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The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1B
Remembering historic coastal rail link 50 years after closure
Clearing Snow, Railroad Style!
DELEC PART 5
The Uganda Railway: the Gilded Years 1924-1928
The blog is beginning to look like a series on my favourite old branchlines But it just so happens I had these shots prepared for the blog on the lead up to Christmas and, well, there is no point inb my not using them.However, unlike my recent post about the Wongawilli coal railway, the line into Sandgate Cemetery has very little chance of use in the future.Both Sandgate Cemetery, and the neighbouring mainline railway station, opened in 1881. However, despite the easy walking distance between the two, it was also decided to construct a branchline, into the cemetery proper, the same year. Newcastle Sun - 2 September 1940 (via Trove)
Going off memory, which nowadays is dodgy at best, the line junctioned just beyond the Sandgate Road over bridge. I have a photo of the frame and track diagram, taken a couple of years after closure, but have not been able to locate it yet.The junction also served another siding, parallel to the mainline, and did so for many years after. The location was obliterated with track amplification works related to Kooragang Island coal traffic, however, that siding is still in use, now being connected to the main at the Maitland end. The Newcastle Sun - 2 June 1932 (via Trove)
Last Train - 13th October 1985
The last train at Sandgate Cemetery, with a couple of railfans putting a wreath on the front prior to departure.I actually rode this last service (see my ticket below), however, being armed with an old Instamatic didn't give me the great results Ed got here.
One of my earliest trips to Newcastle was to take part in the final service to Sandgate Cemetery.
Turning up at Sydney Terminal early in the morning, it took me a while to convince the person in the ticket office that there was a separate cemetery station. He was wanting to sell me a ticket to the mainline station.After some discussion, he decided to write me a ticket (see above) so he could add the cemetery part and make this annoying young railfan happy.
Arrival in Newcastle was none to pleasant, it was pouring down, and would be doing so for the whole trip.Sadly, the weather conditions were not of the type the Instamatic camera relished. This has resulted in a whole heap of very mediocre images that, while no where near as good as Ed Tonk's example above, are still amongst my most prized.
Above we have 735/635+721/631 (yes, it was a mismatched set) arriving at Hamilton Station from Newcastle.Arriving at the cemetery, we were greated by someone (long rumoured to have been Bruce Cook) dressed as the Grim Reaper. We were also greeted with heavy rain and thick mud, neither of which deterred the fans from getting out for some last photos. The mismatched set can be clearly seen here, with 721 being the only Indian Red car in an otherwise full candy consist.Being on the last run was enjoyable enough, but another real highlight was getting to finally meet the legendary Ron Preston, author of many of my favourite publications. Sadly, it was soon time to depart, and we left the cemetery in the same miserable conditions in which we found it.
Had I been a bit older, I may have got more photos of trains on the branch. But that was not the case, and this was the last time I was to see a rail vehicle on the branch.
Or was it? Following Closure
At the time, the reason given for closure was that the cemetery was running out of room and that the area was needed for more graves.With that in mind, we returned two years later to see how much was left.Turns out it was all still there, overgrown and untidy, rusty and a little more derelict, certainly much drier, but otherwise the same as when we departed back in 1985.
The signal is now long gone.
I often wonder if it has been preserved somewhere.
The former junction near Sandgate station.That is Sandgate Road in the background and we are looking east.
Today two tracks from Kooragang Island pass through this spot. No sign of the junction still exists, while the left span and stairs have been removed from the footbridge, this making it a longer walk to the cemetery.
Fast forward to the new century and a visit revealed this non-air hopper sitting at the very end of the line.
I believe it came there through a desire to have some rail vehicles on display. While the hopper was not what was envisaged, it was all that could be got at the time.
Gradually it was restored by staff when there was time and this would have been at the completion of that work.I am also told that a change in management saw the display idea, which also was to include a replica hearse carriage, was dropped. The carriage remained there while work was finished on it, but it was later transferred back to the Richmond Vale Railway and today can be seen at Pelaw Main.
Every now and then I go back for a look at the situation there, most recently being a walk of the whole line just over a year ago.It appears the line has been covered in dirt up to railhead height, presumably to stop people from tripping over it.
Sadly this has seen grass growing over and covering a good bit of the rail, especially closer towards the former junction.While the signal has disappeared somewhere, the tracks, station platform and point levers, as being played with by Tezza, are all still there to remind of Australia's last cemetery railway.
Actually, it is interesting to note that only 3.5kms separate Australia's last commercial steam railway from our last cemetery railway.
9318 is pretty much right where the junction was (see two photos up) for the cemetery branch.
The furthest two tracks serve Kooragang Island traffic and were laid to solve a bottleneck at Hanbury Junction where coal traffic used to have to cross the mainlines to reach the coal road.
Below: Terence is trying to clear the railhead where the line curves towards the mainline.
Behind the photographer, the growth makes it very hard to proceed much further.
I would be interested in seeing photos of the station building. I know I saw one years ago, but cannot recall where.If anyone can help, please email me at my Gmail account (appearing on my photos).
Point lever frame at the south end of the loop.
Looking towards the former junction near Sandgate station, it is around this curve that a couple of graves look to have encroached upon the right of way.
Video of Sandgate Cemetery branch today.
In a final note. Just before publishing this entry, I was told that local John Hourigan saw a GL on the branch, just enough to clear the points.
Given they were rebuilt between 2003 and 2004, this could have well been the last rail item to use the line. That's if you count just a locomotive length.
Here we find ourselves at the end of another dreary blog post. I hope someone finds something of interest within it.If ever you find yourself in Newcastle, you will find the cemetery on Maitland Road at Sandgate, It is well worth a visit.
Bradly Coulter Jnr, Brad Coulter Snr and Ed Tonks
This article first appeared on alcogoodwin.blogspot.com
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