How to waste time

As a Master Timewaster (I’m not a procrastinator; there’s an important difference) I could provide many hints and tips on ways to noodle away an entire weekend on nothing much in particular. But if I were to drill down to the single uncontested killer time-wasting activity ever thunk of, then it would be “staring at old maps”. Holy Moses, I could spend a lifetime on that.

So imagine the mixture of delight and horror that coursed through me when Russell tipped me this link to the Uni archives (damn you, Gionni di Gravio!) of a 1910 map of Newcastle. (I provide the link here, but warn you to click with care. You may suddenly find yourself unkempt and unshaven at your keyboard in three days time, wondering where the weekend went.)

Here’s a screen shot of the full map:


And here’s a zoom in that I bodgied together of the Hamilton North (aka Newtown) area, showing the newly cut “storm water channel” and the area where the gasworks and fuel depot now sit:


A few things that struck me:

  • My house ain’t been built yet.
  • The rail bridge over the creek is noted as an “iron bridge”, but those over the creek at Chinchen Street and Maitland Road were wooden. Wonder when they got replaced with the concrete jobbies?
  • The crossing over the rail line to Hamilton was via Baird Street.
  • There’s a small creek running through what is now Smith Park, at exactly the spot where Smith Park always floods. Go figure!
  • The whole area was barely developed a century ago. So much has happened so quickly.

Another thing that struck me is the elegance of the drawn map. As much as I love Google Maps you can’t go past an olde worlde hand-drawn map. Just gorgeous.

Thank you, Russell, and Gionni!

11 Responses to How to waste time

  1. Paul says:

    Somewhere, in another life and, unfortunately, on another, long dead hard drive, I came across a series of old maps of Newcastle. At the time my mate and I were arguing about something in Carrington. We downloaded an 1894 map of the district which his wife took to work and printed out as four A3 sheets. Beautiful stuff, including the bottom half of “The Private Township of Stockton”.
    It shows three bridges into Carrington from Hannell St, a large dyke and small bridge where the Elizabeth St roundabout is today, Cowper St, and a third at Darvall St, which ran from where the present-day Yacht Club is through the Dockyard.
    The Private Village of Wickham is, yes, Wickham, and The Private Village of Smedmore is where Maryville now sits. Beyond the Elizabeth St dyke, where Throsby Creek is more of a river, Hannell St goes in a straight line following the Creek up to where the coal stacks are now, and BHP used to be.
    When I saw this post I remembered the old maps and dug them out. I thought I may have found the source again, but no, the map I have isn’t here. I’m having an inkling about the NSW Surveyor General, but that could be wishful thinking or the onset of senility. I’m going to try and retrace my steps from years ago and see what happens.
    Oh, and time-wasting? So far it’s taken the best part of an hour to typo this, cross-reference with Google maps, up and down checking the printed map on the table and I don’t think I’ve wasted any time at all. Been rather fun, in fact.

    Please excuse my love of the comma, it’s a fetish I can’t shake.

    • ireleth61 says:

      1. Oh, if only I could invent a machine that could retrieve all the things that sit on lost hard drives.

      2. From now on, I shall always refer to Marville as The Private Village of Smedmore. That is sheer class.

      3. As for the comma, well, I love it; but not as much as the semicolon.

      • Paul says:

        If your drive started ticking before it stopped, that is constantly making a tick tick tick noise and slowing or stopping before it eventually died, try eBay for a
        >Universal USB Hard Drive Adapter<.
        Assuming you bower-birded the drive and didn't toss it out the window.
        You'll need an external housing to hold it steady, DON'T hold it in your hand, go to the back of the room, that boy. Sunday computer market best bet. Hook the adapter up to your drive, plug in the usb cable (to your working computer, duh) and you can read the drive as a memory stick without having to spin the platters. You can't write to the drive, but you can read & copy/paste, so your info should be salvageable. 20-30$ for the drive, 8-15 for the housing, what is your data/grandkids pics worth?
        If it doesn't work, please don't hunt me down, the drive has to be readable, if it's been bashed or opened or if you looked at it the wrong way on the wrong day this may not work. Unless you're a big company prepared to pay 2-3 000$ though, it's the best we can do at home.
        Also if you heard no tick tick at all, and the drive just died, this may not work. The ticking noise is made by the actuator arm constantly flicking across the discs to the stop and back again. The discs themselves aren't damaged, it's the reading mechanism. If the discs are physically damaged, you're prob'ly out of luck.
        Semi-colons? Ooohhh, posh. They're alright in their place, I guess, but much to upmarket for my skills.

      • Mark MacLean says:

        My knackered old drives were old old; that is, from the days before I was loading photos and stuff onto them. The one I’d really like to get back is off an SE30 I was using in the early 1990s, mainly because of the emails (in Eudora, remember that?!) and manuscripts I was working on at the time. Never mind “tick tick tick”, we used to call this one Grunter because of the endless noises it made. It was like having a pet Tassie Devil in the office!

    • russell says:

      The map you were looking at may be a version of this one –

      go to DIGS (on-line catalogue of items in the Dept of Minerals Resources collection) at

      put Heritage Map H0264 in the report number
      download the image as a jpg or pdf

      waste even more time (but enjoy doing it!)

      There are some large scale 1890s maps in the NCC collections:

      and put ‘Hunter Water map’ in Search Any Field.

      There are about 80 maps available on-line, and the paper prints are in the Local Studies collection. Uni Archives has an even bigger set of them, but only as images, & not on line yet.

  2. neilkeene says:

    That is brilliant! No wonder we have so much foundation movement in our house on Phillips St – we’re sitting on top of an old creek.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Yes, you would think someone might have noticed when they were putting plans in to council. If indeed that’s what they did back in the good old days.

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