I have just finished making quite a few updates and additions to my Lambton Council Chambers page. In light of Newcastle Council’s impending and controversial move of their council chambers to Newcastle West, I was quite amused by a quote from Alderman Dent in March 1887 in connection with the need for a new Council Chambers for Lambton …
“The present building was a beastly place. When they looked around they saw the very walls in mourning, whether for the sins of the aldermen he knew not.”
Alderman Dent’s desire for new chambers was fulfilled just a few months later when the Council building in the corner of Lambton Park was formally opened on 21 July 1887.
My April article for The Local is now out, this month on how I uncovered the true identity of one of the men whose name is engraved on the Lambton Park WW1 memorial gates. Private George Sturey was killed in France in 1918, but that wasn’t his real name.
In five years of researching and writing local history, this has been one of the most satisfying discoveries for me. This coming Anzac Day will be an opportunity to remember “George” and his sacrifice with greater clarity, know that we know who he was.
The Lambton Residents Group initiative over spring and summer of 2018/19, celebrating 150 years of retail history in Elder Street Lambton, has come to an end. The bloominghistory.com domain is no longer active, but I have preserved an archival copy of the website at bloominghistory.lachlanwetherall.com
While looking at Google Earth this weekend I noticed that it was somewhat odd the way the Sydney-Newcastle train line has a big eastward loop just south of Teralba.
Why didn’t the train line just continue north-south in a relatively straight line? Consulting Parrott’s 1893 map revealed that’s exactly what the line used to do. Here’s the map overlaid onto Google Earth, with the present day path of the rail line shown in red.
So why the change, and when did it happen?
A search of Trove revealed that construction of the deviation was commenced around 1901. It was one of a number of re-alignments and deviations between Adamstown and Morisset designed to reduce the grade (steepness) of the track, and thus improve the efficiency of haulage. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reporting on the program of rail deviations on 2 July 1901 stated that …
The grade will be 1 in 80 as against 1 in 40 and 1 in 50 on the present line. It is estimated that this deviation of the line, though a costly matter, involving as it does the expenditure of some thing between £70,000 and £80,000, will enable one engine to do work which it now takes two to do, and thus the expenditure is believed to be justifiable.
Construction of the Teralba deviation was halted in October 1901 because of a legal dispute. The deviation passed over the workings of the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company, and the Railway Commissioner’s had offered £2,000 in compensation for the resumed land. The coal company thought this too little, and put in a counter claim for £25,000 compensation. Construction of the deviation recommenced in early 1902 while the legal arguments about compensation continued. In June 1902 it was reported that “the Teralba section is being pushed forward rapidly, giving employment to from 300 to 400 men”. The construction was reported as completed in April 1903.
However the argument over compensation was not completed. At an arbitration hearing in January 1903 the Railway Commissioners were ordered to pay £18,460 in compensation. The Railway Commissioners thought the award too high, and immediately asked “to have the amount of compensation settled by a jury, under the provisions of the Public Works Act of 1900.” On the other hand the Pacific Co-operative Coal Company thought the award too small, and immediately upped the ante by suing the Railway Commissioners for “£60,000 damages for the deprivation of mining rights.”
After a lengthy court case in March 1903, the jury awarded the coal company £17,609 in damages. On 11 June 1903 the coal company signed a “judgement for the amount of the verdict, with interests and costs.” But two months later in August 1903 the matter was back in the courts, where a ruling was made that the coal company “were not entitled to recover such costs.” To make matters even more complicated (as if they weren’t complicated enough), the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company didn’t own the land they were mining. They leased it from the Perpetual Trustee Company for an annual fee based on the amount of coal extracted. The Perpetual Trustee Company thought that their payments would be reduced due to the resumption of land by the railway, and therefore they launched separate legal action against the Railway Commissioners for payment of compensation.
Convoluted legal proceedings continued for years, going all the way to the Privy Council in London in September 1904, other proceedings to the High Court of Australia in September 1905, and continuing in other courts until at least May 1906. With the massive amount of time spent in the courts and associated legal fees, I suspect the 3km Teralba deviation became the most expense piece of railway construction in NSW at the time.
It’s Martian Day. But I don’t feel like celebrating. It was 200 years ago today that the Martians arrived. For decades humanity had been sending probes to Mars and speculating about the possibility of life there. But until they arrived here we had no inkling of their existence. For millennia they had lived underground out of human sight.
Then they arrived on earth. They explored all the continents, but preferred the aridity and expanse of this land, and so predominantly settled here. So while Europe, Africa, Asia and America got on with being Europe, Africa, Asia and America – Australia became Novomarsia – “New Mars”.
At first the Martians were an inconsequential curiosity. But they kept coming. Bringing their diseases that we succumbed to. They kept coming, and took our best land and our favourite beaches. They kept coming, and told us what was best for us. Some were kind, some were ignorant, some were prejudiced, and some were just misguided. Opinions vary as to the motives of the Martians, but the facts are clear – their arrival was bad for us Australians.
Today, Australians earn less money, die earlier, and are imprisoned more often than the Martians. People are divided as to why that is, and what the fix is, but the facts are clear. The gap between Australians and Martians is indisputable.
Its not all bad though. The Martian did bring good things like the cyber-empathic drug “Thoughtfuline”. They put it into the water supply and it makes people think and consider before posting to social media. Amazing stuff.
Yes, there are lots of good things about Novomarsia, even things that are worth celebrating together. But just not on this day. Not on the day the Martians arrived and changed everything for the Australians.