Craven Timber Railway Background

Introduction

History of the Area

Railway Plans

Key Features of the Railway

Operations

Additional Information


Introduction

The Craven Timber railway covers the branch line located on the North Coast of New South Wales at Craven (180 miles north of Sydney). The branch ran from Craven to The Glen.

In the early 1900s the coastal area of New South Wales was known for it rich deposits of timber. A number of saw mills were established along the coast to process timber sawn.

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History of the Area

The area surrounding Craven was blessed with extensive stands of harwood, but due to the isolated nature of the area, little was done to harvest the timber.

In 1912, in anticipation of the soon to be completed railway line through Craven, construction on a sawmill commenced and the mill began cutting in 1914. Timber was initially hauled to the sawmill by bullock teams and a small town sprang up to house the workers employed by the sawmill.

In 1917, the New South Wales state Government purchased the Craven sawmill, along with one located at Gloucester.The new venture was called the Glucester and Craven STate Sawmills. Over the next few years considerable funds were poured into the development of this enterprise. Funding was also expended on the building of a short branchline into the the forest to haul timber to the mill for processing.

Due to political pressures, the Government sold all their interests in the Gloucester and Craven sawmills in October 1924.

Following a number of ownership changes, the sawmill operated up unto 1978, when it finally closed.

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Railway Plans

Up until the early 1900s most railway construction in the North parts of NSW was focussed on the Main Northern line which proceeded to the Queensland border via Armidale.

Construction of a railway up the Northern coast of NSW was commenced in the late 1800s when an isolated railway system was opened in the Lismore Area. In 1911 the first southern section from Maitland (Main Northern line) to Dungog was opened. It was to be 1932 before the full line was completed all the way from Sydney to Brisbane.

The section between Dungog and Taree, which included a station at Craven was opened in February 1913.

The sawmill at Craven was connected to the North Coast line via a siding.

With the Government purchase of the sawmill it was decided to build a railway line to facilitate the transport of timber to the mill from the forest. The line was built by the Public Works Department (PWD) and completed in January 1919.

Over it's life it was operated by two saddle tank locomotives, PWD32 and 529X.

The railway operation continued in a spasmodic fashion up unto the early 1930s, when the then owner went into liquidation, and all the assets were sold. It appears that the line was lifted in 1936.

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Key Features of the Railway

The railway is a typical timber "tramway" and was built to light railway standards with a number of tight curves of 120m. For part of its length the line followed the Wards River, which was a very picturesque journey. The line was 5 miles and 77 chains long (9.6km) and terminated in a loop at The Glen, which was the terminus. Logs were bought to the terminus by bullock teams and loaded onto four-wheel or bogie wagons for transhipment to the mill.

One of the key features of the line ws the fact that it crossed the Wards River six times as it wound up the river valley. gradients were generally light, but in a couple of places it was necessary to climb over the spurs between river valleys.

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Operations

The Craven Timber Railway was a relatively small system – at Craven there was only one loop siding beside the log unloading area, and one loop siding beside the sawn timber loading platforms, and there was a third loop line for storage purposes – this is where the locomotive (s) and spare rolling stock were parked during times out of service. At The Glen there was one loop siding beside the log loading area, one run-around siding and a headshunt.

In 1922 the NSWGR re-modelled Craven station and yard, and laid in a ‘Back Siding’ to accommodate the expanding timber traffic from the sawmills – the Craven Timber locomotives were permitted to run into the NSWGR yard area to shunt loaded and empty wagons between the ‘Back Siding’ and the private sawmill railway. This permission was conditional that whenever any NSWGR locomotive was within the NSWGR yard limits, the private locomotive had to remain on the private side of the boundary gate – the private locomotive was only permitted to run to and from the ‘Back Siding’ when there was no NSWGR locomotive in the station yard.

Craven Timber’s locomotives were oriented to always face the NSWGR line – i.e they hauled empties to The Glen bunker first, and loaded wagons to Craven chimney first.

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Additional Information

A full article on the Craven Timber Railway, written by Ian McNeil, can be found in the Light Railways Magazine, No 217, February 2011.

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