Re: Corrimal Colliery and its Incline Model

John Garaty

Hi all, 
So just how did this layout get started? Watch out for embedded links, there will be a few along shortly in this and subsequent posts. 

Way back in October 2005, after the AMRA Liverpool model railway exhibition, a friend of mine, Guy Gadsden, myself and our wives adjourned to a nearby Macca's for a post-exhibition "feed" (I suppose you can call it "food"). Guy is a fan of a certain Welsh railway. In conversation, he mentioned that he wanted to build a layout with an incline. We tossed around several ideas about how to make a slate incline railway. But then I asked an innocent question- "What about a model of an Australian incline instead?"  

We did have incline railways in Australia.  And quite a few of them - if you know where to go looking. Australia had incline railways that ranged from common carrier type railways to small industry specific inclines serving mainly the mining and logging industries and in gauges ranging from 2' gauge in industry to standard gauge on inner-city trams. Both Sydney and Melbourne also had extensive cable tram networks that went close to or exceeded San Francisco's in length. Powered haulages using cable-tram type technology were used in multiple mines across Australia.

As the discussion progressed, Corrimal was chosen as the target for the model incline.  After much scribbling on Macca's serviettes, we had a plan. Over several rounds of drinks, the formulation of this plan involved much hilarity from the 4 of us, some odd looks from both patrons and staff (??What are this lot drinking??), and measuring up Macca's with a tape measure. We still have that serviette with its initial mud map of 11 modules. In the end, it was surprising just how close we had kept to that original plan.

So why Corrimal? 

Corrimal was one of the best documented colliery railways with at least 1 dedicated book, significant references in at least 2 other books and at least 2 articles in railway historical journals. So perhaps this could give us a "flying start"?

Also Corrimal was a choice that had some significant links to both Guy and myself. In a previous career Guy had worked on a unique 3'6" gauge, 40 tonne bogie diesel-hydraulic underground locomotive built for Corrimal colliery by E.M. Baldwin of Castle Hill NSW. My father was one of the senior Australian Iron & Steel engineers that wrote the specification for this locomotive. As a schoolkid, I also had seen the 2' gauge underground haulage in operation, just prior to its closure in the mid-1960's. For a time, I also had got to fire "Burra", one of the two preserved narrow-gauge steam locomotives that hauled coal from the mine to the top of the incline. "Burra" is preserved and operational at the Illawarra Light Railway Museum at Albion Park NSW.

The other ex-Corrimal narrow-gauge locomotive that is preserved in the "Robert Hudson" at the Campbelltown Steam & Machinery Museum. Two of the standard-gauge locomotive that worked the Corrimal Colliery railway have also been preserved. Both were ex-NSWGR locomotives, #18 at Thirlmere (it was never that GREEN in colliery service) and 2535 now at Dorrigo. 2535 arrived to late to serve the 2' gauge incline. 

Initial Research

Surely someone somewhere had built a model of this type of an incline? So we went and looked at a lot of online forums, magazines and other resources. Yes there were incline models but none were of the self-acting continuous rope type. After almost 4 years of looking, we were not able to find anyone anywhere who had built this type of an incline with individual skips dotted along the haulage ropes. (Now we know why no-one had built on first, but we didn't way back then). All other types of model inclines we have found so far are variations on a theme where one or more wagons are attached to the end of the haulage rope or are placed on a platform that is raised or lowered the length of the incline. That is. there is only a single wagon or a single group of wagons moving over any incline track at any time. 

By mid 2009, it was now very obvious that we were on our own. No-one had got "there" first. 

This small narrow-gauge industrial railway, was only just over a mile long and with a fall of over 300' on the incline itself for the prototype. In exact 1/43 scale, this layout would not fit in 2 basketball courts and would be well over 10' high. 

If this layout was ever going to be built at all, it was going to require that we did something different and take a very different path for the build process. That ought to do for an introduction to the scope of the modelling project and the research job in front of us.

John Garaty

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