tuesday 19 April 1881, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

(Tamworth, News of Friday.)

We write “extensions” advisedly, for there are two large contracts going on at present. As to one of these, from Uralla towards Glen Innes, Mr. D. Proudfoot, a New Zealand railway contractor of some note, has plenty of work in his hands. He is adopting the sub-letting principle chiefly ; and even goes so far as to have his offices, stables, etc., put up by the piece. The clearing on this contract is in hand from its commencement to Ben Lomond ; and most of the cuttings from Uralla to Armidale, are being excavated. The distance that all plant and material have to be brought is a great impediment to the contractor, most of his appliances having to come from either Tamworth or Grafton. The Government have, we understand, recently sent an engineer up to report on the progress Mr. Proudfoot has made.

The Messrs. Amos, in their usual pushing manner, are going ahead with the works on their contract (Tamworth to Uralla) at a great pace. The three remaining brick arches over Jamieson’s Creek are nearly finished ; when these are completed the rails can be laid a further distance of six miles, all the works for that length being sufficiently advanced for the purpose. Cutting 98, at 310¾ miles (measured from Newcastle), a very hard metamorphic shale formation, needing some 70,000 cubic yards of excavation, will probably not be ready by the time the permanent way reaches it ; and it may possibly be the end of July, or the beginning of August, ere it is through. The works from this point to Macdonald River are now nearly done, and it is hoped that the “head of the road” will be at the water’s edge early in October. Before the river can be approached, however, there is yet a considerable quantity of stuff to be taken from cutting 116, – where originally a second tunnel was proposed – only 130,000 cubic yards, out of an estimated 170,000, are at present removed. The lovely banks of the Macdonald River are now the site of an almost perfect, if ephemeral, township. A school-church, police station, hospital, doctor’s residence, contractor’s offices and buildings, three hotels, extensive steam sawmill works, stores, butchers’ and bakers’ shops, aerated water manufactory, brick yards, milliner’s shop, hair cutting saloon, etc., together with well-built wooden cottages, and canvas homes of workmen, make a place which wears a far finer aspect than does Uralla itself. There are, all told, something like 1000 persons congregated at this point; while but a few months ago, the family of Mr. G. D. Smith-the generally respected general purveyor – were, with a shepherd of Mrs. Scott, (the owner of the run), the only inhabitants. The railway is to cross this river on a lattice girder bridge, resting on two substantial piers, built, to all outward appearance, of solid bricks. The fact is that these piers are really built of Portland cement concrete, with outside casings of bricks, and here and there a binding-wall from side to side. The iron work tor this bridge has, we believe, arrived in the colony, and will be put up towards the end of the present year. When the line was designed, it was thought that near this river would have been an excellent site for the Station, for both Bendemeer and Walcha; but subsequent enquiry, and repeated applications on the part of the Walcha residents – who appear to be of a pertinacious disposition – have induced the authorities to make a change, and the station, to be known hereafter as the Walcha Road Station, will be placed at 222 miles, or 4½, miles north of the River, 40 miles from Tamworth.

To get ground upon which to build this station, the side of a hill is to be cut away, the additional earthwork being the nice little amount of 40,000 cubic yards ! Close to this station, the Surveyors’ Creek is crossed on a 20 feet brick arch, now being built, the bricks are made on the spot, and are of excellent character. The works hereabouts look heavy, but the material is mostly granite sand, and easily moved.

Beyond Surveyors’ Creek, to the Congi Creek (a distance of three miles) all the cuttings are in hand ; and further on again, until within 12 miles of Uralla, the excavations have been commenced.

At Congi Creek is another brickyard, the bricks from which are intended to build a 20ft. arch needed by that creek, and the various small culverts thereabouts. The bulk of the waterways, however, between here and Uralla are wooden, the two largest being the bridge over St. Helena Creek, of five 26ft. openings, and that over Chilcott’s Creek of seven openings of the same span : neither of these have been commenced.

The highest point on the line, indeed we believe the highest point on any line in Australia, is near St. Helena Creek, in cutting No. 154, where, at 231 miles 42 chains from Newcastle, the natural ground is 3702½ feet above sea-level ; the formation of the railway being 11¾ feet lower. The height at Clarence siding, on the Western line over the Blue Mountains, is the next nearest to this, being 3658 feet above sea-level ; while the famed Doughboy Hollow, on the Northern line, is only 2070 feet high. It may be interesting to some readers to state that Tamworth is 1246 feet, and Uralla 3585 feet, above the sea level.

The contract for the construction of the station buildings at Uralla will soon be let ; they will consist of passenger and goods stations of considerable size, stationmaster’s house, large sheep and cattle yards, and a gate-keeper’s cottage. It had been intended also to build an engine shed here, but this, we believe, is not yet decided.

We have before remarked on the extensive character of these works, and on the responsibility which rests on the Government local staff in carrying out works which, in magnitude and importance, have rarely, we question, been surpassed in New South Wales. It is certain, at any rate, that no contract has before been let in Australia of an equal extent ; and, as we have explained, the original sum will be increased by perhaps some £200,000 – making the total price to be paid to Messrs. A. and R. Amos about £800,000.

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Written by macalba

October 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm

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