Blue Mountains’ Scenic Railway to undergo $30 million upgrade

Blue Mountains RailwayScenic World in the Blue Mountains has committed to a $30 million upgrade of its Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest incline railway.

Scheduled to open in December 2012, the redeveloped railway experience will include new top and bottom platforms with historical interpretation and a new rail track.

A new Swiss designed train will also be introduced to transport visitors down to the ancient rainforest floor in the Jamison Valley.

The existing train will continue to operate, building on a history of nearly 25 million passengers delivered safely to the valley floor.

Scenic World sits on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the Jamison Valley and offers a range of experiences that can be found nowhere else in the world.

These include the world’s steepest railway, a spectacular cableway, a glass-floored skyway and a boardwalk through an ancient rainforest. It’s a safe adventure for the entire family.

The Mudgee Region’s historic buildings are providing a beautiful backdrop to tourism

Gulgong Historic streetscapeThe Mudgee Region’s historic buildings are providing a beautiful backdrop to a range of new tourism businesses. De Russie Suites in the historic Mechanics Institute sets a new benchmark for contemporary luxury regional accommodation, while Down the Track Café in the heritage listed Kandos Railway Station breathes new life into a building left behind by progress.

A hand built mud-brick hut overlooking the vineyard is the perfect place for artists to draw inspiration at Rosby Artists Retreat workshops, while a range of new sellers are setting up stall at the fabulous Mudgee Farmers Markets in the grounds of St Mary’s Catholic Church, parts of which date back to 1857.

The Gulgong Pioneers Museum celebrates its 50th Birthday this year and is based in the Old Times Bakery.  The Museum is one of the best known folk museums in New South Wales and is spread over an acre in historic Gulgong. While the historic vehicles on display at the Museum are a reminder of less hurried times, visitors now enjoy even more options to get to Mudgee in just 40 minutes with Aeropelican announcing four additional flights each week from Sydney.

New Luxury Accommodation at de Russie Suites Mudgee
Newly opened and located one block from Mudgee CBD, de Russie Suites Mudgee offers 13 self contained accommodation choices including studio, spa studio, 1 bedroom, 2 & 3 bedroom interconnecting family suites and The Blue Room penthouse suite. Built within the historic 1862 Mechanics Institute, the property is a self-contained, totally non-smoking apartment suite hotel decorated in a modern style with a European influence. The suites all have luxurious king beds, flat screen TV, Austar, minibar, kitchen and some suites have a balcony, bath or spa. Complimentary light breakfast is included to start the day. Go to:

Down the Track Café
While the trains stopped running through Kandos in 2011, heritage listed Kandos Railway Station has recently been rebirthed as ‘Down the Track’, a café, wine bar, and now cinema. With a focus on Mudgee historic Buildingquality produce, including award-wining local wines, jams and chutneys, Down the Track offers friendly service, fantastic food and exquisite ice-creams from Norgen-Vaaz. Now visitors have the chance to enjoy these great delights, sat on the platform next to an open fire while enjoying movie greats on a big screen mounted ‘Across the Tracks’. The movies kick off in April and what better place to enjoy classics like Casablanca and Dr Zhivago with their unforgettable train station scenes. And if that slice of the past isn’t enough for you, take home gifts and memorabilia to remind you of your trip down the track. Go to:

Artist Retreat Workshops and Sculptures In The Garden at Rosby Wines
On the same property as Rosby Wines, with their beautiful rustic cellar-door hut, Rosby Guesthouse has opened its doors to offer Artist Retreats throughout the year. Held over two days they feature guest artists who share their secret skills in print-making, mixed media portrait drawing and more. Coming up is Printmaking with Miriam Cullen (26-27 May) and Mixed Media Portraiture with David Newman-White (3 -4 July) Visit on 13-14 October 2012 and witness the gardens of the property transformed into an outdoor gallery with the annual Sculptures In The Garden event. The Artist Retreats cost $220 for a two day course. Artists can access discount accommodation rates at the beautiful Rosby Guesthouse. Go to:

Gulgong Pioneers Museum 50th birthday
One of Australia’s best regional museums notches up its 50th birthday this year and there’s no better time to check out their impressive collections. There is a huge and intriguing range of historic vehicles, steam engines, gold mining artifacts, machines, clothing, needlework and display rooms showing the living and working conditions of Gulgong’s pioneers. The Museum is based in the historic Times Bakery and through gradual expansion now occupies almost two blocks of the town. It’s a truly impressive collection, which includes an entire building dedicated to vintage phonographs and recording machines. Further information is available from Gulgong Historical Society on (02) 6374-1513.

New Products at Mudgee Farmers Markets & Kids Cooking Classes
Mudgee Fine Foods monthly Farmers’ Market continues to surprise and delight visitors to the region providing fresh regional produce at its best, grower expertise and a fun, lively atmosphere. Recent additions to the markets include Edrom Olives, award winning free-range Farmer Brown Pastured Eggs and Kurrajong Country Meats.  Local chef’s host Kids Cooking Classes at each monthly market, with gourmet pizza king Adam Hockley from Roth’s Wine Bar sparking up the wood fired oven on 19th May. Kids will put all that Play-Doh practice into action as Chef Adam shows them how to make pizza and bread. The Markets are held on the third Saturday of every month (8.30am to 12.30pm) operating under strict Farmers Market guidelines with all produce created within an 100 mile radius of the Mudgee Region by the stallholders themselves. Cooking Classes start at 9.30am for kids aged 8-12. The Markets are held in the grounds of historic St Mary’s Catholic Church. Go to

Extra Aeropelican Flights
Aeropelican has added four extra flights per week from Sydney to Mudgee. The fastest way to get to the Region is a 40-minute flight which takes in spectacular vistas over the Blue Mountains. Wednesday and Friday will see the introduction of a mid-morning flight departing at 10.30am and Wednesday and Sundays will see complemented with a mid afternoon flight.

The Mudgee Region is a 3.5hour drive from Sydney in Central NSW or a 40-minute flight with Aeropelican. A food and wine lover’s paradise, there is also a range of arts, culture, history, and nature and wilderness experiences to be enjoyed.

Walks in the Blue Mountains

With more than one million hectares of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, the Greater Blue Mountains has heritage walking trails to suit everyone from one hour rambles to challenging hikes lasting several days.

Hiking in the Blue Mountains, the deceptively-named Six Foot Track is actually a 45 kilometre-long walk following the route of the original 1884 horse track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.

It is tough walk, crossing mountain ranges and deep valleys – but the grand prize is the range of habitats you’ll encounter in this World Heritage-listed area, which has barely changed since the Jurassic era.

The walk passes through rainforests, eucalypt forests, sheer sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, underground caves and opens grazing country. The climb down Nellies Glen will most likely leave you with rubber knees, and the whole walk takes around three days to complete.

The Echo Point to Scenic World via the Giant Stairway walk is a must do for all visitors to the Blue Mountains if you’re just here for a day or so.

The walk starts at the popular lookout and passes one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, The Three Sisters.

After descending into the valley and along the bottom of the cliffs you can catch the scenic railway back up the hill. Be warned, this is not for those with a fear of heights.

For a complete list of all the walks in the Blue Mountian region: download a copy of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Region Bushwalking guide.

Convict Sydney Exhibition

Explore the fascinating history of the World Heritage listed Hyde Park Barracks where thousands of convicts lived between 1819 and 1848.

Learn about the daily lives of convicts and how they built the colony, try on some leg-irons, lie in a convict hammock, wander the streets of 1820s Sydney on our giant map. Bring your kids for dress-ups and our convicts Kids Trail.

Convict Sydney

Exhibition on now
Hyde Park Barracks Museum

Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney
Open daily 9.30am – 5pm
T 02 8239 2311

Image: Photography @ Penelope Clay

The Greater Blue Mountains celebrates a decade of World Heritage

November 2010 marks the 10th Anniversary of the inscription of the Greater Blue Mountains on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hanging Rock in the Blue Mountains NSWTens of thousands of years of caring for the country by Aboriginal communities; the efforts of bushwalkers to save the Blue Gum Forest in the 1930’s; Myles Dunphy’s vision for a Greater Blue Mountains Park; contemporary campaigns of the Colong Foundation and other conservation groups, all lead to the inscription of the Greater Blue Mountains on the World Heritage list in November 2000 for its outstanding universal natural values.

The natural assets of this National Landscape are the core of what attracts visitors to the region, with the tourism industry working in harmony with major stakeholders including NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, Indigenous groups, conservation groups and the wider residential community to achieve sustainable outcomes.

The area represents an extraordinary story of natural antiquity, diversity, beauty and human attachment. This vast and beautiful area of upland reserves exemplifies the links between wild places and human aspirations,’ said Joan Domicelj, Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

In celebration of the anniversary, the World Heritage Exhibition Centre is now permanently open at Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens.

Booderee: World class conservation of Cultural Heritage

Australia’s own Booderee National Park on the South Coast NSW took out a global responsible tourism award in London on 10 November 2010.

Booderee won the ‘best conservation of cultural heritage’ category at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2010, competing against tourism organisations from across the world.

Environment Minister Tony Burke congratulated the park on this tremendous achievement.

Spectacular Views Booderee National ParkBooderee National Park is a 6,000 hectare living cultural centre on the stunning south coast of New South Wales.

“The park is world-renowned for its diving, exceptionally clear water and diverse marine life but its most important asset is the way the park shares Koori culture with visitors.

“Booderee offers Aboriginal-led walks looking at traditional use of local plants such as bush tucker and medicines, and school holiday activities that help people see the park’s beautiful beaches and bushland through Koori eyes.

“This award celebrates the park’s ability to deliver a distinctively South Coast Indigenous experience, as well as offering excellent camping, bushwalking, bird watching, swimming, surfing and fishing.

South Coast Aboriginal Heritage Tourism“Booderee contains the only Aboriginal-owned botanic gardens in Australia and perhaps even the world. On a trip to Booderee Botanic Gardens, visitors can explore hundreds of native plants from the local area and find out about their significance to Koori people.

“It is not only the park that benefits from an award like this. This is a chance for all Australians to tell the world what a great country we have, with so many beautiful places like Booderee for people to visit.

“Responsible tourism is the future of the industry and Booderee National Park is a superb example, combining beautiful scenery, fascinating cultural history and a range of great holiday activities.”

Booderee is proof that a partnership between government and a marginalised community can work to protect cultural heritage through long-term conservation goals. The Park’s Botanic Gardens is the only Aboriginal-owned botanic garden in existence.

The judges of the global responsible tourism award recognised the partnership for preserving the privacy of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community within the sanctuary zone, and using tourism to the National Park for securing their livelihoods.

With 430,000 visitors a year bringing in 1.2 million Australian Dollars and with 80% of the workers Indigenous and living within the park, the future plan for the community to take over sole management of the park alone is very real.”

Magic and history of Sydney’s iconic harbour islands

The magic and history of Sydney’s iconic harbour islands will be showcased during a series of events celebrating  nature and culture throughout October.

Sydney Harbour Island Hopping gave people unique access to the spectacular harbour islands of Sydney Harbour National Park via one looped tour, with tailored entertainment and experiences on each.

“People loved the idea of spending the day cruising from one island to the next,” said National Parks and Wildlife Service Head, Sally Barnes.

“For the first time this year, the Sydney Harbour Island Hopping program will include food experiences on all of the islands and a visit to the newly reopened Goat Island.”

First stop on the looped tour – which will run each Saturday and Sunday from 9 – 24 October, the experience on Goat Island will pay tribute to its colonial past, with visitors getting a taste of life in the 1830s, complete with convicts, food and music from the era.

Shark Island will be a highlight for the kids, who will enjoy becoming ‘Future Rangers’ and visiting the Kid’s Cafe, while everyone can experience Sydney Harbour’s Aboriginal heritage and sample traditional bush tucker as part of the Aboriginal cultural experience on Clark.

Sydney Harbour's Aboriginal heritage

The popular Perfect Picnic will also return in 2010 offering a fantastic way to finish the long weekend on Monday 4 October. With picnickers invited to dress to impress and prizes awarded for the best picnic spreads and costumes, Perfect Picnic is the ultimate place to spend the afternoon relaxing with friends, complete with DJ and 360 degree harbour views.

Fort Denison Sydney HarbourFort Denison will feature in this year’s program as a stand-out, stand alone lunch and dinner experience in one of the most coveted dining locations in Sydney. Looking out from the Harbour’s sandstone sentinel, diners will be treated to an Australiana menu inspired by local produce and ingredients.

Dining on Fort Denison will run each Saturday and Sunday from 9 – 24 October and will include a guided tour of the island’s historic Martello Tower (the last of its kind in Australia), ferry transfers to and from the island and a sparkling wine welcome drink on arrival.

Sydney Harbour Island Hopping is a part of Crave Sydney International Food Festival, offering 31 days of extraordinary food experiences.

Crave Sydney International Food Festival offers something for everyone – large scale food events; intimate dinners cooked by some of the world’s leading chefs; authentic food experiences across Sydney’s culturally diverse suburbs; and family and free activities on and around Sydney Harbour Bridge and islands.

Crave Sydney International Food Festival is one of five anchor events on the NSW Master Events Calendar created by Events NSW on behalf of NSW Government.

Further information and tickets are available through

The glory of steam, Pansy, the Camden tram

One of the most popular memories of the Camden area by locals and visitors alike is the Camden tram, affectionately known as ‘Pansy’.

It has always had an enthusiastic bunch of supporters. They positively drool about it and overlook its foibles. Old timers tell and retell Pansy stories to anyone who wants to listen.

Fans gloss over its short comings.  All the stories are laced with a pinch of nostalgia and a touch of the romantic. It was a vital part of local life. So why does this old locomotive conjure up such a strident bunch of supporters?

Pansy Train 1917 Camden NSWSteam engines and locomotives bring back memories  of the glory days of industrialization and the great days of Australian nationalism in the late Victorian and early 20th century. Great monstrous  engines that hissed, spat and groaned.

They were mighty machines that were living beings. They had a life and soul of their own. They were responsible for creating the wealth of the British Empire. And Pansy is part of that story.

Pansy 1915 crossing the Nepean River on its entry to Camden NSWThe Camden branch line was operated by the New South Wales Railways from 1882 to its closure in 1963.

The Camden tram was one of a number of standard gauge light rail lines in the Sydney area.  The tank locomotive worked a mixed service that took freight and passengers.

The branch line was thirteen kilometres and had eight stations after leaving Campbelltown station, where it joined the Main Southern Railway. The stations were Maryfields, Kenny Hill, Curran’s Hill, Narellan, Graham’s Hill, Kirkham, Elderslie and finally arriving at Camden.

Most of the stations were no more than a short rudimentary wooden platform with a shelter shed that were unmanned.  Others like Camden had a longer platform and an associated goods handling facility.

Pansy 1963 on its last run
Pansy 1963 on its last run

Pansy was a regular part of daily life for those who lived near the line. Locals in the Camden township would listen for the loco’s whistle and know that the morning papers had arrived from Sydney.

Legend has it that the engine driver would hold the train for regulars who were running  late for work on their way to the city, especially local lasses.

Some of Camden’s better off families sent their children to high school at Parramatta and Homebush each morning on the train. Pansy  would chug past the milk factory at  the entry to Camden township as local dairy farmers were unloading their cans of milk from their horse and dray.

Tourists from Sydney would be dropped off on Friday afternoon at Camden station to be bused to their holiday boarding houses in Burragorang Valley.
The first passenger service left Camden station left at 5.47am to connect with the Sydney service on the Main Southern Line.

On the return journey the last passenger service from Campbelltown left at 9.44pm.  During the Second World War the tram provided transport for many servicemen (Army, RAAF) who were based at local military establishments.

Airmen from Camden airfield would catch the train to Sydney for weekend leave, and would be joined by soldiers from Narellan military base and Studley Park Eastern Command Training School.

Camden station and good yards were located adjacent to Edward Street, with a siding to the Camden Vale milk factory. Coal from the Burragorang Valley mines was loaded at Camden yard from 1937, although this was transferred to Narellan in 1941 and eventually the Main Southern Line at Glenlee into the late 1950s. But even by the 1940s the limitations of the line for caring freight were showing cracks.

From its enthusiastic opening the tram never really lived up to its predictions. The mixed goods and passenger service was of limited value. Its light gauge restricted the loads and the grade of the line, particularly over Kenny Hill, severely limited its capabilities.  Even in 1939 there were already signs of the eventual demise of the branch line with more coal leaving the district by road than rail.

Its days were numbered and the writing was on the wall. Its death blow was delivered by the Heffron ALP Government in 1963 as a cost cutting exercise and a drive from modernization of the railway system across the state. Diesel was the new god.

For current enthusiasts with a keen eye there are remnants of the embankments and cuttings for the narrow gauge line still visible in the area. As visitors leave the Camden township travelling north along Camden Valley Way (old Hume Highway) embankments, culverts and earthworks are still visible in the farm paddocks on the Nepean River floodplain.

You can make out the right of way  as it crosses Kirkham Lane and heads  towards Narellan before disappearing into a housing estate. For those with a sharp eye a cutting is still  evident on the northern side of Narellan Road at Kenny Hill just as you take then entry ramp onto the freeway going to Sydney.

It appears as a bench  above the roadway and is evident for a short distance. (for details  see Peter Mylrea, ‘Camden-Campbelltown Railway’, Camden History March 2009, p. 254-263).

A number of streets in Curran’s Hill are connected to the history of Pansy. Tramway Drive is close to the route of the train and a number of other streets are named after past railway employees, for example, Paddy Miller. The Camden Community Band celebrates the legend of Pansy in their repertoire. They play a tune called The Camden Tram written by Buddy Williams a Camden resident of the 1960s.

Are you interested in seeing the real deal? Do you want to see what all the fuss is about for yourself? Go and inspect the real Pansy:  ‘the steam locomotive 2029 and a small composite multi-class carriage’. They are on display at the New South Wales Transport Museum
Barbour Rd Thirlmere NSW 2572 (02) 4681 8001

Images courtesy of the Camden Historical Society
Written by Ian Willis member of Professional Historians Association NSW.

The Camden Community Band has recently added the tune ‘The Camden Train’ to its repertoire. The lyrics tell an interesting story about Pansy, the locomotive. It was written by Camden local Buddy Williams about the time of the last run on of the train in 1963. More Details

Painting The Rocks: the loss of Old Sydney

Museum of Sydney
Saturday 7 August — Sunday 28 November, 2010

Against the backdrop of slum clearances, wharf rebuilding and debates about working-class living conditions, a group of artists set out to capture ‘Old Sydney’ before it disappeared in the city’s transition to a modern metropolis.

The first decades of the 20th century saw countless buildings from our colonial past torn down and whole streets disappear as Sydneysiders embraced the march of progress.

Rocks Sydney NSW PaintingRemarkably, in the midst of this change a conservation movement began to arise.

Giving voice to the people who worked and lived in The Rocks, this exhibition places the often romantic and sentimental 1902 artists’ paintings alongside the stark realities of government-commissioned photography, inspection reports and remodelling plans.

A joint initiative of the Historic Houses Trust and Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

Location: Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney NSW 2000
On the site of First Government House
Contact: 02 9251 5988
Admission:Adult $10, Child/Concession $5, Family $20
Members of the Historic Houses Trust free
Hours: Daily 9.30am — 5pm

At the Museum of Sydney you will meet our city’s first people, inspect models of the First Fleet ships and peer at the archaeological remains of first Government House and the intriguing objects uncovered by a number of digs on the site. Fast forward through 200 years and you will learn about the distinctiveness of this great city, its harbour, transport, people and particular personality via a changing exhibitions program.

Image credit: Clyde Street [detail], Sydney Long, c 1901. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Call no: ML 319. © Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia