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.