Presentation on 'Australia's First Railway'


I attended Rod Caldwell's presentation to the Heritage Group of the Australian Institute of Engineers at Chatswood last night. The presentation 'blew the minds' of many in the audience in terms of how Rod and his colleagues at Newcastle have been able to start with a few sketchy bit of information - knowledge that the AA Company had a short railway line in operation by December 1831, two artists impression of the 'A' Pit and line, and a rusty bit of iron discovered at a house construction site by David Campbell (LR 195) - and build this into a remarkable story about the origins of Australia's coal mining industry and the importance of this 'bit of iron' as a significant surviving elements of the early colliery railways in England.

Light Railways featured strongly in the presentation, both for its role in promoting the find of the c1825 iron fish-belly (or 'edge') rail and in providing the links to UK rail researchers who have played a role in confirming that the item was indeed a rare (and advanced type for the period) type of fish-belly rail that was most likely made in a Newcastle-on-Tyne foundry (see LR 197, p. 25). Since our last LR report the story has been further enhanced, particularly through research of the AA Company archives and the Noel Butlin Archives Centre at the Australian National University. I plan to provide an update on this in the October issue of LR, subject to some checking of details with Rod.

Rod Caldwell will be giving a similar presentation to the Sydney meeting of the ARHS in 1 September.

Bob McKillop
Heritage & Research Editor, Light Railways

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