More than 600 people flocked to the Western Sydney Records Centre in Kingswood last month for only its third open day in a decade, attending workshops and discussions by experts from State Records and the National Archives of Australia.
The Western Sydney Records Centre holds the largest collection of records relating to the history of NSW, equating to nearly 500km of records in paper formats of which more than 70km are state archives kept in perpetuity.
There was standing room only at a presentation about the history of the Mountains railway line, hosted by archivist Suzanne Upton.
Ms Upton spoke of the expansion of the western railway from Penrith in 1862 to Wentworth Falls by 1867 via stations including Watertank (Glenbrook), Wascoe’s (Blaxland) and Blue Mountains (Lawson). There was also mention of the chief railway engineer, John Whitton’s role, in building the “little” (Lapstone) and “big” (Lithgow) Zig Zags in the context of massive budget constraints at the time.
The audience was treated to a display of images of Mountains stations, maps of the rail line and engineering plans from State Records, including photos of a steam locomotive that derailed at the top point lookout on the Zig Zag Railway in 1901, almost falling into Ida Falls Gully.
The Little Zig Zag was replaced with the Glenbrook Tunnel in 1892 and more derailments and increasing demands on the big Zig Zag section of track saw it replaced with a 10-tunnel deviation in 1910.
Visitors also saw the exhibition: Romance and Industry of the NSW Railways, which featured original dining car service menus, railway travel brochures and model trains.
Aspects of the presentations can be accessed on the gallery page of the State Records website [www.records.nsw.gov.au] which has useful tools like ‘photo investigator’ where viewers can search for records from a vast collection dating back to the first fleet in 1788.
View more early Mountains photos from State Records on the Gazette’s Facebook site.