The Zig Zag Railway

A song by Ron Russell©Ron Russell 1986

In the nineteenth century, a way was needed from the sea
A mountain range stood manifest, barring passage to the west
So to carry wheat and ore, to Australia’s eastern shore
The Great Divide they did survey, to build the western railway.
An engineer named John Whitton, a forceful man of great vision
Used his talents and his skills, to tame and conquer those great hills
Mountain pass, and mountain grade, to carry goods for foreign trade
To replace the coach and dray, he built the Zig Zag railway.

October Eighteen Sixty Nine, it opened on the western line,
A modern marvel in its day, called the Zig Zag Railway.

My great grandfather made his way, with his faithful horse and dray
From Sydney Town to Emu Ford, across the mountain ranges broad
With his family and his wife, went to find a better life
Look for work to earn some pay, on the Zig Zag Railway.
In Lithgow Town they settled there and the life was far from fair
Some in huts and some in tents, braving the harsh elements
But steady work is what you need, when you've got six mouths to feed
So ‘Navvy’then the long hard day, on the Zig Zag Railway.

The work was hard and it was tough, and conditions very rough

Aching backs and aching bones, moving tons of rock and stones
Hammers, chisels, shovels, picks, breaking down those mighty cliffs
All manual labour in those days, on the Zig Zag Railway.
With curses, blood, and sweat and tears, they laboured on for many years
Cutting tunnel, viaduct, a million cubic yards of rock.
Gouged out of the Great Divide, on its rugged western side
Built the mighty Permanent Way, of the Zig Zag Railway.

Near forty years did operate, carried goods and carried freight
Then a deviation made, a faster way down through the glade
Ten tunnels through the mountainside, vict'ry o’er the Great Divide
Ten tunnels were to end the day, of the Zig Zag Railway.
And now on lonely winter nights, some claim they see the flash of lights
Phantom trains with phantom loads, working up the empty roads
Rattling the phantom points, and clacking over phantom joints.


The innovative Zig Zag Railway construction was finished in 1869.
From Ron Russell and Ray King, Chullora Junction, 1986

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