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30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Sydney / New South Wales Transport Discussion

30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby Special_K » Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:05 pm

With last week's devastating fire at Richmond Vale Museum it is fitting to remember that 18 September marks 30 years since the last steam locos officially operated between Hexham and Stockrington Colliery.It was originally going to cease operations on the 25 September 1987. However, as there was not much coal on offer owing to trucks being used, it was decided that the afternoon shift on Friday 18 September would clear all wagons, both full and empty from Stockrington and convey them to Hexham for storage.

On arrival at Stockrington, the crew carried out some shunting then 8 wagons were placed under the loading bins to prevent trucks from loading. The protest fizzled out and the loco later returned to Hexham with what turned out to be the last loaded train on the Richmond Vale Railway. (only 8 wagons when 50 wagon trains were common).

This was not the end of the saga.

In the next few days we will revisit the events that took place.
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Re: 30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby Special_K » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:33 pm

The former Richmond Vale Railway closed between Richmain Main and Stockrington in 1967. For the next twenty years coal trains operated between "Stocky" Colliery and Hexham with steam locos working the coal trains and shunting the Coal Preparation plant at Hexham. Tonnages varied according to market conditions and the quantity of trains from other coal fields operating to Hexham to have coal treated and blended for further reloading onto rail to Port Waratah.

Owing to the varied coal production, the main line to Stockrington was receiving little maintenance and sufferd from a series of derailments. At the same time a market developed for unwashed coal that could be trucked direct to the port, by passing the railway so in 1985, for the first time ever, trucks were used to cart RVR coal. By this stage, the SMR 10 class locos shunted Hexham on day shift and only ventured to Stockrington on afternoon shift to collect train loads that required treatment!

The above factors and many other issues combined to bring about the line's closure.

Events took another turn on Monday 21 September 1987.
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Re: 30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby Special_K » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:01 pm

On Monday 21 September 1987, the rostered crew were sick and the crew involved in the previous week's protest reported for work. (even though they had been "dismissed" for their role in that protest). This shift placed the loaded wagons that had been hauled from Stockrington the previous Friday into the Coal preparation plant, these being the last ever hoppers to be unloaded at the site.

More events unfolded during that week.
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Re: 30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby Special_K » Thu Sep 21, 2017 7:52 pm

Strangely enough, there were still two train loads of empty hoppers out at Stockrington Colliery so on Tuesday 22 September 1987, SMR 25 was lit up, ran light engine to Stocky, assembled a train load which was operated to Hexham, then after a crib and loco taking water, ran empty again to the colliery. Officials had welded rails across all tracks adjacent to the loading screens to prevent wagons being used to block loading again.

In a week of "lasts", the second train of empty hoppers was the last train of hoppers to operate on the line. At this stage, the yard was so full of hoppers that they had to be stored on the main running line. Readers may be aware that the line between Hexham and Stockrington was double track although only one track at a time was in use from the mid-sixties the other being to used to store over 1200 spare hoppers.

In what seemed to be a drawn out process, No 25 worked again on Wednesday 23 September to shunt locos and generally sort out rolling stock in the Hexham area.
Thursday 24 September was also allocated to this task and was the planned final day of operation after 130 years of continuous operation.

This day saw the start of the final last ditch effort to dave the railway!
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Re: 30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby Special_K » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:14 pm

On Thursday 24 September 1987. SMR 25 was lit up with the intention of sorting out some wagons and positioning other locos for storage. On completion, the crew bunkered the loco, but instead of dropping the fire for the last time, they steamed out to Stockrington Colliery on a last effort to save the railway from closure. They loco crews used their own cars to block the colliery access road preventing trucks from loading. The blockade was eventually moved after discussions with police.

The loco was then moved to the nearby Doghole crossing where the crew spent the night. All workers involved were dismissed and had their retrenchment entitlements withdrawn.

On Friday 25 September the loco was moved to Lenaghans Drive bridge to be more visible to the public. The loco crews worked a roster to obtain signatures for a petition and keep the loco in steam. A truck dropped off coal which was delivered by a metal shute down the embankment to the loco while water was pumped from the swamp. A camp was set up on nearby private land. The company made no attempt to stop the protest .

The event drew very widespread media attention but failed to gain support from fellow unionists employed at other Hunter Valley locations. After three weeks of protest, a decsion was made to return the loco to Hexham and negotiate for retrenchment payments. The loco departed the camp at 2.30pm on 15 October 1987, the definite last loco on the RVR line.

Prior to the railway's closure, miners had always worked a 5 day week (weekend work was overtime) and shut down over Christmas and early January. It was not long before a new award was handed down requiring 7 day's production, 52 weeks a year.

The line still has the claim to fame as the longest continually operating steam railway in Australia, just over 130 years!

Material for this series of posts have been obtained from Coal, Railways and Mines, THe History of the Railways and Collieries of J & A Brown by Brian Robert Andrews. (pages 330-336)
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Re: 30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby stajourneyman » Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:20 pm

... so did they finish up getting their entitlements??
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Re: 30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby Special_K » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:11 pm

stajourneyman wrote:... so did they finish up getting their entitlements??


Yes they did after all the fuss died down.
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Re: 30 years since the closure of Stockrington Railway

Postby Special_K » Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:54 pm

On Thursday 15 October 1987 at 2.30pm SMR tank engine No.25 returned to Hexham Depot after several weeks protesting against the closure of the Stockrington Colliery railway. The colliery itself was not destined to survive very long and ceased production on 10 June 1988. 5 years to the day since steam ceased on the South Maitland Railway.
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