Spring is definitely not yet in the air. I was thinking this as I walked Jambo down the creek and noticed this plastic roadworks pole bobbing down the beck, washed hither from whence I know not.


What I do know was that it was cold and wet and slippery and generally a bit miserable.

But there are still folk out and about. I was rather startled to meet two lads emerging from the tributary tunnel next to Chatham Road bridge, the one you see beneath Richardson Park. They were wearing gumboots and had flashlights and had, amazingly, tunnelled their way from Merewether High School.

Yesterday I bumped into another pair of explorers who told me all about the old fuel depot, which has apparently been abandoned. The owners of this site were, right up until the end, carefully maintaining the holders and the buildings and the grounds and so to hear that they were no longer there was a complete surprise to me. I felt like the Turks must have felt when they woke up and realised the Anzacs had slipped away in the night.

But, like Nature, youth culture abhors a vacuum. It there’s empty space it must be filled. They sent me a couple of pictures of the depot, and of the recently re-fenced gasworks. I have absolutely no idea what this dummy’s arm signifies. I mean … huh?


The old naphtha holder was, they told me, getting a fresh lick of paint. Approaching from the south, they smelt the fumes of aerosol cans as a crew of hardy graffitismos plied their decorative trade.


Poor things, they nearly had heart attacks, but they were good enough to let my contacts reel off a few shots for posterity.


Note the cut-off ladder to stop scallywags climbing the holders. Apparently they’ve done the same thing in the fuel depot.


Such a shame. Seriously, I’d pay good money to go up one of those and look out over Hamilton!

Friday foto


Oh what a feeling.


Keeping in touch


One of the glories of social media and the internet is the connections that are possible between like-minded people. Of all the posts that I’ve put out over the years, the two most popular were on the demolition of the Islington Junction Box (hello, rail buffs) and on my attempts to save an injured fruit bat (hello, North American bat buffs). We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of visits, and loads of feedback.

Most of the time, though, the connections take the form of a friendly email from someone who wants to bring something to my attention: I mistake I’ve made in describing a place or a person; a comparison with what’s happening in urban waterways in another state or country; or a g’day from a kindred spirit in another part of the world. I also get wonderful follow-up messages that help me to understand this wee square of inner Newcastle that much better.

Recently, Lachlan pointed me to these two Ralph Snowball photos of repairs to the railway bridge over the Styx at Islington. The caption states they’re of a washaway following floods in 1897. You can see a better version here.


As is so often the case with Snowball’s pictures, they’re wonderful human studies with levels of detail that the smartest smart phone couldn’t hope to match. Again, direct link for a decent view here.


Another photo link was sent to me by Alex, a former Newcastle resident who used to cycle through Ham North to and from the BHP back in the day. Alex also lamented the loss of the Islington Junction Box. In an earlier post I’d made the following grossly sexist comment:

The Wife and I were discussing [the signal box] just the other day, trying to remember when it stopped being manned. (She said “staffed”, though when I challenged her to name a single lady signalperson she knew she was cornered. Ha!)

Well, step forward and take a bow, Margaret Tomlin, “one of the first and most successful women to break into a male industry”. Margaret is pictured here at the Flemington box in September 1982; click here for a better version of the picture.

signal woman

However, in defence of my sexist self, Alex does note the:

Different lever configuration though, pistol grip power assisted (most likely compressed air assisted similar to Newcastle Signal Box). The levers at Islington Junction signal box would definitely have been of the ‘armstrong’ mechanical type.

Yeah, Margaret Tomlin. Lightweight!

Lame sexist comments aside, I’d love to know where you are now, Margaret. I bet you could tell some stories!