|Historical notes: ||A single railway line between Sydney and Hornsby was completed and officially opened in 1886. In the following year, the line was extended from Hornsby to Hawkesbury River. This year also saw the completion of a single line between Gosford and Newcastle at Islington Junction, the site of today’s Hamilton Station. This section of the Short North was officially opened on 15 August 1887.
The train station at Ourimbah, then known as Blue Gum Flat, was also officially opened on 15 August 1887. The contract for the construction of the station building, Station Master’s Residence and goods shed had been awarded to G R & F H Harrison on 20 April 1887. It appears that these buildings took around five months to complete. Ourimbah (Blue Gum Flat) was one of the first stations on the line between Gosford and Newcastle. At the time of opening in 1887, the station comprised a platform and timber station building on the Down side of the line, with a lengthy crossing loop, separate goods siding and goods shed on the Up side of the line.
The Hawkesbury River Bridge was completed in 1889, as was a line that linked the northern side of the bridge to Gosford by way of an extensive tunnel system. The railway link between Strathfield and Newcastle was completed by c1891, which facilitated the transportation of both people and produce between the Hunter Valley and Sydney. Blue Gum Flat was renamed Ourimbah in 1888 due to its proximity to Ourimbah Creek. The creek had been noted and named by Surveyor Matthew in 1831. The name Ourimbah (‘Oorinbah’) is said to mean ‘sacred circle or initiation ground for investing the corin or belt of manhood’.
In the early to mid nineteenth century, the district around Ourimbah was noted as ‘a valley of tall blue gums, turpentine, iron bark and cedar trees.’ This abundant timber supply was soon exploited. By the 1850s, the district had a thriving industry. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were reportedly fourteen timber mills in the district and the local population largely consisted of timber getters and saw millers.
Most of the timber sawn and milled at Ourimbah was used for building works both locally and in Sydney, but was also used to make railway sleepers for the Short North. Later, timber sourced from Ourimbah was used for sleepers that were exported to South Africa and India. (Gosford Public School c1994, Ourimbah Recollections, Gosford, p. 4). In 1902, a gantry crane was erected at Ourimbah Station ‘to handle the growing timber trade’, as well as the burgeoning citrus industry. There were reputedly 20,000 sleepers stored in the railway yards at Ourimbah and ‘as many as two thousand in the bush’. (Gosford Public School c1994, Ourimbah Recollections, Gosford, p. 4-5). On 16 October 1908, the crossing loop at Ourimbah Station was laid in.
In 1911, an additional 5-tonne crane was provided at Ourimbah Station to assist with the handling of timber and citrus intended for both domestic and foreign markets. By 1912, the line north of the Hawkesbury River, between Gosford and Wyong, had been duplicated. At this time, Ourimbah Station comprised a new side platform for the Up line opposite the Down main platform. The timber station building was retained on the Down platform, but a new brick station building was provided on the new brick, Up main line platform. A new dead-end, back-in refuge siding was laid in for Down trains, the points for which were located at the Gosford-end of the platforms, while a new Up loop was laid in behind the new platform. A goods siding was provided, running off the Up loop. A goods shed, a loading bank and a couple of private packing sheds were built adjacent to the goods siding. A steel-framed footbridge spanned both main lines and the Up loop siding. A timber signal box was built at the Newcastle end of the Down main line platform and all signals, points and crossovers at Ourimbah were controlled from there.
When the timber supply had been exhausted, the area became a focus for citrus growing. Newspaper reports indicate that fruit trees were being planted to replace felled timber at Ourimbah in 1903. (Gosford Times 10 July 1903). Citrus orchards were first established in Gosford and Wyong areas from the 1820s; the first was Wyoming near Narara Creek. By the early twentieth century, a number of citrus orchards were located in areas such as Narara, Lisarow, Niagara Park, Ourimbah, Erina, Matcham and Yarramalong. The 1920s and early 1930s saw the formation of a number of co-operative societies formed by citrus growers in the district. These co-operatives were established due to competition from more established fruit growers in the district who were able to undercut them on price, as well as from fruit agents, who were considered to be middle men, skimming the profits from growers. The Ourimbah Bulk Loading Rural Co-operative Society was formed in c1927. In the late 1920s, a ‘small shed was erected in the goods yard to act as an office’ and later ‘a bigger shed was built on the railway siding with the office at the northern end of it’. In the 1930s, a packing plant was built in the Ourimbah Station goods yards and in c1946, a Nissen hut was in use as an ‘office as well as for storing goods and hardware’. The Co-operative was disbanded in the 1970s due to the decline of the citrus industry in the Ourimbah area. The former packing shed ‘in the railway siding’ was demolished in 1991 with ‘the Oregon roof trusses and roofing timber being transferred to Ourimbah School to be used in construction of the new Community Hall.’ (Gosford Public School c1994, Ourimbah Recollections, Gosford, p. 24-25).
Electric lighting was installed at the station in 1943. In the 1940s, the original back-in Down refuge siding was converted into a loop, with points installed at the Gosford end. In 1951, the Up and Down Refuge sidings were extended and converted to a loop. In 1960, automatic signalling was installed in the Gosford-Wyong section, although local control of signals and siding were retained at Ourimbah. On 29 June 1961, single light signalling was introduced at Ourimbah Station. Four years later, in 1964/65, a new under bridge was constructed to accommodate D57 Class locomotives passing underneath it. ‘To the north the new Ourimbah Creek Bridge 18.2m in length was opened on the Up and Down lines on March 1964. It was a steel bridge of through girders.’ (Gosford Public School c1994, Ourimbah Recollections, Gosford, p. 43).
On 19 August 1973, the Electricity Commission siding was removed and by the 1990s, both Up and Down refuge loops and the goods siding were made redundant and removed, the signal box was placed out of service and the signalling installations revised. The line north of the Hawkesbury River between Gosford and Hornsby was electrified in May 1984, cutting the travel time from Wyong to Sydney by an hour, compared to 1947.
Electrification of the main line between Gosford and Newcastle was opened in May 1984, an extension of the Sydney-Gosford electrification which had been completed in 1960. The new electrification project involved new or rebuilt platforms, station buildings, footbridges, overbridges and underbridges, line side buildings, sidings and myriad structures in that section in order to permit the operation of the wider electric passenger rollingstock and electric locomotives. Accordingly, some upgrading was undertaken at Ourimbah. By the 1990s, both Up and Down refuge loops and the goods siding were made redundant and removed, the signal box was placed out of service and the signalling installations revised.
The timber station building and the signal box on the Down main line platform are extant. The former Station Master’s Residence (timber) on the Down side of the line at the Newcastle-end of the platform is extant and the original brick station building on the up side platform remains unaltered.