Great Zig Zag Railway and Reserves | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Great Zig Zag Railway and Reserves

Item details

Name of item: Great Zig Zag Railway and Reserves
Other name/s: Zig Zag Railway
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway
Location: Lat: -33.4758822241 Long: 150.1978747000
Primary address: Brewery Lane, Lithgow, NSW 2790
Parish: Lett
County: Cook
Local govt. area: Lithgow
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Bathurst
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT7 DP788554
PART LOT9 DP788554
PART LOT9 DP788554
LOT10 DP831103
LOT11 DP831103
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Brewery LaneLithgowLithgowLettCookPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Department of Planning and InfrastructureState Government30 Sep 97

Statement of significance:

The Great Zig Zag Railway had a profound influence upon the development and economy of western New South Wales. At the time it was the greatest civil engineering work in Australia and was considered worldwide as an engineering marvel. It reflects the difficulty experienced in crossing the Blue Mountains and engineering compromises enforced by economics. The reserve is a fine scenic attraction and the sandstone escarpments and viaducts provide a dramatic juxtaposition to the urban development of nearby Lithgow. (Department of Planning 1987:2) (J. Lesslie, M. Klam, A. Cargill).
Date significance updated: 30 Sep 97
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: John Whitton
Builder/Maker: Patrick Higgins (contractor)
Construction years: 1863-1869
Physical description: The Great Zig Zag Railway consists of three sections: the 'top road', the 'middle road' and the 'bottom road'. Located on the 'top road' is number one viaduct. The top points are located where 'top road' and 'middle road' join. Beyond this two 'T' bridges and a stone arch are located at the entrance to the 'wing' where the train terminated before proceeding to the 'middle road' Located on the 'middle road' is number one and number two viaduct and number one tunnel and a cutting which was originally proposed to be number two tunnel. At the end of 'middle road' is the bottom 'wing'. Engineered ledges hewn in the mountainside provide enough room for the railway line (Fookes).

Has Institute of Enginerrs (Australia) Nationa Engineering Landmark plaque
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is excellent. Archaeological potential is low.
Modifications and dates: Construction began in 1863. Line opened 1869. Railway line duplicated in 1880. New 'top' and 'bottom' wings opened in 1908. The Great Zig Zag Railway was closed in 1910 (Fookes).
Current use: Working railway museum
Former use: Railway

History

Historical notes: After consideration of several alternate routes the Great Western Railway was extended along the high ridge of the Darling Causeway from Mt Victoria. The descent to the Lithgow Valley was originally proposed by means of a tunnel. In 1866 the tunnel was estimated to be about two miles in length and a figure of $800,000 was set down as the cost of its construction. However, due to the enormous cost, construction time and, as John Whitton, Engineer-in-Chief of the NSW Railways reported at the time, it would have been difficult to get a contractor to undertake such difficult work. As a result John Whitton selected the zig zag method of ascent and descent. (Fooke)

John Whitton and his work have been underrated in Australian history, although they provided the operational foundation of the main railway lines in New South Wales. In international references Whitton is recognised as one of approximately twenty of the greatest railway civil engineers in the first century of world railway construction. The achievement of his crossings of the Great Divide was superlative at the time and in terms of British railway civil engineering was only exceeded by the difficult crossing of the Indian Ghats. (Department of Planning 1987)

The contract to build the Great Zig Zag was awarded to Mr Patrick Higgins in May 1866. It was for the Clarence to Wallerawang section of railway which consisted of seven stone viaducts, varying in height from 10 to 70 feet, three tunnels and nearly one and a quarter million cubic yards of excavations, two-thirds through rock (Fooke).

George McGarvie Donald of Lithgow was a master stone mason and builder who helped create the city of Lithgow. Born in Paddington in 1846, he was son of a Scottish stone mason George Donald. George senior had been encouraged to migrate to New South Wales by Governor Macquarie who wished him to assist with government building works. George junior did an apprenticeship as a stone mason under his father and uncle. After this he was engaged on railway construction projects in the Bowenfles district in the late 1860s. He worked on stone railway bridges at the Great Zig Zag and Marrangaroo, and married Marion Miles, daughter of one of the construction foremen. Following compleiton othe railway he moved to Hill End and worked on a range of construction projects. Among these was Hill End Methodist church, built of basalt rubble from the gold mines. It is now used as an Anglican church. After the failure of the deep lead gold boom of the 1870s George returned to the Lithgow valley and established a construction business with Thomas Crowe. In the early 1880s he constructed St.Mary's Presbyterian church for Thomas Brown, built as a memorial to Brown's wife, Mary. He also built Cooerwull Academy for Brown, and the Church of St. John the Evangelist at Wallerawang. Other projects included Lithgow Town Hall, Wallerawang Public School the Lithgow Oddfellows Hall and many residences. Donald and Crowe also built Mort's freezing works. George Donald was extremely active in community affairs and had a great sense of social justice. He was founding member of the GUIOOF Lily of the Valley Lodge and the Good Templars Lodge. Popular among citizens he was elected the first mayor of Lithgow after establishment of the Municipality of Lithgow in 1889. He held the seat of Hartley in the NSW Legislative Assembly jointly with Joseph Cook from 1891. (ibid, 2014, 32-33).

On the 18th October 1869 the first official train ran across the Zig Zag to Bowenfels. This event was heralded worldwide as an engineering marvel resulting in many organised sight-seeing parties from overseas to view it.

Between 1869 and 1910 the railway was a major force in the development of western New South Wales. Eventually traffic became so dense, due to the growth of the railway system through the spread of settlement, together with the loss of time in working over the Great Zig Zag, that alternatives were considered. From the 1880s many inquiries and investigations were held including consideration of John Whitton's original proposal for a two mile tunnel.

In 1904 a goods engine burst through the buffer stops located at the top 'wing' and almost fell into the valley below. To alleviate the congestion until a new deviation opened the 'top' and 'bottom' wings were improved. The 'top' wing was abandoned and a new line constructed which involved a sharp curve, heavy rock excavations and earth filings to a depth of 60 feet. The 'bottom' wing was lengthened without any re-location.

In 1908 work began on the existing deviation with its 10 tunnels and easier grade.

On 16 October 1910 the new deviation was opened for traffic and the Great Zig Zag closed. (Fooke)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Public tramline system-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and administering rail networks-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with George Donald MLA, Lithgow mason, building contractor, first Mayor, MLA for Hartley-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
It is of historical significance because upon completion it triggered extensive development and had a profound influence on the economy of western New South Wales. It contributed to the economy of western New South Wales to such an extent that it could not handle the volume of traffic and had to be replaced. (Department of Planning 1987:2)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The reserve is a fine scenic attraction in itself, offering superb views of the rugged sandstone valleys and escarpments leading to the western plains. It serves to provide a dramatic juxtaposition to the urban development of nearby Lithgow suburbs. The three main viaducts are particularly pleasing structures. (J. Lesslie, M. Klam, A. Cargill)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It reflects the difficulty experienced in crossing the Blue Mountains and engineering compromises enforced by economics. (Department of Planning 1987:2)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
At the time of building the Great Zig Zag Railway was regarded as the greatest civil engineering work in Australia at that time and attracted worldwide interest as an engineering marvel. (Department of Planning 1987:2)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act Record converted from HIS events


Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material; Eradication of noxious plants and animals; Maintenance and repair of existing access roads; Tree lopping and vegetation clearance associated with the maintenance of existing overhead power lines; and the engaging in or carrying out any of the activities referred to in subsection 57(1) of the heritage Act 1977, in respect of the repair and maintenance of train-operation infrastructure.
Jan 22 1988
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act See File For Schedule


Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material; and
(2) eradication of noxious plants and animals;
(3) Maintenance and repair of existing access roads;
(4) tree lopping and vegetation clearance associated with the maintenance of existing power lines; and
(5) the engaging in or carrying out of any of the activities referred to in section 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, in respect of the repair and maintenance of train operation infrastructure.
Jan 20 1989
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0054202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0054220 Jan 89 50340
Local Environmental Plan  09 Dec 94   
National Trust of Australia register   24 Feb 76   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenA. Prescott - Heritage and Conservation Branch - Department of Planning1987Branch Manager's Report to the Heritage Council
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Great Zig Zag Railway View detail
WrittenChristison, Ray2014'The church that helped the Chinese revolution' View detail
TourismHeritage NSW2013Zig Zag Railway View detail
WrittenJ. Lesslie, M. Klam, A. Cargill1976National Trust Classification Card
WrittenR.S. Fookes Some Historical Notes on the Great Zig Zag
TourismTourism NSW2007Zig Zag Railway - STEAM UP View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045513
File number: S90/04091 & HC 31135


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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