Sydney Railway Works


The great importance of railway communication throughout the colony for promoting its inland traffic, and thus developing its industrial resources, is strongly felt by those who have enjoyed the advantages of this means of transport in the mother country ; and the time when the Sydney railway will be open for the conveyance of passengers and merchandise is consequently anticipated by them with great eagerness. There are, besides, many in our community who have never seen a railway train, whose only idea of the " perfection of locomotion" is taken from pictures or hearsay account, and whose anxiety to see a line of self-propelled carriages is equally strong, lt may afford some satisfaction to those interested in the progress of this great public work, to give the result of a recent personal in- spection of its condition and progress

Those who have watched the rapid construction of provincial lines of railroad in England within the last ten years, may at first be astonished at the slow progress of railroad construction in a country of such abounding wealth, but there need be no longer any surprise, when it is recollected how cheap and abundant labour has recently been in England, and how scarce and expensive it has been and still is here. The vast number of unskilled labourers desiring employment, and ready to undertake it at the lowest remuneration, has hitherto given great impetus to railway enterprise, while the tempting inducements held out to such workmen in this colony, and the consequent high wages required to secure their services, have thrown the greatest difficulties in the way of such works. In the review of these serious obstructions, the wonder is rather that large an amount of the undertaking has been executed, than that so little has been done.

The Act of Council, incorporating the Sydney Railway Company, was finally assented to by his Excellency in November, 1849. Shortly after, surveys were taken of the proposed line, and a commencement was made at excavating and raising embankments at different portions the distance, together with the building of a few timber bridges. These attempts, although considered as very extensive undertakings by those who executed them, and indeed positively important when regarded as the initiation of a grand enterprise, yet both in imperfectness of execution, and in slowness of procedure, they were ludicrously inadequate to the vastness the work. Nor is this to be wondered at, when it is known, that the gentlemen who engaged the undertaking had little or no practical knowledge of railway operations.

With the appointment of Mr. James Wallace, as engineer to to line, and the subsequent acceptance of the con- tracts by Mr. William Randle, a new era in the history of these enterprises has commenced. Both these gentlemen have brought to bear upon the project the capacity and energy acquired from engaging in those gigantic engineering works in England, which are the wonders of this as they will be of future time, and compared with which the construction of fifteen miles railway in a level country is a mere bagatelle. Yielding to British enterprise and British industry, the Sydney Railway and works are beginning to assume a new aspect. Cuttings which had been pronounced ready for the permanent rails have been altogether re-formed, and primitive bridges, which would not have stood the impact weight intended, have been condemned, and are being substituted by more substantial ones.

It may be premature at the present stage of its progress to award the credit due to this important undertaking : this will be more appropriate and will doubtless be unequivocally expressed when the enterprise is completed, and when the public have begun to appreciate and enjoy the benefits of railway communication. But in the mean time the work that has already been done gives good promise of its speedy and successful completion, and those who will take the trouble to inspect the portions of the line already completed will soon perceive what a vast extent of work has been executed, and what great engineering difficulties have been surmounted. Few persons have visited the works without expressing their surprise at their forward state,—so little notice having been taken by the people of Sydney of the state of these operations.

It is the ultimate design of the Sydney Railway Company to connect the metropolis with the more important towns of the interior ; but at present their transactions are limited to the construction of a line of railway between Sydney and Parramatta. The distance of this line is fourteen miles reckoning from the site of the terminus in. Devonshire-street, to that on the Dog Trap Road ; and the course is rather less circuitous than the Turnpike Road.

Very few of the English lines have been constructed on so uniform a level; while scarcely an acre of the required enclosure being in cultivation, the expense of purchasing the land has been inconsiderable. Only one tunnel (if such it may be called) is required on the line, which is that beneath the Old Botany Road, and only the length of a hundred and fifty yards. Other mechanical advantages have been in favour of this line, such as the abundance of suitable timber for making the railway plant, and the contiguousness of stone quarries. These accidents though in no way diminishing the real difficulties of the under- taking must yet be looked upon as desirable auxiliaries to the enterprise. Under the superintendence of Mr. Wallace, continuations of the line in the several directions of Windsor, Campbelltown, and Liverpool have been surveyed and on the completion of the trunk line these branches will no doubt be immediately commenced. …

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