Old rail line uncovered by works near Surf House

IT has spent decades under bitumen but a former Merewether beach-front rail line reared its head again today.

Workers unearthed the old track, which appears to be part of a spurline used in the late 1800s known as the sand sidings, during works on John Parade .

A map of the Burwood Estate Railway circa 1887 shows the sidings splitting from the Beach Railway in the vicinity.

Picture: Simone De Peak

The sidings then appear to stretch from near Merewether Surf Club towards Dixon Park.

Newcastle Herald historian Mike Scanlon said the rails’ location indicated they may have been part of those sidings.

‘‘This old railway line is likely to have been part of a once extensive sand removal operation that speared off from the present Watkins Street corner,’’ Mr Scanlon said.

‘‘There were once huge dunes around the Dixon Park area which were heavily exploited.’’

Mr Scanlon said the line appeared to have fallen out of use by 1900 and seemed completely gone following the Depression.

‘‘Possibly it went back as far as 1862 when the Red Head Railway was built nearby along the coast south to remote Glenrock Lagoon,’’ he said.

University of Newcastle archivist Gionni di Gravio said the discovery site’s location indicated it may have been from the Burwood rail network.

Passers-by were split over how significant the discovery was.

Bar Beach’s Louise Ragg said she was unaware of the area’s rail history.

‘‘I think it’s exciting but I don’t think you can do much with it,’’ she said.

‘‘Maybe they could do something [to mark the old lines] like they have with the Honeysuckle foreshore.’’

New Lambton Heights’ Anthony Brodie said he believed the rail line’s long absence was warranted.

‘‘Realistically it’s a non-event,’’ Mr Brodie said.

‘‘I just hope the council doesn’t get involved and cause the redevelopment [of John Parade] to slow down for something as insignificant as this.’’

MAP: Courtesy of Light Railways magazine