Manning River Breakwall Railway Description

Introduction

History of the Area

Railway Plans

Key Features of the Railway

Operations

Additional Information


Introduction

The Manning River Breakwall railway covers the isolated raiway line located on the North Coast of New South Wales at Harrington (140 sea miles north of Sydney). The line ran from one of the mouths of the Manning River at Harrington to a quarry located at Crowdy Head.

Up to the early 1900s the coastal area of New South Wales main form of transport was by coastal steamer and many of the rivers along the North Coast were known for their dangerous bars at the entrance to the rivers. The Manning River was no exception and many ships were wrecked at the enterance to the river. In an effort to improve the safety of the enterance an extensive brerakwall was planned. To support the building of these breakwalls a small railway was operated for approximately 30 years.

This route models the railway and it's operation.

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History of the Area

The Manning River was first discovered by the explorer John Oxley, who crossed the river on his journey between Port Macquarie and Port Stephens in 1818. The river was surveyed by Henry Dangar in 1825 and 26 and named after the Deputy Govenor of the Australian Agricultural Company, Sir William Manning.

The Manning River fed by a number of rivers and drains water from the Barrington and Nowendoc areas. It is the only double delta river in the southern hemisphere and the second only river with multiple river enterances in the world. The other one being the Nile River. The southern delta of the river enters the sea at Old Bar and the northern enternace is at Harrington. The enterance at Harringto was considered the better of the two for ship navigation.

Wingham, located on the Manning River was first settled in 1841 and was also located on the Raymond Terrace to Port Macquarie road, then main coastal road. The site at Wingham was chosen as it was furtherest that boats could go up the Manning River. Wingham was located approximately 18.5 miles (29.7 kms) from the river enterance at Harrington. Ships continued to travel up river to Wingham until 1913, when the North Coast Railway was built through Wingham.

Taree, the other major town on the Manning is between Harrington and Wingham.

Settlement in these areas produced many of the food and building (timber, etc) supplies for the Sydney area. The North Coast Steam Navigation Company (NCSNC) and Allen Taylor and Co. operated regular freight and passenger services up the river to Taree and Wingham. Prior to the coming of the railway up to a dozen ships would cross the bar every week.

The Manning River bar was one of the most hazardous on the North Coast and often delayed shipping or caused wrecks on a regular basis.

A Marine Pilot Station was established at Harrington in 1856 to assist shipping crossing the bar and in 1879, a lighthouse was established at Crowdy Head (approximately 4 miles (6.4 kms) north east of Harrington. The flagpole at the pilot station was to communicate conditons on the bar to ship captains attempting to enter the river. A tug was used for many years to assist ships in crossing the bar.

In 1885 the NSW Goverment engaged Sir John Goode, a distinguished harbour engineer to advise on schemes to make the river enternace safer. He designed a plan to build two breakwalls from the rivermouth into the sea and two training walls within the river mouth to hold the position of the enterance.

Work on the breakwalls commenced in 1895, with the letting of a contract to build the northern breakwall, and continued spasmodically for the next 22 years, until 1927 when work was offically stopped. The coming of the north coast railway (in 1913) decimated the shipping industry, and triggered its decline over a number of years. The shipping trade finally finshed during WWII, due to the requsitioning of NCSNC vessels.

Due to the decline in the shipping industry only the northern breakwall and training wall were built. The southern breakwall and the majority of the southern training wall were never completed.

Over the course of the building over 600,000 tons of rock was quarried at Crowdy Head to be used in construction of the breakwalls.

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Railway Plans

A quarry was established at Crowdy Heads to supply rock for the project. It was estimated that approximately 38,000 tons of rock woukd be required for the first phase of the project, to be paid at 3s 8d per ton.

A railway of approximately 4.5 miles was constructed between Harrington and Crowdy Head for transportation.

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Key Features of the Railway

The railway was of simple construction with few curves and almost level. It ran in the sand dunes behind the beach. AT the quarry there were a number of sidings for loco run around and loading of wagons. Whilst at the Harrington end there was a run-around loop, weighbridge and locomotive servicing facilities. The railway extended onto the breakwall and training wall to allow the carriuage of rock to the "work face".

A triangle junction was required to allow trains to access the northern breakwall.

The construction of the northern walls was undertaken in two phases, the first by private contractor between 1895 and 1900, and then finally by the PWD using day labour between 1900 and 1927. When the PWD took over operations in 1900 the railway line was re-aligned to eliminate some sharp curves.

In the early days of the lines operation, it is thought that horses may have been used for motive power, with these being replaced by small 0-4-0ST locomotives. During the "PWD-era" ex Baldwin Steam trams purchased for operation in the Sydney Tram network were used on the line.

Typically the line was not ballasted and laid directly onto the sand. Some work was required to remove shifting sands, especially after storms, to keep the line open.

On ocassions, it is thought that the line was used for picnics, with picnicers coming down the river from Taree by boat and then travelling across the line to Crowdy Head for the outing.

It was also used to carry injured employees from the quarry to the hospital in Taree. Quite a tortuous trip by todays standards.

On occasions when the bar at Harrington was too dangerous the NCSNC steamer would unload passengers in the relatively sheltered waters of Crowdy Heads. If they were lucky they would be transported along the line to Harrington for transhipment to Taree by river boat.

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Operations

Operations on the Manning River line were relatively simple with no signalling and modest amounts of traffic and a easily graded line.

Rock was loaded at the quarry by steam crane onto waiting wagons. Newspaper accounts suggest that 3 loads of 17 trucks were tipped daily. Apparently things started at 6am when a load of empties was taken from Harrington to Crowdy Head. A load of full wagons, weighing approximately 300 tons would be waiting for return to Harrington.

The time to cover the distance between Harrington and Crowdy would be approximately 30 mins.

On arrival at Harrington the locomotive would run around it's train and then take wagons over the weighbridge before transporting them to the relevant tipping site.

Work on the short section of the southern training wall that was built was done by railing the rocks to the crane wharf on the northern side of the river, then loading the rocks onto a barge for transport across the river. Once across the river they would be loaded onto rail wagons and pulled by "horse" power to the tipping site.

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Additional Information

A full article on the Manning River Breakwall Railway, written by Ian McNeil, can be found in the Light Railways Magazine, No 219, June and No 220, August 2011.

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