Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mapping Old Railways near Margaret River

Apologies in advance as this is not strictly a modelling topic as such.  During a recent trip to Margaret River we did a short bushwalk on part of the abandoned railway south of the town near Sebbes Road.  The authors of the bushwalking guidebook commented that there were 2 parallel railway alignments through this area but they were unaware of the reasons for the apparent duplication.
A cutting on the original timber line
south of Sebbes Road.
As a result of the comment in the bushwalking guidebook, I delved into Adrian G's "Rails Through the Bush" book which explained that the original railway was built by the M. C. Davies timber company based at Karridale.  I was unaware that the timber lines from Karridale extended all the way to Margaret River. Later, the W.A. Govt purchased the timber line and upgraded it to form the WAGR line between Margaret River and Augusta.  In the section near Sebbes Road, the original grades were too steep so a new route was found with easier grades, hence the two alignments which are visible today.

Lately, as a totally unrelated project, I have been tinkering with Open Street Map which is like the Wikipedia of online maps, as users can enter roads, tracks, paths, etc. to produce a community-generated map free of any commercial restrictions.  Combining the two interests, I ended up tracing the routes of the old railways near Margaret River from a variety of sources and entering them on the Open Street Map so they are available for viewing and can easily be located with respect to present day roads and other features.

Here is a screenshot of Open Street Map from an iPhone* showing the two, almost parallel, railway alignments south of Forrest Grove Rd, (at the top of the map).  Sebbes Rd is the next, east-west, road to the south.

The old railways are indicated by grey, dotted lines, and are easily discernible by their gently curving alignment compared to most roads and tracks. The railway alignment closer to Bussell Hwy (blue) is the original timber line.  The newer WAGR alignment is about midway between Bussell Hwy and Caves Road (pink) in this area.

The brown dashed lines lines on the map are other tracks, such as walking tracks or rough dirt roads.

The full Open Street Map for the area can be viewed on a computer at

If you follow the railway further south on the map, I have drawn the route in all the way to Augusta.  It seems the jetty at Augusta which was used for loading timber onto ships was located just south of the town beyond the mouth of the Blackwood River.  Interestingly, the Augusta airstrip is built along the former railway alignment, just west of the town. This was probably the site of Augusta station and yard.

North of Witchcliffe, there are also two railway alignments.  The eastern one, which crosses Bussell Hwy and becomes Darch Road, was the original timber line.  The later WAGR line stayed to the west of Bussell Hwy.  Parts of both routes are now cycling/walking trails nearer to Margaret River, as is the former WAGR line north to Cowaramup.
Part of Darch Road - originally a
timber line, now a walk/cycle trail.
Part of the former WAGR line about 5 km south of
Margaret River, also a walk/cycle trail.
A more open stretch of the former
WAGR line in the same area.
My next step is to map the remainder of the WAGR railway north to Busselton and, if the route can be traced, the original tramway used by one of the earliest timber operations at Quindalup, near Dunsborough.  This tramway included a sawmill at Yelverton, which is coincidentally the name of the sawmill on my model railway.  When I chose that name (in honour of C. Y. O'connor), I knew there had been a siding named Yelverton near Dunsborough but I only recently discovered it was named after a different person and that there was actually a sawmill there. This tramway is also mentioned in Rails Through the Bush.
Obligatory model photo!
A G class hauling a rake of log trucks on the
timber line to Yelverton sawmill.
* On an iPhone, the Open Street Map can be viewed "live" using a variety of "apps" - useful when out in the bush provided you have phone coverage.  One of the best free apps is "OpenMaps".  Some apps also allow the maps for an area to be saved into the iPhone memory so they work even where you don't have phone coverage.  It is also possible, with a modest degree of computer skills, to download the Open Street Maps into a GPS, such as most Garmin models.

1 comment:

  1. Graham W advises there was an article by Rod Milne on this line in the March 2011 edition of Australian Railway History.