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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

WENTWORTH FALLS LAKE BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW AUSTRALIA




From 1938 Railways "Walking Tours"
It’s not hard to see why a railway dam was constructed at the place we now know as Wentworth Falls. By that, I mean the township, not the waterfall. It is the only place between Glenbrook and Bell where the railway line actually crosses a watercourse.
The 1813 exploration led by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth successfully crossed the Blue Mountains because they stuck to the principle of following the ridgelines as they moved generally westward from the Nepean River at Emu Plains. When the expedition reached the cliff edge overlooking what we now know as the Jamison Valley at Wentworth Falls, they ran out of a ridgeline to follow. Turning north and keeping the watercourse we know as Jamison Creek on their left, they eventually reached its head and resumed following the main ridgeline again.
George Evans evidently crossed this creek when he retraced their route later that year, according to the plaque in the reserve beside the lake. However, William Cox and his roadmaking team stuck with Blaxland’s track in 1814/15 and headed the creek. He set up a depot near the creek which became known as the Weatherboard Hut, from his note on the map of the road to Bathurst. This appears to have been on the eastern side of the creek near the bridge over the railway line.
As soon as accurate maps began to be made by surveyors, it became clear that the road could be shortened by several miles by crossing the creek instead of going around its head. Just when this happened I don’t know, but you can be sure that Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell would have insisted on this route when the road to Bathurst was being reconstructed in the 1830’s. Charles Darwin stayed at the Weatherboard Inn on the western side of the creek in 1836 and the inn had been there for several years by then.
The railway builders of the mid 1860’s naturally followed the same ridgeline as the road and so the railway crossed Jamison Creek just where it does today. Steam engines need prodigious amounts of water and there are few places on the Blue Mountains Line where it can easily be obtained. Weatherboard (as the locality was then called) became the first railhead on 11th July, 1867 as the tracks pushed westward. So far as I can tell, the first railway dam was built at Lawson (then Blue Mountain) in that year. It wasn’t very adequate even if Blue Mountain was a good place for a watering stop. The supply at Lawson was augmented by larger dams in the valley to the north, the last of these being the ancestor of the Olympic Pool in Wilson Park.
Jamison Creek Below the Dam Wall

The line was soon extended to Mt Victoria, this extension being opened on 1st May 1868. The chosen spot for watering engines in the upper mountains was Blackheath, originally intended as the temporary terminus. Water was pumped from dams across Pope’s Glen Creek and, as in Lawson, their descendants became swimming holes. The upper one gave rise to today’s beautiful pool in Blackheath’s Memorial Park; the lower dam becoming the duck pond. The water supply from this source eventually became inadequate and a replacement dam was built on Govett’s Leap Brook.
Further dams were needed as the next section of line was constructed, the line descending via the Great Zig Zag into Lithgow’s Valley to the new railhead at Bowenfels. This section was opened on 18th
October 1869. I believe these dams were at Clarence and Zig Zag.
Another dam on Dargan’s Creek (Newnes’ Junction) was needed to service engines on the Newnes branch line some time later.
Eventually it was decided that only the creek at Wentworth Falls could supply the volume of water for the rapidly expanding rail network. The large dam, backing up into what we know as Wentworth Falls Lake, was completed in the early years of the twentieth century and supplied water by a pipeline to watering points as far down the mountains as Valley Heights. This sufficed until electrification and dieselisation made steam engines practically redundant on the Blue Mountains by 1960.
The development of the dam as a recreation area happened over many years. It was too good a resource to go to waste and it has become the most diverse and extensive recreation area in the Blue Mountains City. Now you can have a picnic (with barbecue), enjoy the two children’s play areas, fish from the shore or the dam wall and appreciate the many water birds as you walk around the shores of the lake. Swimming isn’t recommended, however, as it is difficult to guarantee water quality when there are residential areas in the catchment. One improvement would be a new, centrally located toilet block, but the same could be said for other popular destinations in the upper Blue Mountains.
Further Information:
My Video: here   Blue Mountains City Council documents: here and here
Blue Mountains City Tourism: here           "Cloudscape" Blog: here
My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here. I have three other playlists - on gem hunting.mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand.

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