Railway Street, Merewether

A relative of mine lives in Railway Street, Merewether, and that got me digging in to the origin of the name.

Presumably it was so named  because of a colliery railway running along or near the street. A 1920s map shows the tram line running along Railway Street, and a colliery railway running along a different route further to the south.

1920s map showing both the Glebe tramway and Glebe Hill Colliery railway. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

So why is it called Railway St when it was a tramway running along the street? Some further digging revealed that the tramway to Glebe was opened on 19th April 1894. Originally called the Merewether line, it was later renamed to the Glebe line to avoid confusion when the Merewether Beach tram line was opened in October 1903. The name “Railway street” pre-dates the tram line, with the name being used as early as 1886. So what is the railway that it refers to?

A. P. Pulver in 1976 compiled a plan showing early coal company railways, which shows that in this area there were two rail lines going to the Glebe Pit – the solid line following the path of Railway Street, and the dashed line further to the south.

Both these rail routes are still visible in a 1954 aerial photograph.These rail lines went to a number of collieries, including the Glebe Pit pictured below.

A Pit Colliery, Newcastle, NSW, 24 February 1899. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

So why were there two rail lines going to the same location? Two newspaper reports from 1881 throw some light on the matter. From 3 Aug 1881

“The railway from Newcastle to the Glebe pit is now nearly completed with the big rails which the company are having laid down in order that the Government engine can haul from the pit, instead of the company’s engine taking the coal from the pit to the siding in town.”

And a month later on 10 Sep 1881

“We have had the pleasure of witnessing the Government locomotive coming direct from Newcastle to the Glebe pit to take away our coals. In connection with the past history of the coal trade in this locality much might be written, for in primitive times we remember when the black diamonds were conveyed to Newcastle by bullock teams. Then we so far advanced as to get a line of wooden rails laid down, along which the coal was taken in waggons drawn by horses. Then came the iron rails and “the puffer,” who for many years screamed and tugged in the performance of her duty as if the coal trade of the port was alone depending upon her efforts. Next came the splendid locomotive, the property of the N.C.M. Co.; and now fine steel rails, a good track, Government engine, break van, &c.”

The best sense I can make of this is that the original railway route with wooden rails and horse drawn wagons (and later upgraded to iron rails) was along the path of Railway Street. Then in 1881 a new railway with “fine steel rails” was constructed on a different route further to the south. With the original railway no longer needed its path became Railway Street, and was subsequently used also used for the tramway in 1894.

Could I iCloud? I could not.

I write this blog mainly for my own amusement and benefit. This blog post in particular is written for the benefit of my future self, in case I am ever tempted to use Apple’s iCloud Music Library again.

I mainly listen to music using an iPhone when out and about, and iTunes when at my Windows computer. I have a carefully curated collection of music purchased over a period of 40 years, with metadata entered. I then use this data in the rules of various Smart Playlists.

Although I’m not a huge fan of the Apple Music streaming service, I do have a family subscription as that makes financial sense when a number of my children use the service. To enable offline listening of Apple Music tracks requires that iCloud Music Library be turned on. I’ve resisted doing this, as I feared that doing so would stuff things up. This holidays curiosity got the better of me and I tried turning on iCloud Music Library, and soon discovered my fears to be well-founded.

Here are five problems that I discovered before turning it back off again and having to clean up Apple’s mess.

  1. A whole bunch of tracks that I had de-selected became selected again, and synced to my iPhone. e.g.  here’s a bunch of Simon Garfunkel tracks that I had previously deselected (as I have those tracks on the full album), but after turning on iCloud Music Library they’ve been re-selected and then uploaded as duplicates to my iPhone.
  2. The “Last Played” date on hundreds of random tracks got set back to dates in 2016, although I have listened to all my music collection in 2017. In some cases the Last Played date was set to a value before I had added the tracks. e.g. these tracks by Queen were added in June 2017, but show as being played in 2016!
  3. After listening to a track on my iPhone, and then syncing with iTunes, the Last Played date wasn’t updating in my iTunes library.
  4. The track order of some albums was screwed up. e.g. here’s Mark Knopfler’s album Cal on my iPhone. To fix this, I had to unselect all the tracks of the album in iTunes and sync to remove them from the phone, then select and sync to add them back on again.
  5. On all albums that I had purchased from the iTunes store, my star ratings on individual songs disappeared, and only the star rating of the album remained. Note in the image below how the stars on the song ratings are grey rather than blue, indicating that the song rating is inherited from the album rating.

Waratah gasworks

As reported in the Newcastle Herald last week, Newcastle Council has completed an environmental investigation into the site of the former Waratah gasworks, with the report to be released soon. I was asked by a reader of this blog about the gasworks. Here is the little I know …

From searching Trove I know that the gasworks were commissioned by Waratah council, officially opened on 1st August 1889, and supplied gas to the township for the next 30 years. In October 1918, faced with a looming large bill for repairs to keep the plant operating, the council looked to sell the gasworks. However due to legal complications that required an act of Parliament to facilitate the sale, it was four years until the Mayor reported that negotiations to sell to the Newcastle Gas and Coke Company were completed in April 1922. The new owners took over operation of the gas works commencing from 1st May 1922.

Note that the sale was for the works only, with the land remaining as crown land. Payment for the sale was by instalments of £1000 a year, plus 5 per cent interest. A 1925 report on Waratah’s finances noted that “A further instalment of £1000, plus interest was received during May in connection with the sale of the gasworks, leaving a balance of £8000 owing to the council.”

It is unclear exactly when the gas works ceased operating, however in August 1928 Waratah council were inviting tenders for the demolition of buildings, and requesting the Minister for Lands to transfer freehold title of the land to the council. In November 1928 the council “decided to ask the Department of Lands to subdivide the site of the old gasworks at Waratah before it is disposed of”, and in December 1929 “Ellis Street” was chosen as the name for the new road in the subdivision.

I first learned about the gasworks a few years ago while studying Corporal Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle. In the triangular intersection of Georgetown and Turton Roads can be seen the circular gas tank and holder, which were described in the report of the opening ceremony.

“The gas holder is 60ft diameter 18ft deep, with an actual holding capacity of 51,000 ft. The tank is 64ft diameter, and its holder is so constructed and the tank so built that an addition of a second light or telescope can be made at any time, thus doubling its size at a very small expense.”

Location of the Waratah gasworks shown on Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Just above the gasworks, is a red block labelled “F.S.” – this is the fire station on High Street that was opened in 1893. In 1898 Ralph Snowball photographed this station from High St, looking towards the south, so the building behind the fire station may be related to the gasworks, although I’m not sure about this.

Waratah fire station in High Street, 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The gas works site is also shown on a 1906 real estate poster.

Site of the Waratah gas works shown on a 1906 real estate poster. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


In any given day tens of thousands of bits of information come our way, so the occasional coincidence is inevitable. Even though they have no particular meaning, I’m still entertained by them. Like today when I visited the Auchmuty Library at Newcastle Library to look up some information in a book. As I ascended the stairs, I noticed the risers had been painted with book spines, and the name of the author “Herzog” caught my attention.

I went into the library and located the room and aisle and shelf where the book I needed should be, glanced at the top shelf to start scanning for the book I wanted, and what was the first author that caught my eye? Herzog!