15 May 2011

A bit more about Dubbo

I’ll doubtless get around to writing more about this fine location at some time, but I thought it necessary to complete the top level story of Dubbo, so we can get on up the line.  So, here we go… Dubbo Part II.

The enhancements to the railway at Dubbo around the time that the Coonamble branch came into existence included an 18.2 metre turntable, which was commissioned on 1 November 1902.  The turntable removed the need to turn locomotives using the triangle at the eastern end of the yard.  Ironically, custom and practice of the time to turn many locomotives on the triangle appears to have continued throughout the entire steam era.

In September 1904 a further extension of the station platform occurred – this time at the eastern (Sydney) end, apparently to more easily facilitate passenger train movements from the Great Western Railway onto the Coonamble branchline.

The remainder of the first decade of the 20th century saw further consolidation of Dubbo as a regional centre.  In October 1906 a transshipping shed was erected, while September 1909 brought the commissioning of Dubbo’s first grain shed.  Locomotive servicing facilities also expanded during this period – in May 1907 two 22.5kl tanks from Wellington were re-erected on-site.  These are thought to have been erected at the eastern end of the loco depot.  September 1910 brought a third water tank of the same size, which is thought to have been erected at the western end of the yard.  An extension to the loco shed was also completed around this time.

The growth of Dubbo during the second decade of the 20th century was somewhat stultified by the Great War.  However well prior to the commencement of hostilities, on 28 October 1911, Dubbo loco depot was extended 120 yards at the western end with a new dead end siding.  Ten days later the Dubbo Municipal Gas Siding brought into use, which was a 110 yard dead-end siding laid off the up side of the line at Mileage 282.79.  Room was provided for storage of three four-wheel wagons.

More was to come as January 1912 saw the enclosure of the water tanks at the eastern end of the depot, while October 1915 brought the installation of a vertical wall engine from Eveleigh depot and March 1917 brought a new wheat stacking site.  This last enhancement may have proven to be somewhat poorly designed, as August 1919 brought further work to raise the site presumably in order to reduce the potential for flooding and pestilence.

This period of construction closed with the construction of a wheat silo on the southern side of the yard in 1920, and the installation of gas lighting in the yard in May 1921.  To punctuate this period of growth and as if to confirm the growing size of Dubbo’s railway community, in May 1920 the Dubbo Railway Institute building was erected.

The mid-1920s brought the final major phase of Dubbo’s growth as a major regional centre for the railway.  The completion and opening of the Scenic Route between Orange, Molong and Dubbo in May 1925 created the fifth railway emanating from the hub of Dubbo (following lines to Wellington, and lines to Nyngan, Coonamble and Mendooran).  In recognition of this, as well as an appreciation of the impact of faster and more powerful locomotives, Dubbo emerged as the logical centre for railway operations.  The demise of Wellington’s locomotive servicing facilities was understandable from another point – as trains operating along the Scenic Route could not access the facilities.

This new role brought manifest changes.  Commencing on 24 August 1924, an extensive re-signalling of Dubbo yard included the bringing into use of a new connection for a shunting neck between the Main line and the Coonamble branch.  This new signalling arrangement required the officer working in Dubbo Signal Box A to place Opposing Lever No. 10 into reverse in order to issue the train staff.  To do this the officer in charge at Eumungerie would hold down his plunger a sufficient length of time to allow the electric lock to release.  A complex, labour-intensive arrangement, indeed!

On 12 January 1925 the Railway Refreshment Rooms were transferred from Wellington to Dubbo.  Six months later on 1 June 1925 Wellington locomotive depot’s responsibilities also made the westward journey.  Mr J R Webb, the Dubbo Steam Shed Inspector, assumed responsibilities from the former location.  This required an immediate and further extension to the locomotive servicing shed.

The increased steam railway operation at Dubbo also required the construction of a much-expanded water supply.  In July 1925 this included the erection of two new water columns and a new 270kl water tank adjacent to the western tank which had been erected in 1910.  Next, September 1926 brought the construction of a new pumping well and pump house station at the Macquarie River.

The increased traffic warranted new telegraph buildings in September 1925, while 1927 brought larger marshalling yards and a installation of a Sellars-built turntable to permit the then-new C36 class locomotives to be turned at the location.

The next phase of growth of Dubbo’s railway infrastructure was associated with the early introduction of a new form of railway conveyance – the low-cost alternative of rail-cars driven by an internal combustion engine.  In July 1928 a rail motor shed, inspection pits and workshops were constructed at the western end of the railway yard.  In October 1936 fuelling facilities were installed for the new diesel trains operating to Bourke.

Around the same time, the increasing industry in the location necessitated other improvements.  One such example included the Vacuum Oil Company siding at Dubbo, which was brought into use on 12 June 1931.

The Great Depression and the Second World War brought a slower pace of change around Dubbo during the 1930s and 1940s.  This period ended on 16 October 1951 with a major alteration to Dubbo’s skyline achieved due to the commissioning of the imposing Holman coal hoist.  This required some ancillary adjustment to the track layout in the yard.  This structure lasted until the demise of regular steam locomotive operations in the area and was removed in 1973.  The demise of steam operations also resulted in the removal of the three water tanks (of 90kl, 315kl and 360kl capacity) in July 1976.

If the first score of years in the 20th century brought great growth to Dubbo’s railway, the final score brought reduction.  Rationalisation commenced in November 1982 when the Municipal Gas Siding was removed.  June 1983 brought the bull-dozing of the stockyards.  November 1984 saw the removal of the gatehouse (at 460.031km), while August of the following year brought the demolition of the Darling Street gatehouse.  

The 1980s rationalisation of the railway infrastructure was completed in 1987 with the sale (for $100) of the Railway Institute building to the Macquarie Lions Club and the July 1987 sale (for $250) and subsequent removal of the carriage shed by the Macquarie Valley Railway Society.

So, at this point I'll leave you as I prepare for a trip up the branch.....

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