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  • Tracks - Gladstone Aerial Cableway Track

    Track Type3Unmarked track.
    Track Condition4Poor sections.
    Exposure1No Exposure

    The Gladstone Aerial Cableway track folows the original route of the Gladstone Mine aeiral cableway built in 1885. The cableway operated for only a few months extracting only 200 tons of coal and was dismanteled in 1886 when the Mine went bust1. It was subsequently removed and reinstalled at Katoomba where it spanned the valley from the bottom of what is now the scenic railway to near the Ruined Castle as part of J.B. North's Katoomba Mine.


    • Fairmont Resort, Leura
    • Nature Trail, Wentworth Falls

    Map:   Katoomba


    The start of the track can be accessed via the old indistinct track to Caroline Pool. There are two possible routes for the Caroline Pool track. Both branch off the Wentworth Falls Nature Trail between Lillian's Glen and Edinburgh Castle. The first can be found on the hairpin bend just below Edinbugh Castle. It cuts across the top of the gully to the next ridge. Follow that ridge down for about 100m then down into the next gully, through the thick fern growth to the creek. Cross the creek and head upstream for 20m, the cableway track is marked with a cairn. Continuing up the creek another 200m will bring you to Caroline Pool. The second is near the metal trail marker #8(?). The track heads into that first gully and down to the creek. Head upstream for 100m on the northern side of the creek and cross at the bend.

    The Cableway track runs up the western side of the ridge just below the top in a straight line. After 400m you will reach the tensioning pit. From this point the track becomes less distinct so just make your way as well as you can on the same bearing you've been walking, till you intercept the golf course.

    The track originally finished up near the tennis courts where the winding motor mounts can sill be located.

    From here the cableway went down Lawton's creek. It is unclear whether the track continued to follow the cableway or diverted to Gladstone creek (Gladstone Pass). The article reproduced below mentions the use of ladders which could indicate that Lawton's creek might have been used before the way down Gladstone Pass had been found. This explorer is currently exploring the possibility of a descent of Lawton's Creek and a number of large bolts and metal brackets have been found both on the ground and still attached to a cliff face.


    Still another addition, and perhaps one of the most enter- prising additions, to the list of New South Wales coal- mining enterprises was formally celebrated on Saturday by the opening of the Gladstone Colliery, Katoomba. The superlative in this case is adopted advisedly, as must be admitted by those who wore fortunate enough to secure an invitation to the ceremony of recording the mine's birthday. A special train left Redfern railway station about 9.30 a.m., containing about 250 ladies and gentlemen who had been asked by the directorate to make merry on the occasion.   Amongst the number were Mr. Judge Dowling, Messrs. W. S. Targett, and T. R. Smith, M.sL.A. : J. J. Farr, A. T. Holroyd, F. E. Rogers, Walter, M. Noakes (Messrs. Fowler and Co., Leeds), Walter Keep, Captain G. R Stevens, E. F. Stephen, J. B. North, John Wittingham, and Charles Brown (Melbourne), George Pile, T. H. Neale, P.M. (Hartley), H. G. Rowell (Katoomba), F. Senior, J.P., H.W. Callan, J. F. Holle, G. E. Morrell, L. Cohen, W. G. Collings, J. Brown, A. H. Donducy, William Wal- lace, R. Prendergast, Thomas Read, C. Billyard, W. P. Manning, F. H. Jackson, C. Bate, John Rae, A. M. Fell, J. R. Martin, H. Hughes, Abel Harber, G. Forsyth, E. F. Ickerson (legal manager), E. Higgs (traffic inspector), Superintendent H. Richardson, F. L. Shadforth, A. M. Fell, with many other New South Wales and Victorian capitalists and a number of officers from German warships at present in Port Jackson. Mr. M. H. Stephen, Chairman of the Board of Directors, was absent through illness. Tourists acquainted with the wild and truly savage gran- deur of the mountain country between Wentworth Falls   and Katoomba, will comprehend what labour must have been entailed in opening out a coal mine nearly fifteen hundred feet below the level of the railway, in raising coals to the edge of the precipice, and ' hauling them across the   ridges to the trucks. The Gladstone Colliery belongs to the Gladstone Coal Company, Limited, who own 460 acres of land almost immediately between the Falls and Katoomba, containing the three seams of coal common to all the Blue Mountain collieries. The centre one of these is 8 1/2 feet thick, and another 4 1/2 feet, neither showing bands or fault of any significance. The land was ori- ginally taken up-when probably half a dozen white men had not yet trodden it-by Mr. R. H. Reynolds, of Enge- hurst, Paddington, about the middle of 1883, and a Com- pany to work the mineral contained beneath it was floated for £50,000, in £1 shares, during the same year. Prior to deciding upon this, tests had been made which proved the coal to be of excellent and marketable quality. The holding comprises a complete point of country slightly to the west,   and in view of the celebrated Wentworth Falls. The seam at present being worked (the middle one) has been opened out by two horizontal drives from an adit in a gorge 1 1/2 mile south from the company's railway siding (which is almost exactly at the sixty-third milepost from Sydney on the Great Western Line), and is 1200 feet below the railway level, or 2000 feet over the level of the sea. It opens out on the side of a hill facing a gorge, and the entrance is at the bottom of a cliff nearly a thousand feet clear in depth, necessitating the use of ladders to reach it, the scaling of which forms excellent gymnastic and nerve-strengthening practice for those unaccustomed to gazing down such giddy heights. The drive is already about 750 feet in the hill, and even yet the best quality of the seam has not been touched. A thousand tons per week is the guaranteed output, and formal haulage was commenced on Thursday evening last. The contract for the railway, &c. (particulars of which fol- low), amounted to about £7500, but the company have already expended about £10,000," and purpose laying out an addi- tional £6000 to make perfection, if possible, more per- fect. The leading spirits of the company consist of Messrs. M. H. Stephen (chairman), Captain G. R. Stevens,   Messrs. Louis Cohen, J. J. Farr (managing director), A. Rogalsky, and C. Bate; with Mr. E. F. Ickerson as legal   manager. The original shareholders, who foresaw the success which awaited speculation, were Messrs. F. E. Rogers, James Milson, and E. F. Stephen. The land was originally taken up under a mineral conditional purchase by Mr. Reynolds, who subsequently divided his interest with two others; and the three, after expending £1800 on its   development, floated the concern into a company on the limited liability principle. In addition to the directorate, the following gentlemen are large shareholders :-Messrs. F. E. Rogers, F. Senior, J.P., and J. F. Holle. The company is prepared to contract for, say, a delivery of 1000 tons at Redfern station at 11s. 8d. per ton; a figure which   augurs well for future success, in view of the fact that the Newcastle and Hunter River pits have for years been over-taxed to keep pace with the demand. That there is room for many additional capitalists in various parts of the colony to follow the Gladstone Company's example is some- what unintentionally, but not less frankly, set forth by the prospectus of a new coal company which is at present being advertised. On its provisional directorate appear the names of the Colonial Treasurer (Mr. Dibbs), Mr. James Fletcher, M.L.A., and many other prominent authorities on matters coaly, and their opinion is summed up in the following statement:-"The existing collieries (i.e., at Newcastle) seem to be utterly unable to meet the growing demand, so that the provisional directors, many of whom have large experience in the working and disposal of coal, anticipate no difficulty in selling all that can be raised. Furthermore, the rapid increase in the Hunter River (the main artery of New South Wales coal export) is greater now than ever it   was." In support of that assertion official returns are quoted, showing the Newcastle outputs to have been as follows: 1881, 1,351,595 tons; 1832, 1,419,122 tons; 1883, 1,731,956 tons; 1884, 2,051,843 tons. The Gladstone Company pays 5s. 3d. per ton freight per rail to Sydney; being 63 miles distant, as against 2s. 9d. additional paid by the Lithgow mines, 98 miles away.

    On reaching the ground, an immediate adjournment was made for lunch, which had been prepared for several hundred people in a large marquee, adorned with   mountain gigantic ferns, and pitched so as to afford a bird's eye vista of the timber clearing along which the route to the mine runs. Mr. P. G. Whittell, of the Mount Victoria Hotel, and host elect of the shorty-to-be Grand Hotel in Phillip-street, Sydney, catered, and supplied full and plenty of the best. In deference to those destined after lunch to undertake a stiff mountaineering climb to the mine, toastmaking was made extremely short and practical. The health of her Majesty having been honoured, the Vice Chairman, Mr. Pile, proposed "Prosperity to the Com- pany." He little thought 30 years ago when he tramped over that region that there would ever be a coal mine opened up on it. The company had spent £2000 in works, and a revenue of £12,000 per annum would be derived by the Government. He prognosticated the speedy rise of a prosperous township thereabouts; and, in alluding   to the wire tramway line, suggested that if the Government only had one such rope at work between the Observatory and North Shore, they would at once overcome the difficulty of bridging across the harbour. (Hear, hear.) He pointed out that their seam was improving in quality at every inch further that was being gone into the hill.

    Mr. LOUIS COHEN briefly responded. The pendent rail- way before them had been the result of a great deal of thought, anxiety, and of immeasurable trouble to the directors. However, they now saw it for themselves, and would admit it to be a genuine success. (Applause.) Their endeavour would be to give the Sydney citizens a cheap and good coal, which they would doubtless be able to do. The engineer had every confidence in his work, and there was little doubt but that everything would turn out according to expectations. (Applause.)

    The "health of Mr. Schulze" (the engineer) was pro- posed by Mr. F. E. Rogers, and acknowledged; after which   all whose lungs and limbs would admit of the exertion accepted an invitation, and tramped on a visit of inspection to the mine, over some of the roughest mountain country one's eye could gaze upon. During their absence Messrs. Cohen and Mackenzie conducted a land sale of allotments in the new coal township " Gladstone," recently subdivided near the mine; £1 10s. was understood to be the reserve   price, but the first lots realised £1 19s., and others less or more in proporition.

    The bringing into existence of the mine has not been accomplished without enterprise. Second thoughts having been deemed best, the company abandoned their original intention of constructing an incline with endless wire rope     down to the mine, owing to the magnitude of the obstructions to be overcome, and the consequent heavy cost. Eventually, on May 13th, 1884, they contracted with Mr. Oscar Schulze. C.E., for the construction of one of his patented pendant railways; and later on an order was given to that gentle   man for the engines, boiler, rolling-stock, timber work, and foundations. The whole of the material was imported from Germany, the task completed on June 30th, and the first coal delivered next day, July 1st, 1885. Full guaranty was given to the company for the contracted capacity of the plant, which has been fully attained by the delivery of 20 tons of coal per hour. A brief allusion to this novel and evidently efficacious invention may not be uninteresting, The delivery of coals by a "pendent railway," referred to in civilian parlance, might be likened to the landing of a wrecked crew in coal baskets along a ship's cable, albeit the former operation is performed rapidly, quietly, and without a scintilla of risk to life or limb. More practically described, the invention consists of a double track line of steel wire rope rails, one for each track, which are elevated high over the ground, supported on the ends of timbers forming the cap-pieces of wooden trestles, ranging from 12 to 9 feet high, and from 60 to no less than 800 feet apart. These ropes are of a special spiral construction, formed of soft steel, in order to flatten out to a smooth surface after short use. They are made in fixed lengths connected with steel couplings with right and left thread, and vary in   diameter from 1 1/8 inch to 1 3/4 inch. One end is firmly an- chored on the timber work, whilst the other is carried over a roller, and fixed hanging weight, which maintains in it a uniform strain of from four to eight tons. The whole ex- tent of the line in question is one and a half mile. It is competed, of two sections, the lower half-mile having 1100 feet rise, with a gradient varying from 20 to 45 degrees; the   upper half having several up and down gradients, and in one spot overspanning a precipitous timber-clad mountain creek, or gorge, with a free span of 800 foot length and 300 feet high. A steam motor has been fixed at the junction of these two sections (generally known as the "stretching station"), and drives two endless wire ropes one inch and 1 1/4 inch diameter, which are constantly circulating under the rail ropes, and to which the trucks are attached by patent steel spring couplings, which grip hold of steel collars set on the hauling rope at distances of about 270 feet. Thus, with a speed of three miles an hour, they de- liver one truckload of coal (7cwt.) per minute, or about 20 tons per hour. The hauling rope, necessarily, is of best crucible steel, and maintains a uniform strain by means of weights attached to the reversing rollers at either end. The   iron skips, during their aerial journeying, are suspended from two-wheeled "trucks," which run on the rail ropes. The frames pass the supports through being suspended from these trucks on the outside only; and bear also an   ingenious coupling apparatus, which seizes the rope automatically, and is also automatically detached from it on arriving at the three stations, where the trucks, after being detached, run on to a siding rail, bent to form loop lines at the ends, and to pass the driving machinery at the middle station. Coal is brought to daylight from the mine in the same skips, set in pairs on four-wheeled trollies. The for-   mer are taken off the trollies and hung in the pendent trucks automatically by descending on an incline and be- coming suspended in the hanging frames, which are pushed along with them on the overhead rails. In similar fashion the empty trucks arriving at the lower station are taken off the hangers and once more set on the trucks automatically. At the railway siding the pendent platform is elevated 30 feet, and the skips, after passing muster at the hands of a checkweighman, are tilted over the screens into hoppers constructed over the siding, the coal being separated into three sizes (round, small, and smallest) during its descent. The automatic principle is so extensively adopted throughout that there is no need for more workmen than two shunters at each station. The motor consists of a "Rool's" boiler-a novelty in the colonies-composed of tubes entirely, which con- tain the water, while the fire is outside the pipes. There is claimed for them simple construction, easy erection, small space, high steam pressure, and perfect absence of danger from explosion. A self-feeding grate is especially constructed for the consumption of small coal, which at many collieries is thrown away as useless. The engines are a pair of automatic cut-offs, with double concave and convex slide-valves, acted upon immediately by the governors. A steam pressure of 120lb. will generate 50 horse-power, sufficient to work the tramway with double the required capacity, but for present requirements only 30 h.p. are used. A telephone and electric signal bells (specially noteworthy as working without a battery) con- nect the three stations; and with reference to those may be   closed reference to the plant generally.  

    The visitors reached Sydney about 8 p.m., as well satis- fied with their excursion as the directorate are hopeful of the success of their enterprise.

    1 Jim Smith, The Blue Mountains mystery track : Lindeman Pass, Three Sisters Productions, 1990.
    2 The Sydney Morning Herald, Published Monday 13 July 1885.


    Last updated : 21 Jan 2024


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