A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COFFEE POT TRAMWAY.

The tramway, and the railway that was eventually constructed, runs between Fassifern on the the NSW main north railway and Toronto on the shores of Lake Macquarie in NSW, Australia. The railway line under the control of NSW railways was closed to traffic in March 1990 after being in use for 99 years.

THE BEGINNING: The owners of the Toronto Hotel, (The Excelsior Land Company) wishing to attract more patrons, built the Toronto to Fassifern Tramway at a cost of 10,950-00 pounds, purchased a second-hand 0-6-0 saddle tank engine from NSWGR for 725-00 pounds and opened the tramway in March 1891 .

FARES from Toronto Pier cost 2 pence to Bowers, 3 pence to Blackalls and 4 pence to Fassifern.

DAILY SERVICE: The Railway Commissioner decided to run a daily service from Newcastle, he stated, "TORONTO SHOULD SOON BECOME THE POPULAR RESORT OF PLEASURE SEEKERS FROM ALL PARTS OF AUSTRALIA ". Eventually this service seemed to run only on demand.

The Excelsior Company ran six return trips Monday to Saturday. On Sunday the Government Railway ran two return trains from Newcastle to Toronto Pier.

HORSE DRAWN TRAM: In 1898, as an economy measure a horse drawn tramcar, No 199, on loan from NSW Tramways was substituted for the steam train during the week. This proved unsatisfactory, as the grades were too steep in places for the horse, so male passengers had to alight and push when required. The horse refused to go across the bridges at Mudd and Stony Creeks so ladies and children remained in the carriage while again the gentlemen pushed the tramcar across the bridges as the horse was walked through the creek by the driver.

Naturally the commuting businessmen found this quite unacceptable as they had worked up an unwelcome sweat by the time they had reached Fassifern Station.

Fishermen were also disadvantaged. Fish from Lake Macquarie was packed with ice into wooden boxes at Toronto Wharf, loaded onto a trolley and if the tram-loco was unavailable, the able- bodied men pushed the trolley 4 kms to Fassifern Station where the boxes of fish were loaded onto trains for Newcastle and Sydney. Speed was restricted to 15 mph between Toronto and Fassifern as the line was unfenced.

ENGINE CAPSIZE: In September 1898, Engine No 29 while travelling from Fassifern to Toronto ran into a cow on the approach to Blackalls Bridge. The engine capsized on the bridge, badly scalding the driver Percy Cornwell. The weekday service was temporally suspended.

NEW COMPANY: In attempting to improve the service the Toronto Branch line and the Hotel was leased for ten years to a new company known as the Toronto Hotel and Tramway Company. Fares increased to 6 pence first class and 4 pence second class.

THE COFFEE POT: In March 1899 this new company purchased a 0-4-0 vertical boiler engine mounted on a tram bogey. It was formerly used by Saywell's Tramway on the Rockdale to Lady Robinson Beach line (near Brighton Le Sands) and built by Hudson Bros. in 1887. A 60-seat passenger carriage was purchased at the same time. The new engine was converted and modified, retaining the vertical boiler that was now inclosed in a wooden box-like cabin. Due to its unusual appearance, it became known as "The Coffee Pot" and achieved fame far and wide .

This engine was apparently underpowered, and on many occasions problems were encountered on the slight grades, whereupon the gentlemen were asked to get out and push. Smaller carriages were later used, one being the roofed trolley that was occasionally hauled by horse. This was for the ladies and the gentlemen rode on the open trolley, which was also used to carry the boxes of fish. The tram still had to be pushed on occasions , so not only did the gentlemen at times, arrive very sweaty but now also smelling of fish.

A notice on the side of the carriage stated: "PASSENGERS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO SHOOT RABBITS OR PICK WILDFLOWERS WHILST THIS TRAM IS IN MOTION."

Another engine called "Pigmy" was purchased , but still the service continued to miss connections at Fassifern.

PUBLIC OUTCRY: By 1900, the tramway operational procedures soured the local community. Complaints progressively emerged concerning lost connections at Fassifern, poor railway maintenance, and high cost of freight and infrequent services.

During November 1900, The Secretary of the Toronto Progress Association, Mr A Reay, complained that the residents of Toronto had been placed at a disadvantage for some time by the poor service and high freight charges.

A petition of 3155 names was later submitted requesting the Government take over the line. This was supported by arguments that over the previous ten years some 300,000 people had visited Toronto by train. During 1907, 28 events at Toronto had attracted 28,000 visitors, this included 18,700 on a single day. The population of Toronto at this time was only 800 people. Although Blackalls Park and Toronto had been the destination for many Picnic Trains , up to eight trains per day on weekends , the Government ceased using the line in 1908.

Public outcry increased, the fortunes of the Toronto Hotel and Tramway Company deteriorated , as did the tram line.

The Tramway ceased to operate in March 1909. The Government steam train service commenced in August 1910 using upgraded locos and carriages.

COFFEE POT DECLINE: Thomas Howley purchased Coffee Pot during 1910 to haul coal hoppers from Glenrock Lagoon Colliery to The Junction near Newcastle. Due to restricted tunnel clearances south of Merewether Beach the wooden body had to be tapered inwards above waist level. This restricted room for the crew , so as the coal train approached the tunnels the throttle was set , the driver and fireman jumped off , the train continued through the tunnels on its own , as it came out at the other end another crew jumped on board.

Coffee Pot retired to the loco shed at The Junction and was finally cut up for scrap in 1949.

THE NEW COFFEE POT: In March 1992, two years after the closure of the Toronto - Fassifern rail service, the State Rail Authority called for expression of interest for the use of the rail corridor. A proposal to create a Greenway and cycleway within the corridor was submitted by the Toronto - Fassifern Greenway Steering Committee. Lake Macquarie City Council called for community representatives to form a committee to construct and manage the Greenway / Cycleway. State MP Jeff Hunter was chairman, two members of the Coffee Pot Steering Committee and other local citizens made up the membership. Council leased the rail corridor from State Rail Authority on behalf of the elected 355 Committee .

The Cary St. road crossing was removed late in 1992 on the understanding that it would be replaced when required. Initially the Coffee Pot proposal was rejected by the Greenway Committee, because it was intended to construct the cycleway on top of the existing rail line. This was shown to be impractical for engineering reasons , the cycleway was eventually built to the side of the line. The Greenway Committee finally accepted the Coffee Pot Proposal in principle .The Greenway Cycleway opened in 1996, the Greenway Committee was then disbanded.

TORONTO COFFEE POT TRAMWAY AND MUSEUM SOCIETY. The Coffee Pot Tramway Society was Incorporated in 1996. The Toronto Chamber of Commerce along with many residents of Toronto district wholly support the Coffee Pot project. In 1999 the Coffee Pot Society received a Federation Community Project Grant of $51,000. Rail Access Corporation called for expressions of interest and our proposal was accepted for further consideration in 1999. The Society is currently working through the accreditation process, with Rail Infrastructure Corp., Department of Transport and Lake Macquarie City Council.

HORSE DRAWN OPTION: The horse drawn option with the covered carriage has been considered, the logistics of maintaining suitable horses is beyond Coffee Pot Society resources at this stage. We would require the right people to help in attending to the horses on a daily basis and have expertise in handling them.

SELF_PROPELLED CARRIAGE: The initial option for the Society is to build a self-propelled carriage about 8 metres long, 2.4 metres wide and will seat up to 40 passengers. This will be powered with an underslung moderate size diesel engine with a hydraulic or automatic gearbox drive using four wheel drive or light truck components. Cross-bench seating can be removed to carry line maintenance materials. This powered car will be used with the Coffee Pot as a back-up and at times of total fire bans or when the loco is being serviced. This carriage will be quicker and cheaper to establish than the steam option and generate revenue for the building of the steam driven Coffee Pot.

THE COFFEE POT REPLICA: Construction of the Coffee Pot replica will also be funded by seeking further donations, grants and corporate sponsorship . The Coffee Pot Society now has a suitable boiler and engine available. A depot will be established at Fassifern , bridge testing will be done, and upgrading of the line can commence once the lease agreements are finalized. The Coffee Pot Tramway will become a major tourist attraction for Lake Macquarie. Many visitors will come by train on the main northern line and join "Coffee Pot" at Fassifern, or travel by road boarding "Coffee Pot" at Toronto or Fassifern and enjoy a leisurely run along the shores of Lake Macquarie while experiencing a mode of transport from bygone days.

Our Heritage Our Future.

Last updated 6 Mar 2003