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Portal of the Blue Mountains
3 Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia.
Climbing Glenbrook Gorge

Blue Mountains Australia

THE PORTAL OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

From Blue Mountains & Jenolan Caves, Harry Phillips, c1920.

THE scenic attractions of the Blue Mountains of New South Wales are world famed. Few countries possess such a wealth of scenery, grand, majestic and beautiful, and so close to the capital. The awe-inspiring canyons, the crisp and invigorating air, the numerous and beautiful waterfalls which characterise this elevated region, will long continue as one of the most interesting and valued possessions of the parent State. They are visited by tourists from all quarters of the globe, and many eminent men have paid tribute to the sublimity and grandeur of their scenery, and the remarkably pure and invigorating character of the atmosphere which enfolds them. And yet, in the metropolis, there are thousands who have never feasted their eyes upon the magnificent views in which the Mountains are so rich, or expanded their lungs with the health-giving oxygen which makes these altitudes the great National Sanitoria. Many of these people, when they need rest and change, or are in the fortunate position of being able to travel simply for pleasure, seek the wonders and the beauties of other States, regardless of the fact that within a two hours' train journey from the city they might be transported to an altogether different climate in the midst of scenes which can never fail to exercise a beneficial effect both on body and mind. This publication, by pictured representations, has endeavoured to afford some idea of this wonder region with a view, first and foremost, of increasing the popularity of our Mountain resorts, and showing other countries what Australia possesses in the way of scenery. The ever-increasing volume of tourist traffic, the rapid spread of the various popular centres of the Blue Mountains, and their ever extending area, prove conclusively that Australians, at any rate, are proud of their country's chief asset. What is now wanted is judicious advertisement, in publications such as this, to reach the millions of travellers in other lands and endeavour to divert their steps to this sunny land, with its countless and manifold attractions.

The Glenbrook Heights presented the first engineering difficulty, and a long tunnel in a steep grade of 1 in 33 was constructed. Such grades are of frequent occurrence from Emu Plains to Katoomba, necessitating the use of an extra engine, which means a large expenditure in hauling power. To cut out the discomfort of the old tunnel and to economise in power, a deviation has been made from the steep grade. The new road bears to the South, skirting the long rise at the much easier grade of 1 in 60, and thus circling the acclivity which was pierced for the first steel road. To reach the mountain side on the new line an approach had to be made over gullies that would be better described as valleys. One of these, known as "Knapsack Gully," has been bridged by a viaduct of eight arches, each of fifty feet span. This is the largest viaduct in New South Wales, but, large as it is, it is only a circumstance in a much more colossal undertaking, the cutting of the track out of solid natural masonry of the first bastion of the great barrier. The work was commenced in 1911, and in October, 1913, the double road was completed, having cost 300,000, and employed 1,200 men.

The result is that the sulphurous and smothering horror of the tunnel has been cut out, and in its place has been opened one of the grandest panoramic views to be found in Australia. Our illustration does not pretend to give any idea of the prospect spread before a traveller on a journey over this remarkable engineering feat. Photographic art has not reached the stage that would do justice to such a subject. Our pictures are presented more for the purpose of illustrating the grandeur of the cuttings.

 

Photo: Harry Phillips

Steam train climbs Glenbrook gorge, Blue Mountains.
From "Lapstone Hill" to Glenbrook the new route is perched on a shelf of rock 700 feet above the Glenbrook Valley, and over 100 feet from the top of the cuttings. For the most part, the cutting has been done on one side only, allowing a clear view of the ravine and the great bluffs to the South. On entering the first portion of the rock terrace a glorious view of the Nepean River is obtained. The river rolls in quiet strength through the lovely plains that form the footstool of the hills, and which, a hundred years ago, stood as the Eastern limit of the settlement. It is from this approach that the peculiar charm of atmosphere colouring begins to impress the visitor. Everywhere, South, East, and North, the Mountains stand rounded into billowy curves by distance, swathed in the delicate mantle of azure, now famous the world over as the most remarkable manifestation of natural phenomena in blues known to the artistic world.

The great cutting of the Glenbrook deviation is a very stupendous engineering work, but vast and awe-inspiring as it is, when seen from the valley of the Glenbrook Creek it appears to dwindle to the dimensions of a scratch on the rock face. Seen from the window of a railway car, the Glenbrook Gully makes a beautiful picture. Densely wooded, its sombre depths repose in brooding peace shadowed by the great bluffs that rise on either side. Time and steam shovels, the appalling detonation of dynamite and the crash of thousands of tons of falling rock, has not been able to dispel the dreamy languor imposed upon it when creation was. Truly it is the Gateway to the West, mysterious inscrutable, silent as the Sphinx, except for the whisper of the Westerly breezes that descend amidst its foliage from the Mountain plateau. On the deviation it has only been found necessary to tunnel 14 chains, but as the grade is only 1 in 60, or half that of the old tunnel, there is no prolonged period of darkness. Nearing the Glenbrook station, the grade is easier still, 1 in 100, and it is no longer necessary to use an auxiliary engine from Penrith. From Glenbrook to Valley Heights, the same easy grades have been maintained by detours, which increase the total length of the Mountain ascent by about four miles. After passing Valley Heights the sharper grades and shorter radius of curves still obtain, and an engine shed has been built for the pilot engines which now connect with all Western trains at that place and proceed as far as Katoomba.

The route all along the deviation is now a succession of glorious vistas which are a continual source of delight to the eye. The changes of a century have been rung, and from the adventurous journey of BlaxIand, Lawson, and Wentworth, and the subsequent labours of science, the Portals of the Blue Mountains open a fair and smooth highway that would convey an army from the interior to the litoral in a few hours, or repel, by its limited width and precipitous altitude, an invading force.

Glenbrook...

 

 
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