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Recent Line Work (June 2012)

During the months of May and June our Kubota excavator was employed on various works at Glenreagh West. This piece of equipment is now fitted with a slasher which after some initial teething problems is doing a great job when used for clearing growth along the line. 
With the help of a couple of our members we now have the line cleared  from GlenreaghWest down to the Orara Way and on to the bridge across the Orara River. This great piece of equipment has, in about ten working hours, done the work of several men  which would have normally taken months to complete. The even better result is that there are no sore backs or hands. 
Below are some photogragphs of the work in progress.  


We need your help with this work and the many other jobs to be done. If you want to become involved please let us know via email at gmr@gmr.org.au

Historic Development

The following information has been taken from the Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for Lowanna Railway Station Yard, Lowanna, New South Wales, Australia, prepared by Weir Phillips Architects and Heritage Consultants. This CMP has been prepared at the request of Coffs Harbour City Council and on behalf of the owner, the Glenreagh Mountain Railway Inc. (GMR).


The following briefly outlines the history of the line and the surrounding area. 

The Lowanna Railway Station Yard stands in Gumbaynggirr country. European settlement on the North Coast of New South Wales began at Port Macquarie, where a penal settlement was established in 1823. The first free Europeans in the area were cedar getters, who reached as far north as the Richmond River by the early 1840s. When most of the red cedar had been logged from the Orara forests and Eastern Dorrigo Plateau, the timber getters and millers turned their attention to hoop pine, silky oak, rosewood, ironbark and blackbutt. The shift from cedar to other timbers in the late nineteenth century maintained existing settlements and encouraged the establishment of others. Following the clearing of the timber, farms and later dairies were established on the Plateau; potatoes also became a favoured crop.

Successive governments felt that the North Coast was adequately served by the river and coastal port system. Consequently, it was not until 1905 that work began on the construction of the North Coast Railway Line. The settlers of the Dorrigo Plateau began an intensive campaign to link the area to the projected North Coast Railway Line. At this time, most of the timber from the Dorrigo Plateau was hauled by road to Armidale or to Grafton. 
The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Railway Act was
passed on the 28 December, 1910, providing for the construction of the first section of what was intended to be a line linking Glenreagh, and hence the North Coast Line, to the inland town of Guyra. It would be three years, however, before survey work commenced (1914). The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Line would be the only section of the proposed line to Guyra to be constructed. In early 1917, work on the line was interrupted and would not recommence again until 1920. 
The tender for the precast concrete railway station buildings at Lowanna
Station, the only attended intermediate station along the line, was let in 1923 and the line was officially opened on the 23 December, 1924. The Station Building was a standard type used by NSW Railways and known as a Type Pc.3 Station Building. 
A daily (except Sunday) passenger service and a daily mixed service ran until 1927 when the passenger train ceased. The daily mixed service was replaced by a thrice-weekly service in 1931. All provision for passenger services ceased in 1957.

The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Line was plagued by slippages and mudslides throughout the period of its operation. In October 1972, after a series of slippages, the line was unofficially closed. Lowanna Station, along with many of the stops along the line, was closed in September 1975.

In 1993 the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Railway (Closure) Act 1993 was passed clearing the way for the sale or lease of the Branch Line. The line was officially closed by notification in the NSW Government Gazette of 17 December, 1993. Two groups tendered for the line, the Glenreagh Mountain Railway Inc. and the Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum Inc. The former now controls the line from Glenreagh to a point about halfway between Lowanna and Ulong, while the Dorrigo Steam and Railway Inc. controls the remainder of the line.

Statement of Significance

The Lowanna Railway Station Yard, Lowanna, New South Wales, has local historic, social and aesthetic significance as a small intermediate railway station in its rural setting. The Lowanna Railway Station Yard has local historic significance as part of the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Branch Line, constructed between 1916 and 1924. While never considered a profitable line by NSW Railways, the Line played a critical role in the development of the regional economy, transporting a range of goods, most notably timber, within and out of the area. During the period 1924 to 1957, when the line offered passenger services, it connected the occupants of the small communities of the Dorrigo Plateau to each other and the outside world. 
The significance of Lowanna Station, as the only staffed intermediate station along the line, is manifest in the presence of a precast concrete Station Building (Type Pc.3), Signal Box and Men's toilet lock, constructed c.1924. These buildings have historic and technical significance as part of a larger group of precast concrete station buildings designed by engineers and erected by NSW Railways during the interwar period. The Lowanna Railway Station Building was one of at least eighteen Type Pc.3 station buildings constructed, and is one of at least eight still standing. It is the only concrete station building in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area.

Other structures of significance in the Yard include a Gang Hut and Yard Crane. It is planned to restore this crane when funds are available.

The Lowanna Railway Station Yard has local aesthetic significance as a prominent element in the immediately surrounding landscape. The Station and township of Lowanna are located in a large clearing within otherwise heavily-timbered countryside. There are important view corridors towards the Yard from approach by road and rail and the surrounding countryside. Significant view corridors out towards the heavily forested surrounds visually connect the site to the timber that was its primary reason for being. Lowanna Railway Station Yard has social significance for the Glenreagh Mountain Railway Inc., who own the lower half of the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Branch Line, and for the local community. It also has significance for wider heritage interest groups, as indicated by its listing on the Coffs Harbour LEP 2000.

Planning of the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Branch Line

The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Branch Line is a comparatively late branch line in the New South Wales Railway network. The first major branch lines in the Colony were built in the late 1870s and early 1880s, most feeding the highly profitable and rapidly expanding inland wheat belt. By 1900, the New South Wales railway system stretched westwards to Bourke, northwest to Moree, southwest to Albury, Hay and Temora, and south to Cooma and Nowra. On the north coast, however, there had been no construction beyond West Maitland, with the exception of a short line from Murwillumbah to Lismore, approved in 1892, to link the rich lands of the Tweed and Richmond to the Clarence River. It was felt by successive governments that the northern coastal settlements were adequately served by the river and coastal port system. Consequently, it was not until 1905 that work began on the construction of the North Coast Railway Line. During the early 1900s, the settlers of the Dorrigo Plateau began an intensive campaign to link the area to the projected North Coast Railway Line. In 1903, a Public Works Committee considered the construction of a line from the North Coast to Dorrigo and thence inland to Guyra, in connection with the proposed Casino-Tenterfield Line. Linking Guyra to the North Coast would allow produce to be sent from the New England Region to either Grafton or Coffs Harbour. It was believed that the best route, in terms of settlement and industry, lay between Guyra and Glenreagh or Coffs Harbour, via Guy Fawkes and Dorrigo. Three possible routes for the coastal portion of the line were investigated: Coramba-Dorrigo, Coffs Harbour-Dorrigo (the Bonville Route); and Glenreagh-Dorrigo, via Bushman's Range. The Glenreagh to Dorrigo route was subsequently chosen. The proposed Glenreagh to Dorrigo section of the line was 43 miles 16.5 chains (69.5 km) long and involved a number of tight, 10 chain (200m), curves. The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Railway Act was passed on 28 December, 1910, providing for the construction of the first section of the Glenreagh to Guyra line. It

would be three years, however, before survey work commenced.


The First Phase of Construction

Construction of the Glenreagh to Dorrigo line officially commenced on 17 August, 1914, following plans and specifications prepared by the Public Works Department (PWD). Control of the works lay in the hands of the contractor, Norton Griffiths and Company. Work ceased on 28 March, 1917, when Norton Griffiths' contract was terminated.

By the time that Norton Griffiths' contract was terminated, a significant change had occurred in the construction and administration of New South Wales Railways.

From 1 January, 1917, following the passage of the Government Railways (Amendment) Act, 1916, responsibility for the survey and construction of Government railways and tramways passed from the Public Works Department to the Railway Commissioners. The Railway Commissioners, however, did not immediately resume work on the Glenreagh to Dorrigo line. The prosecution of World War I (1914-1918) caused acute shortages of men, money and resources. As a result, some public works were suspended, including construction of the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Line.


The Second Phase of Construction and the Lowanna Railway Station Buildings

Construction work on the Branch Line recommenced on 12 March, 1920, almost three years after work had ceased. During the interim period, extensive washaways and mudslides had occurred along the partially constructed line. As a result of this damage and, given the high annual rainfall of the area, the likelihood that it would occur again, it was decided that the original earthworks were too light. The construction of heavier earthworks and the use of heavier rails increased construction costs. The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Branch Line would ultimately be among the most expensive lines to be constructed in New South Wales.

When tenders were called for the construction of the station buildings along the line, the local newspapers agitated for construction using local timber; the Railway bCommissioners assured them that this would be the case. Nevertheless, Lowanna and Dorrigo Stations were provided with precast concrete buildings. The tender for the construction and erection of the station buildings at Lowanna was advertised in the Government Gazette in September 1923.6 The Lowanna Station Building is classified as a Type Pc. 3 stationn building.This building type was one of a number of standard designs used by New South Wales Railways during the period 1917 and 1932. The standard plan for this station type can be found in Appendix 4. The use of standard buildings across the New South Wales Railway System began during the 1880s under the Engineer-in-Chief, John Whitton, as a means of balancing budgetary restraints with community expectations. The type of station allocated to a New South Wales country town after 1880 frequently reflected the status of a branch line and/or the size and significance of that town. The need for economic station buildings was particularly true of the mid 1920s, which marked the beginning of a period of stringency for the New South Wales Railways. Concrete slab construction, of which the Lowanna Station Building, Signal Box and Men's Toilet Block, are examples, had been in use in Australia since the early 1900s. The first precast concrete station building to be constructed by the New South Wales Railways was opened at (Lake) Cargelligo in March 1918. Standard designs for railway buildings were produced by both the Signal Engineer' Office and the Chief Civil Engineer and included: 

  • Type A Passenger Station Buildings (A Type; Ac.1, Ac.2, Ac.3, Ac.4 and Ac.5). Only 6 Ac. Type designs were built.
  • Type P Passenger Station Buildings (P Type; Pc.1, Pc.2 and Pc.3). All three designs provided a large shelter shed for storing freight and shelter for passengers.
  • Closets, urinals, lamp rooms, etc (C Type, Cc.1 and Cc.2).

Jim Longworth outlines the basic process of slab construction in his 2005 article on precast concrete railway buildings:

Construction of precast concrete buildings entailed erecting vertical posts of precast concrete with grooves in the sides for the full length (height) of the posts. Horizontal slabs also of precast concrete were lowered down the grooves, until the horizontal slabs reached the level of the top of the posts, whereupon the roof structure was erected. The slabs were mortared into place, with mortar filling both the vertical joints between the slabs and posts and horizontal joints between slabs.  
Several plans specify that the concrete for the units was
to be of a waterproof mixture.

Precast concrete buildings provided a number of advantages to the NSW Railways:

  • Concrete buildings are more permanent structures than timber.
  • Unlike timber, concrete is not vulnerable to fungal rot and white ants and is less vulnerable to fire.
  • Concrete buildings provided for the continuation of established architectural design traditions.
  • Construction and maintenance costs, particularly following the implementation of centralised manufacture and the use of standardised designs, were reduced.

There are a number of defining features across the different types of precast
concrete railway buildings of the interwar period: 
all were built from precast concrete
posts and slab units; 
all were single storey;
all had pitched roofs with symmetrically
placed central ridge line; 
all, with the exception of Type Ac.5, had roofs with gables
at both ends; most (98%) were roadside platform buildings; 
and, with one exception,
all had awnings along the entire length of the platform side of the building.
Only one
Station Building, the very first one constructed at (Lake) Cargelligo, was rendered externally to hide the concrete slab construction. Thereafter, all where left unfinished, presumably on a cost basis. The internal walls were typically unlined.

Otherwise, the types varied as to size and the type of facilities provided. Type Ac.1, Ac.2, Ac.3 and Pc.1 buildings, for example, did not provide passenger accommodation; and only two of the eight standard designs had a ticket window.

There were occasional variations to the basic plan for specific stations.

The Pc.3 Type station, as provided at Lowanna, was designed with a standard shelter shed to be used for storing freight, as well as providing shelter for ssengers. It was one of only two designs (the other being the Pc.2.) that included provision of a living room for station staff. This was a simple room with corner basin and freestanding stove; living provisions were spartan at best.

 While the length of concrete slabs used in station buildings varied, two widths predominated: 15 inches (finished externally flush smooth with a narrow chamfer) or 9.5 inches (finished in a rusticated profile). The bottom slab typically projected one inch out on the outside face (to shed water clear of the footings of the building) and one inch out on the inside of the face, forming a skirting. Windows were typically fixed paned, directly into the slab, or timber-framed, sitting flush or slightly proud of the slabs. Concrete corbels typically supported timber or metal awning braces.

The concrete railway station buildings of the interwar period share some characteristics with the bungalow style then popular in domestic architecture, including low prominent pitched roofs, wide eaves overhang and exposed rafters.

The Type Pc.3 Building, however, does not display a strong affinity with domestic architecture, perhaps because engineers, not architects, designed it.

The P in the Type P design stood for portable. While designed to be portable, there are no known examples of the dismantling, transporting and re-erecting of one of these buildings during government ownership. A number, however, have been moved following the closure of lines or stations.

Precast concrete was also used for other types of structures throughout the New South Wales railway network. In addition to A. and P. class station buildings, the material was used for the construction of: signal equipment, signal lever platforms and covers, bases for elevated signal boxes, relay and transformer boxes and huts, etc; related station buildings, such as lamp rooms, urinals, extensions to existing stations; ancillary structures such as station platform faces, coal bins, washing troughs, guttering, station name boards, water tanks, fences etc. 
The Men's Toilet
Block within the Lowanna Railway Station Yard would appear to be a Type Cc.1.

The use of precast concrete for station buildings ceased after 1932, but continued in use for signalling buildings after this time.


The Line on Completion

As work on the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Branch Line neared completion, there were renewed calls for the extension of the line to Guyra, resulting in further Public Work Committee inquires in 1923, 1926 and 1927. As a result of these inquiries, the Guyra to Dorrigo Construction Act 1928 was passed on 16 June, 1929. Work on the line commenced at the Guyra end in 1929, only to stop in 1932 as a result of the deepening economic depression. Work never resumed. The Glenreagh to Dorrigo Line was officially opened on 23 December, 1924.

Upon completion, the line was 43 miles 16.5 chains (69 km) long, with eleven stops, twelve sidings (mostly servicing timber mills), fifteen bridges and two tunnels. Overall, the line climbs 736 metres. The first timetable for the Branch Line listed a daily Monday to Saturday passenger connection with the mail train from Sydney. There was also a daily Monday to Saturday goods train, with passenger car attached. In November 1927, the passenger train ceased. The daily mixed service continued to run until May 1931, when it was replaced by a thrice-weekly service.

The main stops along the Branch Line and their facilities at the time of opening were,

from Glenreagh to Dorrigo:



Glenreagh Station was the junction of the Glenreagh to Dorrigo Line with the North Coast Line. The Station opened in October 1915 as part of the North Coast Line.

Glenreagh Station consisted of an island platform, one main crossing loop, a transit siding and goods sidings. In the days of steam, it had a steam depot, water tank, turntable and carriage shed facilities at the Grafton end of the yard.

Line left Glenreagh Station from the southern end of the yard; trains to the south were required to reverse.


Timber Top

Timber Top had a crossing loop, a goods siding (opened on 18 December, 1925) and a small signal box with electric staff instruments. There was no platform. The loop and signal box were abolished in 1972.


Reid's Siding

Reid's Siding opened on 1 October, 1929 and closed on 14 May, 1942.



Moleton was located near Mole Creek and had a small platform and siding; the latter was closed on 10 May, 1961.
 Two miles up the track stood Mole Creek Tank, with
watering provisions for steam locomotives and de-ashing facilities.



Lowanna is discussed above.



Ulong had a platform and goods loop.



Brooklana had a short wooden platform (since removed) and two dead-end sidings.


Mulhearn's or Lloyd's Siding

Mulhearn's Siding had a small wooden platform with a dead end siding. This siding was renamed Lloyd's Siding in 1942.


Cascade (Earp's, Woodcock's and Beveridge's Siding)

Cascade had a curved platform and two dead-ended sidings serving local mills.

The station was initially known as Earp's, Woodcock's and Beveridge's Siding before being changed to Cascade in 1925.



Briggsvale had a 100 ft platform and one dead-end siding serving a local saw mill.


Wild Cattle Creek

Wild Creek, later Megan, had a platform and goods siding and, later, a crossing loop and de-ashing facilities.



Leigh, the highest stop on the line, had a short platform.



Dorrigo Station is the terminus of the line. The station had a 250ft platform, a run round loop, goods loop, potato siding (later), loading bank and stockyard with sidings. 
Off the platform road, there were locomotive facilities, a coal stage and a
steel 60ft diameter turntable, as well as watering facilitates.


The Little Nymboida River Brige Fire

In 2006 we unfortunately experienced a fire on the Little Nymboida Bridge. This bridge is located approximately half way between Lowanna and Ulong stations.The perpitrators were not found.
Below are some shots of this fire and the emergency services people and police who attended.

  As you can easily see a significant ammount of damage has resulted.

The Line at Glenreagh

The water tank between the yard and the northern line. 

Trains from Dorrigo came in to this platform at Glenreagh

The weighbridge in the Glenreagh yard.

The water tank and main line at Glenreagh.

The levers entering the Glenreagh yard.

The signal refusing entry to the yard,main northern line on right.

The main line looking north from the road crossing.

The main line looking south from the road crossing.The Dorrigo line can be seen in the grass. It runs parallel to the main line for several hundred metre then heads to the right past the trees.

The approach to the bridge over the Orara River.

The bridge.

The bridge.

The road crossing on the Orara Way as you approach Glenreagh from the south.

The line runs across farm land past the Kangaroo Creek road.

Approaching the Tallawudja Creek bridge.

Tallawudja Creek approach.

The Tallawudja Creek bridge commences just past the sign between the rails.

From here the line commences it's climb up the Bushman's Range to Timber Top and on to Moleton, Lowanna and Dorrigo.

Some Photos of the Line at Timber Top taken in 2008                       

The work crew on a day out at Timber Top.

Having lunch.


The signal box.

This shot was taken in 1984.


The sign board.

The main line, loop and siding.

The signal box and sign board through the under growth.

                                                                                                                                                          The sign board again showing the under growth.

The Tank at Moleton


Looking towards the station from the Grafton Street crossing.

Looking towards the station and yard from the Ulong end.

Towards the yard from the Glenreagh end.The station is on the left.

Rolling stock and line from the station looking towards Glenreagh.

Rolling stock at Lowanna in looking towards Ulong.

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