Lake Macquarie History

How We Grew - the 1890s

When the railway line from Newcastle to Sydney was completed in 1889, much of the employment which had been created to support the construction disappeared. At the same time a severe economic depression was being felt Australia wide, which caused the closure and collapse of many banks including the the Federal Bank of Australia. Those who had deposited their savings or who had borrowed heavily to fund investments through the boom period of the 1870s found themselves in deep trouble and thousands of small and large investors were ruined.

photo: coffe pot train, toronto

Swansea and the surrounding districts suffered from loss of export trade now that goods could travel by rail rather than by sea.

The Cooranbong area suffered badly. Hundreds of people left the district and unemployment was rampant with the finish of the railway work. The population dropped from 700 in 1884 to 206 in 1891. It was the coming of the Seventh Day Adventist Church which ensured it's future, with the Adventist College opening in 1898, and the Sanitarium Health Food Company in 1909.

Although workers moved on and things did decline, the coming of the railway also brought new opportunities. There was much property development along the tracks and land sales opened up new areas. New industries were also encouraged by the assurance of rail transport.

photo:sulphide corporation - reclaiming superphosphate

The railway made tourism possible, and the development of the Toronto area is testament to that. The Excelsior Investments and Building Company had acquired around 1000 acres of land bordering the Lake at Toronto, and Government permission for construction of a private railway line was given in October 1889, with the line formally opened on 7th March, 1891. The Excelsior Company promoted Toronto as the "Riviera of Australia", and it became a major tourist destination throughout the 1890s. The Toronto Hotel and Pleasure Grounds had opened in 1887, and now many workplaces and churches came to Toronto for their annual picnics. It was also a pleasant and very easy trip by rail for families and other day trippers from Newcastle.

1897 saw the Sulphide Corporation's Cockle Creek Smelter begin production. It was to become the major employer in Lake Macquarie for many years.


Clouten, Keith 1967, Reid's mistake : the story of Lake Macquarie from its discovery until 1890, Lake Macquarie Shire Council, [Speers Point, N.S.W.]

Nilson, Laurie & Leis, Susan & Noble, Rodney & Lake Macquarie (N.S.W.). Council 1985, Lake Macquarie : past and present, Lake Macquarie City Council, [Boolaroo, N.S.W.]

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

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