Monday, January 6, 2014

RIP - Reid's Hill loco depot - 50 years ago this month

Time for another blog post - I just lurve being on holidays; gives you so much more time for the important things in life.

Continuing with the theme in recent postings of steam on the south coast, I thought I would show a few snaps of the former Reid's Hill locomotive depot operated by the Public Works Department of NSW, which had responsibility for shunting Port Kembla's wharves and undertaking breakwater maintenance for the first half of the 20th century. This responsibility was assumed by the NSW Government Railways (NSWGR) in 1949, and to their credit largely kept these operations separate from mainstream railway operations until the early 1960s.

The Public Works Department had purchased or somehow procured a motley collection of former NSWGR steam locomotives over the years, augmented by several locos obtained in its own right.  I will stand corrected, but all were tank locomotives with short wheelbases - the latter aspect was needed to negotiate tight radius curves around the Port Kembla waterfront.  As an example of this, in 1940 the NSWGR had sold tank locomotive 2002 to Public Works for a princely ₤800.  It became PWD 80 and was sent to the Illawarra for work on the wharves.

This post is not going to be able to deal with operations at Reid's Hill, as I have next to no knowledge about such things. I can however relay a little information about the demise of the depot and its occupants, which will be shown to be somewhat timely and relevant to my earlier posts on North Wollongong.  Before I go further please note that I will suspend my usual abhorrence for acronyms to use the moniker ‘PWD’ throughout this posting in reference to the Public Works Department.

Reid’s Hill locomotive depot was closed 50 years ago this month, after the dieselisation of Port Kembla’s wharves was completed by the allocation of all ten members of the 70 class to the NSWGR’s nearby Port Kembla locomotive depot.  While I have no shots of 70s on the wharves, as this blog is supposed to include photographs here is a location shot of double 70s doing their stuff in Port Kembla yard around 1980.

While Reid’s Hill depot closed in January 1964, its occupants had been leaving town well before then.  PWD 30 and PWD 78 had been scraped on site in September 1955, while PWD 27 suffered the same fate in 1961.  Luckier was PWD No. 29, which moved from Port Kembla to Enfield to become Garratt shed shunter in June 1961.

In September 1963 PWD No. 79 stored at Thirroul depot, having been donated to the NSW Rail Transport Museum.  Thirteen months later it was towed to Enfield by 5593 to commence life as a very special museum exhibit. By 1982 it could be found safely undercover at Thirlmere with its big cousin Bronzewing, and it remains at this location to the current time.

While 70 classes had assumed an increasing load of shunting duties throughout the second half of 1963, steam did not subside until the very end of that year.  On 29 December 1963, PWD 28 had the honour of being the last steam to operate a shift on the wharves.  ‘Kembla’ as it was known, disgraced itself by failing mid-shift.   

The family photograph collection does have a few shots around Reid’s Hill.  First up is a sadly scarred photo of 1076 in situ, still worth publishing in its reduced condition due to its content.  

In its last days Reid’s Hill had a fair representation of 26 class locomotives.  Here 2619 and 2612 bask outside the shed.

As a sort of a postscript, there was some steam action at Reid's Hill after the depot’s closure.  Sadly it only involved the scrapping of PWD No. 34 on-site in June 1964.

And now to the link to North Wollongong.  According to the Railway Digest, on the second day of 1964 – 50 years ago this week - 2001, 2609 & PWD No. 28 were moved from Reid’s Hill to storage at Thirroul depot.  I think that the following photograph, taken from the back door of my grandparent’s home captures part of this working.  2609 probably worked north under its own power or as part of a regular goods working, but it was necessary for PWD No. 28 to be towed to storage following its failure four days earlier.  So, unless contradictory information comes to light, I think this is 2001 towing PWD No. 28 to Thirroul on 2 January 1964.

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