Re: Defence sites study

Peter Anderson

Good afternoon all,


I am a new member to the LRRSA and this is my first response to the, so please accept my apologies in advance for any misunderstandings.


I’m not sure of how broad the term “fort” wants to be interpreted, but I am aware of a couple of Australian Defence sites that incorporated light (2’ gauge) railways for the movement of munitions:

Royal Australian Navy Armament Depot (RANAD) – Newington, this site was operated by the Dept of Defence until 1999, and then handed over to the NSW Government for the 2000 Sydney Olympic games and the site became known as the Newington Armory and the rail system became known as the Millennium Parklands Railway (MPR).   All the military infrastructure is intact including the rail system which incorporates approximately 8 km of track, 70 odd turnouts, 6 battery electric locomotives, 40 flat top wagons (4 of which pre-date WW1) and 4 articulated passenger carriages designed (2003) to carry up to 50 people.  Attached are photos of the restored wagons, locomotives and passenger carriages, and below is an extract from a recent internal report that may provide some useful background information.  


The MPR is an ex Department of Defence 24 inch (610 mm) gauge railway that was designed for the movement of munitions within the site known as Royal Australian Navy Armament Depot (RANAD) – Newington.  The original rail system was constructed in 1909 servicing the wharf, munitions magazines, storage and laboratory facilities, being expanded during World War 2 and remaining in operational use until 1999 when it was handed over to the Olympic Co-ordination Authority (OCA).  The Armory Precinct has significant natural and historical value, with the sentry post, magazines, residences and other buildings still used today by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) be it for other purposes, along with the wetlands bushland being the last remnant of the Blaxland coastal forest on the Sydney harbour foreshore. 


The Newington Armory illustrates the sequence of design philosophies for explosives handling through the 19th and 20th century’s, of which the railway played an integral part as the only form of transport throughout the facilities that links all munitions handling and storage facilities.


The railway had been maintained by the Royal Australian Navy up until the site was handed over to the OCA in 1999, the OCA subsequently became the SOPA in 2001.


The Millennium Parklands Railway was granted limited accreditation on the 24 October 2002 for the purpose of conserving, restoring, and maintaining the rail infrastructure and the development of passenger rollingstock and associated operational and safety systems for the purpose of conveying persons within the Armory Precinct.  Full accreditation was granted on the 8th December 2003.


Generally, the restoration, construction and maintenance principals with respect to infrastructure and display vehicles are based on the Department of Defence – Engineer in Chief’s Technical Instruction No. 50 Railway, 24 Inch Gauge – 22 May 1944, being deemed satisfactory for the very low speed (max 10kph) operations of the MPR. 


The passenger rollingstock design was limited by loading gauge and required the development of a unique “fail safe” braking system incorporating a number of safety interlocks.  Standard components to the 24 inch (610 mm) rail industry were used in bogie and coupling design and construction.


Woomera – South Australia. The defence facility Woomera used a 2’ gauge railway for the movement of the “Ikara” missile from the workshops to its launch and testing bed.  In 2002 we arranged a visit to Woomera and recovered the 2’ gauge rail infrastructure and arranged shipment to Sydney to assist in maintaining the MPR rail infrastructure.


Trust this is of some help.





Peter Anderson

0418 624 507

Email  peter.anderson@...


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From: <> On Behalf Of Stuart Thyer
Sent: Friday, 7 September 2018 3:14 PM
Subject: [LRRSA] Defence sites study


I’m not aware if any fort sites ever had light railways within them for the transport of munitions, but if readers are aware of anything published in this area, it may be of interest to the researchers listed below.


East coast nineteenth century defence sites study
The Federation of Australian Historical Societies (FAHS) has been commissioned by the Department of Environment with a Protection of National Heritage Places grant to prepare two thematic papers relating to east coast nineteenth century defence sites.
The aim of the papers is to provide advice to the Australian Heritage Council. The work of preparing the papers has fallen to Associate Professor Don Garden, President of the FAHS. Don Garden is well known as a historian based in Victoria.
One paper is to be a general outline of nineteenth century defence issues in the eastern colonies, to provide context for understanding the extant fortifications.
The second paper is to examine the possibility of sites being advanced for the National Heritage List in Sydney and Melbourne.
The challenge of the project is gathering together information and reports from around Australia and Don Garden faces not only the tyranny of distance but also the frustration of having much of the literature on the defence sites being in unpublished reports to Government agencies (the so-called grey literature).
However, the positive outcome will be for the first time a national understanding of pre-colonial defence sites, their similarities and their differences and this will help determine those sites that meet the high significance thresholds to achieve National heritage listing.

Don Garden has written to the Royal Australian Historical Society to see if any affiliated societies may have useful information and whether there are any individuals who may be able to help. Please email Don Garden if you are able to assist.

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