Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Gatekeeper cottages

Gatekeeper Cottages around Wagga

On the previous blog post, I showed a picture of the Intercapital Daylight train crossing the Sturt Highway (Edward Street) on a bridge, and I mentioned in the comments that the bridge replaced a nasty level crossing.  Well the crossing was replaced in 1979, and as I am planning a 1970 timeframe, I have to include the crossing.

Southern Aurora crossing the Edward Street railway crossing in the early 1960s.  The gatekeepers cottage is visible on the LHS of this picture.  Photo provided by Tony McIlwain

1971 Aerial view of the Edward Street gatekeepers cottage

This level crossing was not the only level crossing that I am modelling.  But as this post is on gatekeepers cottages, I will limit this discussion to those with gatekeeper cottages

Docker Street level crossing.  It is 2 tracks, although the rear track is purely a headshunt.  The gatekeepers cottage is no longer needed for the Automatic boom gates.  Picture taken in the 1980s.
Docker Street gatekeepers cottage - 1971 aerial view
Another angle of the Docker Street cottage

 Docker Street.  The manual gates were replaced by automatic lights, bells, and booms prior to 1959.  The cottage still exists, although it was “modernised” almost 20 years ago

-          Bomen.  Unfortunately, this cottage was demolished in 1962

-          Edward Street.  The manual gates were replaced by automatic lights, and bells in October 1959, but the gatekeepers cottage remained until sometime after 1971 before being demolished

Best Street gatekeepers cottage - around 2004. Cottage unoccupied, but in quite good condition. Picture taken from the Best Street bridge

By 2018, the trees had grown, and the cottage is in a sorry state of disrepair.  Vandals had lit a fire inside, partially gutting it, and the most likely outcome is that the cottage will be demolished
The rear of the cottage is not inviting any visitors


  Best Street.  This crossing was replaced by the Best street bridge in 1925.  The gatekeepers cottage still exists – although it is currently heavily vandalised

3829 heads towards Albury in the early 1960s.  The Urana Street gatekeepers cottage is on the right of the picture. Note  the gate on the LHS, and the post-and rail fencing. Thanks to Tony McIwain for the photo

1971 Aerial view of Urana Street cottage.  The gates had been replaced by Bells, and lights

   Urana Street.  This level crossing was modernised with lights, and bells prior to 1970, and remained until Wagga City Council reworked Urana Street with a new overbridge in the 1970s, and the cottage was demolished.

Finding pictures of the missing cottages has been a challenge.  Last year,  I won on ebay a number of cattle wagon kits from Tony McIwain.  After I mentioned that I am looking at modelling Wagga’s stockyards, Tony informed me that he had been a student at Wagga’s Teacher’s college in the early 1960s, and had a few pictures that I might find interesting.  These images have proven of great interest, and I am indebted to Tony for the images, and the insights on NSW Railways in general

A year ago, I purchased a gatekeepers cottage kit from the Stuart Walker’s range of laser cut buildings.  I was hoping that this kit would be a close facsimile to the gatekeeper cottages at Wagga.  Well, as to prove Sod’s law, none of the cottages are close to the kit.  Tony’s pictures of the Edward Street cottage seems to show a weatherboard building.  Whilst Tony's image of the Urana Street is also indistinct, access to the 1971 aerial view (courtesy of Wagga Council Intramaps) shows the  cottage at Urana Street, and Docker street look essentially the same.    As I do have some images of  Docker Street, Urana street will be built to the same design.    Wagga Council Intramaps also show the shape and size of the Edward Street cottage.   I don’t have plans for any of these, so I will be checking out a lot of books for photos of similar cottages.  Best Street’s cottage offers the best (pun intended) opportunity for an accurate model.  Peter, from the Wagga Railway Historical group provided me with plans for the Best Street cottage, and I have more pictures than I have shown here

No discussion of the gatekeepers cottages would be complete without reference to the gates.  Well, last week, a couple of pictures were given to me by Max B, showing the Edward Street crossing with manual boom gates.  These gates were controlled by a signal box.  Whilst I do not have any interior views, the gatekeeper would receive bell codes from trains departing Wagga, and Bomen.  The gatekeeper would then work the gates, and clear the signals protecting the crossing.  

Two views of the Edward Street crossing, taken in the 1950s, possibly 1959, but I am guessing by the design of the cars.  The signal box was removed in 1959, although the relay hut visible on the LHS of the picture, lasted until the crossing was abolished in the 1979.

The manual crossing was abolished 27/10/1959, and replaced with automatic lights, and bells.  In the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser on the 31/10/1959, had an article describing the experience of a Train driver, John Weisback, who was driving his engine to and from Bomen on the 29th.  His comments were that the new bells and lights were dangerous.  At 9:15am, he narrowly missed a car by 3 foot, and at 4:15pm, taking the engine back, a young boy on a pushbike rode straight through, and only missed the engine by a few seconds.  He asked the question why were no booms installed – as they were at Illabo, Bethungra, and Docker Streets.  (These words were prophetic – not only were booms never installed in the subsequent 20 years of operation, the crossing was the site of many fatalities)
Now the article gives me a hint that there was a loco stabled at Wagga overnight.  I don’t know if it was heading to Junee for a light service, or was it heading to Bomen, to undertake the shunting at the Bomen abattoirs?  If it was the latter, when did this stop?  I know that the Meatworks siding was shunted by mainline trains in the 1980s.  If there was a local shunter in around 1970 time period, that would add much to an operation session.

Research is often frustrating, but ultimately rewarding.


  1. I'd agree with the frustrating bit! Ultimately I just give in and say near enough, but if my next layout veers the way of proto-freelancing, than I'm afraid I could end up in the same boat as you, I only hope the rewarding bit may follow!

  2. Some more information. The Urana Street gates were replaced by Bells and lights in April 1969