Lake Macquarie History

Park Avenue crossing - Adamstown Belmont railway - Fernleigh Track

The Fernleigh Track was once the Adamstown to Belmont Railway. Construction of the railway to Redhead was approved by an act of Colonial Parliament in 1883. Legal issues caused delays and it was not until the early 1890s that the railway was opened to service the Burwood Extended Colliery at Redhead. The branch to South Burwood Colliery, later Dudley Colliery was opened, on 11 June 1891. The Wallsend and Plattsburg Sun on 21 October reported that the line was constructed by the 'well known ' firm of Johnson and Billings at a cost of 95,000 pounds. The line’s extension south from Redhead to Belmont was opened on 26 December 1916. The distance from the junction with the main line near Adamstown Station to the dead end at Belmont was 15.51 kilometres.

photo: park avenue crossing, railway gradient

The line embraced 5 level crossings. 1 curved tunnel, 2 overbridges, 9 stations or platforms, 4 signal boxes and numerous deep cuttings and high embankments. The line served the transport needs of 5 major collieries and provided loading facilities for others.The last train over the line ran from Lambton Colliery at Redhead on 19 December 1991 conveying coal to the Morandoo Exchange Sidings at Port Waratah. The coal was destined for the coal washery and the coke ovens at BHPs Newcastle Steelworks. During its century-long history the railway conveyed coal and passenger traffic (scheduled and special) hauled by steam, diesel and CPH rail motors.

At the time of construction human settlement consisted of a few scattered farming homesteads with dirt tracks following ridge lines or gullies being the only form of overland transport. To the west the town of Charlestown had developed in conjunction with South Waratah Colliery. Soon collieries served by Johnson and Billings railway became urbanising agents leading to point settlements such as Kahibah, Whitebridge, Dudley and Redhead. The compiler, Ed Tonks acknowledges Dulcie Hartley for the supply of some of this information.

photo: park avenue crossing

This diagram shows the relative steepness of the line as constructed. The gradient of 1 in 40 to the tunnell from Adamstown was about the limit of operational steepness for the 19th Century steam locomotives. Note the fall of the line to Redhead from the summit at Whitebridge. Cyclists riding from Redhead to Whitebridge no doubt appreciate this uphill grade. The grade is relatively flat from south of Redhead to Belmont.

Relics of the railways infrastructure to look out for include an impressive tunnel, open wire line routes (posts with insulators) for communication and safe working, in situ tracks, remains of signals, signalling equipment and signal box remains, kilometre and half kilometre posts and remains of caution post.

photo: park avenue crossing, last passenger train

The last passenger to Belmont, CPH17 is seen crossing Park Avenue Adamstown on the afternoon of Holy Thursday, 8 April 1971. At this time the crossing was only protected by a Stop Sign. Plans for flashing lights and warning bells dated from at least June 1965. In August 1972 flashing lights and bells were promised following a car being struck by a coal train in May 1972. The Park Avenue Crossing area was altered in the mid 1990s. The passage of the former line blocked off towards Adamstown. As at 21 May 1995 the construction of a roundabout was underway to the immediate east of the crossing. By 27 May 1995 the much sort after but by then superflous flashing lights and the sile bell on the westernmost light, had been removed. Just up from the crossing a coloured light signal had been installed to control trains off the branch line and onto the main line. This signal had been removed by October 1994 but the metal cabinet once containing it's switch gear still remains. (As at May 2013).

Photo Late Jim Webber from "Adamstown via Fernleigh.