Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Zig Zag: Australia's shortest railway platform


Not far from Lithgow on the Main Western Line across the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, lies a tiny railway station on the SydneyTrains network you may not have noticed, even from the window of a train. You see, even if the train does make a brief 'only if requested' stop at Zig Zag Railway Station, the tiny twin platforms situated 150 km west of Sydney have room only for the rear door of the train to pull up alongside. It seems that Zig Zag Railway Station serves one clear purpose, it is the perfect stepping off point to visit Lithgow's famous Zig Zag Railway.


An arriving V-set Intercity train from Sydney slows for the tiny platform at Zig Zag Station, 2010.

A station first opened on the bottom road of the original Zig Zag Railway in 1878, shortly after the line across the Blue Mountains opened in 1869. And after the original Zig Zag Station closed in 1910, a new station opened at the present site in 1959. The new um.... station, if you can call it that, boasts state-of-the-art facilities such as a seat, a light pole and even stairs to reach what surely must be the shortest railway platform in all of Australia. But all jokes aside, Intercity services to Lithgow will stop at the tiny station if you notify the guard before boarding the train in the last door of the last carriage, and a help phone on the station platform will connect you with a SydneyTrains assistant who will arrange for the next train to stop and collect you when you're ready to leave. So what is there to see at this tiny out of the way location? When it comes to trains, plenty!

A Kandos bound block cement train passes by Zig Zag Railway Station in 2010. This train no longer runs following the closure of the Kandos Cement Works in 2011.

Zig Zag Station is situated on the Main Western Line, and continues onward to Broken Hill, Port Pirie and across the Nullabor Plain to Perth on the other side of the country. Along with transcontinental freight trains, the Main Western Line still carries a large volume of freight from the wheat fields of the Central West, and coal from three nearby collieries that also fuel two giant power stations located near Lithgow. As for the above photo of the 80 class locomotive at the head of a block cement train headed for the town of Kandos, when I took it while visiting Zig Zag Station back in September 2010, I had no idea that less than 12 months later the century-old Kandos Cement Works would close. Which just goes to show that what we view as a commonplace today, can quickly become historic tomorrow.

Another Lithgow bound Intercity train whisks by Zig Zag Station located beneath Bottom Points Station on the Zig Zag Railway, 2010.

As another Intercity V-set express train passes by the odd little station at Zig Zag, I made my way back up the path towards Bottom Points Station on the Zig Zag tourist railway. With the Main Western Line below, and the Zig Zag tourist railway climbing above on the original 1869 sandstone viaducts, it seems these two stations in the middle of the Australian bush are intrinsically linked by one thing. A love of trains. And as for the rest of the famous Zig Zag Railway? It is just one of the many locations featured in my book 30 Years Chasing Trains.


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