Further Research


Oscar Schulze C.E.

Oscar was instrumental in erecting the ropeway at Wentworth Falls, then dismantling it and re-erecting it at Katoomba. He had been involved with Bleichert for many years apart from designing wharves for Sydney Harbour, acting as agent for many German products, running a German language newspaper, and playing piano. He worked on the erection of the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge.

A short biopsy from “the Burning Mists of Time”:

Oscar Schulze C.E.

Oscar arrived in Sydney on 1st Sept. 1879 aged 31 from the USA. He was immediately involved in the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, (1-8-79 to 30-9-79) as a representative of several German firms. It was noted “he speaks good English and is very courteous”. In Melbourne in April the following year, he was joined by Captain Wagemann, of Melbourne, as agents for many machinery firms, this time including Adolf Bleichert of Leipzig. An operating ropeway was erected out the back of the German Court viz.  One of the latest novelties is an aerial line of railway, erected in the open air, by the Lake, at the back of the German court, central annexe. By this time Wagemann and Schulze were “patentees” for the aerial ropeway. This “sample” ropeway was soon reused to transport soil across the Yarra River to create approaches for a bridge. Some of this equipment was then reused at Wentworth Falls and Katoomba resulting in premature failures.

Oscar was an accomplished pianist and performed at social functions on Dangar Island during the Hawkesbury River Bridge erection. – HRRB

We continue the story of the Bleichert Ropeway and it removal to Katoomba.

Oscar Schulze, meanwhile, was in the midst of trying to recover £3,400 from the owners of the Gladstone Colliery through the courts for the Bleichert Ropeway that he had installed. He had been paid £4,150 for the plant and materials but had not been paid the balance because of the work had not “being completed” to the satisfaction of the defendant. Schulze lost the case and was denied any further funds. I’m sure he was more than happy to have North make an offer for the hardware, and for him to retrieve, re-engineer and reinstall the Ropeway.

It seems that Schulze had borrowed money from the mining supply company, Rabone Feez to pay Adolf Bleichert for the ropeway, so the purchase price supplied by North went to Rabone Feez and Schulze was happy to have a job.

SMH 15th April 1887

Top of Form

REYNOLDS AND OTHERS AGAINST SCHULZE OSCAR

ON FRIDAY, the twenty-second day of April 1887

at noon, unless the Writ of Fieri Facias herein be previously

satisfied, the Sheriff will cause to be sold by public auction

under the verandah of the Supreme Court, King Street Sydney

the Pendent Railway connecting the Gladstone Coal-mining

Company’s Mine with the Great Western Railway near Went-

worth Falls, together with engine, boiler, and plant in connection

with the said Pendant Railway.  

Terms, cash.

CHARLES COWPER

E.F. Ickerson, Defendant’s Attorney, Sydney  

In 1888 Schulze was still involved in the erection of the Hawkesbury River rail bridge (Figs 21 & 22), for The Union Bridge Company of Pennsylvania. This bridge was opened for rail traffic on 1st May 1889.

For the full story on the bridge see Bill Pippen’s marvellous book “The Hawkesbury River Railway Bridges” published by Australian Railway Historical Society. (HRRB)

Fig 21 – The almost complete Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge built by the Union Bridge Company – ARHS – Photo by Henry King #1050

His wife gave birth to a daughter on Dangar Island on 10th July 1888. -SMH 21st July 1888

So, he was a busy man if he was also involved in the Gladstone and Katoomba installations.

Carl was married to Helene Forsyth in 1885, and Archie was born in 1886 in Ryde.

We know that he moved to Katoomba to supervise the erection of the Ropeway for North, because his 2-year-old son Archie was buried in Katoomba Cemetery after succumbing to “mesentric glandular disease” possibly Tuberculosis, on 6th April 1889. (Fig 23). The Hawkesbury River Bridge was opened 25 days later, to which Schulze was invited but not confirmed to be present.

Sands Directories:

1885 Schulze Oscar, consulting engineer 331 George St. (Gladstone Mine being built)

1886,1887 Schulze Oscar civil engineer 313 Kent St.

1888 Not listed. Living in Katoomba?

1889 Not listed. Letter about arrears of rates Hunters Hill Council.

1890 Not listed

1891 Not listed

1892 Schulze Oscar William St Hunter’s Hill

1893 Schulze Oscar Dick St Hunter’s Hill

Fig 22 – This photo was taken during the strengthening of the spans. The worker is tightening a pair of “U” bolts which relieved the stress on the pin in the joint immediately below him.

A timeline of newspaper mentions of Schulze’s involvement with the Bleichert Ropeway in Katoomba.

20th April 1888 – Schulze places ads for contractors to erect the “Tightening Station”.

6th April 1889 – Archie buried in Katoomba cemetery.

15th June 1889 – A piece of track rope is being replaced. – Nepean Times

22nd June 1889 – Lots of shale being sent up by Mr. Schulze from the mines – Katoomba Times

17th August 1889 – Mr Smith, manager for Mr Schulze at the Katoomba Shale Mine, met with an accident….  – Katoomba Times and others.

31st August 1889 – Mr Schulze has a new contract for the supply of Katoomba shale …… – Katoomba Times

7th September 1889. – Mines Stopped. – Wages cheques did not appear – Nepean Times

28th Feb 1890 -North and Schulze in Chambers before Mr Justice Foster re a Promissory note that had been repaid but not notified to the court. – SMH

March 1890 – NSWGR – Henry Deane has caissons of Hawkesbury River bridge inspected, and Union Bridge undertakes repairs that take 9 months. – HRRB

21st June 1890 – Schulze appears before City Railway Commission. – Daily Telegraph

23rd Oct 1890 – A daughter is born to Oscar’s wife on Dangar Island. (In the Hawkesbury River – where they had been living during the Bridge construction) – Australian Star

Apparently, the financial crisis besetting J. B. North commencing from March 1889, had resulted in Schulze leaving his employ after 7th September 1889, and he has gone back to Dangar Island to be involved in the repairs to the caissons.

Fig 23 – Archie Schulze’s gravestone at Katoomba Cemetery – Phil Hammon

Fig 23A – Bleichert newspaper ad.

An American ad for the Bleichert system, manufactured in USA by Trenton Iron Company. http://www.vonbleichert.eu/trenton-iron-american-wire-us-steel/ This is 9 years after the manufacture of the Katoomba System and many changes had been made. Notably the rope grips, and the transition to fully locked coil track ropes, (Fig 23B ) the two things that caused most failures in the Katoomba system.

Fig 23B – Wire rope ad.

There are no known pictures of Schulze, even though he was very active in the German community in Sydney, even printing a German Language newspaper.

On 13th August 1887 the Nepean Times reports that:-

The discovery of a seam of payable shale has induced the company to purchase the pendant railway formerly used by the Gladstone Coal-mining Company, near Wentworth Falls, and they now propose to spend

£20,000 more in fully developing the shale as well as the coal resources.

Retrieving the Ropeway from Gladstone and re-erecting it across the Jamieson Valley was no mean task in 1888.

Bush tracks were the only means of access, and bullock drays or traction engines the only means of moving heavy equipment. 

There was a rail siding at Wentworth Falls in 1886 to where the original Ropeway was delivered, and we surmise that at that time the equipment was transported in many bullock dray loads via what is now the Great Western Highway to the terminal site opposite West Street, where the unload terminal equipment and the upper span ropes were unloaded, at the site of the future siding. The balance was taken on the easiest grade route a further 2 miles to the Gladstone drive site.

Land department maps of 1896 show a thin line where today Sinclair Crescent runs, indicating a bush track. There was also a road alongside the railway line, today’s Railway Parade. It is possible that this road was used. We do not know, as it may have been obliterated when the railway was duplicated in 1902.

Short list of equipment to be moved.

80 HP steam boiler and metal chimney, possibly 5 tons.

60 HP steam engine, flywheel and 6 grooved drive sheave, two double grooved counter sheaves, possibly 6 tons. These had to be lifted with tripods and chain blocks.

The counter sheaves have survived and are presently displayed outside the Tea Rooms in the Megalong Valley, after they were recovered from their subsequent use as turn wheels on the Glen Shale Mine tramway. (Fig 24)

24: The Bleichert Counter wheels in Megalong -Philip Hammon

These double grooved sheaves are designed to be assembled on site, as the hubs are split and clamped on to the shaft with shrink rings. The hubs are keyed to the shaft. For a full explanation go to

The tower fittings consisting of rope saddles, tower caps, haul rope rollers, right angle brackets and, depending on the tower design, 2″ square iron bars with a single wheel fitted to each end. See Fig 22 picture of the top of Tower 45 and Fig 23. These would all have to be recovered by hand once the ropes were recovered.

The Bleichert Aerial Ropeways of Wentworth Falls and Katoomba.

These Bleichert nameplates were on every bucket.

Between 1880 and 1883 Robert Henry Reynolds, a land developer and general wheeler-dealer from Sydney, purchased under Mining Conditional Purchase (M.C.P.) several lots of land near Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia, underneath which he believed was mineable coal, and which he hoped could be subdivided and sold to become building blocks. By 1885 he had secured the land and he and 6 others put together a syndicate to open up the “Lower Coal Seam” between Leura and Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales to be known as the Gladstone Colliery.

Land was obtained under “Mining Conditional Purchase” for £20 an acre, requiring an outlay of £2 an acre as a deposit, the balance being payable in two years, or the land being forfeited if no improvements had been undertaken within this period. With the purchase of the land went a Mining Right to any minerals found therein except gold. Often, as in this case, the purchase money was borrowed against the security of the land, a strange arrangement to our eyes, as the land was subject to forfeit!

Reynolds with his eye on saleable land, bought Por 97, which is 50 acres at the tip of today’s Sublime Point, then two adjacent 80-acre portions, Por 90 in Oct 1880, Por 89 in Feb 1881, and a 40-acre portion 91 in Feb 1881, and a 40-acre Por 88 in April which was later extended southward to include another 12 acres. The most important as far as Gladstone Colliery was concerned was Por 159 and 153 in April 1883, which gave him access for the pendant tramway the design of which was, by this time, well under way. The mine was to extend under Por 88 and 89 heading Northward under Isobel Bowden ridge.

Conveniently, the connecting block of land between Reynold’s land and the railway siding, was owned by Campbell Mitchell, [born 1831 and died in 1883] Por 67 C Mitchell 20.3.0 C786 .1507 (Grant No. 6 in 1878) See Fig B.

An acquaintance of both North and Reynolds, he was the son of Sir Thomas Mitchell, the road constructor of 1832. Some arrangement must have been made before his death for this access, as there is no indication of a lease across his land for the Ropeway. But it is highly likely that Reynolds finished with a route for his ropeway through Pors. 159,153,174,157 and Campbell Mitchell’s Por.67.

Note: Relative monetary values. 

£20 in 1883 equates to the following in 2017: –

Real price using inflation – $2,282

Labour Value using average weekly earnings – $16,920

Economy Share using the proportion of population who had that sort of money $170,660.

Current value of land in that area (2018) for building is $2M an acre.

Reynolds purchases:

Por 90     Oct 14th, 1880   80 acres

Por 89     Feb 17th, 1881    80 acres

Por 97     June 15th, 1881  50 acres

Por 88     April 21st, 1881 40 acres

Por 153    April 5th, 1883  40 acres

Por 159    April 12th, 1883 40 acres

Por 174, 175 (15 acres each) and Por 157 of 20 acres were on the ropeway line but the Lands Dept map is a later date and does not show the original purchaser.

Total land purchased 380 acres, cost £7,600, deposit £760 – Today’s value $6.5M. So, he was investing serious money.

The original investors and office holders in the Gladstone Coal Company Limited (GCCL)were: –

Robert Henry Reynolds – 2.5% -Begg St. Paddington

Ernest Farish Stephen – 16% -Abbotsford, Albermarle St, Newtown. (son of Lieutenant Governor Sir Alfred Stephen C.B, K.C.M.G, M.L.C.)

Matthew Henry Stephen Q.C. (Chairman of Gladstone Coal Company Limited )-5.5% – Barrister 103/110 Elizabeth St, Glenayr, Glenmore Road, Paddington.

Dr Rudolph Schutte, M.D. L.S.A. – 12.5% – 16/10 College St Sydney

Francis E Rogers – 7.5% -Barrister 105 Elizabeth St.

Frank Senior J.P. – 47/51 Phillip St Sydney

J F Holle – Rockley House Elizabeth Bay Road. Tailor 285 George ST.

Louis Cohen – 9.5% -auctioneer,93/125 Pitt St., Eurella, Queen St. Woollahra. – he auctioned the land parcels on the opening day. See Fig A.

James Milson – 7% – Willoughby St. St. Ives.

G R Stephens – G R Stevens who were shipping agents.

Alderman Joshua Jeremiah Farr – (Managing Director of GCCL) builder, George St Redfern.

H W Callen – picture frame maker 410/420 George St. Sydney

Adolphus Rogalsky – 4.4% -Glebe Road, Glebe.

Charles Bate – 7.3% -property agent, Old South Head Rd. Woollahra. He put his 500 shares up for sale on 20th May 1885.

E F Ickerson (legal manager)- not listed in Sands although a prominent lawyer. – Solicitor Mutual Fire Chambers 86 Pitt St. On 15th April 1887 he defended Oscar Schulze in his attempt to recover money from GCCL. He was the official liquidator of GCCL in July 1887.

Mr Pile (vice chairman)

Details from Sands Directory

  • J. B. North was listed in 1883 as stock and share broker 105/139 Pitt St.
  • Frederick Hammon, my G. Grandfather was listed in 1883 as watchmaker and jeweller, 130/138 King St.
  • Benjamin Backhouse who bought Por 68, Por 72 and Por 92 and with Campbell Mitchell Por 71, was a well-known architect of 263 George St Sydney. Backhouse was the Chairman of the “City Improvement Board”.

The Maitland Mercury of 16th July 1885 reports that the company was prepared to deliver coal to Redfern Station for 11/3 per ton.

Fig A

This Real Estate brochure has been supplied by Brian Fox. Rosebery and Bate Streets still exist, Alfred St is now West Street. All the blocks in Sec 1 and Sec 2 were never developed, Sec 3 was re-subdivided, as the modern blocks do not match. The site of the steam Sawmill is now a dirt car park for bushwalkers. Note the addition of a railway station to serve the “Township” and a path on the left “Track from the Coal Mine” See Por 67 and 68 in Fig 1 below.

This map raises an interesting question. The ropeway would have passed through lots 11,12,27 and 28, making them a little difficult to sell.

Also access for the ropeway across the Bathurst Road would have to be dealt with via an easement. The terminal of the ropeway had to include bins for storing coal and delivering it to the railway trucks on the siding underneath. This had to be on Railway property, and also dealt with through some lease or easement. I have not been able to find any documentation to support this. On 21st June 1884 the Daily Telegraph reports that Reynolds and Cohen approached the Minister for Works to plead for a siding to serve their ropeway. The minister replied that they should pay for it themselves, but that he would look further into the matter.  The Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Mail printed a similar but more detailed report, which illustrated Mr Cohen’s ability to bend the truth to his own advantage when quoting financial figures.  On the 25th June the Newcastle Morning Herald enters the debate as to who should be paying for infrastructure which rewards the investor but not the Government.

Fig B. Map care of Brian Fox.

Fig 1. NSW Lands Registry Services.

Unfortunately, this mine had a very short life and not much is known of its operations, the Government inspectors only reporting six monthly, the first report in June of 1885 saying it was being constructed, the next in November that it had closed, but the first report did mention the Tramway and that it was being installed by one Oscar Schulze C.E. (Consulting Engineer) and Carl Wagermann.

Usually referred to as “Captain Wagermann” he came to Australia as a representative of various firms in Germany for the Melbourne Exhibition of March 1881. He and Schulze became the “patentees” for Bleichert Ropeways in Australia. He appears in Victorian Newspapers as being involved in various mining ventures in Victoria.

Newspaper reports of the Gladstone Mine opening day tell of the special train laid on, the banquet and toasts in a specially erected tent, and the huge expectations of riches to flow both from the coal and the land sales of the surrounding MCP land. Mention was also made of the miles of “rails” lying on the ground ready for installation of the railway to transport the coal.  Not surprisingly the journalist of the day was unfamiliar with Pendant Tramways and had never seen track rope sections before, so he fell back on calling them “rails”.

As the coal mine was 200 meters below the level of the railway line on the escarpment and distant 2 miles, a Bleichert Pendant Tramway was commissioned to carry the coal from the mine to the railway siding. For the descent from the ridgetop to the mine level, a convenient gully was utilized which kept the gradient of the Tramway to an average 21 Degrees.

As the mine was, and still is, surrounded by rainforest, on a steep talus slope at the foot of 100 metre cliffs, we know very little of the tramway terminus, other than the newspaper reference that the tramway buckets were brought in pairs from the mine on special trolleys, pushed under the transport rail, where the carriers were hooked on, then as the carrier was pushed further along the rail the track sloped down and the bucket and carrier were lifted off the trolley. (Fig 1A). The carrier was then pushed around to where it could be clipped onto the haulage rope and transported to the top of the gorge.

This system did have the advantage of not having to tip the coal, with the provisions of hoppers and chutes which all would have taken up valuable space on the steep talus slope, but had the disadvantage of the lip of the bucket being 3′ 6″ high, so the seam being worked had to be at least 4′ 6″ to allow shoveling of the coal into the buckets by the miners.

An excursion in 2017 found the following:

There are two tunnels, about 30 metres deep, the larger on the left and the smaller ventilation on the right, both tunneling in a Northerly under Elizabeth Bowden Ridge. This direction is not surprising, as the adits are near the Southern Boundary of Por 159 of Reynolds’ land.

Fig 1A. Picture from Bleichert Tramways by William Hewitt.

Fig 2 – Phil Foster. Gladstone Colliery Main adit. The blocks of stone on the floor have fallen from the roof. The coal seam is the whitish layer

Fig 3. – Phil Foster. – The Gladstone ventilation adit.

There is a large leveled area in front of the tunnels which extends about 20M to the West. This is apparently the holding area for empties and bucket trolleys.

The tramway terminus is on the Eastern side of the creek to the East of Elizabeth Bowden Ridge.  There must have been a bridge across the creek to access the terminal area at the same level as the mine adits.

We presume that the buckets on their trolleys were manually pushed across this bridge.

Fig 4 – Phil Foster – Return Pulley
Fig 5 – Phil Foster – The deep groove in the return pulley

This rope sheave (Fig 4 and 5), is lying just below the bottom station of the ropeway and is very likely to be their haulage rope return sheave, as its approximate diameter is 6′ 6″ the gauge of the ropeway. It has an oversized groove, to accommodate the “spiders” which were inserted into the rope lay, for the carrier grips to engage with.

Fig 6 – Phil Foster – A pair of 2′ gauge skip wheels commonly used in the mining industry in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere. These wheels are in the vicinity of the Gladstone Mine.

The aerial tramway had the drive on top of the cliffs, where it also changed direction by 18 Degrees to send the buckets on to the specially built railway siding on the NSWGR. The siding was at the 65 1/2-mile mark from Sydney, which is opposite today’s “West St.”, was installed in 1885, and was 813′ long. The siding was closed in 1887.

The position of the siding shown on a modern Google Map (Fig 7) is shown in Red, based on a Singleton sketch map from “Shale Railways of NSW”.  Blaxland Road is branching off at lower left, and Sinclair Crescent at very bottom right.

The NSWGR empties (8 Ton capacity S Trucks) would have been brought up the single line track from Sydney. Shunting operations then left the empties on the high end of the siding and the train would proceed on its way.

The trucks would be filled by allowing them to run under the hopper, fill, then further into the dead-end siding to await pickup.

Collection is a little more complicated, as an “up” engine (bound for Sydney), would have to stop West of the siding, lock off its train, then proceed into the siding and draw the trucks up until the front truck was clear of the up points. Then, lock off the trucks, uncouple, back onto the mainline, change points, forward to past the Up points, change points, back into the siding and couple to the trucks, then draw them out of the siding onto the main line, stop change points, then back up to couple to the rest of the train, then proceed up to Sydney. (Even though “up” is downhill that’s railway talk)

In a long article in SMH 13th July 1885 many details of the ropeway installation are listed. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13592813

This article mentions a “Rools” tubular boiler. A typo, as it should be “Root” boiler manufactured by Patent Boiler Company of Birmingham, in the UK. See below. This ties in with the mention of a “self-feeding Grate” which is mentioned in this advertisement. (Fig 7)

Root Boilers were manufactured by the Patent Boiler Company Heneage St Birmingham UK and were a water tube boiler.

Fig 7 – Newspaper Archive. UK.

Fig 8 – Shale Railways

Fig 8A – Google Earth

Fig 8B – The Bleichert System of Wire Rope Tramways by William Hewitt M.E. 1903 – Library of University of California.

Fig 9 – SixMaps – The route of the Gladstone Pendant Tramway 2,000 metres long.

Fig 10 – Peter von Bleichert – This is a Bleichert drawing of a similar installation at Chilecito in Chile. A boiler in the bottom RH room supplies steam to the twin cylinder steam engine n the centre room. The drive is transferred via a flat belt to the overhead shaft which turns the drive sheave via a bevel gear on its topmost face.

Fig 11 – Phil Hammon – Svalbard Norway.

Here is a similar discarded bevel gear – Fig 11 on the island of Svalbard where Bleichert supplied many ropeways, the first in 1907. 

The drive sheave (which has not survived) has 6 grooves and the two counter sheaves have two grooves each (Fig 24). In the drawing above, the track ropes are terminated at the drive, but at Gladstone they were carried through, and fitted with substantial buttresses to take the lateral forces produced by bending the drive 18 degrees.

Unfortunately, the footings for the winder are buried under the earthworks for a golfing tee. The Leura Golf Course was extended to 18 holes in 1925 through this area. Only two concrete foundations were visible in 2005. One was of a unique design, (Fig 12) being a four feet square column about 3′ high with a 2’3″ hole in the top 6″ deep closing down to a 2′ diam. hole filled with debris, which we assume was the flue for the steel tubed and guyed boiler chimney. Further works by the Fairmont Resort in 2015 resulted in the removal of this artifact.

Fig 12 – Phil Hammon – Leura Golf Course – Chimney base.

Nearby is a flat half buried concrete footing, possibly a boiler foundation.

We have had a ground penetrating radar scan done of the area (Fig 13) with zero result. Disappointing, but there has been a lot of earthmoving activity in the area since the golf club was extended to 18 holes in 1925, and the Fairmont Resort built nearby in 1988.

Fig 13:

The GPR survey did not yield any results, too much disturbance, tree roots and fill.

Water Supplies

At the bottom of the slope to the East is a dam, (Fig 13C) currently supplying water for the Leura Golf Club, but it doesn’t show on the 1943 or 1970 aerial photos of the area, so it was not built to supply the Bleichert Boiler.  Where did they get their water from? An 80 HP twin cylinder steam engine would use 2,600 Gallons working over an eight-hour day.

There is a possible dam showing in the 1943 SixMaps picture at Lat. 33:43:19.12S Long 150:21:12.1E. The telling fact is the walking track visible in the 1943 photo Fig 13B (Blue Arrow) curving around to exactly where the dam is today (Red Arrow) and continuing away to the East, angling towards the SE corner of DP751646. Apparently, the Leura Golf Course Dam was built on or near to the site of the Schulze Dam for the Gladstone Coal Mine. By the time this 1943 (Fig 15) photo was taken the Schulze Dam had been abandoned for 59 years and may be the grey blob just below the red arrow tip. On the 1969 Topographic map of Katoomba a “tank” is marked on the site of the Gladstone engine. It could mean the concrete chimney footing (Fig 12) as an abandoned GI tank is not likely to have lasted 85 years.

Fig 14: – SixMaps – Leura Golf Course and Dam.

Fig 15: Leura Golf course in the process of being extended in 1943. – SixMaps.

Fig 16: Modern spillway on Leura Golf Course dam.

Tension Pit

Five hundred meters down line at Lat 33:43:6.94S  Long 150:21:14.55E is a concrete tension pit, 24 ft. long 6 ft. wide and 12 ft. deep. (Fig 17).

Fig 17: – Phil Hammon – Tension Pit

There are substantial foundation bolts on the Northern side, (Fig 19) indicating to me that this was the anchor point for the track ropes extending past the winder and down into the valley. The track ropes from the rail siding end were tensioned here and fixed at the siding end. When the ropeway was moved to Katoomba a Tension Pit of similar size was built there to contain 4 weight boxes so why this pit is 24ft long when it only had to accommodate two weight boxes instead of four, I don’t know. The weight boxes were approx. 5’ square. They may have contained these 56-pound weights, cast iron filled with lead (Fig 18).

We found this one at the Northern Terminal of the Ruin Castle Ropeway, where it had been used to weigh the incoming buckets.

Fig 18: Tension Pit weight. – Phil Hammon.

Fig 19: – Hold down bolts for the track rope anchor timbers at the tension pit.

Tension pit equipment:

         In the pit were two hanging cradles designed to hold the 40 cast iron weights, 1/2 cwt. each, (56 pounds or 25 kg) we are still doing the reverse engineering on the Jamison installation to calculate how much mass was needed to tension the track ropes. The mine end of the Gladstone installation would not have needed much mass, but the tension station between the drive and the unload station would need much more.

Nearby is a tree stump, (Fig 20) cut at an angle with a saw, in quite good condition. It is very possible that this is an original stump from 1883, its survival being due to the smooth upper surface shedding water, photos taken 5/12/11. Checked with Bushfire Brigade, they have no record of fires going through the area.

Fig 20: Surviving stump. – Phil Hammon.

Where the NSWGR railway siding was, for many years, a large lump of concrete lay beside the highway, from the siding terminus, but disappeared when widening works were undertaken on the road.

A few hundred metres to the West of the unload terminal in 1885 was a level crossing. The Western Road deviation constructed by Thomas Mitchell from Wentworth Falls to this level crossing circa 1832 on the Southern side of the railway line, passed under the tramway ropes beside the hoppers, yet in the contemporary correspondence of the time there has not survived any account of this unfamiliar sight!

A small 100 metre section of this road remains, at the rear of Kedumba Park as it turns to cross the railway line at the level crossing.

The Gladstone Colliery closed after shipping only 745 tons of coal up to the railway siding with the Pendant Tramway, the work of about 5 days. The figure of 745 tons comes from NSWGR records of shipments out of the Gladstone Siding.

The return sheave from the siding end of the ropeway is now outside the Glen Shale Mine in the Megalong Valley 5 miles away. (Fig 34)

We do know that John Britty North was operating the Katoomba Coal and Shale Company in 1888 and had been looking for a way of developing his Oil Shale deposits 2 miles from his coal mine across a 600-foot-deep forested Jamison valley. His exploratory mine at the Ruined Castle was reported closed in the Evening News of 3rd Sept 1885 as he waited. He did have a report from consultants suggesting that Aerial Tramways were a feasible solution to this problem, and as some of his MCP land was bought in partnership with Robert Henry Reynolds in the late 1870’s, he was well aware of the existence of the Gladstone Ropeway, and of its availability, and he was a guest at the Mine Opening! At he auction sale on 22nd April 1887, under the verandah of the Supreme Court in King St Sydney, North bought the Ropeway with all its engine, boiler and plant.

Where the siding was, for many years a large lump of concrete lay beside the highway, from the siding terminus, but disappeared when widening works were undertaken on the road.

A few hundred metres to the West of the unload terminal in 1885 was a level crossing. The Western Road deviation constructed by Thomas Mitchell from Wentworth Falls to this level crossing circa 1832 on the Southern side of the railway line, passed under the tramway ropes beside the hoppers, yet in the contemporary correspondence of the time there has not survived any account of this unfamiliar sight!

A small 100 metre section of this road remains, at the rear of Kedumba Park as it turns to cross the railway line at the level crossing.

The Gladstone Colliery closed after shipping only 745 tons of coal up to the railway siding with the Pendant Tramway, the work of about 5 days. The figure of 745 tons comes from NSWGR records of shipments out of the Gladstone Siding.

The return sheave from the siding end of the ropeway is now outside the Glen Shale Mine in the Megalong Valley 5 miles away. (Fig 34)

We do know that John Britty North was operating the Katoomba Coal and Shale Company in 1888 and had been looking for a way of developing his Oil Shale deposits 2 miles from his coal mine across a 600-foot-deep forested Jamison valley. His exploratory mine at the Ruined Castle was reported closed in the Evening News of 3rd Sept 1885 as he waited. He did have a report from consultants suggesting that Aerial Tramways were a feasible solution to this problem, and as some of his MCP land was bought in partnership with Robert Henry Reynolds in the late 1870’s, he was well aware of the existence of the Gladstone Ropeway, and of its availability, and he was a guest at the Mine Opening! At he auction sale on 22nd April 1887, under the verandah of the Supreme Court in King St Sydney, North bought the Ropeway with all its engine, boiler and plant.

This where the stories of the two ropeways cross. Gladstone closed and North bought all the plant and equipment from Oscar Schulze, who had finished up owning it after court action. See below:

Oscar Schulze, meanwhile, was in the midst of trying to recover £3,400 from the owners of the Gladstone Colliery through the courts for the Bleichert Ropeway that he had installed. He had been paid £4,150 for the plant and materials but had not been paid the balance because of the work had not “being completed” to the satisfaction of the defendant. Schulze lost the case and was denied any further funds. I’m sure he was more than happy to have North make an offer for the hardware, and for him to retrieve, re-engineer and reinstall the Ropeway.

It seems that Schulze had borrowed money from the mining supply company, Rabone Feez to pay Adolf Bleichert for the ropeway, so the purchase price supplied by North went to Rabone Feez and Schulze was happy to have a job.

SMH 15th April 1887

Top of Form

REYNOLDS AND OTHERS AGAINST SCHULZE OSCAR

ON FRIDAY, the twenty-second day of April 1887

at noon, unless the Writ of Fieri Facias herein be previously

satisfied, the Sheriff will cause to be sold by public auction

under the verandah of the Supreme Court, King Street Sydney

the Pendent Railway connecting the Gladstone Coal-mining

Company’s Mine with the Great Western Railway near Went-

worth Falls, together with engine, boiler, and plant in connection

with the said Pendant Railway.  

Terms, cash.

CHARLES COWPER

E.F. Ickerson, Defendant’s Attorney, Sydney  

In 1888 Schulze was still involved in the erection of the Hawkesbury River rail bridge (Figs 21 & 22), for The Union Bridge Company of Pennsylvania. This bridge was opened for rail traffic on 1st May 1889.

For the full story on the bridge see Bill Pippen’s marvellous book “The Hawkesbury River Railway Bridges” published by Australian Railway Historical Society. (HRRB)

Oscar Schulze C.E.

Oscar arrived in Sydney on 1st Sept. 1879 aged 31 from the USA. He was immediately involved in the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, (1-8-79 to 30-9-79) as a representative of several German firms. It was noted “he speaks good English and is very courteous”. In Melbourne in April the following year, he was joined by Captain Wagemann, of Melbourne, as agents for many machinery firms, this time including Adolf Bleichert of Leipzig. An operating ropeway was erected out the back of the German Court viz. “ One of the latest novelties is an aerial line of railway, erected in the open air, by the Lake, at the back of the German court, central annexe.” By this time Wagemann and Schulze were “patentees” for the aerial ropeway. This “sample” ropeway was soon reused to transport soil across the Yarra River to create approaches for a bridge. Some of this equipment was then reused at Wentworth Falls and Katoomba resulting in premature failures.

Oscar was an accomplished pianist and performed at social functions on Dangar Island during the Hawkesbury River Bridge erection.” – HRRB

 

The Bleichert Counter Wheels

by Philip Hammon

This web page is to compliment the blade sign installed at the turn wheels opposite the Megalong Valley Tea Rooms.

These wheels were rescued from scrap dealers determined to smash them up, by Keith Duncan, the original owner of the Megalong Valley Tea Rooms and mounted opposite the Tea Rooms in 1985.

 

The Wheel display and sign

These wheels which were manufactured in Leipzig Germany about 1882, are made so that the shaft and wheel can be assembled on site, because of the obvious difficulties of transporting such an awkward shape, and being made of cast iron, easily damaged by rough handling.
The casting of these iron counterwheels had inherent problems.The 8 spokes are pre-made and cast into the wheel when the rim and the hub are cast.The hub is cast in two halves, to avoid the problem of breaking of the hub as the casting cools and shrinks.The shrink rings are then installed to hold the two halves of the hub together. The spacers are carefully sized so as not to pull the hub in too much and tear it away from the spokes, and not too little so that the spokes are not tight. If they are loose, the spokes will move in the casting as the wheel rotates, and ultimately cause failure.The internal diameter of the shrink rings are machined to be .002” smaller than the OD on each side of the hub, then heated to red heat, placed in position and allowed to cool, pulling the hub tight onto the spacers, and making the whole wheel a single entity.

Shrink Rings on Turnwheel Hubs

Shrink Rings on Turnwheel Hubs

The whole wheel is then mounted on a lathe or a vertical borer, and the internal bore of the hub machined to give a quite loose,  3/32”  clearance of the shaft. You can see how the inside of the spacers have been machined to match the hub inner diameter
Spacer close-up
The key is the next important point. It is a 1:100 tapered key, and is what tightens the hub onto the shaft. The wheel is pushed onto the shaft, and then the key is driven into the tapered slot in the hub until it cannot be driven any further. This key has a head to enable it to be driven, and as such is called a “Gib Key”. This slot was probably filed by hand. Some additional key length is provided, in case of loosening, whereupon it can be driven in further still.  As these are idler wheels, this type of key is sufficient. The friction grip of the hub and the key on the shaft only had to overcome the friction of the two steel to steel bearings.  Driving of the key pulls the hub slightly off centre and tightens it on the hub.

 

offset hub

The gap between the hub and the shaft made as the taper key is driven into the hub can be clearly seen.

You can see the 3/32” gap where the key has taken up the clearance of the hub.

 These wheels were made in 1882 for a ropeway to haul coal from the Gladstone Colliery situated between Leura and Wentworth Falls to a rail siding. When installed in the Gladstone drive, these wheels were mounted long shaft down and served as counter-wheels.  The haulage rope came into the drive or “Bull” wheel, did a half turn, then transferred to the top groove of the counter-wheel, half turn, then the middle groove of the Bull wheel, then the bottom groove of the counterwheel, then the bottom groove of the Bull wheel, then back to the ropeway. There was a double drive at this point on the Gladstone ropeway so two counter wheels were needed.

Chilecito Rop[eway Chile

The basic layout, with the central drive wheel, and a counter wheel mounted on each side.

This is an illustration from the Chilecito Ropeway in Chile, and is a much later period that the 1883 Gladstone ropeway, circa 1900, but the double drive principle is the same. Thanks to Peter von Bleichert, I have lifted this drawing from his book on Bleichert Ropeways, available through Amazon.

 

  Turnwheel groove profile

 

The wheels were “surge wheels, designed to allow the rope to “surge” or creep up the sloping flange on the outside as it transferred from the drive wheel to the counter wheel. The distance from the tip of the flange to the centre of the rope groove is 5”, this tells us that the grooves in the drive sheave were 5” apart.

In 1889, the entire ropeway was moved to the Katoomba Colliery, to use it to bring Oil Shale 2 ½ miles from the Ruined Castle mines, to be transferred to an over-rope tramway which took it to the rail siding at Katoomba. ( Over-rope means that the haulage rope is on the top of the skips, some flat installations had the haul rope underneath the skips. If under-rope is used where there are up and down hills the rope can lift the skips off the rails at the bottom of the hill ). In this application only one counter wheel was required. The drive lasted six months before a track rope failure caused it to be abandoned. There is a light rope groove in the centre of the upper groove of the LH wheel in the picture above, indicating that this wheel was used for that purpose.
 Map of Tramway

In 1891 the two counter wheels were moved to the Megalong Valley to become turn wheels on the over rope tramway bringing Oil Shale from the Glen Shale mines to the foot of the Katoomba Incline.The tramway turned 53 degrees to the SW at this point.The same drive was now used without a counter wheel as the load was considerably less than originally designed for at Gladstone, and a single tensioning wheel was used instead.

Tramway crossing Cascade Creek

Tramway crossing Cascade Creek

Here is the over-rope tramway on the Jamison Valley side of Narrow Neck.The tracks were 2 foot gauge and 2 feet apart.The skip in the foreground is an empty returning to the mine travelling towards the photographer.It was the custom of English sourced miners to run their tramways keeping to the left, but the original, ropeway, being designed in Germany, kept the buckets to the right
 Sketch of Turnwheel arrangement 

In Megalong, the inbound ( to the mine ) turn wheel was mounted with long shaft down, and outbound with long shaft up, with the rims overlapping by 2’ 3” as the distance between track centres and haul rope centres was 4’, and the wheel rope diameter was 5’ 6”, the outer lip diameter being 6’ 8”Here is my sketch of the probable layout of the two wheels. The haul ropes used the bottom groove of each wheel.  The ropes were disconnected from each skip to allow it to pass through the wheel frame.*** For notes below I will refer to the wheels as they are in this diagram – upper/lower etc.***

But trouble was in store! The wheel bringing the shale away from the mine, the outbound or upper wheel, which was carrying the heavily loaded side of the tramway, had a flat section of track on the approach side, and steeply rising track toward Narrow Neck Tunnel on the departure side. Probably an upthrust rail was sited 50 metres on the uphill side both of the wheels to prevent the ropes from rising and lifting the skips off the tracks, and to keep the rope low enough for the skips to be re-hitched to it. The outbound wheel was installed upside down, with the long shaft to the top, and above the inbound wheel. This was made necessary because the wheels were too big for the job and had to overlap to maintain the 4’ track centreline separation.

Outbound wheel rope groove

 

Careful analysis of the rope grooves worh in both wheels, allow me to make the following proposals.The only rope groove on the outbound wheel is below centre of the lower groove indicating its use in the upside down position. It is a very slight groove and doesn’t photograph well.This photograph is of the rope groove in the inbound wheel and is also on the lower side of the lower groove, and here is severe, probably from the rope slipping around the wheel because of insufficient tension to turn it in its bearings, a problem created by the weight of the return skips coming down the hill approaching the wheel.

 Rope marks on shaft.

 

There are rope marks on the inbound shaft, where the rope has escaped from the groove and worked directly on the shaft, another problem caused by a slack inbound rope.

 THE REALLY BIG PROBLEM

 

The outbound wheel has moved along its shaft 2 ¼”, and the tip of the Gib Key is projecting ¾” through the hub. ( See photos and sketches below ) There is a hammer mark on the tip of the key. There is a large ½” thick washer against the shrink ring then a two bolt clamp then two spacer washers, bearing on the face of the pillow block bearing.The projection of the tip of the Gib Key out of the hub is the “key” to this whole problem. This indicates that the key was not a good fit in the tapered groove in the hub, and that when it was fitted to the shaft the tip of the key bottomed on the shoulder of the shaft and could not sufficiently tighten the hub onto the shaft.That however wasn’t an immediate problem in the wheel’s first application at Gladstone, because it was operating long shaft down and the hub was sitting on the shoulder on the shaft, apparently being tight enough to turn the shaft in the bearings.When the wheels were moved to Katoomba, the inbound  wheel gave no trouble.Once they were moved to Megalong, the fault was exposed when the outbound wheel was turned upside down to be installed.Initially it was lifted with a tripod and block and tackle, using ropes tied around the rim and/or spokes on the wheel.When it was lowered into position and the shaft end inserted into the pillow block, the end of the shaft rested on a hardwood block at the bottom of the pillow block, put there to take the vertical load on the end of the shaft.So as the shaft rested on this thrust block and the ropes were removed from the wheel, the vertical load of the weight of the wheel was, for the first time since it was assembled  7 years before, taken on the taper of the key.It did not hold and the hub slipped down, pushing the head of the Gib key against the face of the bearing block and forcing the key in and really locking it in place, as it should have been in the first place.Now the trouble really starts! As you can see in the sketch above, there is little space to spare between the lip of the sheave and the supporting timber, so a small movement downward, jams the lip of the sheave on the timber. OK, so we just need to loosen the key and push the shaft back in. Yeah, right! This is a 1:100 taper key, specifically designed not to let go, once established, something of which the resident blacksmith was unaware.

 

Hammered key

 

The solution was firstly to cut off the head of the key, probably with a hammer and chisel, then try hammering the back end of the key to try to loosen the key and hence the hub on the shaft then push the shaft back.*The fact that the key is sticking through the hub, tells us that it wasn’t tight in the first place, and that it had bottomed on the shoulder in the shaft. Normally when this happens the key is withdrawn, and a replacement key is used.*They didn’t give the 1:100 taper on the Gib Key enough respect, because neither the key nor the hub would move, so with the rim of the wheel resting on the cross timber, they tried to sledge hammer the shaft back into the hub.

 

Hammered shaft

 

All they succeeded in doing was mushrooming the end of the shaft, and breaking the rim of the wheel. In the ropeway configuration,  this end of the shaft was at the bottom end, and was mounted in a thrust bearing to take the weight of the wheel.

 

Repaired rim

 

The rim was readily repaired by riveting the piece back in with a reinforcing strip on the outside, but the old thrust bearing end of the shaft had been ruined. There are no marks on the shaft to indicate how a replacement bearing was used on the upper shaft, so it remains a mystery. Possibly just a hardwood block was bolted over it, as a pillow block like the one in the photos below, could no longer be fitted to the shaft because of the mushrooming.

 Sketch of original hub setout

This is the original arrangement of the inbound ( lower ) hub on the shaft; with the tip of the key correctly positioned just clear of the shoulder on the shaft.

On the outbound ( upper ) wheel, the tip of the key was touching the shoulder, and hence was not fully tight.

Sketch of modified hub arrangement

 

This was the solution that the miners came up with after the wheel had slipped down the shaft. They inserted a spacer, then a clamp ring holding two hardwood thrust blocks in place against two more washers bearing on the face of the pillow block. The clamp ring could be removed to replace the thrust block if needed.

Clamp Ring on Turnwheel B

Clamp Ring on Turnwheel B

 IMG_4449

 

There seems to be no lubrication facility on the lower plain bearing, maybe they just poured oil over everything. Remembering that oil in 1890 wasn’t what we know today.The shaft is too rusted in to determine the state of wear of the bearing. You must have been able to hear them squeak a mile away!This is the steel/steel plain bearing. The turning centre can still be seen in the end of the shaft.The distance that the wheel slipped down on the shaft is the same as the distance that the shaft has retreated inside the pillow block. There is a 1/8” gap between the shaft and the block on this side of the bearing indicating how much it has been worn.

 

 

How far the wheel slipped

Some further notes on the Gladstone Ropeway.

Counter wheels are used for an aerial ropeway drive when the bull or driving wheel requires more than one half turn of the haulage rope to provide enough friction to drive the load. The rope passes a half turn around the bull wheel then a half turn around the counter wheel, then the bull wheel again, until all the grooves are used. These counter wheels have two grooves so it is assumed that the bull wheel had three grooves. Although the drawing above is from 1902 design, 15 years after the Gladstone ropeway was designed, and many improvements had been made, the Gladstone drive was still in the centre of the ropeway, determined by the geography of the ropeway. This meant that the bull wheel had 6 grooves, 3 for the haulage out of the valley, and three for the transport to the railway siding. One counterwheel was used on each side of the bull wheel. In these early designs the counterwheel was a slightly smaller diameter than the bull wheel, to allow the rope to be fed directly onto the Bull wheel’s first groove without interfering with the counter wheel, from a rope sheave which controlled the height of the incoming and outgoing haul rope, which was critical for the clipping and unclipping of the rope grips.

There is one puzzle however, the Gladstone mine elevation is approx. 720 metres, the drive elevation 908 m, a climb of 180 metres in 600 metres, average gradient 30%, while the rail siding elevation is 928 metres, a climb of only 20 metres in 1380 metres, average gradient 1.4%.  So why a double grooved counterwheel and triple grooved bull wheel was deemed necessary for the second half of the ropeway, for such a small climb, is a mystery. One possible consideration is friction, for a run of 1380 metres, there were roughly twice as many buckets and idler wheels than the 600 meter run, and on a smaller gradient the friction component is higher. A SMH newspaper article from 1883 reporting on the opening of the Gladstone Mine, states that the haulage rope up the hill from the mine was 1 1/4″ dia. and the rope to the rail siding was 1″ dia. This information is not supported by the rope grips still remaining, which will only allow a maximum of 1″ rope.

The oversize flanges on the wheels were the early method of dealing with moving the rope from one groove to the next on the bull wheel. The lip of the upper groove was aligned 1 rope diameter above the centre line of the top bull wheel groove. The rope then slid down the flange to the bottom of the counterwheel groove, turned a half turn, then the centre flange tip was similarly lined up just below the centre line of the next bull wheel groove, so the rope could slide up out of the bottom of the groove and onto the rope groove in the bull wheel. The bull and counter wheel grooves also had to cope with the “spiders” in the ropes. The rope grips had forks which engaged with “spiders” which were steel plugs, inserted into the rope lay, and held there with pins or screws. The rope sheaves had to be large enough for these spiders to pass through without jamming, or damaging the sheaves.

These counter wheels have an overall diameter of 80″ and a groove depth of 7″, giving a rope groove diameter of 66″ or 5′ 6″.  The lower shaft is 3 1/2″ in diameter and they are 48” long with a 3” dia. shaft extension for the bottom thrust bearing.

[An interesting point about manufacturing of engineering items in this period, when worldwide standardisation of sizes, threads, nut dimensions etc. was just beginning, Bleichert chose to use “nearest metric to imperial sizes”, so what was meant to be 1” was made to 25mm, 1 ¼” – 32mm etc. for items that were made for an Imperial market such as Australia. This made for complications especially with thread pitches, so for some time Bleichert stayed with their own pitches and thread profiles. So you couldn’t buy a 1” Whitworth nut in Sydney made in England, and expect it to fit a Bleichert 1” bolt.]

By 1905 this design had been changed, and the rope grips were friction grips, and did not need the spiders, as they were very damaging to the haul rope, causing severe local bending as the spiders passed over sheaves and rollers.

When the Gladstone Colliery was abandoned in 1885, the ropeway stood unused, until J. B. North decided to use it to bring Oil Shale from the Ruin Castle Shale Mines to the Southern end of his overrope tramway, then to be transported to the GWR Rail siding at Katoomba.

The configuration of the drive was changed for the Katoomba installation, and only one counter wheel was needed, as there was only one ropeway section from the Ruin Castle Mine to the clifftop.  After the Katoomba Ropeway broke its outbye track rope in September of 1889, the drive again sat unused.

In December of 1891 a re-engineering of the drive resulted in it being used to drive an overrope tramway from Mort’s Glen Shale Mines in the Megalong Valley, to the bottom of the Katoomba Colliery incline. As this drive was a much lighter load than the ropeway, it seems that the counter wheel was  removed from the drive, and utilised with its unused twin, as turn wheels, where the tramway had to change direction 53 degrees to reach the Mort’s Glen mines, after passing through the tunnel through Narrow Neck, known as the Mount Rennie Tunnel.

There are rope grooves worn in both the grooves of the lower inbound wheel, the bottom one much deeper than the top one, and only in the bottom groove of the optbound upper wheel, which was only used for the Tramway. As Gladstone only raised approx. 1,200 tons of coal, which would have taken a few days, the rope wear on the counter wheels would have been very small. I conclude that this wheel was used in the Katoomba drive, which also only operated for 6 months in 1889 with a considerable amount of down time for repairs and alterations, but enough to make rope grooves in both wheel grooves. The Katoomba Bull Wheel and its 80 HP steam engine, boiler and chimney, have disappeared, maybe gone to a scrap yard, or maybe moved to Capertee/Glen Davis with AKO&M’s operations there.

The Mort’s Glen tramway operated for 5 years, with 23,000 tons of shale being carried in 1893, so the two wheels did much more work there.

CIMG4346

Visible on the upper rim of Wheel B, are several rope groves. I surmise that these marks were made when the haul rope for the tramway was being pulled into place. This was done either by portable steam winch, traction engine or bullock team. This was a very long rope, approximately 7,200 metres, probably 3/4″ diameter, weighing 12 tonnes, so considerable force was needed to drag it into position along the full length of the Tramway. As these wheels were positioned where the Tramway changed direction by 53 degrees, the rope tail would have to be pulled past the wheels for a considerable distance so that it could then be placed in the grooves of the wheels and then pulled along the second arm of the tramway. This may have had to be done several times, as there are multiple rope grooves in the rim, which all point in the same direction, so they were all probably done at the one time. In this picture you can see that the grooves are actually on the edge of where a large piece has been broken out of the rim of the wheel. From this we conclude that this damage was caused before the wheel was utilised in the tramway.

Sheave A also has a bent spoke, which has also broken the inner spoke support on the hub. It is difficult to imagine how this could have happened under any operating conditions, even a derailed skip, or a skip still clamped to the haul rope, would not have sufficient energy to bend this very substantial spoke. Possibly it and the adjacent broken flange are a result of scrap dealer’s sledge hammers.

 

IMG_4473

The End