Friday, July 25, 2008

The ramp from bridge to tunnel


The Sydney Harbour bridge carries train (and bicycle) traffic on its western side. This is a shot of a mixed suburban electric set on the ramp from bridge to tunnel, just short of the tunnel itself. Next stop Wynyard station.

What is less well known is that the eastern side was designed for the same purpose, but for a heavy rail line that was never built. The line would have gone from Wynyard to the northern beaches, however the tide of public opinion (or perhaps political will) turned against infrastructure investment and plans for the line were filed away. However a somewhat less costly option was taken up: trams. As Sydney had an extensive tramway network on both sides of the harbour, it made sense to connect the 2 'halves' as it were and thereby avoid avoid maintenance facility duplication, tram/rail interchanges or even truck transport, whilst also providing a service to commuters.

Of course this impacted ferry use, but not as much as a heavy rail line would have. Manly's tram network was an isolated one, cut at the Spit, so whilst some commuters would not mind a short (mostly covered) walk over the Spit bridge, many more would still choose the ferry.

So the compromise bought a cheaper but less useful light-rail line but at the price of a 'proper' straight-through heavy rail line. A compromise that may still have paid dividends today, except we tore up the tram system by 1961.  Which leaves us with buses and extra roadlanes on the bridge.

The tramline (whilst it lasted) paralleled the rail in many ways, with a tunnel to platforms at Wynyard (now deserted and partially used as car parking), a station at the Milson's Point side and a flyover bridge to North Sydney. The approach to that bridge is used (again) as car parking .  

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Honey, I've shrunk the tram network


Oops. We lost a few lines between 1921 and 1950. Still, it's better than what we ended up with after 1961 - ie nothing. (Nothing but buses, anyway.)

So what disappeared? The Manly line went. Narrabeen went as well. Parramatta to Rosehill and Parramatta to Castle Hill, gone. Sutherland to Cronulla, gone. Kogarah to Sans Souci, gone. Rockdale to Brighton, gone.

And then in 1961 we pulled the plug on the whole Sydney system. 

Whilst we may blame our current governments for lack of investment in public infrastructure we must remember that this "trend" really dates back some 50 years or more. And it's hard to turn these things around.

So how did it happen? After the mad rush to build infrastucture and create a backbone for Sydney's development a few sums were quietly done. Whilst many tram lines were opened to win political favour as well as to profit developers, the actual patronage revealed was quite poor on the outer lines, whilst costs were absurdly high. These outer suburban lines were also isolated from the main network or were using outdated technology. So the low-hanging fruit (as we say) was plucked - the worst returns in the least politically sensitive areas went first. Light and heavy rail plans were quietly scrapped (like heavy rail to the northern beaches), scaled back or slowed down (like the eastern suburbs railway) and investment switched to cheaper, more flexible but oil-dependent buses instead. 

Of course buses use roads, and cars also need roads. So it all seemed to make sense in a world of cheap oil and post-war wealth. People liked cars after all. And it benefited the increasingly important - and powerful - automobile industry. It seems amazing that the trams stopped less than 50 years ago - and that here we are now facing a growing shortage of public transport infrastructure, in a world where trams could have played a wonderfully effective role.   

Rally cars on roof of Bankstown Square shopping centre

In the '70s we could even start car rallies from the roof of a major suburban shopping centre. Imagine that.

Did you say 'trams'? Have a look at this...


You wanna see a tram network? THIS is a tram network... alas it's all gone, bar one newish and oh-so-short light rail system that runs briefly over some of the same territory.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sydney's airports, aerodromes and airstrips

It's list time again! (Updated several times now, including fresh links. Note also multiple posts on some of these airfields. Use Ctrl-F to search the list.)
  1. Sydney Airport, established circa 1920 on land leased from the nearby Ascot Pony Racing club (the north-eastern corner of the airport, more recently known for general aviation and "flight facilities" use). Access via tram to the Ascot race course, and by road from Botany Road. Initially just a relatively flat paddock of grass and sand. Gravel runways added from 1932, first such strip 450 metres long. 2 additional gravel strips added by 1938. Freight railway in north diverted after accident between train and DC3. Cooks River and Alexandria canal diverted and new, concrete runways aligned 07/25 (main) and a shorter 16/34 constructed by 1954. The latter extended into Botany Bay from 1969, with a parallel strip added in late 1990s
  2. Rose Bay, the flying boat base from 1938 and chief international airport until circa 1950. Closed in 1974. Seaplanes still fly from several locations in the Sydney area including Rose Bay.
  3. Bankstown Airport, now only 4th busiest by movements in Australia, apparently. Used to be number 1. Multi-runway parallel strips, some crossing (but disused). Bankstown has three main parallel east-west runways, a long centre runway for high-performance aircraft, a northern runway for arrivals and departures, and a southern runway for circuit training. Originally planned in 1929, not established until 1940 as an RAAF facility. Subsequently taken over by the USAAF and established as a key strategic air base to support the war effort, circa 1942. It transferred from US to British Fleet Air Arm operations in 1945, and was known as Royal Naval Air Station Bankstown, or HMS Nabberley, until handed back to the RAAF in 1946. Interestingly, several "dummy houses" were built to make Bankstown Airport appear as a farm, with disguised hangers and fake roads. There was an underground command post on Black Charlie's Hill with gun pits located within and around the airport to protect it from air attack. Another anti-aircraft battery was situated on high land on the corner of Bexley Road and Homer Street, Clemton Park. De Havilland and successors have been located at this airport since 1942, occupying the area south of the main runway. RAAF Mosquito bombers were built there. The primary (centre) runway (11C/29C) is 1,415m x 30m, limited to 50 tonnes MTOW. Marshall Airways and Sid Marshall's musuem was based here, too. I undertook flying training here at Illawarra Airways, so it's of some personal interest!
  4. Hargrave Park, Liverpool, an historic airfield (circa 1920s) now part of the residential suburb of Warwick Farm. Closed circa 1945. Was used for public housing thereafter with complaints about squalor. 
  5. Camden, ex-WWII RAAF Kittyhawk base in current civilian use. AKA 'Macquarie Grove', initial development was private and the airfield was 'loaned' to the government, a deal which became permanent after the war. RAAF Camden housed squadrons 15, 32 (Hudsons, Beauforts) and 78 (Kitthawk). Camden was also the first RAAF Central Flying School (CFS), before being moved to RAAF Tamworth. I flew light training aircraft into Camden in the mid 1970s and can attest to "Kittyhawk-sized" ruts in the grass/gravel taxiways then in use
  6. Richmond, current RAAF base, has been so since c.1937. Supplemental airport for Sydney from circa 1914, perhaps 1912. Home base for Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm and their Fokker Trimotor 'Southern Cross' during the late 1920s. Possibly (one account) originally called...
  7. Clarendon (see Richmond), as per the nearby railway station (railway now ends at Richmond but used to cross the Hawkesbury/Nepean and climb to Kurrajong) was the original airfield (perhaps slightly south of current site) and pre-dates Sydney Airport. This area and Richmond also known as Ham Common. William Ewart Hart attempted to start a flying school from this site, circa 1912, as well as his Penrith site at...
  8. Belmore Park, an historic airfield circa 1911 or earlier in Penrith (now a housing development). Was used as a base by William Ewart Hart for flights such as his 1911 journey from Penrith to Parramatta and return, and as a training site. First recorded aircraft crash in Australia was by art and passenger, near Rooty Hill/Seven Hills. Also site of Penrith Speedway and historic Thornton Hall. North of railway. See also Jamison Park, south of railway
  9. Parramatta - actual site of Hart's first and subsequent landings uncertain to me but probably within what is now Parramatta Park
  10. Menangle, 'dispersal' airstrip, a WWII runway built circa 1942 in case of Japanese attack on Sydney. Basically aircraft would fly to these dispersed sites and hide in the forest. Later used as an overflow for Schofields
  11. Bargo 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle
  12. Cordeaux 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle
  13. The Oaks 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle and others. The Oaks airfield was constructed circa 1942 as a satellite aerodrome to RAAF Camden. There was a 5000 foot x 150 foot sealed runway aligned 36/18 and split by Burragorang Road (complete with gates to stop stray cars!). Operations probably included Hudsons, B24 Liberator bombers and Kittyhawks. Not required post-war by the RAAF, it was offered for sale in 1946. The current strip is a private field, roughly the southern half of the wartime area. The original runway was removed but a 950m 18/36 main grass strip (perhaps wartime taxiway) was left and a new grass strip of just 400m added (aligned 09/27)
  14. Ettalong/Woy Woy 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle. Believed to have been largely converted into a residential street running north/south
  15. Marsden Park airstrip, a WWII runway and later motorsport venue. There's an interesting link between this airstrip and Australian F1 motorsport engineer Ron Tauranac, too
  16. Pitt Town 'dispersal' airstrip, a WWII runway and later motorsport venue
  17. Schofields aerodrome, a WWII RAAF base and Royal Navy Pacific operation for a few years thereafter; 3 intersecting runways; a motorsport venue 1950-59 (possibly conflicts with the RAN records of operation there in 1953); a Naval base (HMAS Nirimba) from 1959-circa 1974. Closed since 1994, although operations were reported up to 1998. Now a housing and educational site, with aerodrome land, including a 'blimp hangar' and remaining portions of runway) on sale from 2008
  18. Mt Druitt airstrip, 690 acres in area, circa 1942-1951; a WWII runway approx 1520m long, 2 hangars; later a motorsport venue (1950-53?). The race track was 3.6 kms long and situated on what is now Whalan Reserve, the Mt Druitt Industrial Area and Madang Avenue Primary School.
  19. Holsworthy airstrip, a current Army airstrip dating to WWII. (AKA Luscombe airfield). Main strip for army in Sydney, plus 2 smaller strips due South...called...
  20. 'Mackel' and
  21. 'Complete'
  22. Hoxton Park airstrip, Cowpastures Road, 1098m long, oriented 16/34. Closed, redeveloped. A WWII 'dispersal strip' runway (in case of Japanese attack) Hoxton closed circa 2008. It did retain features from the war, including gravelled aircraft hide-outs and wartime drainage, taxiways and markings. At the northern end of the runway could be seen 2 earlier forms of surface, one bitumen and the other gravel, and wartime drainage works were found under the runway. There wass also a wartime taxiway leading off to the north-west, beyond what was the  airport perimeter and evidence of aircraft 'hideouts' in the neighbouring eucalyptus forest. There were 2 surviving taxiway bridges across gullies or drainage lines prior to redevelopment. There was further evidence of taxiways and hideouts to the east of the current runway. The original airstrip was 5000ft (1524m) long and 172ft (52m) wide. The runway has been shortened since World War II and the former runway extension is noticeable at the northern end of the runway. The aircraft revetments or hideaways to the west of the aerodrome may have been removed or destroyed during the construction of the M7 motorway and building of a large suupermarket distribution centre.
  23. Warnervale aerodrome, about 100km north of Sydney, which is my local strip. It's big enough for a DC-3 but is increasingly hemmed in by development. There are "plans" for a new strip in the region.
  24. Katoomba airstrip, about 100km west of Sydney
  25. Wedderburn airstrip, southwest of Sydney. Active. Single runway. Increased growth since closure of Hoxton Park.
  26. Albion Park aerodrome, about 100km south of Sydney
  27. Bringelly emergency WWII strip, Not exactly sure where that one was...
  28. Fleurs WWII strip and previous CSIRO radiophysics site.
  29. Calwalla WWII strip in the southern highlands
  30. Nepean Dam airstrip... or was it? It may have been an EAA, an emergency alighting area for seaplanes rather than an "airstrip". See also Cordeaux Dam dispersal strip and another possible alighting area on the Nepean River near the Jamison Park airfield
  31. Ravenswood airstrip - a WWII dispersal strip attached to Fleurs but apparently not proceeded with...
  32. Wallgrove Aerodrome - built in 1942, the runway was 5000ft (1524m) long and 50ft (15.24m) wide, running roughly NW-SE. Wallgrove closed in 1946 and reverted back to farmland (historic "Bungarribee"). A number of former hideouts or aircraft revetments are still visible, as is most of the runway. However an industrial area has been built over what was the southern end of the airstrip. AKA "Doonside" airfield
  33. Badgery's Creek - or Kemps Creek or possibly RAAF Fleurs - west of  Liverpool, a planner's dream for the last 30 years - or is it? Or did you mean this grass strip?
  34. Somersby - Lackersteen's Road - a private strip near Gosford on the Central Coast
  35. Cooranbong - now sadly closed, formerly an extensive flying school base south west of Newcastle
  36. Wamberal - another Central Coast airstrip that's been mentioned but I've never actually confirmed where exactly it was... on the beach? Or on the ridge above the beach?
  37. The Entrance/Bateau Bay  - an airstrip that became a high school (Central Coast, again)
  38. RAAF Base Rathmines  - although not an airstrip of course is also worth noting (Lake Macquarie, south and south west of Newcastle). Think flying boats, Catalinas, that sort of thing!
  39. Tuggerah - another Central Coast airstrip of wartime vintage, east of the railway, south of the lake. 
  40. Wallacia - west of Sydney. Single strip near Bullen's Animal World. Both no longer operational!
  41. Wilton - existing field south west of Sydney, used for skydiving. WWII dispersal airstrip. 3 triangulated runways
  42. Centennial Park - at least one early flight in and out
  43. Ascot Racecourse - Maurice Guillaux flew demonstrations there in 1914 and crashed badly. He recovered and flew from Ham Common, or Richmond if you prefer (go up the list!)
  44. Jamison Park, Penrith - from perhaps 1930s into the 1950s the home of Penrith Aero Club. Worth noting the discussion (with Russ Adams) in the comments below about a possible adjacent emergency alighting area (EAA) for seaplanes on the Nepean River. Alternatively this EAA was located at the relatively remote Nepean Dam, part of Sydney's water supply history. It may be that this EAA replaces number 30 on the list, "Nepean Dam airstrip". See also Cordeaux Dam airstrip (number 12 on this list, a confirmed dispersal landing ground)    
  45. Victoria Park racecourse - another creative use of a horse racing track by early aviators 
  46. Llandilo - may have been a dispersal airstrip or simply another name for Marsden Park. Was/is certainly a DCA HF Transmitter site
  47. Londonderry - the RAAF's HF Transmission site. Castlereagh was probably the nearest dispersal strip
  48. Castlereagh - dispersal airstrip and dragway 
  49. Erskine Park Quarry airstrip
  50. Kennett's Field, or Luddenham airstrip
  51. Wyong Airstrip - as reported by Chromedoctor in comments below: "1970-1990 originally a 2'000 strip but direction was changed and a 3'000 strip was made This airstrip was made on an original landing site used by Reg Ansett c1936.. the airstrip was closed due to contaminated ground from chemical fire rendering more development unviable...Site is now Mercure Kooindah Waters Resort.." See also Tuggerah and Warnervale above.  
  52. I'm sure there are more!  

There is also an excellent heritage study available from NSW Environment and Heritage on the subject of "World War II Aerodromes and Associated Structures in NSW". It's well worth a look. 

Interesting recreation of Amaroo Park

Did you blink and miss racing at Amaroo? I was lucky enough to drive the track a few times and can confirm that this is an awesome recreation.. just add terror as you crest the hill at around 160kmh (in a road car) approaching the Loop... ever so slightly sideways.

Catalina Park in use - 2000 - lap dash

Obviously the track was intact in 2000... eight years later and there are significant washaways and overgrown sections. Frankly I wouldn't want to run a lapdash on such a narrow circuit with so few run-off options...

Catalina Park Rallycross Track in the '70's... and now

Interesting set of stills showing Catalina then and now...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sydney's race tracks - bikes, cars - even horses

Generalisations are a funny thing, and here are 4: humans are (a) attracted by and somewhat fond of following tracks and paths; (b) competitive critters who like playing "chasings"; (c) social animals that like to gather in mobs around a focal point; and (d) quite happy to sit in those "mobs" just watching other humans playing chasings, often for hours at a time.

I could also add 2 geeky addenda, that (a) humans like to document what the other humans are doing, even if they don't do it themselves; and (b) humans like lists of stuff.

Do you see where this is heading?

Now I'll miss a few I'm sure, but for the record here's my take on a list of Sydney's race tracks, especially focused on those that hosted documented races of the wheeled variety but also ponies and horses, greyhounds or whatever springs to mind... in no particular order! (Use Ctrl-F to find or just read the lot.)
  1. Sydney Sports ground - pushbikes (ie real bikes) raced here on a large, shallowly banked outdoor velodrome until about WW2; also speedway cars and motorbikes after that date (until noise complaints outnumbered followers of the sport, who moved west to...
  2. Liverpool Speedway - from 1967 to 1989, a banked dolomite surface; pretty much a short dirt oval track for car and motorbike racing, out Casula way
  3. Liverpool 'Collingwood' racecourse - circa 1832 the 'Sydney Turf Club' (not the STC formed in 1943 then!) opened a course near Liverpool, probably the one referred to elsewhere as the Collingwood racecourse, used until 1900
  4. Liverpool Woodlands racecourse - circa 1890s the Liverpool Turf Club had been formed and was holding races at a course near O'Brien Parade off Orange Grove Road. By 1892 this venture was known as the Liverpool Horse and Galloway Racing Club
  5. Centennial Park - a great training Mecca for cyclists, used for road cycle racing on a variety of circuits over the years, it featured also in the 2000 Olympics with both road cycling and the individual road time trial. It was also briefly a landing ground for early aircraft
  6. Parramatta Park, another excellent road course for cycle racing, was also used for car racing in the 1950s, until common sense presumably prevailed. Another park used as a landing ground by early aviators. Was also the place to see preserved steam trams for a while, now you have to go to Valley Heights
  7. Henson Park, Marrickville - an old quarry converted into a large outdoor velodrome around 1930, regularly hosting 30,000 spectators on a Saturday night. Replaced in the early 1970s with a steeply-sided (45 degree, 250m) concrete velodrome at...
  8. Camperdown, built in or around 1970 in an old quarry/tip, now residential, semi-replaced (how could it truly be replaced?) by...
  9. Tempe Velodrome, a 330m concrete track for track racing, built around 1983 in twinship with the Chandler velodrome in Brisbane to replace...
  10. Wiley Park, a decent sort of banked bike track that fell victim to road widening (King George's Rd) in the early 1980s. Remnant banking still exists. But all of these velodromes are overshadowed by the...
  11. Dunc Gray Olympic Indoor Velodrome, Bass Hill, a timber track purpose built for the 2000 Olympics
  12. Complete with a criterium track next door, added post-Olympics. Just a shame it's in Bass Hill (no offence meant, it's just plain hard to get a crowd there)
  13. Not too far away is Hurstville Oval, a well-maintained saucer-type velodrome for track-bike racing that quaintly encircles a cricket pitch
  14. Several criterium tracks also exist in Hurstville, notably one around Oatley Park (used by St George club for many years)
  15. and the purpose-built cycling tracks in Kempt Field
  16. and Olds Park, both used for the sadly-defunct Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic
  17. Not far away from Hurstville is another purpose-built criterium track for bike racing at Waratah Park, Sutherland, used by the Sutherland Cycling Club. Watch out for the big dipper on the long circuit, it's a hairy turn at the bottom
  18. And yet another excellent crit track exists at Lansdowne Park, near Bankstown, a fast and twisty track with a steepish rise to the downhill finish
  19. Merrylands Oval, a slightly-less-picturesque but functional saucer velodrome that was home for the McGee brothers for many years
  20. Lidcombe Oval, even-less-picturesque saucer velodrome with a sharper than expected left turn after the finish. Or was that before the finish? It catches you out, anyway!
  21. Blacktown Oval - a crit course for bicycle racing with a big tree to dodge on the left and a short and hard-braking area immediately after the sprint. If you don't brake hard you end up in the street...
  22. Bondi promenade, yes that Bondi, was used as a bicycle racing venue (from the 1940s, or earlier?) until increasing traffic pushed the racing out to Bunnerong Road in the 1960s, until finally a dedicated circuit was built in the 1970s at...
  23. Heffron Park, Maroubra. An old military base complete with Nissen huts/Bellman hangars and long strips of hardstanding concrete (said to be for tanks), Heffron is spiritual home to the Randwick Botany and Eastern Suburbs Cycling Clubs
  24. There's also an Olympic rowing course at Penrith with an access road that's now used for road cycling and time trials
  25. Penrith's other speedway, Brooklands
  26. And an Olympic Mountain bike course at Fairfield
  27. And Penrith Paceway, harness racing at Penrith Showground  
  28. And Penrith's late 19th century racecourse at Jamison Park (later an airstrip)
  29. Moving back east, there's Randwick racecourse - horses, rock bands and more recently the Pope (who obviously doesn't mind the horse racing and betting connection). Noteworthy for the massive multi-platform tram station (now sadly a car park)
  30. Victoria Park, Zetland - ponies, probably cars as well. Then it became a Nuffield (later Leyland) car factory, Naval stores and finally a residential development
  31. Ascot - at Mascot. In the far northeastern corner of today's Sydney Airport it was a pony race track with tram access (a balloon loop). Not much remains to be seen
  32. Warwick Farm - horses (still) and previously cars (until maybe the late 70s? I did a driver training course there in about 1978 on just a segment of the track - 'Creek Corner' - it was seriously narrow with plenty of trees and the aforementioned creek to miss - or hit!). William Long circa early 1880s bought J.H Stroud's 'Warwick park' grant north and east of Liverpool and by 1884 had also developed his property across the river, building stables and tracks there. He called this estate 'Chipping Norton'. In 1922 the racecourse was sold to the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) and in 1923 it was closed for redevelopment. The new Warwick Farm course opened 2 years later. A spur line off the main rail line led directly to the racecourse, being subsequently electrified in 1929. Used for military purposes in WWII, Hargrave Park airfield was nearby, to the west
  33. Campbellfield estate, Campbelltown, along Bow Bowing Creek; circa 1840s. The Campbelltown Turf Club leased 60 acres (24ha) from a John Keighran for a racecourse
  34. Narellan - a racecourse was built at Studley Park, Narellan and meetings were regularly held there in the 1890s. Accessible by train to Campbelltown and then by steam tram to Narellan (a long closed line, however embankments remain)
  35. Menangle Park - south of Campbelltown, a horse racing track in use since the 1870s. Railway sidings were built to bring people to the track. It was a WWII RAAF dispersal airstrip, too
  36. Rosehill racecourse, near Parramatta - horse racing, interesting for its access via a wharf on the Parramatta River and a steam tram from there to Parramatta itself. The steam trams also ran from Parramatta up to Castle Hill. The first race meeting in Parramatta was held in 1810. In 1885 Rosehill Racecourse itself was built on what had been John Macarthur's estate
  37. Rosebery - just off Gardeners Road,bordered by Florence Ave, a pony training track. Not much left, it became housing in the 1960s. Plenty of sand hills and lakes in this area, and the trams went right past. In fact the tramways used an area nearby to source sand and gravel for track laying
  38. Kensington - right next door to Randwick on High Street, just off Anzac Parade with plentiful tram access; now part of the Uinversity of NSW. At least one old building is still standing and was used to house 'the Old Tote' theatre company for a while, and NIDA
  39. Kogarah - pony track, corner of President Ave and Princes Highway, now a TAFE College; served by steam tram of course. AKA Moorefield.
  40. Sydney Sports Arena, Surry Hills - a steeply-sided wooden velodrome in the area of Devonshire Street (a mural exists depicting this, off Elizabeth Street). Moved to Canterbury
  41. Canterbury racecourse - still a horse racing track, the south-eastern corner housed the old indoor timber Sydney Sports Arena velodrome for bike races (which was moved holus-bolus from Surry Hills in the 1950s). Watch the splinters!
  42. Maroubra - the Olympia motor racing oval - in the general area of Mons Ave, served by trams. Site was chosen for its remoteness, in the sandhills overlooking the beach and was sadly quite deadly with the occasional car flung out of the track, launched into mid air...
  43. Belmore Park, Penrith - Circa 1920s Belmore Park was used as the Penrith Speedway, a dirt track, one mile in circumference. Car, motor cycle and aircraft races were held. Belmore Park was also used for aviation circa 1911 onwards
  44. Marsden Park - a disused WWII airstrip put to good if brief use as a car racing facility in the early 50s
  45. Pitt Town, near Windsor - another old WWII airstrip put to limited use for motor racing in the 50s, up to early 70s perhaps later. Also part used as Hardie Ferodo vehicle braking test track 
  46. Schofields, near Blacktown - a disused RAAF aerodrome (3 intersecting runways!) that was used for motor sport from about 1950 until '59, when the airstrip was reactivated as a Naval Air Station. Being so close to Richmond RAAF base was a problem (as a trainee pilot I did touch-and-goes here in the early/mid 70s - it was v. easy to stray into the RAAF prohibited zone and get a verbal caning!). The aerodrome was deactivated once more in the late 1970s with a fence put across the main runway, stranding a DC-3 in situ. Sadly now used for housing... (the land, not the DC-3)
  47. and Mt Druitt - yet another old airstrip converted and connected to access roads to form a makeshift (and potholed) racetrack for cars and motor bikes. Closed in the late 50s, it got more use than other disused airfields - but now gone
  48. Castlereagh - another airstrip converted to Sydney's premier dragstrip and closed with the advent of Eastern Creek
  49. Catalina Park, complete with PBY-5A Catalina Flying boat in a lake, was a car racing circuit at Katoomba, 100km west of Sydney during the 1960s. It got a reprieve via Rallycross in the 70s and continued with occasional car club use (lap dashes mostly) until "final" closure in the 90s due to growing noise complaints and the fact that it is an incompatible use (being in a national park and draining into Sydney's water supply as it does). It still exists however and is mostly complete - but the Catalina itself is long gone
  50. Amaroo Park, Annangrove: a twisty, hilly car racing circuit opened in the 60s, closed in the 90s. Noise problems again. Now housing
  51. Oran Park, Narellan: a combination of 2 tracks (north and south) that could be combined to form a single, scary-fast "GP" circuit. Closed circa 2008 and is becoming (yawn) more housing
  52. Eastern Creek, a "newish" track in western Sydney that comprises a car circuit and a dragstrip. The circuit itself and connecting roads and car parks are also used for bicycle racing
  53. Moving back towards the coast, there are 2 historically interesting venues - firstly Wentworth Park, Ultimo, a multisport park complete with a railway viaduct through the middle. Greyhounds, trotting, pacers - I have no idea really. Something to do with horses and dogs, I believe, with bets placed
  54. And Harold Park at Glebe with much the same mix of animals raced around an oval of sorts nestled up against the old Rozelle Tram depot. There must be a good reason to house seemingly similar venues so close together but I haven't explored why it is so... yet
  55. Luddenham - a suburb with an airstrip, a new motor racing circuit and a quarter-scale speedway, as well as the base for a society of model engineers! 
  56. I'm sure I've missed a few... insert them here!

Steam at Clarence Station, Zig Zag


Steam_0024
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
The Great Zig Zag, indeed.

It's a bit out of Sydney but hey, this is part of Sydney's history too. There was a zig-zag section on both sides of the Blue Mountains in the 19th Century. Whilst this was slow - it required engines to stop, decouple and 'run around' to drive the train up or down the next section, it was cheaper and easier to build at the time.

There was also a zig-zag railway at Thornleigh in Sydney that went from the station area down to a mine.

Old and new lines detail shot


Old and new lines_0035
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
A close up. You can also see the mining railway to Newnes on this map.

Lithgow Zig Zag: old and new lines compared


Old and new lines_0034
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
It's a bit out of Sydney but hey, this is part of Sydney's history too. There was a zig-zag section on both sides of the Blue Mountains in the 19th Century. Whilst this was slow - it required engines to stop, decouple and 'run around' to drive the train up or down the next section, it was cheaper and easier to build at the time.

There was also a zig-zag railway at Thornleigh in Sydney that went from the station area down to a mine.

Catalina Park_0052


Catalina Park_0052
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
I love these old tracks... disused, derelict but full of memories. Alas this track was built over an aboriginal site of significance, and motor racing is not in keeping with the National Park ethos of the area. Check out the wooden guard rails...

Catalina Park Katoomba


Catalina Park lake_0046
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
Technically it's west of Sydney, but it's so close and so much a part of Sydney life that it gets a guernsey here.

Would you believe this was originallly a privately-funded amusement park with an ornamental (and actual bathing) lake? Later to include a Catalina flying boat (in the centre of the lake, hence the name) that was presumably trucked in?

Later still (around 1950) a motor racing circuit was built around the edge of what was known as "the Gully" north and west of this shot, to the dismay of residents, many indigenous. Thousands of years of aboriginal Australian culture was disturbed or destroyed in the process of creating a track for car racing. Great work, guys. Mind you, that was how things were done - with fewer regulations, less concern for the past (or for safety!) and a very different understanding of our shared history, development just "happened" and the consequences were dealt with much later. Sadly we all pay for this loss of history; even motor sport pays the price because they lose a track that, if better placed, could have remained viable.  

Mind you, if you take a walk around the old track you can't help but be amazed. It's still walkable, even rideable by bicycle. In many places it's walled by wooden safety railings with little or no safety run offs for cars.


It was still in occasional use when I was lap-dashing with a car club in the early '80s and whilst I didn't give it a go myself I can say that margin for error was close to zero. Brave. Dangerous. Exciting. Take your pick. The inner mudbath/dust bowl was also used for rally cross.
A shale and coal railway line also passed on the western edge of the park, providing a link from the main railway on the plateau down to the mines in the beautiful, otherwise unspoilt valleys. That was the 19th century in action I guess.

More info and another pic here.

My list of tracks.