While reading a thread on the popular Rail Page forums recently, I discovered a post regarding an old tunnel-like structure unearthed under tonnes of coal at the Metropolitan Colliery located in Helensburgh, NSW. From an historian point of view, this is a significant find. The photo snapped by user McOZ shows the remains of an over-bridge (single span viaduct), that passed over the original single line railway. The Illawarra Line was opened on the 3rd October 1888 and closed on the 30th of May 1915 in this area, when the Helensburgh Deviation (rail line duplication), was constructed on a friendlier grade.
The over-bridge was used as a dump siding* from the Metropolitan Colliery yard from 1903. The discovery clearly establishes the colliery and the railways department didn’t completely destroy at least one of the two known over-bridges between Metropolitan Tunnel and Camp Creek.
Today’s remains of the Metropolitan Colliery Dump Siding Over-bridge.
The ovebridge/viaduct is located between the original junction/branch line of the Metropolitan Colliery, and the Camp Creek culvert as indicated in several historical photos.
The dump siding line over-bridge was required by the colliery to:
- dump waste rock, (typically shales and siltstone that comprises approximately 20% of total mined material)
- temporary wood store (to shore up the Mine roofs and walls)
- store coal wagons
- extra storage space
The erection of the over-bridge must have been of value to the Metropolitan Colliery as it’s construction would have been slightly costly. A heritage assessment report for the Metropolitan Colliery, produced in August 2008 by Michael Pearson of the Heritage Management Consultants Pty Ltd. States that “Rail lines are said to survive beneath the coal stockpile on top of the structure.” Just after exiting the eastern side of the over-bridge, photos suggests the single line was forked in as many as 4 different lines. Also revealed are not only the colliery’s rail line heading from the main ground facilities, east and across the Illawarra Line, but another rail line that headed up to the top of the ‘Island’ – (a geographically high point of land within the Metropolitan Colliery’s facilities, still clearly visible with flora today). A temporary Dray Bridge was also constructed over the Illawarra Line that was positioned half way between the dump siding over-bridge and the Colliery junction.
Proposed works at the Metropolitan Colliery Surface Facilities Area, could have potential impacts on this structure. Namely; “be affected by future changes to stockpile management.”
Unfortunately nothing of the rail formation past the original junction of the Metropolitan Colliery’s branch line exists today that we know of, and coal stockpiles and filtration dams now occupy this whole area as the ground level has risen dramatically since the early 1900’s.
The original branch line cutting is still intact today and be seen from Google Earth and Bing Maps. Incidentally some old original rail remains in the branch line cutting.
*Discharge point for loaded shuttle cars and other haulage devices. Also location of supplies in a production section, e.g. timber dump.
Images/Photos, and Article © Ian Piggott 2009-2013 – all rights reserved,
Interactive Map Provided by © Bing Maps.