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BUSHFIRE 2 DECEMBER 1997

Savage bush fires swept through the Zig Zag Reserve at Lithgow on the afternoon of Tuesday 2 December damaging rollingstock, track, and buildings of the Zig Zag Railway Co-op Ltd.

Shortly after 3pm the fire which had been burning on the north side of Lithgow moved rapidly towards Bottom Points and local Bush Fire authorities were unable to contain it. The 3pm railmotor from Clarence was terminated at Top Points and returned with its passengers to Clarence.

Shortly after 4pm high winds pushed the flames through the Bottom Points area whilst on another front fire advanced up Ida Falls Gully to Top points.

Prompt and courageous action by Zig Zag Railway staff minimised damage at Bottom Points where fires were able to be confined to accommodation vehicles and were quickly extinguished. The accommodation vehicles suffered significant damage but the prompt action allowed other vehicles and the buildings to be saved.

The fires engulfed the picnic area at Cockerton, the siding at Edgecombe, and the lookout near No.1 sandstone viaduct and then roared through the reserve to the Chifley (Bells Line) Road.

At Top Points the signalling building was completely destroyed, the railmotor platform burnt beyond repair, and a number of sleepers damaged. At No.1 Viaduct a railmotor platform and fencing were destroyed and a number of sleepers were damaged. At Edgecombe two ex South Australian brakevans, together with an ex SA carriage were destroyed, a number of freight vehicles badly damaged, and half the siding sleepers burnt. Telephone lines and plastic water supply pipes along the railway were destroyed and a number of trees fell across the track. Electric power was disrupted.

All train services were cancelled from Wednesday 3 December to Friday 5 December inclusive due to the damage and fallen trees. Fallen trees across the line were removed, and damaged sleepers replaced so that services resumed on Saturday 6 December 1997.

Almost all the reserve was affected by the fire but two years later it is amazing how much the bush has regenerated. The Zig Zag Railway is most grateful for assistance given in clearing up after the fire by the Jenolan Bush Fire Brigade and Ku-ring-gai State Emergency Service.

Since the fire the Railway has built a new signal box at Top Points, in the style of the typical NSW signal box. The water reticulation system has been replaced with a deep bore at Top Points to supply the needs of both locomotives and fire fighting. The burnt out carriages which it had been hoped to restore were replaced with a set of SX carriages from Queensland. These have since been sold. See Disposals

Short History | Lineside Guide | John Whitton | Zig Zag Railway Builders | Zig Zag Reserve | Zig Zag Railways Worldwide | Bushfire 1997 | Timeline | Bibliography

Updated 16 November 2008