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HISTORY OF THE Hotham BRANCH

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The first section of railway to the South West was from East Perth to Bunbury and was opened to Pinjarra in May 1883 and was completed to Bunbury in August same year. This line ensured the prosperity of agricultural activities on the coastal plain by providing fast and inexpensive transport for produce to metropolitan markets. However, it was the timber industry  that attracted the railways into the hills east of Pinjarra.

Pinjarra Station, circa 1908

 In 1902 a wooden -rail horse drawn tramway was constructed from Pinjarra by Smith & Timms to serve their sawmill located at Marrinup  This line operated for about  two years. The Western Australian Government Railways (WAGR) probably followed close the alignment of tramway as far as Marrinup, when they constructed the line to Dwellingup which opening for traffic in 1910. Here the WAGR established a sawmill to overcome the problem of obtaining sufficient sleepers for track maintenance and construction of new lines.

                    

                

                    

The Station Staff at Dwellingup pose for posterity in front of their small station in July of 1920. When this photo was taken Dwellingup was just another station on the branch line from Pinjarra to Dwarda. The wagon loads of timber amply illustrate the major source of revenue for this part of the railway

This mill was found to be most economical. Larger scale production was then adopted with a system of bush lines running into the forest to transport logs brought to the railhead by teams of horses or bullocks. As part of this scheme, No.2 mill later to become Banksiadale  - was constructed and was linked to Dwellingup by a five mile railway. These bush lines extended out to reach the available timber and had stretched 50 miles from Banksiadale when the mill was destroyed by fire in 1963, never to reopen. Initially G class locomotives, the most successful and widely used type in Australia, hauled the logs to Banksiadale, and the sawn timber from there to Dwellingup. In later years, however, these were replaced by the more modern and powerful Cs class locomotives.

The only community of any consequence between Pinjarra and Dwellingup was the mill settlement at Marrinup. Here the Millar Company worked a sizeable mill for varying periods between 1910 and 1930 on the north bank of Marrinup Brook.

To reach the forest areas, it was necessary for the Millars logging railway to cross the WAGR line. To achieve this, a "fly-over" was built, the remains of which are still visible beyond the eastern end of the mill clearing at Marrinup.

Six different, but well known locomotives worked in and around Marrinup, but these all have been broken up for scrap with the exception of a small 0-4-0 known as KATE which is preserved in a park on the outskirts of town at Margaret River. KATE was built at Leeds in the United Kingdom 1889 and was imported to work on extensive milling network of M.C Davies Karri and Jarrah Forest Ltd at Karridale. The Davies organisation was one of eight timber companies which amalgamated in 1902 to form the Millar Group. Between 1912 and 1914 "Kate" was a regular worker at Marrinup. At the end of that time the diminutive machine left the southwest for the Wyndham meat works and saw 50 years North west service before it was retrieved to rest in its original working area.

Marrinup Mill in the 1920's with WAGR line in the foreground

 

Long after the whine of saw benches had silenced, Marrinup had a second period of activity. During the Second World War, Prisoner of War and internment camps were established in a bush area just to the North of the former mill sight.

 Although little trace remains of intermediate locations between Pinjarra and Dwellingup, such as Meelon (mill siding) and Brookdale (stopping place), Isandra crossing loop was rehabilitated in 1985 - after years of idleness - to simplify operation of two steam trains to Dwellingup on the one day. Track into the sandpit at this location was lifted by society members early in 1977 and used in relaying the Pinjarra loco depot track.

Most of the stopping places and crossing loops are not able to be recognised between Pinjarra and Dwellingup except for the signs which were erected by volunteers to show where the places once were..

At Bergining,  steam locomotives battling up the grades, took water from  two 10 000 gallon tanks fed initially by a spring and later by a weir on Marrinup Brook. You can still see the remains of these tanks but the locomotives nowadays do not need to stop for water .

 In 1910 the line was extended from Dwellingup to Holyoake and on the 8 August 1913 the extension through the Hotham Valley to Dwarda was declared open.

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Narrogin was finally reached  in 1926. The line served the ever growing wheat and pastoral areas but the main purpose of the line was to supply a cheap and efficient transport service for the ever increasing timber and saw milling industries that had sprung to life as the line passed through.

Sites along the line that flourished were Holyoake, Etmilyn, Plavin’s Siding, Inglehope, Amphion, Chadoora, Pindalup, Wuraming, Hotham, Tullis, Farmer’s Crossing, Boddington, Mooliaman, Crossman, Dwarda, Mooterdine, Congelin, Contine, Minniging and Yorlock.

The line was one of the WAGR’s low cost branches and was solely built to service the needs of the area of that time, the line was originally laid with 45 pound rail per square metre. In 1961 the Pinjarra Dwellingup section was relayed with 60 pound rail per square yard. The line had particular features such as the sharp radius curves and for a 5.6km stretch from Isandra the average grade is 1 in 35 with the steepest being 1 in 30! Upon reaching Dwellingup the train has climbed some 253.6 metres.

By 1954 train services still included one train weekly between Pinjarra and Narrogin. Although this train took 10.5 hours to complete the 151 km distance at an average speed of 15 kilometres per hour, it was labelled as a "Fast Goods" and had a "ZA" passenger brake van attached to convey passengers. A second train ran weekly as far as Dwarda, where a crew barracks was provided (Crew changes were at Dwarda) and locomotive servicing facilities. A further five trains terminated at Holyoak.

The only stations ever manned were Dwellingup Holyoak and Boddington while locomotive watering places were Berginning, Etmilyn, Mooliaman and Congelin.

 The original station building at Dwellingup, along with most of the town, was destroyed on 24 January 1961 by a huge bushfire which devastated hundreds of square miles of bushland. The mill towns of Holyoak and Nanga brook were almost completely burnt out. Only Dwellingup including the station, was rebuilt.

Motive power on the railway varied from time to time.  During the early years of the railway the small “G” class worked the line until the introduction of the much bigger “C and Cs” classes. Then the bigger M class Garret locomotives carried out much of the work up until the introduction of the “Y” class diesel locomotives early in the 1960’s. However in November of 1969, steam was back on the railway. Tests revealed W class locomotives were suitable for operating to Dwellingup and they worked the several trains scheduled weekly until steam was fully withdrawn from the metropolitan area and the ex Midland Railway Company "F" class diesel electrics moved in. The F's stayed until the last freight train operated and were associated with the early Hotham Valley operations.

Most of the mill sites had started to close between the 1920’s and 1960’s and along with the tragic fire and the depletion of the timber resources and the automobile the railway was slowly wearing down. Dwellingup had a regular freight service until September 1984 by which time all loading handled was from Bunning's sawmill. Deregulation of road haulage meant output from the mill could easily be moved to the metro area by motor truck. The last train in September 1984 saw the once ever busy branch come to a close, but open a new chapter in its life. With HVTR's  keen interest in the line, Westrail retained it for Hotham Valley’s use.

 Since the line was handed over to the society in 1985 the engineering crew have maintained the line to a high standard. In 1997 many negotiations with Westrail and the Peel Development commission, a Westrail Track Access Agreement was obtained and from 1997 onwards all the services on the line have been operated by the Hotham Valley's volunteers.

 

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