Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sydney's water supply over time

A big topic with much to cover. By necessity - at this stage - I'll simply scratch the surface.

Early Sydney's water supply was largely dependent upon the Tank Stream, so called for the grooves or "tanks" cut into its bed (reputedly an Indian sub-continental loan word as well as a fortuitously imported water storage technique). The stream is now largely buried under Sydney's concreted CBD.

Busby's bore, more or less what we would now call a tunnel, was located in the western corner of today's Centennial Park and ran to Hyde Park. See also the Lachlan Swamps.

Later water supplies were drawn from Botany, near Sydney Airport. Remains of a steam-driven pumping station can still be seen near the eastern boundary of the airport. See also Ascot Racecourse

With Sydney's growth over time, water was drawn from further afield and major, increasingly elaborate constructions, including reservoirs, tunnels and channels were undertaken.  Much of this remains in place, either in use as intended, re-purposed or as a heritage site.

The Prospect reservoir is one such early attempt to capture a larger area of rainfall and move it eastwards. 

Another significant part of Sydney's water supply history is the Nepean Dam, the last and the smallest of the four dams finished early in the 20th Century to collect water from the rising lands of the Illawarra Plateau, the major, southern source of the oddly north-westerly flowing Nepean River (which later makes a curving right turn to flow east - as the Hawkesbury River - into the Pacific Ocean north of Sydney). 

See also the Cataract, Avon and Cordeaux dams. These and the Nepean Dam were part of the Upper Nepean Scheme, which fed into an earlier set of weirs and other infrastructure, including the 1880's vintage Potts Hill and Prospect reservoirs. A good explanation of how the system expanded and operated may be found here.

The Nepean Dam may possibly also have been a WWII-era emergency alighting area for seaplanes. More details may be found on this list of Sydney's airfields and airports.

Another dam was constructed south of Sydney after the Nepean system, at Woronora, largely serving southern Sydney.

Also worth looking into is Parramatta's water supply.

The far larger Warragamba dam was built largely post WWII on a western tributary of the Nepean River and largely replaces or vastly enhances this earlier system, although all remain important, and in operation.

More can be found at the Dictionary of Sydney

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The tramway and the railway from Parramatta to Castle Hill

Sydney once had an extensive tram network, as did Newcastle and even Broken Hill. It seems odd that we (as a community) closed it all down, only to have regrets later. But there are always reasons.

The main reasons are cars, trucks and buses, of course. Oil got cheap and plentiful and vehicles got cheaper and more numerous. And then investment in railways and tramways was diverted to roadways. And so on, until we get to today, our world of regret.

Of course some people protested at the time, but governments mostly do what gets them votes. And if unsure what voters want then they just use a proxy, like patronage. What are people actually doing? Well they are effectively voting with their feet. Or if you don't use it, you lose it.

And that's essentially why the railways to Camden, Kurrajong and Castle Hill (or Rogan's Hill) were closed, coupled with escalating operating costs, ongoing repairs (especially after floods) and the mounting opportunity costs. But the reasons underneath the big picture of "costs" - the specifics - were also interwoven and interesting.

The background to closing the Rogan's Hill line that went up via Castle Hill is like that. The demand for freight transport from orchardists to market in Sydney drove the initial tramway development but unsuitable track (and some pesky laws about what trams could do) restricted it to passenger traffic. The fruit growers were unhappy. Despite the immense success of the passenger line the fruit growers pressed their case and a heavier rail line was laid with a connection to the mainline at Westmead. And whilst that pleased the growers it resulted in a less attractive passenger service. Patronage fell just as alternative bus companies sprung up. And patronage kept falling.

Still, there was freight traffic. But the demand for particular types of citrus fruit changed and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area met that need better than north west Sydney could. So freight declined, too.

When the crunch came the costs were high but the patronage was low. What else could be done? Keep it running at great loss for a few decades on a 'wait and see' basis? Or close it?

There's a detailed article here and a broad outline of Western Sydney's rail history here.     

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Luddenham: just full of runways, tracks and circuits

The more I look, the more I find. As you'd expect.

I started with airstrips. First I went looking for Fleurs at Kemps Creek. And then Kennetts, at Luddenham. And then Doonside. And finally back to Badgery's.

In the course of which I found this Society of model engineers (that would be engineers into models, although they may well be the very model of an engineer, who knows?). I'd heard of them but never visited. I think I should, though. The facilities (from trains to boats) look amazing.

It appears to include this quarter-scale speedway, too. And RC aircraft. Here's a screenshot from Google Maps:

And then there's this track, apparently nearby and new (Google Maps hasn't caught up yet) but possibly/probably unrelated...? It looks small, yes, but certainly full-sized...

In any event it's worth checking out Luddenham.

My list of Sydney's tracks and circuits.
My list of Sydney's airports and airfields.

That airstrip at Luddenham - Kennett's Field

Interestingly there's a private airstrip at Luddenham, just 6km or so from Fleurs. (If you check it out today on Google Maps you'll find what looks like a Cessna 337 parked outside a small hangar.)  


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Is this the ultimate Badgery's Creek runway configuration?

I'm not sure if the grass can handle the strain, but I like the design (image via Google Maps).

Or check out the "other" Badgery's Creek airfield.

Or perhaps the list of Sydney's airstrips and airfields.

Not the past - the future, That "new" airport site at Badgery's Creek - Sydney's "2nd" airport

Badgery's Creek. Western Sydney Airport. Or whatever it will be called. Well it's not "new" at all, it's not the first nor the only airport (or perhaps "airstrip") in the immediate area. But if built it will be the biggest. And it is another regular public transport (RPT) airport for Sydney with full allowance for both international and domestic services as well as future capacity increases. 

Badgery's (let's call it WSA) in a nutshell:
  • It's big, bigger than Sydney (let's call it KSA for "Kingsford-Smith Airport")
  • It won't start as big as you probably imagine
  • It won't open until at least 2025
  • It isn't guaranteed to succeed, or grow, but probably will
  • Runway alignment, operational "mode" and noise footprints aren't a done deal and...
  • The last EIS we have (courtesy Blacktown City Council) is huge, impressive, and out of date.
Basically, all we can do is read what we have, interpret it as it stands and update it in our own heads - at least until we get told some more. This post is a stab in the dark based on what I have found. It's long, too. If it helps someone piece this together, great.

A "Western Sydney Airport"? It's not a new idea, being one of several seemingly endless options explored since the end of WWII. It is the one that has been chosen, though. Not that being chosen means much. Badgery's Creek was first "chosen" in 1986. Given the politics played out already, it conceivably may still not go ahead at all. It's not planned to be open for business until 2025, after all.
Badgery's Creek - or Western Sydney Airport (WSA) - is on the lower-centre-left of this Google Map image, Sydney (KSA) on the lower-right. Depending on how you measure it, you are looking at 40 to 50kms between them. Fancy paying for a taxi cab?

Do we need it? The existing Sydney Airport can arguably handle more passengers and aircraft movements, by some accounts to 2025, by others (notably SACL, the airport owners) to 2045. Indeed aircraft movements are constrained more by legislation than by actual capacity. Whilst the legislation is there to protect residents from excessive noise, cold-hearted rationalists could observe that the cost of these restrictions to our community overall is too great. By allowing more flights in a greater spread of the day and night, or by shifting regional and/or freight traffic to existing alternatives such as Bankstown, Richmond and Camden, the "need" for a 2nd major RPT airport in Sydney is removed or at worst pushed further into the future.   

Could the money - some $2.4 billion for the airport infrastructure and perhaps $4 billion more for land transport - be better spent elsewhere? Investment of any sort has a varying multiplier effect on the economy and finding the investment sweet spot - the best return - matters. You don't just throw cash away and hope for the best, after all. Mind you, the stakes are high. It is a big investment that impacts the region - and the nation - socially and politically. It will create local jobs - airports do that - and maybe pull some jobs away from the existing Sydney Airport. It opens up regional development more broadly, increases land value and creates opportunity. Of course such opportunities divert us from other possibilites, too. Perhaps better ones. And when land use changes the door opens to the speculators and developers. All well and good, as long as it's transparent and fair, especially to the current owners and residents.  

Will it get built, and will it get used? Will the airlines use it? Only if they have to, I suspect. Do existing airline operators really want an alternative Sydney operation, another terminal, more staff on the ground and the extra complication of airport transfers? If you thought it was a hassle getting from the "domestic" side of KSA to the "international", imagine what it will be like if your connecting flight is at another airport some 40 or 50 kilometres away. Hail that taxi!

Existing airline operators may well hesitate; but some - perhaps those without an existing foothold at  KSA - may actually want to claim Western Sydney as their own. Perhaps entirely new airlines will want "in". But which ones? Freight? Regional? Low-cost domestic inter-city? International?

Will the existing Sydney airport operators, SACL accept the competition without fuss, or indeed take up their first refusal rights? As far as I know they are still in "discussion". I'm sure they'd like to lock up the whole Sydney market, if only to protect their key asset - KSA.

What about the politics? Frankly, I don't think the political will is strong enough - or the election cycle long enough - to get this one off the ground as intended. With every change of government the policy shifts. In brief we have swayed from "let's do it" to "hang on, let's invest further at KSA" to "let's start small with a GA airport" and back to "no, let's do it"... peppered with the odd "how about we choose a new site?". 

Yes, something will get built - if real spade work actually starts in 2016. It may only be a hole in the ground, though, if even that hole gets approved. Badgery's looks and sounds too good, especially when the media spin amps up the positives for the economy of Sydney's west, to just vanish completely. It's dangling there with a lot of other investment: new roads (big orbital ones, too); new rail (well maybe, if all comes to pass); new jobs (certainly in the construction phase and probably later as well). And so on. A lot of people want a slice of this "action".

But who knows exactly when or even if? What about upcoming State and Federal elections? Will the commitment remain, irrespective of result? What if the roads are built but no airport? What if the airport is scaled back in scope? What if it is built but just isn't used? What if it's just a sly way to shift some noise and aviation fuel from the east out west?

Still, let's not be negative. On paper it looks attractive. If it helps build value and jobs in western Sydney, good. If it takes some noise burden away from the current KSA footprint, great. So let's assume that somehow, something good will eventuate.

So what's next? OK, we have a site decision. Sure. We had that exact same decision perhaps 28-odd years ago (Hawke/Keating), except for the subsequent reversal (Howard/Costello), procrastination (everyone) and political second-guessing ever since. But now PM Abbott says "yes". Whilst a split Labor Party says "no", probably, most likely. 

Assuming PM Abbott doesn't pull the pin, from here we have further planning and design work to be done. Negotiations with all affected parties. Plus renewed noise and other environmental impact assessments to be done. There's an endangered environment on the site and threatened species to be protected, too. Both the known and the as-yet unknown problems will need to be resolved in order to get traction. Perhaps more land will be required as well. It all takes time. Delays abound. Keep 2025 in mind. It may slip. Probably will.
Location map from the Draft 1997 EIS.

What does experience tell us? As a personal learning note here, let me say that I grew up under the 16 approach at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. It wasn't the main runway for most of my early years but it was extended and extended and even duplicated until it became the focus for most of Sydney Airport's air traffic. Interestingly whilst the noise levels and frequency of movements increased substantially over many years, they also fell at times. It wasn't a given that things just got worse.

I won't say that it wasn't unsufferably noisy at times, it was, but I have to admit that 3 things in particular happened: firstly, aircraft engines became measurably quieter; secondly, those engines grew more powerful; and thirdly, on average, aircraft grew much, much larger.

Another thought here is that the flight paths changed over time. Especially so for inbound traffic. Different aircraft with different performance characteristics, coupled with evolving air trafic control procedures and technology meant changes to the areas affected by aircraft noise.  

Having said that, what I would suggest now is that aircraft will probably not grow much larger than they are currently. I could be wrong of course but a triple decker seems unlikely. Still, it's possible. There may even be demand for such an unwieldy beast. It's also conceivable that airliners could grow further in length; but you get into all sorts of engineering limits as such elongated designs must rotate to lift off, without tail strike. And loading weights per tyre and wheel combination are a factor, too, both in engineering the aircraft and the concrete it lands or stands upon. New configurations, even twin-fuselage designs, can't be ruled out, of course. But whilst we must consider all of this in our airport design, it remains highly speculative. The problem is, should we guess wrongly with placement and design it's expensive to fix.

Whatever else happens with aircraft engineering, I would expect the noise to continue to fall, if only slightly, and for aircraft engine performance to continue to improve. In this way the noise footprint will continue to shrink, particularly for departures (which require full throttle and "max noise", generally). And with better design and a bigger performance envelope comes the possibility of "sharing" the impact more widely. In theory.

However the other lesson here is that successful airports attract people. If successful, it will get hemmed in by developments. But we all know this. So land will be reserved for "noise mitigation" reasons. And land will be reserved for runway duplication, too. Duplication that will inevitably widen the noise footprint. Just watch as history repeats itself.

At this stage, though, all we can do is "trust" that the currently empowered authorities will do as they say. So what are the plans, as we know them? (Knowing also that they will be changed: what we don't know is by how much.)

Runway alignment. A big question mark here. Given the orientation of the land already purchased, plus the prevailing winds and topography, a north-east by south-west alignment is probably what's on offer. Whilst an additional crosswind runway would aid smaller aircraft operations, particularly in the strong westerly to nor-westerly winds likely from August through to the end of summer, there's no hint as yet of extra land resumption. A shorter crosswnd runway would fit, just. Nevertheless unless it downscales to a GA airport (to ease Bankstown's load, for example) I think a crosswind runway is unlikely, at least at the possible 2025 opening date.
Generic master plan, from the Draft EIS again. Take it with a grain of salt, of course. Tilt it towards the north-east and it's your guess which parallel runway gets built first. Toss a coin with the shorter crosswind strip, too. If more length is added to the cross-strip (or a parallel one built) or more noise abatement required then more land will need to be acquired.  

Noise Footprint. Yes, people do live in the area, but far fewer than live around Sydney's current major airport. And the denser population centres are much more distant from the proposed runways than the existing high density population that surrounds all but the Botany Bay-facing runways. WSA is surrounded by paddocks, mostly. Yes, Sydney does have the benefit of Botany Bay, true. But not all traffic can come and go over the water.

That's the good news: "It's not as bad as KSA". Catchy slogan, yes?

Once runway alignment is agreed, which looks decidely NE-SW at this stage, integration with existing flightpaths and other airspace restrictions will have a bearing on which areas are directly under the footprint.

Bear in mind (a) most likely just one runway will be built in the first phase; (b) upon reaching a safe altitude aircraft will most likely turn either left or right after takeoff, depending upon destination and designated standard departure procedures; and (c) approaches will similarly include standard corridors to the left or right of the field as well as to the north and south, allowing safe traffic separation. Altitude and throttle settings are important factors in noise mitigation of course and it is likely that specific noise-limiting procedures would be implemented over residential or other sensitive areas.
The indicative Cox Richardson graphic above shows the standard ANEF noise footprint of the assumed runway alignment overlaid on land use. Most of the affected area has already been rezoned industrial or contains low-density residential, however the underlying assumption is for sound-proofing of affected residences as well. The areas of highest impact are relatively distant from the twin parallel runways shown, certainly so in comparison with existing impact at KSA. Nevertheless when the final alignment and flightpaths are agreed and real-world noise measurement testing is undertaken it's likely that noise-related resumptions would be considered.

So, again, get out your grain of salt and ponder the following... 
Above, that's the indicative flight path for option A, airport operation mode 1 from the '97 EIS. Don't get scared. Nothing's decided and the assumptions are both many and largely out of date. Read the full EIS or just take my word for it: it will change. Nevertheless it gives you an idea what approaches from the south west and departures to the north east may look like. But the final runway alignment? Who knows.
Again, to be taken with a grain of salt: from the '97 EIS showing approaches from the north east and departures to the south west.

Note that the airspace over Warragamba will be overflown only at considerable altitude, as will other water catchment areas towards the Illawarra. The '97 EIS certainly assumes that Warragamba airpsace will be used; and I do agree that it makes sense from a noise abatement perspective; however it may raise public debate over water quality and world heritage issues. It shouldn't be an issue as jet aircraft exhaust is "relatively" hot and clean, especially in comparison with internal combustion engines, and modern aircraft climb quickly. Yes, jet fuel - essentially kerosene - differs chemically from unleaded petrol, but studies have shown that aircraft exhaust "mixes" readily and disperses quickly over a wide area, whereas land-borne transportation typically disperses more slowly and creates more readily identifiable particulate deposit zones. Or to put it more clearly, you'd be far worse off beside a main road.    

It's unavoidable that areas to the immediate north-east and south-west of the runway(s) will be "in" the affected zones, unless of course in the passage of time the runways are turned 180 degrees. OK, that seems unlikely, but let's not forget that runway alignment is not locked in. The '97 EIS dealt with 3 primary options plus different airport operational modes, and it's worth remembering that anything could change. Nevertheless here is another pretty illustration for you...
Harking back to that Cox-Richardson landuse overlay, this image (above) is the suggested N70 noise contour for Option A, mode 1, from the '97 EIS (N70 being a different methodology from the ANEF standard). The underlying assumptions include runway heading (not locked in), 30 million passengers a year (not really likely, at least from day 1) and a fully loaded 747-300 (not going to happen so much in 2025, it'll hopefully be a mix of newer aircraft).

You need to read and interpret the full EIS in context but if I dared summarise this, if you were living inside the red line you'd have a real problem; if you lived within the orange loop you'd still be upset about it; and the further out you go the less of a nuisance the noise may be. You may still be interrupted in conversation, and you may get disturbed at night. It will be an individual response. It will still matter to you, depending upon the situation. Schools and hospitals are individual cases where it may matter more. It all depends.
And here (above, same source) is option C, similar assumptions (but with the crosswind runway, used sparingly). Look what happens when you rotate the runways towards north. All of what I have written already applies here - don't panic, don't assume the worst. If a runway points directly at you then yes, it's likely that you'll get some aircraft noise. But departing aircraft gain altitude, may throttle back and generally turn towards their destination; which all means that the noise diminishes from point of take off. And arriving aircraft are of course throttled back, join the approach at different points, and are at a greater altitude when at a greater distance from touch down.

They do, however, make a lot of noise and vibration when using reverse thrust, but even this is mitigated by long runways and taxiways designed for faster exits. All of that aside, it's not precise, and it's full of out of date assumptions; but it does give you a rough idea, though.

World Heritage areas will likely also be "out", as will the rising land to the west, except, again, at altitude, and in a designated corridor.

Military airspace too will be "out"; so dodging around Richmond and Holsworthy will be a given, although again the airspace restrictions are governed by altitude (ie there is an upper cap to the restricted military airspace, allowing overflights).  

But - like I've said - we don't know for sure about any of this - yet.

Bear in mind too that whilst aviation noise is unique in character it is not alone in affecting quality of life. Road and rail noise impact is real as well. And I haven't even touched on that. And I haven't mentioned air pollution either (it'll probably improve to the east of the field and worsen to the west); or even "odour". Yes, people complain about KSA's smell, although how they can tell it's an airport smell from 10km or more away is beyond me. Personally I can recognise that 'aviation kerosene' smell only up to about 5km away... anyway, it's all in the '97 EIS.

It gets complicated. It's not just noise mitigation that needs to be catered for. Of course you need to separate air traffic safely, too; so the airspace around Sydney, Bankstown and Camden airports will need to be accommodated; as will Albion Park, Wedderburn, Wilton, Warnervale and The Oaks airfields, too. Mixed air traffic would approach and depart these airports via defined corridors, in some cases by special exemption from otherwise strictly controlled airspace, or by curtailed control zones for individual airports. This is done now to separate Bankstown's general aviation traffic from Sydney's control whilst allowing such mixed traffic to flow freely. Of course "layers" of traffic will be separated by altitude, too, as they are now.

It can be done, it's not rocket science - especially when you realise that the aviation world operates in an environment based on airspace stacks, separated not just horizontally but vertically as well.

And in the end all things are possible if enough money is thrown at the problem. If the preferred solution is closure of one or more airports (or conflicting runways) then - presumably - compensation would be required.     

Transport integration. A big one. Improved roads and (perhaps) heavy rail are planned but it's roads first (for now). Whilst roads are important, it's worth noting that over-encouragement of private motor vehicle use increases demand for car parking, including "drop off" zones, and may lead to road congestion and capacity "pinch points". Sydney Airport's Domestic terminals are, for example, constrained by the capacity of the loop road that feeds the terminals. Whilst suitable shuttle buses on appropriate routes will ease those problems, light or heavy rail options appear preferable to many. Shuttle buses, after all, are also "traffic".  

If the Very Fast Train (VFT - or High Speed Rail) is a goer (and not a white elephant in disguise) then will it run via Sydney Airport or via Badgery's Creek? Neither? Or both? What about compensation for the "losers" in each scenario? Indeed the VFT represents competition for commercial aviation and may seek to navigate between the airports, even if the public good appears to favour connectivity rather than separation. There are huge arguments yet to come.

At least there's the semblance of a NSW Government plan with heavy rail extensions and reservations to service Badgery's. All drawn on a nice chart.
Of course this is all very orbital and north-south, although clearly both the SW and NW rail links eventually head into Sydney or Parramatta or both; and the SW link will get you to the current Sydney Airport if all of the planned connections are put in place. But until that's all done it's the road network that will ferry passengers between the airports, if that's what they want to do. (And if your connection is at the other airport, that's what you'll need to do.)

But with a "roads first" policy in action currently the likelihood is for multiple shuttle bus routes from Badgery's Creek to nearby heavy rail stations, to Parramatta CBD and on to Sydney Airport itself. For now, anyway. Or catch a taxi, of course.

Further land acquisition? The Ernst and Young Economic and Social Impact report (2012) suggested that "the latest footprint of the site will still require additional property (30 lots) to be compulsorily acquired at the southern end of the site. In line with Australian health and safety standards for noise pollution, properties located within Australian Noise Exposure Concept (ANEC) contours 40, 35 and 30 should be acquired by the Commonwealth Government. The analysis undertaken by WorleyParsons found that there could be up to a further 62 allotments that should be considered for compulsory acquisition as a result of noise impacts from the airport".

I doubt that a crosswind runway would eventuate, however if it did it would be constrained within the current site to well under 3000m. If proceeded with, further land acquisitions to the east and/or west may have to be considered. It would be for regional or smaller aircraft, generally, or larger aircraft landings. 

Other risk factors. Much (if not all) of the reasoning behind a Western Sydney Airport is predicated on continuing - and expanding - demand for air travel. Underpinning that demand is the rate of world and local economic growth, which is currently subdued by many factors. One big factor is predicted global climate change. If current climate trends continue (as seems likely) then an increasing amount of world economic activity will focus on renewable energy provision and alternative, low-energy transport systems. How aviation - as a high-energy activity, especially on take-off - fits into that scenario is moot. It is likely that commercial aviation will face stiffer competition from alternatives such as high speed rail (HSR) over time. Whilst there are currently no HSR projects underway in Australia there is a groundswell of opinion in favour of it. Such projects would have obvious impact on both major regular public transport (RPT) airports, Sydney and Western Sydney. It is also worth noting that Sydney Airport faces the allied and perhaps more pressing impact of rising sea levels, which ultimately could strongly favour Western Sydney Airport's cost competitiveness.

If world action on climate change continues to grow then the possibility exists for commercial aviation to be  identified more negatively and government action taken to dampen demand. This could be by direct-cost imposition of levies or taxes. The least impactful (whilst still effective) method would be via an emissions trading scheme (ETS). Many countries are indeed taking the latter approach. Ironically, of course, Australia has reversed its tactics in this regard, repealing the carbon tax, the  precursor to an intended ETS.        

So what is likely to change? Everything. The expense is huge and variable, both in dollar terms and the human and environmental cost. The pay-off is big but less certain; but to not act - after decades of indecision - risks hitting some sort of capacity limit with current aviation infrastructure. It's a gamble either way. More to come, I'm sure!

Oh, and someone seems to have their own airport design already in place on the Badgery's site (via Google).

At the end of the day you may weigh it all up - the noise, the traffic, the polution - and think it's a good idea overall. It saves driving to KSA when you need to get to the airport. And you may even get a better paid job out of it. Or maybe you'd just prefer a High Speed Train instead. It's your vote, and I suspect the whole issue will crop up at elections, State and Federal, more than a few times before we reach 2025.  

More reading (some key sources):
Blacktown City Council - Draft EIS from 1997
Aboriginal heritage study - Draft EIS
Infrastructure and Transport - Joint Study on Aviation Capacity Sydney Region 2012
Infrastructure and Transport - Ernst and Young report on Economic and Social impact of airports 2012
Transport for NSW - consultation, SW Rail link extension
Bob Meyer, Cox Richardson presentation (including transport, land use and ANEF charts)
Sydney Airport's long term operating plan, including noise mitigation
Infrastructure and Regional development - High Speed Rail Studies
International Transport Forum on expanding airport capacity
An interesting timeline on Sydney's airport planning.
NSW Business Chamber - economic impact of a Western Sydney Airport
James Badgery - was into the ponies.

And for your amusement and edification, how about this impressively obsessive Condell Park site seemingly dedicated to defending the Bankstown community against any expansion of their local General Aviation airport. The detail is amazing (although sometimes colourful, incomplete, out of date and always biased) and they have done a lot of research, especially on runway length. Bankstown, of course, was once paddocks and no-one really complained about its wartime use by a variety of forces (who would dare, of course). But post-war many people (including an aunt and uncle of mine) moved in and hemmed the airport in from several sides - but especially from the eastern, runway-facing Condell Park side - and to the north. It's no one person's fault but it's a classic tale of airports attracting jobs, people and their houses. 

Or check out my ever-growing list of Sydney's past and present airfields and airports

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Erskine Park Quarry airstrip - it was definitely there (somewhere)

Pin the tail on the airstrip. I can't find it. Developed? (Yes! See postscript and comments, below)
 The general area in 2014, via Google Maps.
And a crash report from 1970. It existed then, at least.

PS: As per the comments below, it's found (with many thanks)! The strip ran roughly SW to NE, bisecting what is now Templar Road. It's an industrial park on the maps today. Lenore Drive is to the north, the water supply line into Prospect to the south.  

Keep looking at airstrips in Sydney.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mulgoa Irrigation Scheme - including the "Square Dam" reservoir

Ah, the Mulgoa Irrigation Scheme. I'm not kidding. The Orchard Hills area and the York Estate (to the north of Mulgoa) were within scope of this ultimately unsuccessful irrigation scheme.

The promoter was George Chaffey, the Canadian irrigator who had arguably failed, despite considerable effort, expense and no little amount of political struggle to make a success of the irrigation scheme at Mildura, in company with Sydney local Henry Gorman (of Hardie and Gorman, estate agent and property speculators) and Arthur Winbourn Stephen of Mulgoa.

Chaffey was joined by his brothers in his efforts to make the Mildura scheme work and, to be fair, as a family they finally managed to demonstrate some progress. Ultimately, though, it was left to Mildura locals and the state government to grow the scheme into its later, broader success. 

The Mulgoa Valley scheme however was buoyed more by the Chaffey's North American successes and was duly authorised by the Mulgoa Irrigation Act, as passed in December 1890. The Act permitted the promoters to acquire land, erect plant, and use and distribute the waters of the Warragamba River through to South Creek and as far north as St. Marys. The proposal was contemporary with the Wentworth irrigation scheme.

It wasn't the first time that irrigation was used in Mulgoa but it was the most ambitious attempt. A more successful - if short-lived - example was in evidence just a year earlier at George Cox’s Winbourn(e) estate.  The irrigation engineering included a 16 h.p. steam-driven pump and a 75,000 gallon capacity cement-lined reservoir set atop the hill above the house. There is a photograph of the pump site and remains (as they were) here. More photographs may be found in the Penrith City heritage database.

Some Cox family history, perhaps? William Cox was born at Wimbourne Minster, Dorset, England in 1764, eventually becoming a Lieutenant in the New South Wales Corps. He arrived in Sydney on 11th January 1800, accompanied by his wife and four sons: James (aged 10); Charles (7); George (5); and Henry (4).  After an unsuccessful start at “Brush Farm” (Pennant Hills), William and his family settled in 1804 at Windsor, on his Clarendon property. 1815 William was - famously - in charge of constructing a road over the Blue Mountains. The Coxes became interested in land in the Mulgoa district, and Edward - at the age of 4 years - received the first grant of 300 acres in 1810.

Edward's property is known as “Fernhill”.  George’s grant of 600 acres was made in 1816, being the future “Winbourne”. George, his father and brothers also took up land in the Mudgee district. George's obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald may be found at Trove.

In contrast to Winbourn(e), the more ambitious Mulgoa Irrigation Scheme required the sinking of a 47 ft deep brick-lined shaft complete with connecting tunnel. Water would be drawn from the Nepean River and then stored in a 4 million gallon earthen dam. At the wellhead a steam driven suction pump was apparently erected.

From the reservoir at Mulgoa Rd a canal (only partially completed) went due south before turning east and then north-east including tunnels under Littlefields Road and The Northern Road (then Bringelly Rd), wending its way north to the St. Marys district. Integral to the scheme were the town and farm subdivisions of  Littlefields, formerly part of Cox's earlier attempt at Winbourn(e).
Two new towns were also planned, being Sovereign Town and the Mulgoa Irrigation settlement. The company was listed on the stock exchange in April 1892. Having completed the engine house the company went into liquidation in May 1893, with the works being sold at auction in 1898.

All screenshots via Google Maps. 

Mulgoa is Darug people's country.

More detail is available at this Penrith City website.

Orchard Hills - lovely name for No. 1 Central Ammunition Depot

By the way, I'm not obsessed with the history of military establishments in Sydney, it just happens that many of the locations that interest me have military links. And one thing just leads to another, doesn't it? 

Anyway, to get back to the subject in hand, No. 1 Central Ammunition Depot (1 CAMD) was originally formed as 1 Central Reserve at Marrangaroo, New South Wales on 1 April 1942. Sub-depots were also formed at Moorebank and Glenbrook. The primary role was storage and supply of munitions for the RAAF. In August 1942 Picton (Redbank Range) railway tunnel became a storage area and given the title 4 Sub-Depot. Further sub-depots created included Glenbrook (Lapstone) tunnel, Clarence Tunnel, Kowguren (Qld), Hume Camp (Albury), Mt. Druitt and Kingswood (probably St Marys).

And of course Ropes Crossing was a nearby munitions factory with its own railway branchline and extensive internal tramway.

But let's describe what was once Marrangaroo Army Camp in a bit more detail. It's near Lithgow, NSW, situated at the end of Reserve Road. It was a major ammunition depot from 1941 to the late 1980s. It is now used for demolitions and training by all three Australian Defence Force services. But it's not Orchard Hills, is it? 
If you look closely and zoom in on the Google Map you'll see traces of the old spur line branching from the main railway line, entering the defence lands on the northern side of the existing buildings. 

It's worth noting that during World War II Marrangaroo housed then-secret wartime chemical warfare facilities; Marrangaroo was the administration headquarters for all of the Royal Australian Air Force chemical weapons Stores, kept in tunnels and sidings at Marrangaroo and the various (otherwise disused) railway tunnels previously mentioned.

In September 1943 a War Dog Training School was established at Marrangaroo, transferring to the dispersal airstrip at Mt.Druitt in 1944.

Which (finally) brings us to Orchard Hills. The 1 Central Reserve headquarters were transferred to Kingswood (Orchard Hills) on 12 November 1956. Marrangaroo closed in 1958 (to reopen as a joint services training facility at a later date).

The RAAF first began using the Kingswood site in early 1945 for local explosive storage. This avoided double-handling of explosives on consignment to and from Sydney. The Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy also used the area to store wartime munitions (see below). After the transfer in 1956, Kingswood was developed further to encompass guided weapons as well as the disposal of obsolete munitions. From January 1963, 1 Central Reserve's responsibility included explosive inspection of all RAAF units. On 1 October 1967, 1 Central Reserve was renamed 1 Central Ammunition Depot, its role evolving over time into a centre of expertise for the handling and storage of explosive ordnance as well as training. In April 1993 the Bogan Gate depot (2 Base Ammunition Depot Bogan Gate approx 40kms west of Parkes) was reactivated as Detachment A to 1 CAMD, with excess ordnance from Kingswood being relocated from July 1993 for long term storage.

A more extensive history (from which much of the above was derived) is available at Robert Curran's RAN Armament website.

Further detailed work including original land grants may be found at this Penrith City website. That resource includes details on Frogmore, Regentville and the Mulgoa Irrigation Scheme. I'm not kidding. The Orchard Hills area and the York Estate (to the north) were within scope of this proposed and ultimately unsuccessful irrigation scheme. The promoter was George Chaffey, the Canadian irrigator who had arguably failed, despite considerable effort, expense and no little amount of political struggle to make a success of the irrigation scheme at Mildura, in company with Henry Gorman (of Hardie and Gorman, estate agent and property speculators) and Arthur Winbourn Stephen of Mulgoa. The scheme was authorised by the Mulgoa Irrigation Act, as passed in December 1890, which permitted the promoters to acquire land, erect plant, and use and distribute the waters of the Warragamba River through to South Creek and as far north as St. Marys. The proposal was contemporary with the Wentworth irrigation scheme.

It wasn't the first time that irrigation was used in Mulgoa but it was the most ambitious attempt. A more successful - if short-lived - example was in evidence just a year earlier at George Cox’s Winbourn estate.  The irrigation engineering included a 16 h.p. steam-driven pump and a 75,000 gallon capacity cement-lined reservoir set atop the hill above the house. 

In contrast the more ambitious Mulgoa Irrigation Scheme required the sinking of a 47 ft deep brick-lined shaft complete with connecting tunnel. Water would be drawn from the Nepean River and then stored in a 4 million gallon earthen dam. At the wellhead a steam driven suction pump was apparently erected. From the reservoir a canal (only partially completed) including tunnels under Littlefields Road and The Northern Road, wended its way north-east to the St. Marys district. Integral to the scheme were the town and farm subdivisions of  Littlefields, formerly part of Cox's earlier attempt at Winbourne. Two new towns were also planned, being Sovereign Town and the Mulgoa Irrigation settlement. The company was listed on the stock exchange in April 1892. Having completed the engine house the company went into liquidation in May 1893, with the works being sold at auction in 1898. More detail is available at this Penrith City website.

But I digress. Other sources have suggested that naval armoury needs also drove development of Orchard Hills. In 1944 the Royal Navy (RN) took over operations of the Schofields airfield (well to the north of Orchard Hills) in preparation for the planned assault on Japan; Schofields thus became the support base for the RN Fleet Air Arm; by April 1945 some 1,600 personnel were stationed at the Schofields base. Presumably they needed to house some ammunition, too, preferably well away from civilians (and themselves). So the establishment of an ordnance storage facility at Orchard Hills, circa 1945, for both the RN and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was a justifiable outcome.

Later the RN/RAN facility became No. 1 Central Ammunition Depot for the RAAF and RAN, and more recently "Defence Establishment Orchard Hills". I believe it's on the market if you are looking for a sizable block of land in the area.
Image via Google Maps, by the way. The Orchard Hills establishment fills the centre of the screenshot. In the southwest corner of the defence land is the "old" or "ANZAC" area, occupied by the US Army for munitions purposes from 1942 until war's end. The old road layout can still be seen. Again Robert Curran's website provides more detail.   

Penrith is to the north and slightly west, out of view in this image. Richmond is further north again and Schofields a little closer and slightly east.  You can see Sydney's water supply running left to right in pipes at the bottom of the image. The airstrip on private land south of those pipes is Kennett's airfield ("Kennett G C & H L Pastoral & Aviation" in the Yellowpages) at Luddenham (near the old RAAF Fleurs strip). You can see a couple of hangars and a parked C337 by the looks of it if you zoom in close enough. 

If that rambling story interested you then perhaps visit my list of Sydney's airfields and airports.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

RAAF Londonderry Telecommunications Unit - and the nearby "drop zone"

To provide air traffic control at the RAAF’s Richmond base, a high frequency transmitter was established at Londonderry in the 1940s, which was upgraded in the 1950s with the onset of the Korean War and fighter jet aircraft, simultaneously pushing the civil HF transmitters to a new site at Llandilo. Whilst this site is sometimes referenced as a possible emergency landing strip I have found no firm evidence to that effect.
This is the current site as it appears on Google Maps in 2014. The RAAF has recently switched to a new, more remotely distributed communications system.
Also at Londonderry, to the west and south of the HF station is the "drop zone". Where the RAAF and presumably the Army practise dropping and catching things. Big things. Best stay clear.
For more HF radio adventures check out RAAF Bringelly. And DCA Llandilo. And RAAF Wallgrove.

Visit the full list of Sydney's airfields.

RAAF Bringelly Telecommunications Unit - and emergency landing ground?

I'll make a bold assumption here that the RAAF site at Bringelly was originally a dispersal airstrip, or possibly an "emergency landing ground"; although details of that airstrip remain sketchy. Was it built? Was it just a mown field?

Certainly it is now a telecommunications unit. Or rather was.

This is the site as it is, in 2014 (Google Maps image):
The full list of Sydney's airfields.

More on Penrith's race tracks - Penrith Showground

It's getting out of hand, I know.

We started with Penrith Speedway.

Then it was Jamison Park.

And Werrington or Brooklands (or 'Frogmore').

And Nepean Speedway.

Well how about a Paceway?

Penrith Paceway, at Penrith Showground. It's been around since before 1943, that much I know. And there must be more to it than that. Yes, it's pacing, or harness racing. No, I don't know what that really means, I've only raced cars and push bikes.

Want more? My list of Sydney's race tracks and circuits.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Brooklands - Penrith's other Speedway

Not 1 but 2 speedways. Or maybe 3. Or 4? More?

First of all, check out Penrith Speedway, the one in Belmore Park. The one with an airfield. Near Thornton Hall. Just north of the railway station.

Some people have suggested that "dirt track" motor bike racing also occurred over the railway line at Jamison Park, on Penrith's southern side. It's possible. Make that 2. (Jamison Park was also an airfield.)  

Or how about this one: Brooklands. Make that 3. 

But first, the background. As we know it. Or think we know it.

According to the Penrith City records the Western Suburbs Motor Cycle Club approached their local Member of Parliament, Sydney Smith, for the loan of some of his paddocks to hold a race meeting. Smith had quite a bit of land, having inherited Thornton Hall.

According to multiple records Penrith Speedway was opened on Smith's land in 1920. It was operated by Western Suburbs Motor Cycle Club. It closed in October 1930 because of flooding by Penrith's water supply, something that resulted in legal action by Smith against the Council. It was reopened in 1936 by Frank Arthur of Empire Speedways and ran until 1941 when the Army requisitioned the land. There was a war on, after all.

I'm not so sure Smith was the local member, though. There were 2 "Sydney Smiths", father and son, and whilst both were prominent citizens (the father in particular a serial administrator and politician) neither appears to have been "the local member", at least not at the date assumed. Sydney Snr had retired, for starters, passing away in 1934. 
"Defeated in 1906, Smith retired to his inherited estate, Thornton Hall, at Penrith. During World War I he lived in Sydney. His youngest son was killed at Gallipoli: Smith was president of the Sailors' and Soldiers' Fathers' Association (1923-28). A teetotaller and non-smoker, he was genial, earnest and energetic, with 'good judgement and a tenacious memory'. Smith died at Croydon on 21 February 1934 and was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery..." (Australian Dictionary of Biography.)
So Smith the elder was alive and living in Penrith at the right time, but he had seemingly retired from politics after that 1906 defeat. He had indeed been the local member (the MHR for Macquarie) up to 1906 but not after that date. So technically he was the former member, not "the local member" as umpteen websites suggest. Could it have been his cricket-playing son, instead? 
"His eldest son Sydney was born on 1 March 1880 at Surry Hills and was educated at Annandale and Bathurst Public schools and at Hawkesbury Agricultural College. He worked as a bookkeeper on J. S. Horsfall's Widgiewa station in the Riverina and after being rejected as medically unfit for service in the South African War, joined the New South Wales public service in February 1902. In June 1912 he was promoted clerk in the stock and brands branch of the Department of Agriculture at a salary of £300 and on 30 December next year at St Philip's, Church Hill, married Minnie Violet Crossman (d.1969), a nurse. Chief clerk from 1919, he was secretary of the stock and brands branch, registrar of brands and of the board of veterinary surgeons in 1921-34, then chairman of the Local Land Boards under the Western Lands Act of 1901. He retired in 1944." (Australian Dictionary of Biography.)
Nope. Apparently not. He was big in the world of cricket administration though. Folow that biography link for more on that.

There's more on that historic Penrith speedway here. And here. And Library of NSW pics as well.

Meanwhile the Brooklands track was constructed - we think - by Victor Sutherland of "Frogmore", apparently up and running circa June 1923, catering for both cars and motor cycles. This site was on the eastern part of his property, at what is now known as University of Western Sydney, Werrington Park.
No, I can't be sure what - if anything - is left of that speedway.

I can't even be sure he owned "Frogmore". I believe his wife did, however.

What we do know is that in 1806, 600 acres ('Werrington North') was granted to Mary Putland, the daughter of Governor William Bligh. Mary married Maurice O'Connell (then Lt Colonel of Lachlan Macquarie's 73rd Regiment) in 1810, the Governor granting her an extra bonus of 1,055 acres (427ha, apparently named 'Coallee'; now a streetname - a 'Place' - in South Penrith) adjoining what we know to be Frogmore to the south. This grant brought Mary's total holdings to 3,000 acres (1,214ha). Lucky Mary.

The O'Connell's main farm holdings were at Riverston(e) but, being rather well off in the manner of these things, they didn't regularly live at either location. Whilst from about 1830 there were certainly house(s) on the site, the O'Connells were actually resident at Woolloomooloo, or abroad. From 1840 the O'Connell's son, Maurice Charles, and his wife Eliza, actually lived for some time on the Frogmore site. After Maurice’s death, however, the site was sold off and subdivided in the 1850s.

Now this is where the Sutherlands come into it. Just. Parts of the subdivsion were bought and reunited firstly by Caroline Sutherland c.1919, and then by an iron merchant, Alan Williams, in 1935.

Between 1919 and 1935 the Sutherland estate hosted diverse uses such as 'vineyard', 'racing track', 'golf course' and 'joy flight aerodrome'. Or did it? Just how many of these activities came to pass may be moot. And the property was in Caroline's name, not Victor's. Not that this was so unusual, of course, but may have been a complication later.

In any case it was Williams who named the "Frogmore" house 'Werrington Park', possibly after 'Werrington Park' in Cornwall, UK.   

So Victor's vision is a bit blurred - but we can say for certain that he had plans and sought out investors but ultimately only delivered on part of his plan. It was his wife's untimely death that apparently scuttled the full deal.

Nevertheless it was a magnificent vision. Claimed (presumably by Sutherland and his supporters) to be the "best speedway in the Southern Hemisphere" it was described as a "1.5 mile high-speed banked track for cars and motorcycles". Check out Olympia Speedway, Maroubra, for comparison. 

It's believed that a one mile (not the expected 1.5 mile?) oval concrete bowl was built but the rest of the venue was never finished. The vision for the complex included the speedway plus an aerodrome and sports fields. Events overtook Sutherland and the vision was never fulfilled.  

Of course it doesn't end there. Over the years many racing tracks have come and gone, and today motor racing continues at the Nepean Raceway near Castlereagh. This track was begun in 1959, and today the circuit is owned by a consortium of about eight Sydney Motor Cycle Clubs. Again this is dirt bike racing on a short, tight circuit. I make that number 4 of this series of Penrith-area speedways. 
(Image via Google Maps)
My list of tracks

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Albion Park - the Illawarra regional airport south of Sydney

Albion Park: the Illawarra's regional airport, south of Sydney. Albion Park airfield was built in 1941, about 18 kilometres south-east of Wollongong as an RAAF Operational Base.

Nearby Cordeaux Airfield was constructed in late 1942 (near Cordeaux Dam, a strategic wartime target, being one of the dams supplying Sydney's drinking water) as a dispersal strip and landing ground (maintenance) for its parent RAAF Airfield, Albion Park.

The RAAF's Albion Park airfield consisted of two runways, 4500ft x 150ft and 6000ft x 150ft respectively.

Current airport operator (since 1960) is Shellharbour City Council. The primary runway today is 16/34, with a paved surface measuring 1,819 m × 30 m (5,968 ft × 98 ft). A displaced threshold reduces the available landing distance on runway 34 by 176 metres (577 ft), allowing aircraft to clear high terrain on the approach. The secondary runway 08/26 is suitable only for day operations as it is not equipped with runway lighting.
(Image via Google Maps.)

More at OzatWar
HARS at Albion Park
Airport website

Sydney's airports, airfields and airstrips.

Calga airport - sadly, not an airport at all

Sometimes things get mislabelled. This small block of land is an example.

That's "Lot 1 DP554845, Cooks Road", corner of Peat's Ridge Road, Calga. It has been described as a "small property owned by Airservices Australia" that includes "a meteorological station", an "electrical substation" and "a small shed".

Those towers look excessive for a met station, though. And strangely they are licensed for "radiodetermination", making them "navigational aids" in my book. ADS-B or NDB, if you like. As in "non-directional beacon". 

Perhaps it has other, hidden, qualities. But it's not an "airport" or even an airfield. Lots of web sites will swear blind that it is, mind. Don't believe 'em. 

If you ever wonder about what a particular tower (in Australia) is doing or who operates it, the ACMA website can tell you. Just click on the image below to vist ACMA.
Or check out my list of Sydney's airports and airfields.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

WWII airfields of Sydney - parents, satellites and dispersal strips

What exactly are these parents, satellites and dispersal strips? Over the course of time my definitions have wavered and wandered, so here's what I think is a stable set of definitions, for now.

Operational Bases were created in the early part of the war on mainly little used civilian airfields. They were provided with facilities such as water, phone, stocks of fuel and ammunition, but were mostly not staffed with permanent RAAF ground crew. The term's usage seemed to change as the war progressed (but that's just my observation).  Other related terms include "Maintenance (Repair and Salvage) aerodrome" and "Training Aerodrome". Camden was a training aerodrome.

A parent aerodrome is exactly what it sounds like. A major operational aerodrome with a number of satellite aerodromes or landing grounds attached. It is possible (with aerodromes, anyway) to have a parent field but no satellite "children", however. Schofields, Fleurs or Richmond would be examples.

A satellite aerodrome is a "child" of a parent aerodrome, normally a major operational airfield, and used primarily to relieve congestion in the circuit area (that's the airspace around the parent where for safety aircraft follow a predetermined approach and departure pattern or 'circuit'). Satellites may also provide other relief, including parking and at times servicing. Satellites and 'dispersal' airstrips can become confused, however at times the relationship was clearly set down. Pitt Town could be considered a satellite of Richmond, for example, or Menangle for Schofields

Dispersal airstrips were attached to an Aircraft Depot, Aircraft Park or Operational Base, and consisted of landing ground with revetted (faced, embanked, walled) areas for open (but often camouflaged) storage of aircraft. This was a tactical method to disperse aircraft, thereby reducing the effect of enemy targeting a single aerodrome for air attack. Such strips were provided with the bare minimum of services and no permanent hangars or buildings. Cordeaux is a dispersal strip for Albion Park, for example.

An Emergency Landing Ground or ELG is an area of land, prepared and set aside for use by aircraft, but not on a regular basis. As you'd expect, it's for an emergency (engine out, low fuel, bad weather etc). These may be set in paddocks, for example, along strategic air routes. This would not preclude training activities such as "touch and goes" of course.  As far as I can tell Tuggerah was such a field, although it may have been considered as or planned to be a satellite (of Fleurs) as well.

Not to be confused with an EAA, which is an emergency alighting area for seaplanes. No "land" required ;-)

A Relief Landing Ground is an area of land which has been prepared for regular use by service aircraft. Again, ripe for confusion with dispersal and satellite airstrips. If I can think of an example I'll let you know.

An Aircraft Depot was an aerodrome where large numbers of aircraft were stored and maintained. In some cases the aircraft were used for training purposes. Bankstown may be an example (I await correction!). Bankstown was many things, an "air base" for the USAAF as well as an "air station" for the RN. It certainly housed many aircraft, some of which were unused, perhaps not even fully assembled at war's end.

An Aircraft Park was an aerodrome where large numbers of aircraft were parked, as in open storage. Such aircraft were used both for operational and training purposes. Menangle was an aircraft park for Schofields, for example. However it was also a dispersal airstrip.

As I wrote this I found overlap everywhere. Whilst some cases are neat and clear-cut, there are many other examples where airfield use became blurred by operational or training needs. Needs also changed as the war progressed.

In any case it's the best set of definitions I can muster right now.

Further references:
NSW Environment Heritage Study, Aerodromes and Appendix C

Check out the list of Sydney's airfields, airports and airstrips.