Video – Mining History – West Wallsend Coal Loader

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– Hi, and welcome to another episode of UnderSugarloaf TV. Today, we are talking to John O’Donnell about the coal services in West Wallsend, and the way they used to get the coal around by train. So here we go. We’re talking to John now.

– [Jon Byrne] So we’re with John O’Donnell again, and we are here at the coal loader at West Wallsend in the area where the heritage park is being looked at from the local’s perspective to maybe get the heritage park in here. And John’s just going to explain to us once the coal was loaded on the train, the process for taking it from the coal location. So, John, could you just explain how we get the coal from here to where it’s being delivered?

– Yes. Well, the train would come in head first, train first, and he would park under the prospective bins; might have eight or 10 bins and they would all fill the wagons at once and he’d move again and expose another eight of 10 wagons and fill it up till he had a full train and he’d go up there and I’m sure they had, didn’t have a turn around. They had shunts and he’d come back down the line, the shunt would to put him back on the line again and he’d back up to the train. So he’d be facing the way the train had to go down to Cockle Creek and he’d go, he’d go off, and on his way, he’d pass the turn to Seaham No 2, that was at the bottom end of Holmesville. It used to come up, passed the rifle range, and there was a turn there. I remember the rails being there as a kid, then he’d keep going down Barnsley straight, and over the bridges there. And then there was a line came in from Killy No 1. And I remember going on that train when I was a kid with dad taking coal out of Killy No 1, and we take it down a Cockle Creek and drop the full load off. There’d be a turn there and then we’d come back and hook the train onto another probably 50 skips. Skips is at 50 wagons and repeat the process. And in those days the coal was picked up. I’m talking mid 50’s when I was a little kid, that coal was picked up by the government trains and taken into town. And I’d say that would be the same case here. Back in the 1800’s, the coal was taken down to Cockle Creek because it was a really big area there where there was lots of wagons and so forth over the time. And that’s where the coal went, and then eventually went into town on the ordinary lines or the government trains.

– [Jon Byrne] So John you also mentioned that the Sugarloaf mine basically came out by truck. There was no train line up to the Sugarloaf.

– Well Sugarloaf mine was, well originally, and I spoke about Joe Holmes’ tunnel as been formulated way back when, and the fellow that gave me the information about Sugarloaf in general was my mentor is my deputy at Sugarloaf when I was a kid Tom Whippet Bissett, he told me the story about how Sugarloaf was formulated in 1948. But he also told me that old mine, Joe Holmes’ tunnel, was put in to supply the coal to drive the steam powered machinery to sink West Wallsend No 1 and maybe No 2 and maybe, sorry, West Wallsend No 1, Seaham No 1 and maybe Seaham No 2, because it was a great Northern coal and it was steam coal wasn’t as volatile as the coal that we’re going after, which is the bore hole, which is mainly used for coking coal. But yeah, that, that old Joe Holmes’ tunnel goes back to the 1880’s. And that’s what I was initially driven for, was to supply coal for this machinery. And the name Joe Holmes is synonymous with Holmesville. So I’m saying that there could be a connection there more than likely is. The man was responsible for quite a few things around the district, good fellow apparently.

– [Jon Byrne] And the road now, that takes you up to Sugarloaf John, that’s basically where the tracks would have run for the train for the shunting?

– Up Sugarloaf?

– [Jon Byrne] The road just up here.

– The road up there towards Seaham No 1, that’s a big cleared area. That’s where the train would have gone and dropped as it pulled through it would unhook, then it would be shunted it up there and the train itself would come up and then go back onto the,

– [Jon Byrne] Onto the coal.

– Onto the coal loaded wagons. And then he’d drive off that way. He wouldn’t go up there and try and do a big circuit with a full train. He’d leave the train here once it was full and he’d disconnect, and then he’d come down the line another line next to it. And then he’d backed in on it. Remember the line that went through here, serviced Seaham No 1 as well. And I’ve had the same process going on up there and he’d have a full train coming down from Seaham No 1. I’m not sure whether both companies were affiliated. If I were that it all be working in together.

– [Jon Byrne] Lovely.

– I’m assuming they were affiliated.

– [Jon Byrne] Right.

– Because of the proximity of the train lines and whatnot. And this train line is still an open line. It’s still, it’s still registered as a train line.

– [Jon Byrne] Is that right? Yeah. Well, that’s great information, John, and I can see the importance of why they’re trying to retain the history in the area with the heritage park and that.

– Yeah.

– [Jon Byrne] And we’d encourage everyone in the local area to get behind that.

– Get Involved. Yeah.

– [Jon Byrne] Yeah. And you know, there is a Facebook page for that. So we’ll certainly put that up with the video and, you know get involved again. Thank you, John. It’s been great information and I thank you for your time.

– More than happy to help mate.

– Well, we hope you enjoyed that episode of under Sugarloaf TV. Remember if you have any news, articles, events, even charitable organisations that you would like to give some exposure to, please don’t hesitate to contact me at, or you can go directly to the website at and look for the contribute tab up in the top right hand corner. And you can add anything you like there. So this is it for now. John Byrne signing off for under Sugarloaf TV.