Page 374
Previous/Next Page
Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 6

I Construction During The Settlement Years

II The Use Of Timber As A Structural Material

III Structural Steel

IV Concrete Technology

V Housing

VI Industrialised Pre-cast Concrete Housing

VII Ports And Harbours

VIII Roads

IX Heavy Foundations

X Bridges

XI Sewerage

XII Water Engineering

XIII Railways
i Factors Impeding Developments
ii Railway Sleepers
iii Rail Tracks
iv Some Interesting Railway Projects
v Tarcoola-Alice Springs Railway
vi The Conversion to Standard Gauge
vii Railways in the Pilbara
viii Railways in the Coal Fields of Queensland
ix The Melbourne Underground Railway Loop

XIV Major Buildings

XV Airports

XVI Thermal Power Stations

XVII Materials Handling

XVIII Oil Industry

XIX The Snowy Mountains Scheme

XX The Sydney Opera House

XXI The Sydney Harbour Bridge

XXII Hamersley Iron

XXIII North West Shelf

Sources and References


Contact us

The first concept for a permanent way for wheeled vehicles can be traced back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. Somebody, whose name has been lost in antiquity, came up with the idea of laying down parallel baulks of timber to form tracks or tram-roads for easier haulage of heavy loads in wagons drawn by horses. In the eighteenth century similar tracks, consisting of oak rails laid upon blocks of wood, were in common use in England. In this case, the vehicle that ran over these 'wooden ways' had flanged wheels. At a later period, iron plates were laid over the upper surface of the timber rails in order to prolong their working life. This is where the term 'plate layer' comes from, to describe a man engaged on work on the permanent way. Then came the use of cast-iron rails of right angled section, laid on wooden sleepers and requiring no flanges on the wheels of the vehicles.

Thus in the evolution of railways, the first concept was the 'rail way' itself and the essential features of our modern permanent way, the ballast, sleepers, chairs and rails had been settled before the end of the eighteenth century.

When timber harvesting began in Victoria, towards the end of the last century, small tree trunks of 230 mm to 305 mm diameter were laid on a series of 'deadman' logs, butted end to end and placed parallel to form rough timber tracks or tram-roads. Logs were hauled by horses over these tracks, carried on timber jinkers, supported by bogeys of wide flanged wheels, to the bush mill. The sawn timber was hauled by horses, on sawn timber rails on timber sleepers, to the narrow gauge rail head. Victoria had a most extensive system of narrow-gauge railways, mostly used for the hauling of timber.

The first mechanical propulsion device to operate on rails in Australia, commenced on 12 September 1854, running between Flinders Street Station in Melbourne to Sandridge, now known as Port Melbourne, a distance of 3.5 kilometres. Due to the delay on the delivery dates of locomotives from England, it was designed and built locally. This was a remarkable triumph for initiative and skill. Therefore, the first orthodox railway locomotive to work in Australia, was designed and built in Melbourne only three decades after the pioneer applications of steam traction to railways in Europe.

By the end of the fifties, railways were in operation in the Hunter River Valley from Sydney, and the first sections of Australia's first trunk routes, between Melbourne, Geelong and Sunbury, and between Sydney and Campbelltown, were in service.

When railways were first constructed in Australia, mostly they were intended purely for local service, to run from newly opened-up country near the coast to the nearest port. In Queensland no less than eleven separate railways were in operation, owned by a mixture of State and Local Government authorities and private companies, before the construction of a coastal railway to achieve unification of the State system was considered. A similar situation existed in Western Australia and to a lesser degree in New South Wales and South Australia.

People in Bright Sparcs - Connell, J. W.

Previous Page Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Next Page

© 1988 Print Edition pages 373 - 375, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher