A STEAM TRAIN LOADED WITH COAL MAKES ITS WAY THROUGH THE FINGAL VALLEY

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Horse & dray at Mangana in 1884

 


St Marys Railway Station 1886

 

Lizzie at Cullenswood Station

 

Coal carrying skips at Cornwall Coal Mine

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Transport

Early Transport

Before the Fingal Line Railway opened in 1886 transport was a major problem to our early settlers. Most produce and travellers were brought in, or taken out, with coastal traders through the port of Falmouth. But this was a tireless task, and at times in bad weather, quite dangerous.
After the St Marys Pass opened in 1846 Van Diemens Land’s famous coaching pioneer, Samuel Page, provided a regular service from Falmouth to The Corners (Conara). This added to the bullock teams that were being used for heavy haulage throughout the area.
The service was later extended to Yarmouth (Scamander) following a route, known as the “Horror Stretch”, which ran between Hendersons Lagoon and the Steels Beach sand dunes. This was said to be a narrow dangerous track and with recordings of frequent, heavy, easterly rains in those days many a horse and carriage became bogged, leaving passengers stranded for days.
In 1865 the Scamander River was bridged for the first time and the coach service was extended to Georges Bay (St Helens). This route pretty much followed the current road, but again it was narrow, rough and susceptible to flooding in many places. As well, the bridge over the Scamander River was just wide enough for the coach and was made with pylons no bigger than the average telegraph pole. You can only imagine how frightening an experience crossing the river would have been as the horses and coach clambered across. The fragility of the structure was realized soon after construction when it collapsed under the weight of a mop of cattle.
From Georges Bay (St Helens) to The Corners (Conara) the Page coaches would change horses six times, compared to to the Launceston/Hobart service of the time which had eight changes. When you consider this, it is understandable why the many accommodation and supply businesses throughout the Fingal Valley and Midlands did very well in those days. Although it is said that the Lade and Morris store at Falmouth collapsed in the 1860s due to the coach operators not paying their bills for fodder used to feed their horses.
The route through the Valley doesn’t appear to have changed a great deal, except it would seem the track from what is now Killymoon Bridge to St Marys followed the southern side of the Break O’ Day River and crossed at a ford closer to St Marys.
Again the biggest problems recorded through the Valley for the coach operators was heavy rains. At Avoca, for example, only minor flooding would prevent the coaches crossing the ford at the St Pauls River. In times of severe floods coaches would meet on either side of the river. Mail and goods could then be hauled across the river via a cable, or “flying fox”.
The coach era was a unique time in the history of our Valley and East Coast. Come what may through all kinds of adversities the operators, along with their drivers, made sure all the mail, goods and passengers eventually reached their destinations. For the inns and changeover stations along the way it was the highlight of their day when the team of fine horses came galloping up to their premises. Locals would wait anxiously for a letter from home, or the goods they had ordered. While the horses were being changed acquaintances would be made with the passengers and the inn keepers would serve them a cup of tea with a homemade scone.
In June 1886, however, a new horse made of iron and bellowing grey smoke out of its nose came huffing and puffing its way through the valley, causing the horses to rare and cry out in fright. One wonders, as they stood trembling under the calming voices of their handlers, if they somehow knew this noisy, whistling, steamy monster was the beginning of a new era, one that had very little use for the humble animal that had faithfully served man for Centuries.

Jim Haas

 

Electric Loco at Cornwall Coal Mine 1904

 

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