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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways
i Location of the Railway
ii Track
iii Bridging and Tunnelling
iv Dams for Engine Water
v Locomotives and Rolling Stock
vi Signalling and Telecommunications
vii 1900/1988-The New Century
viii The Garratt Locomotive
ix Steam Locomotive Practice
x Motor Railcars
xi Signalling
xii Electric Tramways
xiii Electric Railways - Direct Current
xiv Electric Railways - 25 kV ac
xv Diesel Traction
xvi Alignment and Track
xvii Operations

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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Location of the Railway

A railway location is, in its fundamentals, no different from a road, save in its requiring gentler and more uniform gradients, wider-radius curves and stronger bridges. A railway's ability to accept the inclusion of unlit tunnels without undue risk or inconvenience is advantageous.

There is, however, one additional alignment advantage of a railway: its ability to reverse direction on a very narrow shelf cut into a mountainside, where the hairpin bend of a road would require a wider shelf for a reversing turn. Here it is useful to remember that manoeuvering a 20-bullock dray team under conditions of maximum traction or braking, through a small-radius 180 degree turn, posed problems every bit as formidable as that facing a semi trailer truckie on some of our mountain pass roads today.

It is difficult to identify the earliest applications of the main line railway zig-zag solution to gaining elevation by a series of directional reversals on a mountainside. In India the first flat section of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway from Bombay to Kalyan was opened in 1853, two years before the Sydney railway to Parramatta.[4] The respective transmontaine extensions up the Bhor Ghat towards Poona and from Penrith westward over the Blue Mountains, would have been surveyed around the same time. Probably as a result of the flow of information which was conveyed through the mail steamer link from England to Australia the work in Bombay would have been recognised. It is therefore difficult at this distance to say who thought of the zig-zag idea first. The original 1867 Bhor Ghat alignment contained one such reversal (on a projecting peninsula of high ground). John Whitton's use in Australia of a double-reversal zig-zag solution on a one in thirty three grade to climb the steep eastern escarpment of the Blue Mountains at Lapstone, and to descend at one in forty/forty two into the western valley system at Lithgow, established himself as a major innovator in main line railway location.

John Whitton was also the great engineer of the central core of trunk railways in New South Wales. He also succeeded in engineering deep cuttings, sandstone viaducts and minimum tunnels. His work is still used to this day, although in the case of his two zig-zags, no longer by main line trains. The 'Great Zig-Zag' at Lithgow in particular was widely publicised in engineering circles and the plans may have been the inspiration of the American, Henry Meiggs, who built the world's largest and best known complex of railway zig-zags on the Central Railway of Peru in 1870 on an alignment surveyed by a European engineer. Another Australian zig-zag railway was established on a branch line to Kalamunda near Perth.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian National Railways

People in Bright Sparcs - Macfarlane, Ian B.; Whitton, John

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 461 - 462, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher