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South Maitland Railway

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The South Maitland Railway was once an extensive network of privately owned colliery and passenger railway lines which served the South Maitland coalfields in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia and were the second last system in Australia to use steam haulage, having used steam locomotives until 1983.[1] Only a single track of the main line remains in use to Bellbird Junction servicing the sole remaining colliery branch line to Pelton. The colliery at Pelton has closed but the surface facilities remain in use servicing the nearby Austar Colliery (formerly Southland Colliery & originally Ellalong Colliery).[2]

Lines worked by the SMREdit

The first section of the line was opened to East Greta in 1893.[3] This line was built by the East Greta Coal Mining Company to service their East Greta Colliery. This colliery was joined in 1896[4] by the East Greta No.2 Colliery which was located towards Maitland.

In 1901 the railway line was extended from East Greta to Stanford Merthyr Colliery which was also owned by the East Greta Company. This line initially also served Pelaw Main Colliery (owned by J & A Brown) & Heddon Greta Colliery.[5] Haulage from Pelaw Main only lasted a short period as, after the 1905 opening of the nearby J & A Brown owned Richmond Vale Railway, the coal from this colliery was hauled over the RVR line to Hexham.[6] Several small collieries were later opened along the Stanford Merthyr branch.

In 1901 The Australian Agricultural Company and the Aberdare Collieries of NSW Ltd commenced construction of the Aberdare Railway to Cessnock, this line branched off the Stanford Merthyr line at a point that was named Aberdare Junction. This line was opened in stages, the section to Weston being opened on 29 December 1902, with the final section to Cessnock being completed in February 1904.[7] A passenger service was run over this line terminating at Cessnock Station. Several collieries were soon opened adjoining this line, being Hebburn Colliery (later Hebburn No.1) at Weston by the AA Co. in 1901,[8] Abermain Colliery (later Abermain No.1) at Abermain by the Abermain Coal Co. in 1903,[9] Neath Colliery at Neath by the Wickham & Bullock Island Coal Co in 1906[10] and Aberdare Colliery at Caledonia by Caledonian Collieries Ltd in 1905.[11]

With the expansion of traffic the single track main line was duplicated in sections, the first being from East Greta Junction to East Greta in August 1903, followed by East Greta to Aberdare Junction in September 1906. Duplication to Cessnock was completed in February 1912.[12] The Stanford Merthyr branch from Aberdare Junction to Standford Merthyr remained single track.

In 1906 an end-on junction was made at Cessnock station for a short branch to Aberdare Extended Colliery.[13] In 1911 a branch line was constructed off the Aberdare Railway main line at Bellbird Junction (near Cessnock) to Bellbird Colliery by the Hetton Coal Co., which entered into an agreement with the East Greta Co for coal haulage.[14] In 1916 this branch was extended to Pelton Colliery which was being developed by the Newcastle Wallsend Coal Co.[15] In 1913 Caledonian Collieries constructed a branch line off the Aberdare railway main line to Aberdare South Colliery,[16] and this was followed in 1914 by a separate branch to Aberdare Central Colliery.[17]

In 1917 a second branch line was constructed from Bellbird Junction by the Wickham & Bullock Island Coal Co. to their new Cessnock Colliery (later Cessnock No.2).[18] In the 1920s they extended this line to Kalingo Colliery (later Cessnock No.1).[19] Several branch lines were built off the Kalingo extension to service collieries owned by other companies.

Lines worked by the coal companiesEdit

In 1912 the Abermain Coal Co. constructed a branch line to Abermain No.2 Colliery at Kearsley. This branch line and the existing Abermain No.1 Colliery sidings were then worked by the Abermain Co. using their own locomotives to the exchange sidings at Abermain where the East Greta Co. (& later SMR) would then work the trains to and from East Greta Junction. In 1923 Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd opened Abermain No.3 Colliery on this branch.[20]

When opened by the AA Co. Hebburn No.1 Colliery was worked by locomotives owned by the AA Co. which shunted the trains to and from a set of exchange sidings that were adjacent to Weston Station. In 1918 the Hebburn Limited (the successors to the AA Co.) constructed a branch line from the exchange sidings to Hebburn No.2 Colliery, and this line was also worked by Hebburn Ltd using their own locomotives. In 1924 the Hebburn branch was further extended to Elrington Colliery which was jointly owned by Hebburn Ltd & BHP.[21] This extension was also worked by the Hebburn locomotives to the exchange sidings at Weston.

Passenger servicesEdit

In June 1902 a passenger service commenced between East Greta Junction and Stanford Merthyr. Intermediate stations were at East Greta and Heddon Greta, and, with the construction of the Aberdare Railway to Cessnock, a station named Aberdare Junction was opened at the junction of the Aberdare & Stanford Railways. Stations were also initially opened at Weston, Abermain, Caledonia & Cessnock, with further stations latter opening at B Siding, North Kurri Kurri and Neath. Passengers had to make their own way between East Greta Junction and West Maitland stations and this was the source of many complaints. During 1903 the service was extended to West Maitland. The connection to the government passenger service was further improved in 1905 when a platform was constructed at West Maitland for the use of East Greta trains.[22] These trains were operated by the East Greta Coal Mining Co., initially using a number of second hand ex NSWGR 4 and 6 wheel passenger carriages. In the following years additional similar carriages were obtained with the total of these ex government railway carriages reaching 20. From 1908 to 1925, 16 new bogie end platform carriages similar to the carriages running on the NSWGR were also obtained.[23][24] A carriage shed was constructed at East Greta Junction to house the passenger carriages when not in use.[25] With the opening of the line to Cessnock passenger services were also operated from Cessnock to Maitland. Stations on this line were located at Aberdare Junction, Bee Siding, North Kurri Kurri, Weston, Abermain, Neath, Caledonia and Cessnock.[26]

In 1929-30 a lengthy industrial dispute known as the 'lockout' occurred which effectively shut all of the collieries on the South Maitland Coalfield. The railway was soon involved in this dispute with both coal and passenger services being stopped during the dispute. During the dispute the majority of SMR's passenger carriages were destroyed on 1 March 1930 when the carriage shed at East Greta Junction was burnt down. Negotiations were then entered into with the Department of Railways, New South Wales, for the government railways to take over the passenger service, which occurred on 13 April 1930. During 1940 a direct Sydney to Cessnock express service was introduced. The government operated services lasted until 1961 when SMR took over the majority of the services when they introduced three diesel hydraulic railcars built by Tulloch Ltd. The services run by SMR lasted until 1967, when the SMR railcar services were withdrawn, with only the few through services run by the government railways remaining. These ceased in May 1972 when all passenger services ended.[27]

LocomotivesEdit

Locomotives owned by East Greta Coal Mining Co./ South Maitland Railways Pty LtdEdit

Locomotive Type Builder Builder's No. Built Entered service Withdrawn Notes
1 4-4-0T Manning, Wardle & Co. 39 1862 1895 1911 ex NSWGR 6N - scrapped 1911
1 (2nd) 0-8-2T Avonside Engine Co. 1596 1911 1911 1937 Sold 1937 Bulli Colliery
2 0-4-0ST Avonside Engine Co. 1415 1900 1901 1934 Sold J & A Brown - Preserved Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum
3 0-6-0ST Avonside Engine Co. 1436 1902 1902 1928 Sold Sydney and Suburban Metal Co.
4 0-6-0 Kitson & Co. 2118 1877 1902 1922 -
5 0-6-0 Kitson & Co. 2299 1879 1903 1918 "New England" - Scrapped 1927
6 0-8-0ST Avonside Engine Co. 1464 1903 1904 1930 Sold 1930
7 0-6-0 Kitson & Co. 2029 1879 1904 1922 "Murrumbidgee" - Scrapped 1927
8 0-6-0ST Avonside Engine Co. 1487 1904 1905 1928 Sold Gunnedah Colliery
9 0-8-0ST Avonside Engine Co. 1481 1904 1905 1935 Sold Mount Kembla Coal Co.
10 0-6-0 Vale & Lacy, Sydney 10 1873 1906 1911 ex NSWGR 21N
10 (2nd) 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5520 1911 1912 Jan 1987 Preserved Hunter Valley Training Co.
11 4-4-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 1629 1877 1907 1935 ex NSWGR CC Class No.84 - scrapped 1935
12 4-4-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 1628 1877 1907 1935 ex NSWGR CC Class No.83 - scrapped 1935
13 0-8-2T Avonside Engine Co. 1541 1908 1908 1930 Sold BHP Newcastle 1944
14 0-8-2T Avonside Engine Co. 1559 1909 1909 1930 Sold Hetton Bellird Coal Co. 1936 - Preserved Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum
15 4-6-4T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5603 1912 1912 1965 Scrapped October 1973
16 4-6-4T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5638 1912 1912 1946 Scrapped October 1973
17 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5790 1914 1914 Dec 1983 Preserved Hunter Valley Railway Trust
18 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5909 1915 1915 Dec 1984 Preserved Hunter Valley Training Co.
19 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5910 1915 1915 Nov 1981 Preserved Richmond Vale Railway Museum
20 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5998 1920 1920 Feb 1985 Preserved Hunter Valley Railway Trust
21 4-4-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 3335 1891 1919 1935 ex NSWGR M51 - Sold NSWPWD 1940
22 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6055 1921 1921 Sept 1987 Preserved Richmond Vale Railway Museum
23 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6056 1921 1921 Jul 1980 Preserved Hunter Valley Railway Trust
24 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6125 1922 1922 Sept 1987 Preserved Richmond Vale Railway Museum
25 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6126 1923 1923 Sept 1987 Preserved Richmond Vale Railway Museum
26 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6127 1923 1923 Jul 1983 Preserved Hunter Valley Railway Trust
27 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6137 1923 1923 Mar 1987 Preserved Hunter Valley Railway Trust
28 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6138 1923 1923 Dec 1983 Preserved Hunter Valley Railway Trust
29 4-6-4T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6139 1923 1923 1965 Scrapped October 1973
30 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 6294 1926 1926 Sept 1987 Preserved Richmond Vale Railway Museum
31 2-8-2T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 5295 1926 1926 Jun 1984 Preserved Hunter Valley Railway Trust
[28]

Upon the formation of South Maitland Railways in 1918 the new company took over the existing locomotive fleet of the East Greta Coal Mining Co.[29] In 1935, with the withdrawal of all the other classes except the three passenger locomotives, the fourteen 2-8-2T wheel arrangement 10 Class became the main motive power, assisted on the shorter runs by the three ex passenger locos (15,16 & 29).

Beyer Peacock & Co in Manchester, England built the fourteen 10 class locos to a design specifically made for the East Greta Coal Mining Co./SMR. After the withdrawal of the last passenger tank loco in 1965 the 10 class locos then solely worked the coal traffic both on the SMR and from March 1973 they also worked the Richmond Vale Railway until June 1983 when steam haulage ceased on the SMR. From June 1983 until the closure of the Richmond Vale Railway in September 1987, the remaining serviceable 10 class locos worked the RVR at various times. The four locomotives working the Richmond Vale Railway upon closure were the last four steam locomotives in normal commercial operation in Australia.[30] After the end of steam on the SMR all fourteen were placed under a preservation order. All fourteen locomotives have been preserved. The leader, SMR 10, was the most recent to be restored to working operation, and it is currently located along with No.18 at the Hunter Valley Training Company which is based in the former South Maitland Railway workshops at East Greta Junction. SMR 17, 20, 23, 26, 27, 28 and 31 are stored at the Hunter Valley Railway Trust, while 19, 22, 24, 25 and 30 are located at the Richmond Vale Railway Museum at Richmond Main.[31]

Abermain line locomotivesEdit

Locomotive Type Builder Builder's No. Built Entered service Withdrawn Notes
1 0-6-0ST Avonside Engine Co. 1606 1911 1911 1961 Transferred to RVR Hexham 1955 - scrapped 1966
2 0-6-0ST Avonside Engine Co. 1916 1922 1922 1969 Transferred to RVR Hexham 1963 - Preserved Dorrigo Steam Railway & Museum
1 Saywell 0-6-0T Hudswell, Clarke & Co. 290 1886 1920 1925 Sold 1925 Howley & Co. Glenrock Railway
[32][33]

The thee locomotives purchased by the Abermain Coal Company are shown above. In 1922 the Abermain Coal Co. merged with the Seaham Coal Co. to form Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd. In 1931 Abermain Seaham Collieries merged with J & A Brown to form J & A Brown & Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd (JABAS). The two Avonside locos kept their Abermain numbers but were transferred to Hexham when requiring major repairs.[34]

J & A Brown No.5 also worked the Abermain line on loan from the RVR from October 1936 to September 1939.[35]

Hebburn line locomotivesEdit

Locomotive Type Builder Builder's No. Built Entered service Withdrawn Notes
2 0-6-0ST Beyer, Peacock & Co. 2575 1884 1884 1938 Transferred from AA Co's Newcastle system 1903 - scrapped 1947
3 0-6-0ST Beyer, Peacock & Co. 4558 1903 1903 1920 Transferred from AA Co's Newcastle system 1918 - sold 1920 Hoskin's Ironworks Lithgow
62XX 0-6-0 Robert Stephenson & Co. 2195 1874 1903 1927 Ex NSWGR 62XX - ex Newcastle Coal Mining Co.
2020 2-6-4T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 3206 1891 1834 1955 Ex NSWGR 2020
2017 2-6-4T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 3289 1891 1939 1956 Ex NSWGR 2017
1 2-6-2T Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn E7841 1955 1955 1967 Scrapped 1970
J & A Brown 26 2-6-4T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 2567 1885 1967 1967 Ex NSWGR 2013 - Scrapped 1970
3013 4-6-4T Beyer, Peacock & Co. 4456 1903 1967 1976 Ex NSWGR 3013, On hire from the RVR - Transferred to Hexham 1972 - Preserved Lochlan Valley Railway 1981, now at Canberra ARHS
[36][37][38][39][40]

Locomotives 1, 2, 3, 62XX, 2017 & 2020 were Hebburn Ltd locomotives and worked the branch lines to Hebburn Nos.1 & 2 Collieries & Elrington COlliery. 62XX, 2 & 3 were transferred from the AA Co's Newcastle railway system. 62XX was also used on Aberdare Railway construction trains.[41][42][43] When loco No.1 failed in 1967 and since Hebburn Ltd was now part of Coal & Allied, J & A Brown No.26 was placed on loan to Hebburn. No.26 soon developed problems and was replaced by J & A Brown 3013, which although despite being bought for the Richmond Vale Railway was transferred to Hebburn upon purchase from the Department of Railways. Upon closure of Hebburn No.2 Colliery in 1972, 3013 was transferred to the RVR at Hexham where it was used until 1976.[44] J & A Brown No.26 never returned to the RVR & was cut up at Hebburn No.1 Colliery in 1970.[45]

Wickham & Bullock Island/ Cessnock Collieries locomotivesEdit

Locomotive Type Builder Builder's No. Built Entered service Withdrawn Notes
Pygmy 0-6-0T Hudswell Clarke & Co. 296 1888 1916 c1961 Fitted with Leyland petrol engine
- 0-6-0ST Andrew Barclay & Co. 1738 1922 1923 1933 Sold John Lysaght Pty Ltd, Port Kembla - Preserved NSW Rail Transport Museum - on loan to RVRM
530X 0-6-0ST Vulcan Engine Works 834 1879 1932 c1961 Ex NSWGR 530X - partially scrapped - remains preserved RVRM - on loan to Yass Tramway
Liverpool 0-6-4T Beyer Peacock & Co. 2607 1866 1934 1943 ex J & A Brown No.6
[46][47]

SafeworkingEdit

Upon the opening of the Aberdare Railway to Cessnock signal boxes were located at: East Greta Junction, East Greta, Aberdare Junction, Stanford Merthyr, Weston, Abermain and Cessnock. The signals & lever frames etc. were built by McKenzie and Holland. Safeworking on the single track line was by electric staff. Upon duplication of the main line safeworking was provided by Tyers 3 wire block instruments, which were later replaced by Tyers 1 wire, 3 position instruments. The Stanford branch was worked by electric staff from Aberdare Junction.[48] During duplication an additional signal box was opened at Neath. Additional signal boxes were later opened at Mt Dee, Bee Siding, Aberdare South Junction, Aberdare Central Junction and Bellbird Junction on the main line, and Kalingo Junction on the Kalingo branch. The Bellbird branch from Bellbird Junction to Bellbird Colliery, and the Pelton branch from Bellbird Colliery to Pelton were worked by electric staff instruments. From 1942 the Kalingo branch was worked by electric staff instruments from Bellbird Junction to Kalingo Junction.[49] All the remaining branches worked by the South Maitland Railways were worked by ordinary train staff. The colliery branch lines were worked by the "one engine in steam" system.

By 1976 with the downturn in traffic signal boxes remained only at East Greta Junction, Weston, Neath and Caledonia. The end of the double track had been relocated to Caledonia in 1973 with the closure of the lines to Cessnock station & Maitland Main Colliery; the electric staff instruments for the Bellbird branch were transferred to Caledonia signal box. On 27 November 1982 Weston Signal box closed. This was soon followed with the ending of double track working on 7 December 1982 when the down line was taken out of use. Electric staff working was then used between East Greta Junction and Neath, and between Neath and Caledonia.[50] Caledonia signal box closed from 10 June 1983 and the section from Neath to Pelton was then worked by Ordinary Train Staff, this was changed to Ordinary Train Staff and Ticket from 18 December 1984. Neath Signal box closed 3 September 1996 leaving the entire branch from East Greta Junction to Pelton worked as a single section by Ordinary Train Staff and Ticket.[51] The signal box at East Greta Junction remains open.

Changes in ownership of South Maitland RailwaysEdit

The railway line between East Greta Junction and Stanford Merthyr was owned and worked by the East Greta Coal Mining Co. When constructed the Aberdare Railway was jointly controlled by the Australian Agricultural Company and the Aberdare Collieries Ltd of New South Wales, who entered into an agreement with the East Greta Company for haulage over the line.[52][53] In February 1906 the AA Co. purchased the Aberdare Collieries' share in the Aberdare Railway giving them 100% control of the Aberdare Railway, but the East Greta Coal Mining Co. continued to work trains over the line.[54]

In 1918 the main line railway interests of Hebburn Ltd and the East Greta Coal Mining Co. were merged to form South Maitland Railways Ltd. This new company took over the ownership and operation of the Stanford Merthyr line and the Aberdare Railway, as well as all of the locomotives and passenger and goods rolling stock of the East Greta Co. The new company also took over the haulage over other colliery lines that were previously worked by the East Greta Co.[55]

In April 1931 the East Greta Coal Mining Co. was taken over by J & A Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd, which gave them a 50% share of SMR.[56] In the 1940s due to changes in company laws South Maitland Railways Ltd was changed to South Maitland Railways Proprietary Limited. With the merger of JABAS with Caledonian Collieries Ltd in 1960 and the formation of Coal & Allied Industries Ltd (C&A) the 50% share in SMR held by JABAS passed to this new company. In 1967 Coal & Allied purchased Hebburn Ltd which then gave them 100% control of South Maitland Railways.[57] The SMR continued as a subsidiary of Coal & Allied until 1989 when SMR Pty Ltd was bought by a private consortium.[58]

Weston to Pelaw Main "Link Line" and flood workingsEdit

In 1936 a connection between the South Maitland system and the nearby J & A Brown owned Richmond Vale Railway was constructed from Pelaw Main Colliery to the SMR at Weston. This line was used by JABAS for any gas coal from its 3 Abermain collieries and Stanford Main No.2 Colliery at Paxton that was to be shipped at the company's coal loader at Hexham, any coal that was to be shipped at the Dyke at Newcastle still had to travel over the SMR to East Greta Junction & the NSWGR to Newcastle. The trains were worked by South Maitland Railways from these collieries to an exchange siding adjacent to Pelaw Main Colliery, where the trains were then worked by the RVR to Hexham. With the opening of the coal preparation plant at Hexham the traffic over the line increased as the small coal that was to be washed also travelled over the link line. The line fell out of use after the closure of rail operations at Abermain No.2 Colliery in December 1963 & the connection with the SMR was lifted in August 1964, the line was lifted during 1973.[59]

This connection to the Richmond Vale railway provided a separate route and connection to the Main north line at Hexham and was used as an alternate route to move the coal from the various Cessnock area collieries (including those not owned by JABAS) when the South Maitland lines were flooded at East Greta Junction during the 1949,1950,1951,1952 & 1955 floods. During these floods RVR & SMR locomotives worked trains over the SMR and RVR, with the SMR locos being serviced at the JABAS loco shed at Pelaw Main Colliery. During some of these floods when the SMR loco fleet was trapped at East Greta, locomotives were also hired from the NSW Dept of Railways.[60]

Relocation for Hunter Expressway constructionEdit

A 900 metre long section of the line has been relocated, with a new bridge constructed to carry the railway line over the Hunter Expressway. The new section was built to mainline 1XC standards, with 60 kilogram per metre rails and concrete sleepers. The ends of the new section were adapted back to the existing lightweight rails. The owners of the line were given back the existing rails and servicable hardwood sleepers from the bypassed section of line.[61]


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