Boxvale_cutting.JPG (20184 bytes)Railway Tracks: The contents of our WebPages indicate our great interest (probably obsession) in Australian plants, wildlife and the environment in general.  Railway history is another interest and strangely has links with our botanical passions.

Throughout the Tablelands of NSW there are a number of abandoned railway lines. During the late 19th century and early 20th century railway lines where constructed to service coalmines and shale oil mines, these lines were usually built in rough mountainous country. 

As deposits were worked out or became redundant, railway lines were abandoned. Fortunately the majority of these railways have been protected in National Parks and other reserves. Protection has two benefits. Firstly sites of historical significance are preserved and secondly the redundant tracks allow bush walking access to areas of botanical, scientific and scenic interest.

Two abandoned lines are worthy of mention. West of Sydney, in the depths of the Blue Mountains, is the remains of the Wolgan Valley Railway. Trains on this line transported shale oil from mines and refinery at Newnes to the main Western Line. This line was constructed in 18 months starting in 1905 and traverses some of the roughest country in Australia. Henry Deane was in charge of construction. He was also a noted botanist and was an unsung hero of Australian rail transport. We will discuss Henry’s achievements at a later date.

The Wolgan Valley Railway is now included in Wollomi National Park and is accessible to walkers.  The Glow Worm Tunnel is the principal feature of this walk. The middle of the tunnel is pitch black and is the home of a colony of glow worms. The walls of the tunnel have the appearance of a starry night with thousands of pinpoints of light.

Moving along the Tablelands, south of Sydney, we come to Mittagong. On the outskirts, of this attractive town, is a walking track that follows the abandoned Box Vale Railway. This line was constructed to transport coal from a mine near the Nattai River to the Southern Railway. A tunnel also features on this track and is 80 metres long without glow worms. The photograph shows one of the cuttings to be found along the track. This is known as the Casuarina Cutting because of the large Allocasuarina littoralis growing on the floor of the cutting. The whole area has regenerated over the years since the railway closed. Waratahs, Grevilleas and tree ferns are now common plus a wide range of other native plants. The Box Vale track joins up with other walking tracks that traverse the Mount Alexandra Reserve.

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