Monday, January 31, 2011

What's in a name? Part 2

The 'history' of SSC has been something I've been working on for a while. As the location is real, and the actual railway is not, I found it quite enjoyable giving some meat to the layout's bones.
So for those of you with a bit of time, as mentioned in yesterday's post here is the 'real' story of SSC.

Splitters Swamp Creek

The main north line between Boorolong (Black Mountain's original name) and Glen Innes opened in August 1884. The Branch line between Boorolong and Neleh siding opened in March 1922.

The line breaks from the mainline just north of Boorolong and arrives at Evans' Gap (Splitters Swamp Creek) some 52 miles northwest.

Interim Stations from Boorolong are: Aaronwood 12 miles, Hoskinvale siding 28 miles, Sheet 'O' Bark Creek siding 34 miles, Evans' Gap (SSC) 52 miles, terminating at Neleh siding 60 miles.

A Reason for Being

Splitters Swamp Creek came into existence for the prime reason of cutting and felling timber. Late in the 19th century timber getters trekked into the area in the search for quality hardwood.

The local timber mill became the focus of industry in the area, and was serviced by a cheaply constructed narrow gauge line. The end of 'The Great War' saw progressive changes in the area, with an injection of funds from the government and incentives to link with the mainline track work at Boorolong.

Outline of the Local Area

The construction of the town beside the mill is certainly not ideal geographically speaking. Due to the limitations that the steep terrain forced upon the settlers, the town is located fairly closely to Splitters Swamp Creek. The creek itself has a steady flow year round, however after heavy rain on the main range it does create flood issues for the immediate area. The area of flat land on the northern bank of the creek was popular with squatters early on, until the development of the mill and it's associated railway. Further south (at Aaronwood) the land opens up, and has been significantly cleared for grazing and other farming methods.

History- Evans' Gap

Mr Robert Darcy Evans trekked up into the hills behind Aaronwood in the December of 1845, clearly a man with great expectations for what the hills would hold. Mr Evans had been involved with timber getting in victoria, near Noojee, not far from Lake Mt.

It took the mountains of the main range to truly inspire this man to assert himself as a pioneer of the area. His years of milling had given him an expert eye for timber. The gap in the range that bears his name is his greatest find, without it the fine tall timber would never have been successfully (financially) removed and taken to market. The narrow gauge track work he had laid was simple but effective, enabling him to move goods in and out of 'his' town. The original line finished with the hills at Hoskinvale.

History- Splitters Swamp Creek

The creek itself runs through a depression near Evans' Gap, that after heavy rain always broke it's banks and flooded the local area. The creek was named by the timber workers from the local mill. Early on in the late 1880's the area was known as Murphy's Marsh after a squatter who entered the area in 1861 and staked a squat on the land below Evans' Gap. By 1865 Murphy was supplying the district with most of its alcoholic requirements. Murphy left the squat for his brother in 1874 after an ongoing issue with an increasing law enforcement presence in the area. Angus Murphy took over the squat and set about starting a school for the isolated families in the district. The school building still stands today, a product of a young community working together to help advance their town.

History- Evans' Gap Station

The station became a reality in 1922, as part of a post war construction period that began in 1918. The link from Boorolong to Neleh (pronounced nelly) siding was proposed in June 1919. The tender for construction was won by J.Boyde & Sons at a cost of... per mile. The line opened in early March 1922, with all the track work complete.

The link to the mill was the prime focus of the railway and so the balance of goods and station facilities were not completed till the following year. The timber production rate had always been high, however after joining to Boorolong it had more than doubled.

Rolling stock, Loco's & Facilities

The location and distance from Sydney meant that most of the rolling stock and locomotives were well out of circulation in the Sydney district years before. Since the area had many small radius curves, loco's with bogie tenders and tank locomotives were the mainstays of operation. 13 Class, 19 Class, 20 Class, 30T & 32 Class were the most popular. There were no turning facilities along the branch line, so running tender first was commonplace.

When diesels finally made there way onto the branch line there were few other choices than the 48 and 49 class locomotives. The line was certainly in decline by then, and only a restricted number of goods were brought to the area. Railmotors were rarely sighted on the line and those that were were certainly popular with the locals.

The station building was well away from the town itself, so saw little use. In fact the people of the town saw fit to construct their own 'station building' much later on, and is still in use today 'unofficially'. The goods shed was large for the area, and was always full of consignments and assorted deliveries. It's crane not used nearly as much as that in the mill. A loading bank saw plenty of use early on, with many locals using it to ferry goods about, and the occasional horse or two.

The livestock area is located in the southern end of the yard. The area is located close to the grassed area on the banks of Splitters Swamp Creek, the spot used for years by graziers in the area high above Aaronwood.

The products both produced (timber, livestock) and brought in by rail was so varied, the rolling stock mirrored this fact.

So there you have it, a bit of an outline of the line, Geoff.


  1. Hi Geoff
    Love how the layout is progressing. This post has really set the scene. You have a name, a location and a story, all these elements may well be as important as the layout itself.
    Look forward to seeing SSC on the exhibition circuit one day !

  2. Hey Gary! Great to here from you. I had a great time putting the ideas together, and wanted to keep it fairly short as well. If the planets all align this June should see SSC's first outing up at Toowoomba, if the boys up there will have us of course. Geoff.