Located along the Bells Line of Road, between Bell and Lithgow, approximately 133 kilometres from Sydney. Clarence was originally a railway outpost on the Main Western rail line across the Blue Mountains.
This is the site of the Heritage listed Zig Zag Railway, constructed between 1866 and 1869. Its purpose was to enable the development of coal and iron ore deposits mined in the Lithgow area and to allow the efficient transport of produce from the established farming areas beyond the Blue Mountains back to Sydney.
This amazing feat of engineering was accomplished by the Chief Engineer John Whitton, who is now known as the Father of New South Wales Railways.
Interestingly, the original scheme for the railway from Mt. Victoria was reported in the Sydney Mail newspaper in 1860 – it was proposed the main line would descend Mt York, along Cox’s original 1815 road, by a spiral with a grade of 1:75, into the Hartley Valley!
This scheme was quickly abandoned in favour of the current route of the Main Western Line along the Darling Causeway. With the steep climb over the Western flank of the Blue Mountains, and then onwards to Lithgow, the rail line then needed to overcome huge vertical distances.
The Great Zig Zag Railway at Clarence was opened on the 19th of October 1869.
The old railway dams along Dargan’s Creek were originally built to supply water for the steam trains, and many remain in the area today.
By 1908, the town’s population grew to over 5000 residents, most of these being navvies employed on the new Ten Tunnel Deviation.
The Ten Tunnels Deviation is a heritage listed 9.2 kilometre section of the Main Western Line between Newnes Junction and Zig Zag Station in Lithgow, which was constructed from 1908 to 1910, by the New South Wales Government Railways. It was built to resolve the bottleneck created by the slow shuffle it took for trains to climb up the hill. The deviation bypassed the Great Zig Zag.
It would have been an incredible sight to see horses being craned down to the workings, with hundreds of men and their families living out two winters on the icy cold ridge tops at Clarence.
Dargan’s Creek Reserve is managed by the Dargan’s Creek Reserve Trust, and is, in part, within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
The area is loved by both those who enjoy industrial rail history and those participate in adventure sports.