Exploring the Zig Zag and surrounding network

 
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
I have never had the opportunity to explore the area around the Zig Zag railway but today found this interesting map.  




Pouring over it today it would appear the Clarence tunnel and the new tunnel actually pass each other in the hillside?

To the untrained eye there are a lot of lines to consider.

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  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me

Pouring over it today it would appear the Clarence tunnel and the new tunnel actually pass each other in the hillside?

To the untrained eye there are a lot of lines to consider.
bevans
The Clarence Tunnel's western portal is some 750m east of where the Zig Zag line passes over Tunnel #10 of the current main line.
Also (from old Google maps terrain) the Zig Zag line is at approx. 1,100m elevation where it passes over Tunnel 10 which is at 1,050m (so approx. 50m vertical separation)

Also of interest is that the route of the Zig Zag alongside Chifley Road is actually a few metres north of the original route, as many years ago when Chifley road was widened it was actually built over the original Zig Zag route.
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
When leaving Newnes Jct you cross the current Main Line very near Clarence which is also roughly where the single Line to Zig Zag and the Double Line to Edgecombe part company.
It was to this area the Zig Zag Trust hoped to lay track from their present terminus also called Clarence to either near the present Newnes Jct station or the small platform at Clarence on the Main Line, unfortunately this doesnt appear likely to be more than a pipe dream with still no word relating to the future of the Zig Zag.
Following the current Bells Line of Road west , you cross the Main which then curves out and eventually UNDER both it and the Zig Zag to again emerge on your Right hand side as you prepare to descend Scenic Hill into Lithgow.
The Zig Zag of course stays on your RIGHT hand side all the time as you head from Newnes Jct to top of the Scenic Hill.

Despite all the years I have driven over the road or gone by Train I have rarely realised just how both lines are laid out in relation to each other.
  mdhughes Junior Train Controller

Location: Over the Edge Hill - Lime Street tunnels, Liverpool (work); lineside on the Standedge route (home)
I hope you don't mind me joining this conversation but, by coincidence, it seems the most appropriate place to ask my question.

I am shortly to embark on my long-promised trip across Australia on the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney, with a break in Adelaide. I will be on some of the last trains with red kangaroo seats.

I am having a week in Perth (never been there before), Adelaide (of course, waiting for the next train!), and Sydney, taking advantage of the reasonably-priced day-rider etc. tickets to explore the local lines in each. One place I want to explore from Sydney is the Lithgow Zig Zag and I wondered if anybody could give me any advice as to what I will be able to access on foot, and see and/or photograph, if I get off the outbound Blue Mountains train at Zig Zag station and spend the 2 1/2 hours before the inbound train exploring the area. It is hard to tell from Google Earth what tracks there are which are easily walkable in the short time I would be there. For example, I am guessing that some places which might look accessible might involve climbing a sheer rock face, and perhaps others are damaged by the bush fires. However, it does look as though I should be able to walk from the station to a grassy area east of the tunnel, over the top south of the tunnel past a circular building (looks like a communications dish), and to a grassy area west of the tunnel below a viaduct. Is any of this feasible?

Many thanks for any advice anyone can give. Looking forward to being in Australia fair.

Cheers.

Martyn
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
Firstly, I dont believe the platforms at Zig Zag are currently serviced by any train. INCORRECT as the current Timetable does show several trains stopping there.
Coming from Sydney, the last station would either be BELL or Mt Victoria.AGAIN, incorrect as per above.
Currently from memory, Trains run to Mt Victoria every hour, but only every 2 hours to Lithgow, check the current timetable.

The letter (a) means you must inform the Train Guard you wish the Train to stop, in this case they usually call over the Train Intercom at Mt Victoria, or did.
I have no idea how you indicate to the Driver of an approaching Train you wish to be picked up unless as it approaches you stand and wave your hand when he sounds the whistle on approach.

Basicaly the BEST road access is on the UP side of the line going from Lithgow and up past the end of the Top Yard, the road divides with the left fork going to the local Dam and the other goes onto Railway property to end near the old Zig Zag signal box now run by the Trust.
I would not be surprised if this road is not both gated and locked as it is a service road for the Railways and only Rail employee's and those  authorised members of the Zig Zag trust would have keys to gain entry.
There are/were workshops located at the Bottom Points until they severely damaged in the fires of 2013 and the only way to access them is by this road.
Almost nothing has been heard from the Zig Zag Trust for more than 18 months as to what is going on now or is planned for the future.
Walkways were made from several places along the Zig Zag for passengers to alight to picnic and to walk either down to the Bottom Points or if keen enough, walk back up the hill.
But in general, the whole area is not 'Open' to the general public and with the exception of the 'Clarence Station' precincts where trips started and finished, you could be trespassing on private property.
You may see trails across the area but they can be for Fire access, power lines or just areas eroded from storms but again, are not classed as Public walkaways.
Due to the rocky nature of the land, its not uncommon to find dense clumps of scrub and bare patches of sandstone between them that look like pathways but arent.
I can assure you that even with a motor vehicle,  the 2 & 1/2 hours you have wont get you very far.
No Trains stop at the Newnes Jct platform as it was closed to traffic several years ago and as far as the railway are concerned, it does not exist.
You have to realise the Zig Zag is a huge amphitheater in shape and as rough a country as you wont believe making walking very difficult.
The scrub that was damaged in the last fires has mostly regrown as it does here once it rains and triggers the new growth and with good rains over the last 2 plus years, its now hard to see what was burnt and what wasnt.
I have driven over the old road bed long before they relaid the track, traveled on the tourist train and worked at the signal box many years ago and I go into Lithgow at least once a week so I am fairly familiar with the area.

I need to check a few things so I may have to amend some of the above.

That round object you sighted above the Tunnel before the Bottom Points Station is I believe a water reservoir to supply water for the Steam Engines, now this very likely was built back in the 1860's when the line was opened and used untill the 1970s when Steam was finally withdrawn West of Lithgow, the Railway had a Dam at DARGANS a few miles to the East and piped the water down to the Roundhouse in Lithgow loco depot so very likely this was constructed and used for engines using the Zig Zag.
*****************************************

I rang the Lithgow Tourist Centre and they believe it was possible to use the walking trails but advised you need to be aware that there are no facilities or water and to dress accordingly as being in the Mountains, the weather can be quite variable.
Also as the area is quite steep and rough, you need to be reasonably fit and watch the time.
  mdhughes Junior Train Controller

Location: Over the Edge Hill - Lime Street tunnels, Liverpool (work); lineside on the Standedge route (home)

Hi Gordon,

Many thanks for your detailed and very helpful advice. The situation is as I had thought it might be. I had even realised after my first post that the circular structure was probably a water tank.

I will take a chance and get off the train at Zig Zag station and see how far I get. Maybe I can get talking to somebody on the train who is up for a joint venture. I am well used to doing a bit of quiet trespassing if necessary here in the UK to access old lines (as long as it doesn't involve running lines). I am also used to flagging down trains at the request stops here. There will be some action to see on the main line itself as well.

I will post some observations when I have done it. And maybe some wherizits if I can get to any other less obvious locations.

Cheers

Martyn
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
Firstly I want to apoligise for the 'all over the place details' as some I thought very wrongly I knew the answers too.
Something to be aware of is the possibility of Track work occurring like last weekend when Bus's replaced all trains and although the Bus's follow the line from Mt Victoria to Bell and down the Scenic Hill into Lithgow, I have no idea where they stop between Bell and Lithgow as they generally  wont stop except at designated locations.
Normally these programs are advertised in advance which will allow you time to plan your trip.
Certain Trains from Sydney connect with Bus's at Lithgow heading West which means there is usually up to 50 traveling but on those that dont connect can have as few as the Guard, Driver and you once it departs Mt Victoria.

My warning re trespassing was because after the Fires of 2013, the Zig Zag has been the victim of both vandalism and theft of materials, particular copper wire or metals that had a high scrap value which is why I thought the area was 'closed' to the general public.

In past times, the Zig Zag was a busy place as Sydney bound Freight trains used to detach the Pilot/assist engine there and return back to Lithgow but today except for the Passenger service, lots of silence now!!!

If there is anything I can help you with, please ask.

Only this time I will check my answers before blathering on, hahahaha....

Gordon.
  michaelgm Chief Commissioner

Mdhuges'

Leave the train at Lihgow, consult SM, or driver or guard, RE pick up at Zig Zag, grab a cab, explain what you want to see and do. The road is sealed to Oakey Park, the most easterly part of town, dirt/gravel beyond. Vehicular access was possible to bottom points, prior to bushfire, now? Unsure of phone reception in that area.
Consider, returning on the following train, giving 4 hours in town. 2- 2.5 not enough. If unable to pick up at Zig Zag,
Have a bite at the Workers Club, and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Main Street, on your leisurely stroll back to the station.

Good luck.
  mdhughes Junior Train Controller

Location: Over the Edge Hill - Lime Street tunnels, Liverpool (work); lineside on the Standedge route (home)
Hi Gordon and Michael,

Very many thanks both for your very helpful advice. I had thought of getting off at Lithgow and starting from there. I will need to take the conditions on the day and before into account and I will also see what I can find out in the course of the journey, either from staff or, with luck, a fellow gunzel, to make a final decision. At the end of the day, having travelled all the way from the UK, it will be good just to be able to say that I have been there!

Better stop now or we will need to open a new forum!

Cheers

Martyn
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
Weather is the biggest uncertainty in visiting this area as it ranges from blistering hot (40C) to bone chilling minus 10C and THAT may happen any time.
Due to the lie of the valley around the Bottom Points station, in mid winter it at times only see's the Sun for around 3 hours a day and its not unusual for a frost to remain in the shaded areas thoughout the day.
On the reverse however are Days that take your breath away by the sheer beauty and contrasts in Nature throughout the Zig Zag.

I totaly agree with Michealgm that to do the place justice, you will need to allow as much time as possible.

As an aside, if you do come from Sydney by Train, once you Leave Newnes Jct, 5 minutes from Bell, sit on the DOWN side of the Train partly because the view (albeit brief) between the Tunnels is magnificent and you have to detrain on that side at ZIG ZAG.

PS, look at the Historical and Tourist Railways section as I have some all too brief information regarding the operation of the Zig Zag Trust to post there.
  michaelgm Chief Commissioner

Gordon, agreed, the view between tunnels is exceptional.
  mdhughes Junior Train Controller

Location: Over the Edge Hill - Lime Street tunnels, Liverpool (work); lineside on the Standedge route (home)
Gordon, agreed, the view between tunnels is exceptional.
michaelgm
Good advice - I usually spend a lot of time before and during trips working out which side to sit for the most interesting view! I am looking forward to being there soon.
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
The View from Sydney to Penrith is fairly mundane but depending on what seats are available, sit UP STAIRS on the DOWN or left side heading west.
This will become obvious once you sit down but you need to sit near the panel between the windows looking forward with the bigger part of the window in front of you.
These windows are a bit 'Box Like' and dont allow you to twist about too much.
On leaving Lapstone, you will feel the line curving to your right as you turn away from the river flats and then you running along side part of the Glenbrook Gorge for just too brief a time before entering the tunnel, on exiting the Tunnel, you can look down into the Gorge below.
'Back in the Good Ol Days' you could either open the window or one in the carriage door and stick your head out to get a terrific view but not today.
From there to Falconbridge, you weave in and out of cuttings, some with great views, others just the cutting walls.
On leaving Falconbridge is the last view of Sydney itself, depending on how clear it is.
From there to Katoomba it constantly climbs and twists and turns, again with views either left or right across the tops of the Blue Mountains.
Leaving Blackheath you get a great view across numerous valleys with the Great Dividing Range appearing as a blue smudge on the far horizon.
You get this view again briefly after leaving Mt Victoria and just past Bell is a view to the North across hundreds of square kilometres of native forrest.
A few minutes after leaving Newnes Jct, you will hear the line noise change as the train goes onto the Concrete bed that runs all the way through the Ten Tunnels.
I suggest you be ready to detrain after leaving Bell as the run through the Tunnels can be quite swift and over before you realise it and had a chance to see the pristine Rain Forrest between the Tunnels.
If you getting off at Zig Zag, most likely you will feel the Train braking at or in number 9 Tunnel, the numbers start from Sydney and running fairly slowly though number 10.
By the time you see Daylight after number 10, you've arrived.

For about 18 months when I was a Station Assistant at Mt Victoria (1960/61/2), the Day shift traveled on the early afternoon train from there to Lithgow and return to sweep out, replace the paper cups and fill the paper towels and toilet roll container.
Its amazing how quick the debris gets swept out with the doors open at each end of the car traveling at 40 KPH.
A job knocked over by the time we left Newnes jct so the rest of the 90 minute trip to and from was spent enjoying the views.

On the return Journey, one feature to look for is between Newnes Jct and Bell on the UP side from late February to April when the Waratah Blooms.
  wally-wowser1 Train Controller

Location: overlooking the Mt vic washaway on Soldiers Pinch
Probably the best view is at Soldiers Pinch  overlooking the  Kanimbla Valley just after leaving Blackheath . After Mt Victoria  when the track runs across The Darling Causeway to Bell  there are good views to the east down the valleys . If you plan to get off  at Zig Zag travel in the rear carriage & before leaving Sydney  tell the guard  who is in the last carriage also that you wish to alight there .

wally.
  mdhughes Junior Train Controller

Location: Over the Edge Hill - Lime Street tunnels, Liverpool (work); lineside on the Standedge route (home)
I didn't realise that the Blue Mountain train is a double-decker. Now I have to decide whether to go up or down vertically and sideways! I am guessing that the upper deck is generally best, as already suggested, and I will be studying all your detailed advice with regard to which side to look where. Btw, as far as I can tell, the IP comes into Sydney on this line so I will already have been along it once by the time I ride the Blue Mountains train. Also btw, is there much freight on the line these days? - I might need something to watch if I can't get far from Zig Zag station on foot.

Many thanks again for all the excellent advice and local knowledge.
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
All Interurban services are Double Deckers as far as I am aware, the only difference is some are older than others but still have the same view.
Sitting downstairs does give you a lovely view of about knee height above the platform level but not ideal for scenery gazing.

I see the IP leaves Lithgow at 7.25am so it will be well and truly Daylight then even though you cant yet see the Sun at Bottom Points.

Freight these days is very spasmodic and Diesel Hauled all the way because since the 'Sell Out', there are no Electric Engines in service any more.
Because of that they dont run Pilots or bank engines from Coal Stage to Zig Zag now, so if a Trains starts with 4 Diesels, thats how they arrive where ever they are going to.
Its rare but in the event of an emergency, the IP can run via the South from Parkes to Sydney instead of over the Mountains.
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

All Interurban services are Double Deckers as far as I am aware, the only difference is some are older than others but still have the same view.
Sitting downstairs does give you a lovely view of about knee height above the platform level but not ideal for scenery gazing.

I see the IP leaves Lithgow at 7.25am so it will be well and truly Daylight then even though you cant yet see the Sun at Bottom Points.

Freight these days is very spasmodic and Diesel Hauled all the way because since the 'Sell Out', there are no Electric Engines in service any more.
Because of that they dont run Pilots or bank engines from Coal Stage to Zig Zag now, so if a Trains starts with 4 Diesels, thats how they arrive where ever they are going to.
Its rare but in the event of an emergency, the IP can run via the South from Parkes to Sydney instead of over the Mountains.
gordon_s1942
The reason electric engines are no longer used is because the 1500 VDC used is incapable of providing enough juice to power a freight train easily hauled by 3 x 4400 HP diesel locos.
  wally-wowser1 Train Controller

Location: overlooking the Mt vic washaway on Soldiers Pinch
We used to have power margins for trains on the down . The only place to really worry on the up  was out of Lithgow with 4 on the front  on a 3600 ton coal job . Lithgow crews  worked the assist  or push up & when the same depot crews  were on the train engines  there was not usually a problem , when Enfield crews  were on the train engines there was always trouble . A lot of them were shutting off when the 800 amp indicator  came on  & they thought they would  blow a motor .  Lithgow crews kept  the train going  & quite often would see 1000 plus amps  on the amp meters . Mr Ian Thornton  who was a loco inspector at Lithgow always said  that the engines were made to be worked hard & that's what we did with very few problems occurring .

With regard to the story at Penrith 6's  ,yes very possible  to  reach that speed . These engines were capable of unbelievable speed & torque   when  starting  & it was  well known  that you had to hang on or end up being slammed into the rear wall of the cab . Something that was only found out towards the end of their life  ,when being sanded   at Lithgow the panto wiper arms were only about 18 inches away  from any one on the catwalk moving hoses around which directed sand in to the boxes . A local directive was issued  for all electric loco pans to be dropped  when being sanded to lower the risk of being electrocuted if one pan was up on the wire & the other was down .

 Cheers   wally
  wally-wowser1 Train Controller

Location: overlooking the Mt vic washaway on Soldiers Pinch
We used to have power margins for trains on the down . The only place to really worry on the up  was out of Lithgow with 4 on the front  on a 3600 ton coal job . Lithgow crews  worked the assist  or push up & when the same depot crews  were on the train engines  there was not usually a problem , when Enfield crews  were on the train engines there was always trouble . A lot of them were shutting off when the 800 amp indicator  came on  & they thought they would  blow a motor .  Lithgow crews kept  the train going  & quite often would see 1000 plus amps  on the amp meters . Mr Ian Thornton  who was a loco inspector at Lithgow always said  that the engines were made to be worked hard & that's what we did with very few problems occurring .

With regard to the story at Penrith 6's  ,yes very possible  to  reach that speed . These engines were capable of unbelievable speed & torque   when  starting  & it was  well known  that you had to hang on or end up being slammed into the rear wall of the cab . Something that was only found out towards the end of their life  ,when being sanded   at Lithgow the panto wiper arms were only about 18 inches away  from any one on the catwalk moving hoses around which directed sand in to the boxes . A local directive was issued  for all electric loco pans to be dropped  when being sanded to lower the risk of being electrocuted if one pan was up on the wire & the other was down .

 Cheers   wally
  gordon_s1942 Chief Commissioner

Location: Central Tablelands of NSW
When the western line was electrified, one of the 'Grand Plans' was to use 'Regenerative Braking' which apart from allowing recovery needed when the Westinghouse Brakes was used, this would also supply power to the Overhead to 'Power' a train going in the opposite direction.
Based on my now aging memory, I believe it was suggested that one or two Freights with at least one 46 class  heading towards Sydney could supply enough current to power the original single deck InterUrban Up Hill.
Whether this was practical and was ever realised I have no idea.
While there is no argument that by todays standards, 1500 V DC is antiquated and leaves a lot to be desired, does  not explain why Clarence Colliery removed all the Overhead when everyone is crying for 'Clean Fuel' because Diesel certainly isnt.
I subscribe more to the theory that when the Private companies took over the freight haulage, they decided that they didnt want to pay for the supply of power to run an electric and that Diesels are far more flexible to where they can run.

With the exception of re fueling, a Diesel can run from Brisbane to Perth and all points inbetween so long as the gauge is 4 foot 8 1/2 where an Electric is limited from  Newcastle to the Sydney Metro and west Lithgow.
250 kms electric working area pales into insignificance when compared to a Diesel's 2500 km playground connecting each Capitol City.
To add fuel to the economic fire is the time lost changing engines, down time waiting for the next train plus storage facilities.

The only way I see a reversal of this would be if the NSW Railways were to convert to 25KV power which is now the standard around the world.
No matter what promises each Government makes regarding revamping Public Transport as they come into power, it doesnt take them long to begin to stumble and flounder about when faced with the crippling costs involved.

Number 261 Sydney to Perth Freight would 'Pull the Power' from Penrith to Lithgow every night it ran, I know this as a fact as the control room at Prince Alfred Sidings would ring Coal Stage to ask what train had just arrived because their equipment had read an overload had occurred throughout their system.

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