Zig Zag Railway
|Zig Zag Railway|
|BB18¼ 1072 City of Lithgow in the head
shunt at Top Points station
|Locale||Lithgow, New South Wales|
|Terminus||Clarence, Bottom Points|
|Name||New South Wales Government Railways
Main Western Railway
|Built by||Patrick Higgins (contractor for NSWGR)|
|Original gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Operated by||Zig Zag Railway Cooperative|
Mt Sinai Halt
|Length||7 kilometres (4.3 mi)|
|Preserved gauge||3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)|
|Preserved era||18 October 1975 - present|
|Opened||18 October 1869|
|Closed||16 October 1910
(bypassed by Ten Tunnels deviation)
|1975||Bottom Points to Top Points section opened 18 October|
|1987||Top Points to Mt Sinai section opened 4 April|
|1988||Mt Sinai to Clarence section opened 29 October|
Zig Zag Railway is an Australian heritage railway outside of Lithgow, New South Wales operating on the Lithgow Zig Zag line which was part of the Main Western line from October 1869 until October 1910 when replaced by the Ten Tunnels deviation. It was reopened as a heritage railway in October 1975.
In June 2012 the Zig Zag Railway closed for an indefinite period following accreditation issues with the New South Wales Government. It was aiming to resume services in October 2013, but was severely damaged during the 2013 NSW Bushfires.
|Lithgow Zig Zag routes|
As the end of steam operation in New South Wales approached, in 1967 a group of steam enthusiasts headed by Ian Thornton were keen to establish an operating steam museum. The Lithgow Zig Zag was chosen as a suitable site based on its accessibility by day-trippers from Sydney, its scenery, abundant water supplies and availability of coal. In March 1969 negotiations commenced with the Zig Zag Trust, the Department of Lands and the Lithgow City Council.
In 1972 the Lithgow Switchback Railway Co-op Limited was born and this became the Zig Zag Railway Co-operative Limited in 1974. At this time, the Commissioner for Railways only made heritage locomotives and rolling stock available to the officially sponsored New South Wales Rail Transport Museum. Thus the line was relaid to 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge as used in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania rather than the New South Wales 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) to allow locomotives and carriages to be procured from these states.
In 1975 the new track was complete on the Middle Road between Bottom Points and Top Points. On 29 August 1975 1046 operated the first journey from Bottom Points to Top Points. Services commenced on 18 October 1975, the 106th anniversary of the original opening.
On 4 April 1987 the line was opened along the Top Road between Top Points and Mt Sinai and on 29 October 1988 through to Clarence. A further extension to join the Main Western line at Newnes Junction was proposed but aside from some clearing of the right of way, there has been little progress.
The Zig Zag Railways was unique in New South Wales being the only heritage operator to run everyday except Christmas Day. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays railmotors were operated. Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday a steam loco with train would operate with Sunday having a two train timetable. Special events included a Day Out with Thomas and a Wizards Express event held a couple of times per year. During most school holidays steam services ran every day. Passengers could join the service at Bottom Points where Zig Zag railway station is served by NSW TrainLink services from Sydney or at Clarence which is adjacent to the Bells Line of Road.
Accreditation and incidents
The Independent Transport Safety Regulator (ITSR), an agency of the Government of New South Wales, regulates safety and accredits railway operators pursuant to the Rail Safety Act, 2002. In August 2006 the ITSR identified the Zig Zag Railway (and one other operator) as a "higher risk" isolated line operator because of its complex operations and high numbers of passenger trips. The ITSR gave Zig Zag Co-operative additional time to develop a safety improvement plan in order to comply with the Act, that took effect for all heritage railway operators from 1 January 2007.
On 1 April 2011 an incident occurred resulting in a collision between a maintenance vehicle and a two-car rail motor, between Clarence and Top Points stations. Travelling in opposite directions and carrying one passenger (in the Hy-rail) plus one driver of each rail vehicle, two injuries were sustained and the collision caused a minor misalignment of the track. A subsequent investigation by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations found that the principal error was miscommunication. The inquiry also identified that a number of other factors were found to have contributed to the collision, particularly a lack of radio communications; operational safe working errors; the delayed notification of the accident; poor maintenance of registers; passengers travelling in the driver's cab; fatigue; and excess speed.
From March 2012 only railcars could be operated and in June 2012 the ITSR ordered a cessation of all services until a number of safety issues were addressed. The railway was aiming to resume services in October 2013.
October 2013 bushfire
The Railway was severely damaged by the 'State Mine Fire', part of the October 2013 bushfires. The Railway suffered millions of dollars of damage which included ten passenger carriages, accommodation carriages, a nearly completed shower block and meals room, a spare parts centre and workshop. One thousand new railway sleepers were also lost as was the caretaker's converted accommodation carriage. The caretaker was "lucky to escape with her life" according to the Zig Zag's CEO Michael Forbes. Much of the damage was suffered by original railway equipment from the 1920s. It is estimated that the railway would take a full year to recover from the State Mine Fire.
Locomotives and rollingstock
The railway has a large collection of other rollingstock including Queensland Railways 2000 class rail motors, Queensland Railways Evans carriages, Tasmanian Diesel locos, South Australian end platform carriages and several older carriages.
|Number & Name||Description||Disposition||Livery|
|218 The Yank||QR 2-8-2 AC16||Operational, Zig Zag Railway's most recent restoration, returning to steam in 2008||Black|
|934||QR 4-8-0 Class C17||Withdrawn pending overhaul.||Red|
|966 City of Rockhampton||QR 4-8-0 Class C17||Static||Black|
|1046||QR 4-6-4T DD17||Operational 1975 until the 1980s, fully dismantled with parts stored in various places around the railway||Blue|
|1047||QR 4-6-4T DD17||Operational from the 1970s until the early 1990s, overhaul started but now halted.||Green|
|1049 Stormin' Normin||QR 4-6-4T DD17||Restored by Hunter Valley Training College, Penrith 1994, now withdrawn pending overhaul.||Blue|
|1072 City of Lithgow||QR 4-6-2 BB18¼||Restored to service early 1980s, currently undergoing major overhaul.||Black|
|402||SAR 4‑8‑2+2‑8‑4 Garratt Class 400||Static||Green|
|Number & Name||Description||Status|
|1003||Emu Bay Railway Bo-Bo Class 10||Purchased as a source of spare parts for 1004 in March 2001.|
|1004||Emu Bay Railway Bo-Bo Class 10||Operational, restricted to shunting duties due to condition of tires. Its vacuum brake has been converted to air train brake and its auto coupling to hook and buffers. Zig Zag named it Emu Bay in recognition of its Tasmanian heritage. Purchased March 2001|
|5802||Mount Isa Mines||In Service|
|6||Mines engine, powered by Gardner engine, designed to haul low level flat wagons||Disposed of in 2013. Formerly used for hauling works trains.|
|2006, 2011, 2051||QR 2000 class rail motor||Operational.|
|2020, 2008||QR 2000 class rail motor||Awaiting Restoration|
|2016, 2055||QR 2000 class rail motor||Burnt in October 2013 bushfire. Fate to be determined|
The carriages used to inaugurate services were five South Australian Railways end platform carriages made redundant by the opening of the standard gauge line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie purchased in 1972. A set of five end platform carriages were purchased in 1974 from the Public Transport Commission but ultimately not used when 15 Evans carriages were purchased from Queensland Railways in 1986.
In 2003 the railway was used in the production of the Hollywood film Stealth. The area stood in for mountainous regions in North Korea and locomotives were specially painted with Korean Chosongul (Hangul) characters.
- Holliday, Rebekah. "Fire tears through iconic Zig Zag Railway". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- Bentley, James (1988). Black Smoke Blue Mountains. Robert Brown & Associates. pp. 123, 127. ISBN 0 949267 58 9.
- The Lithgow ZigZag Railway. Zig Zag Trust & Zig Zag Railway Co-op. 1976.
- "Zig Zag Railway On Top" Railway Digest August 1987 page 260
- Rail Safety Act, 2002 (NSW)
- "Discussion paper: Safety regulation of heritage railway operators". Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator. NSW Government. November 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Collision between Hi-Rail and Rail Motor, Zig Zag Railway, Clarence: 1 April 2011" (PDF). Rail Safety Investigation Report. Office of Transport Safety Investigations. 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Update on Zig Zag Railway Transport for NSW 6 September 2012
- Zig Zag Railway postpones reopening Lithgow Mercury 14 May 2013
- Holliday, Rebekah (19 October 2013). "Fire tears through iconic Zig Zag Railway". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 October 2013. "... we've had fires before but this is the first one that's gone through the workshop, the first time we've suffered damage to this extent."
- "Stealth (2005)".
- Full Steam Across The Mountains - Phil Belbin & David Burke - Methuen Australia 1981
- Blue Mountains Railways - William A Bayley - Locomotion Productions 1980
Media related to Zig Zag Railway at Wikimedia Commons