In the late 1880s, a Merriwa local Mr Alan McRae was active in seeking the NSW Government extend the railway line from Denman to Merriwa. It took another 30 years of lobbying by locals to have a firm commitment from the NSW Government to build the rail line link to service Denman and then extended thru to Merriwa and the surrounding districts. The extension of the Denman to Merriwa branch line was built in the period of 1915-17. Sandy Hollow locality was an area which part of the branch line passed thorugh on the way to Merriwa.
The branch line had a few stations and stops, which after Muswellbrook included Roxburgh, Mangoola, Denma, Myambat, Sandy Hollow, Gungal, Wappinguy and Merriwa. Many culverts, station yards and sidings were built as well. A few bridges were required to be built so the trains could travel across the many creeks found in the area. The initial branch line opened in 1915 through to Denman.
After more discussions and resources allocated the branch line was extended to Merriwa. The extended branch line was opened in October 1917 with much fanfare from the locals. During construction of the extended line from Denman to Merriwa, the large station at Denman had at that stage a small depot built for the locomotives used on the rail line. This was for servicing – watering, coaling and minor fixes as Denman was the end of the line at that stage. A turntable was in use at the Denman depot but after Merriwa became the terminus from in 1917, it was transferred to Merriwa for use. The locomotive depot at Denman was also eventually closed after Merriwa became the end of the line. Merriwa had a small depot building to support the steam and later diesel locomotives.
This is the NSWGR gradient line map for the Muswellbrook to Merriwa line section. You will note from Sandy Hollow to Gungal how it is relatively flat land when compared to the rising hills found in the Merriwa section – here it is very steep.
Sandy Hollow was opened on 29 Oct 1917 to service the locality. A wooden platform edge was built and the station bank / platform built onto this. A 71m long platform with 2 buildings. One was for station staff/signal/track yard levers and the other was a small waiting shed for passengers. A small storage room for station equipment was located in this building. Water tank was attached to the goods shed. A station sign was located nearby as well on platform.
A what is assumed to be a 1930-1940s’s era look at the Sandy Hollow platform front on. Note the old style timber colours. Note the large station sign is missing on all other photos but present here.
The other building was a staff/signal hut for allowing train movements on the branch line. A station employee was present until 1960s when the need was removed.
A short rail siding for local stock race / storage was placed opposite the station. This siding was also used as a loop line for specific types/sized passing traffic on the up and down sections of the line. Unknown photographer – view of western end of Sandy Hollow yard with 3142 awaiting to depart on the down to Merriwa in the 1960s.
HISTORIC EVENT 1970
The Sandy Hollow station was witness to a significant event in 1970, as the Merriwa branch was the last regular rural branch line in NSW with steam engines as the motive power at this time. Other main line branches still used steam for a few more years .The last scheduled steam engine assigned to work services on the Merriwa branch line was 3090, which completed the last trip on September 19 1970.
BRANCH LINE FACTS –
*Average speed for trains on the line was 20-30mph according to NSWGR notes.
* Signal staffs were – Muswellbrook-Denman – Blue square, Denman-Sandy Hollow – White triangle and Sandy Hollow to Merriwa – Red Circle.
* Railmotors could travel at 35mph on the track, 30 class loco could do 25-30mph.
*Railmotors took 2hr to travel from Merriwa to Muswellbrook and goods trains such as steam, took around 5hrs.
* Merriwa branch line could handle around 250-300 tonnes load on the average steam train movement. Once past Sandy Hollow and Denman the load was built up to more as Muswellbrook track section was in a flatter area to operate on.
LOCOMOTIVES THAT SAW SERVICE ON THE BRANCH LINE
A number of branch line locomotives types were found working the scenic railway line. The NSWGR had many locomotive types in service but the Merriwa branch line could only handle a few types due to the weights of the locomotives on the light rail and sleepers.The most common types used were the – C30T and D50 class locomotives. These were for working the freight/goods traffic to the stations. In later years motorised transport arrived for passengers in the form of CPH Railmotors. Once steam was replaced diesels used were mostly the 48 class type.Occasional heritage tours brought other rarities such as 20 classes to Merriwa and Sandy Hollow. Due to the light rail installed heavy steam engines such as 35/36 were not able to travel the line generally. Nor could the Merriwa turntable turn these large engines around.The list below of steam locomotives, CPHs and diesels locomotives have been confirmed as been used on the line:
24 Class – 2417
25 Class – 2543
30 Class – 3001, 3022, 3075, 3088, 3090, 3142, 3139,
50 class – 5132, 5248, 5268, 5278
CPH rail motor – 5, 16, 23, 27, 28 and 37
47 Class – 4714,
48 Class – 4801, 4818, 4876, 48103,
Noted railway photographer Graham Harvey took photos of the 1972 tour he was on to illustrate part of the Sandy Hollow area
Standards Goods 50 class steam locomotive is seen hauling
a mixed freight and passenger service thru the valley
Standards Goods 50 class steam locomotive is seen hauling
a mixed freight and passenger service thru the valley
How rail enthusiasts travelled in the 1970s – in stlye!
Watering at Denman Station
3088 is seen hauling a few S trucks near Sandy Hollow.
3088 is seen conveying crossing the Halls Creek Bridge and onto the embankment with a load of coal wagon hoppers LCH and a mixed freight/guard/passenger HCX carriage which was seen as the replacement for transport of passengers on the rare ocassions the CPH were not able to run on the line. This carriage was stored at Muswellbrook yard.
Photo showing rusting LLV vans on the branch line near Sandy Hollow in 2010
Various 1960s era locomotive photos supplied by M.D
NSWGR locomotive 3022, is seen hauling a goods train out of Merriwa on the Up line to Sandy Hollow in mid 1960s.
5268 is seen hauling a goods train at Denman in 1970. Note the water gin behind the tender. A water gin was a rare event on this line but it means that the photo was taken in the timeframe when the water supply at Merriwa had failed. This failure required a steam train to haul its own water supply. A large variety of NSWGR freight wagons is seen in the makeup of this movement.
NSWGR steam locmotive 3090, is seen crossing the Halls Creek bridge at Sandy Hollow in 1970. Note the wood bridge supports and how they are placed. This is what would be needed potentially on a new restoration project with the bridge in any future SHRG action plan.
3090 on one of its last runs in 1970 on the Merriwa branch line.. the end of steam was near
Sandy Hollow station was at one point painted in the same light blue colour (for example in top right photo) as were many other NSWGR stations in the 1950s according to records.
A CPH railmotor climbing an embankment on the branch line
A 1940′s era CPH photo at the Merriwa end of the line.
Many people in the 1960s photographed the Merriwa branch line operations.
These photos supplied by Alan on behalf of Malcolm Jenkins
3142 between Gungal and Wappinguy. 8 February 1969.
3022 is bathed in late afternoon light as it heads a few wool wagons on their way from Merriwa to Muswellbrook shown here on the spidery rails between Wappinguy and Gungal. 26 August 1967.
On a train that will barely require the combined efforts of the administrators and bill collectors, 3142 plods along the Merriwa line with a very short train, between Sandy Hollow and Gungal. 8 February 1969.
Various photos below supplied– credit unknown at this time.
CPH-16 coming into Sandy Hollow station in the 1960s.
SERVICES ON THE BRANCH LINE
Up to 32 services a week were run at its peak along the railway line. Timetables show a variety of slow and fast up and down trips. A variety of freight and passenger workings were conducted over the branch line. Goods carried into the area and out were local fruits, wheat, timber, farming machinery, caravans, varied live stock, etc. Muswellbrook was the starting point as it had a main line and bigger locomotive roundhouse depot for the operations.
A keen NSW railway historian and railway heritage volunteer / enthusiast (I.P.) has kindly submitted a series of colour and b/w photos of Sandy Hollow station and yard in the 1940s-1960s period from what it can be determined.
A platform shot showing the timber wood panelling and roller door on the goods room. To the right is seen a 620 diesel motor on a trip on the line. This photo could maybe from the late 1960s to early 1970s.
Station name light box for night time operations
A view taken by Graham Harvey in 1970.
Unknown photographer – a 50 class locomotive carrying a large varied load to Muswellbrook on the up line in the 1960s.
A view of a CPH 16 coming into the eastern end of Sandy Hollow station in 1960s.
SANDY HOLLOW – A BRIEF REVIVAL IN 1970s
The station served in its roles until 29 Sept 1973, when it was closed according to NSWGR records. In 1918 a route for a railway line between Maryvale and Sandy Hollow was surveyed. Construction started in 1941, stopped towards the end of World War II and then resumed in 1946, only to be wound up again in 1950.In the late 1970′s, a short term railway depot was constructed at the Sandy Hollow junction as this Maryvale project was now to restart again.The diesel depot was needed to support the bringing in of diesel locomotives for restarting the construction of the now renamed Maryvale line – now to Ulan , a coal mine – and extended nowdays onto the town of Gulgong. The depot at Sandy Hollow was removed after the work needing the diesels to be located locally was finished. Commonly found at the depot were NSWGR 48 and SAR 830 locomotives classes.The extending the line to Ulan/Gulgong meant that the branch line section from Muswellbrook to Sandy Hollow was to be rebuilt to higher standards – mainline standard – which meant better ballasting and rail was heavier.
Finally, in 1977, White Industries opened the coal mine at Ulan and the railway was completed to Ulan in 1982 to transport coal to the Port of Newcastle.With the Ulan coal line taking over the main need of the Muswellbrook-Merriwa railway line, the sad end to over 71years of a NSWGR/SRA railway link to Merriwa via Sandy Hollow, was soon to draw to a close. In 1982 the Sandy Hollow station was burnt down in either deliberate or unknown circumstances. No remains are left to view in 2013. Shown below is a photo from around 1984-86 showing the typical freight movement on the Sandy Hollow line section (Credit L.C.)
THE END OF THE LINE – THE MERRIWA BRANCH LINE IS CUT
In 1988 NSWGR freight services were suspended on the Merriwa section and soon after in the 1996, the line was cut off at Sandy Hollow. The junction at Sandy Hollow was then straightened out with single line welding, with the Merriwa siding points cut out and removed as part of extensive modifications on the Muswellbrook-Gulgong branch line. The Sandy Hollow – Merriwa branch line has since 1988 fallen into extensive decay with wash aways, rail line removal and extensive weed and grass growth taking over the railway tracks and permanent ways and railway stations.
INFRASTRUCTURE CURRENTLY AT SANDY HOLLOW JUNCTION
Even tho the Merriwa branch line is closed, there is a fair bit of infrastructure remaining at Sandy Hollow. This link http://www.flickr.com/photos/athol_mullen/sets/72157622892444425 has photos showing the Sandy Hollow/Ulan branch line junction after it was removed and placed in a pile.
Halls Creek bridge – is the most easily found and noticeable icon from the road for passing motorists. It was built in 1915 period to provide the span over the Halls Creek. Concrete pylons were mounted on each side of the creek to provide a strong base for the transom type bridge that was built on the top.
Sandy Hollow station yard area – This railway corridor area is still reasonably intact after 22years. This photo below show the old Sandy Hollow railway yard location.
These photo shows the cattle crossing and the line extending towards Gungal in the distance.
A view of the track condition near the western side of the Halls Creek bridge.
This culvert timber and earthworks have decayed after 22years of neglect.