Sorell to Bellerive Railway

The Sorell to Bellerive Railway operated between May 1892-June 1926 but before it started there were a lot of arguments about building it. People thought it was unnecessary and too expensive they also thought the ground was either too soft, too stony or too hilly and bridges needed to be built.

The railway was as long as 22km but needed a tunnel, a causeway and a bridge before the railway was finished. This made the railway quite expensive at the time (37,800 pounds). The railway was built by nine men and one boy each day! (there were no women building the railway)

 

Construction

The Public Works Department was responsible for building of the railways. When built they were handed over to the Tasmanian Government Railways.
When constructing the line six major tasks were involved:

  1. Bellerive Railway pier with its causeway (100 metres) and a wharf (80 metres)
  2. Mornington Bridge the tunnel (164 metres)
  3. Pittwater Crossing with its causeway (256 metres) and viaduct (582 metres)
  4. Shark Point Cutting (400 metres)

When Tasmanian Government Railways compared construction costs of different lines Sorell came in as one of the most expensive.
Documents listing 261 items were ready in July and in the late 1889 the tenders were called for the construction of the line. R.C. Patterson was the tender chosen out of the ten.
Rails were ordered from England; they were produced in Middlesbrough and stamped “ 1888 STEEL T.G.R-SL” (Tasmanian Government Railways- Sorell Line) These rails and fastenings were already there waiting for the contractor.
By 1889 expenditure had been:

Rails £7,465
Sleepers £1,125
Compensation for land £1,306
Sundries £22
Plans supervisions and office charges and party cost of survey £862
TOTAL £10,780

In February 1891 an extra 70 tons of rails were brought from the Zeehan stock. In the same month the inspector requested a tricycle presumably to travel the track.
In February 1892 Seabrooks listed their work force in the preceding three weeks:

DATE: LOCATION MEN BOYS
January 11-16 Bellerive 8 men 1 boy
Sorell 9 men
January 18-23 Bellerive 7 men 1 boy
Cambridge 5 men
Sorell 9 men 1 boy
January 25-30 Bellerive 7 men
Cambridge 5 men
Sorell 8 men 1 boy

In February, March and April Inspector TF Rigby complained of poor materials and poor workmanship. Mr Seabrook’s reply in his defence he pointed out that the materials had been inspected and approved by the authorities.
On the 23rd of April 1890 Lady Hamilton the Governor’s wife turned the first sod (the first shovel of dirt to start construction) at Sorell.
A locomotive was moved from the Hobart Railway Station to Bellerive on Wednesday for the Sorell Line. The engine weighed about 12 tons and was placed minus the wheels on a substantial wagon prepared for the occasion and drawn by nine horses to the PS Kangaroo Wharf.

Image from collection at Station Lane Antiques

THE FIRST TRIP
The railway was opened on Monday May 2, 1892. There were two trains running every day leaving Bellerive at 10am and 5.30pm and left Sorell at 7.50am and 3.20pm. All trains stopped at Cambridge and the journey was timed to take one hour.
Very few people took advantage of the first trip. On the 10am trip that left from Bellerive Mr Back, Mr McCormick and Mr Lamb made an inspection of the line and were very satisfied with the result. All the track needed now was the traffic to keep it going.
There was a banquet for 35 people put on at the at the Pembroke Hotel after many photographs had been taken.

When the railway was first built there was no tunnel in the hill now called tunnel hill after Cambridge so the train had to travel up the hill and it was very slow on the way up and the children used to jump off the train and race it up to the top.

BELLERIVE TO SORELL
The train left Bellerive at 10am and made its way to Cambridge. After crossing the north western part of Pittwater the train would stop at Shark Point as this was a very popular picnic spot. On some trips many people would get off the train to spend the day’s picnicking and fishing before catching the train back to Bellerive. At Shark Point two major constructions had to be done to allow the railway to proceed to Sorell.

A stone causeway was built to link Cambridge end with the Sorell end.
Then a timber viaduct with 20 metre pilings was built to connect the causeway to Shark Point.

Deep cuttings were necessary at Shark Point in “extremely tough rock”.  A cottage was erected at Shark Point in 1893. From Shark Point the railway travelled across two of the major properties of the district. These were: Flexmore and Frogmore. In 1896 a short siding was built at Frogmore and by 1920 this was known as Penna, and a goods shed was built here. At Coopers Crossing, a small shelter shed and platform were provided in 1920-1921.

At Shark Point the train was signalled across the bridge as people used to fish from it.
Red flag-Stop
Green flag-slacken
White flag- clear.

CAMBRIDGE
After another crossing over the Cambridge road near an inn called the Three Trunks Inn, an impressive and still standing two metre high stone faced tunnel was built. Another level crossing was then built east of the train station then, they then wound up with two level crossings down to Cambridge on the south side of the Barilla Rivulet.

At Cambridge they had three tracks. A railway cottage, cart dock and a small stable was later built. At the Cambridge office there was a ticket booth with a waiting room and fireplace. The post office, ladies toilets and male toilets where located out the back.

View of railway station and overlooking Sorell township from AA Rollings collection, Libraries Tasmania NS1553-1-598

SORELL
When arriving at Sorell, travellers alighted at the station which is now a private home and used as an antiques store. They found Sorell was a substantial town with a council, two hotels, three churches and five stores. There was plenty to do before catching the train back.The train used to carry grain,chaff,wood, wool and cream from Hanslow’s. This was loaded at Johnson’s crossing which was half way between Bellerive and Sorell, just out of Cambridge. The cream was reputed to be the best in the district.

The people used to drive their produce to the train for carting to Bellerive.  Most of the wool, chaff, wood, etc came to Cambridge from Acton.

Researched by Scott R using book about the railway published by the Bellerive Historical Society in 2005.

McGee’s Bridge

The $20 million McGees Bridge was the largest single infrastructure project funded by the State Government for more than 15 years.
The new bridge was named as a tribute to Dr Rodney William McGee, ESM, who died after a long battle with cancer on 1 February 2002, aged 47. At the time of his death he was a senior engineer with the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources and recognised interstate and internationally for his expertise in bridge engineering.

The state government decided in the mid 19th century that if a crossing at Pittwater could be made, it would reduce the time to Sorell. It was decided to build a causeway for two-thirds of the length of Pittwater and have a bridge complete the rest of the crossing. The bridge was given a 50 year life span back in 1957.

Statistics:

1000 metres (causeway)
460 metres (main bridge).

Denison Canal at Dunalley

The Dunalley Canal also known as the Denison Canal was first opened in 1905 by Governor Gerald Strickland who sailed all the way from Hobart on 13 October to officially open the canal.

At the opening of the canal up to 30 boats were waiting to go through. It was worth the wait. So many families moved to the small community to work on the project, it was described as resembling a newly discovered goldfield. Gangs of up to 50 men shovelled soil, clay, gravel and rock into railway wagons, then into punts which dumped the material at sea.

The longer route costs fishermen about an extra $150 in diesel each way. But they believe the community of Dunalley is experiencing greater financial woes. Dunalley suffered in the last few years in the fact that boats can’t call in here now because they can’t get through the canal. And it has a large impact on some of our local businesses, like the canvas maker and things like that.

In a few months this situation could all change because the Tasmanian Government has announced it will dredge this area of the canal before the centenary. The fishing industry believes the Government should dredge the canal regularly arguing it would cut costs, but MAST (Marine and Safety Tasmania) says it won’t be necessary for another 20 years.

This time, the overall project, including all the costs involved, is going to cost the Government about $200,000 to dredge the canal and of that, there’s physically three days dredging which comprises about 25% of the cost. The remainders all the set-up cost. Now you wear those costs whether you dredge once every five years or once every 20 years. This time, the dredging process probably won’t result in Dunalley resembling a newly discovered goldfield, but the community believes it will give them a brighter future.

Further information:

ABC Report in 2005

Another report in 2005

1905 ‘EAST BAY NECK CANAL. THE OPENING CEREMONY.’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 14 October, p. 6. , viewed 28 Apr 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12322228

Blog post including photos by Geoff Ritchie