History in Detail
Archaeological studies indicate that the Blue Mountains were formed around one million years ago as part of the Kosciusko Uplift during the Pliocene Epoch.
Pressure from the east raised the area upwards in a monoclinal fold, reaching an elevation of around three thousand feet to the top of the Blue Mountains where Mount Victoria is today.
Naming the Blue Mountains
In 1788 the Blue Mountains were originally named "Carmarthen Hills" and "Landsdowne Hills" by Governor Phillip, however, it wasn’t long after, that the distinctive blue haze surrounding the area saw the change in name to the Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains is densely populated by oil bearing Eucalyptus trees. The atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of oil, which, in combination with dust particles and water vapour, scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in colour.
The First Blue Mountains Inhabitants
Australian Aboriginals were the first to inhabit the Blue Mountains, however, we are unable to determine how far back in history this occurred.
Evidence of the Daruk tribe who inhabited the area in ages past can be seen through Aboriginal art carved into rock. Remarkably preserved today is the ancient rock carving known as "the flight of the Great Grey Kangaroo" which is located at the foot of Hawkesbury Lookout, Hawkesbury Heights (near Winmalee).
Crossing The Blue Mountains
Due to the rough terrain and lack of resources, the Blue Mountains were seen as an impassible barrier for future exploration from the time of Captain Cook’s landing in 1770 through to 1813.
In 1813, Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth, and Lieutenant Lawson, along with four servants, four pack horses and five dogs, set off on an exploration which was to create history. On the 11th May 1813 the explorers departed from Emu Plains reaching the foothills of the Blue Mountains, or Glenbrook as it is known today.
For Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson, the trip across the Blue Mountains was a tremendous struggle. Having insufficient food for their journey, they recorded the trek required constant hacking through thick scrub and treading through "damp dew-laden undergrowth". They were also in fear of attack by Aboriginals. These factors, in combination with sickness, nearly saw the men defeated by the rugged terrain.
Eighteen days later, on the 29th May 1813, the Blue Mountains was no longer considered an impassible barrier following the discovery of the gently sloping mountains to the west.
Today, just west of Katoomba you can see the remains of a Eucalyptus tree marked by the famous explorers Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson. The Marked Tree, along with Caley’s Repulse at Lawson, are the only remaining marks of the early explorers. A cairn of stones was also placed at Linden, however, we cannot be certain if the existing cairn at Linden is the original.
A Remarkable Road
In 1814, William Cox, an extraordinary engineer, assembled a team of thirty convicts and eight guards to build a road across the Blue Mountains. William Cox was assisted by two Aboriginal men Colebee from the Darug Tribe and the Boorooerongal Clan and Joe from the Mulgoa Clan.
Starting at Emu Plains on the 18th July 1814, in just four months the team had completed a road covering a distance of 47 miles to Mount York.
In just six months, Cox had crossed the Blue Mountains with a road of one hundred and one miles all the way to Bathurst. (The Bathurst Road).
Early Blue Mountains Buildings
With William Cox having established a road across the Blue Mountains, Governor Macquarie journeyed across the Blue Mountains in 1815 naming both Springwood and Blackheath. A few years later, 1816 - 1817, the Blue Mountains saw its first building. Established by Governor Macquarie, a military post was built at Springwood to keep communications with Bathurst. This site was located on Macquarie Road between Homedale and Short Streets where a plaque has been erected. This building was the first of several military posts which were built to protect travellers. It has been recorded that posts were located at Springwood, Bull’s Camp, Woodford, Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls), Blackheath and Mount Victoria.
Blackheath saw its first building in 1831 being "The Scotch Thistle" Inn erected by Andrew Gardner which was visited by the renowned scientist Charles Darwin in 1836. The site for "The Scotch Thistle" was located slightly south of the present Gardners Inn Hotel.
Blue Mountains - Pathway to the Gold Rush
In the 1850’s gold was discovered in the Bathurst district. This discovery resulted in a lot of travellers across the Blue Mountains.
The Gold Rush attracted many Chinese people who were not so much interested in Gold as they were in selling their skills and merchandise across the Blue Mountains.
Springwood, with its pleasant climate, became the camping ground for hundreds of Chinese around this time. And while hundreds of people flocked to the gold fields, the need for better and faster transport became apparent. In the early 1860’s a survey was under-way for the Blue Mountains railway.
Suddenly the Blue Mountains experienced great change. The old horse-drawn mail coaches were no match to travellers who could now take advantage of this super new form of transport across the mountains. The first railway stations were located at Emu Plains, Blaxland, Springwood, Woodford, Lawson, Wentworth Falls and Mount Victoria adjacent to popular Inns.
On the 11th July 1867, the first official journey by train was made between Penrith and Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls) where the line terminated. The first passenger train was a G.23 Class 2-4-0 Passenger Type engine.
Another part of Blue Mountains Railway history is the origin of the "The Fish" which is still the name of one of the peak hour train services between Sydney and the Lithgow. In 1866 a 14 Class 2-2-2 Express Passenger Type No. 15 first made the businessman’s journey between Sydney and Penrith. For around fourteen years this service was regularly driven by a Mr John Heron who, being a big man, gained the nick name "The Big Fish" which eventually transferred to the train itself. The original engine pulling "The Fish" survived around 20 years.
As the Blue Mountains began to commercialise, Springwood became the Mountains commercial centre, primarily due to the "Springwood Hotel". This hotel operated in 1876 as a hotel, boarding house, newsagency, store and post office owned by Mr Frank Raymond. The Hotel was later renamed the "Oriental Hotel". The existing "Oriental Hotel" was opened in 1891 where church services were also held on occasions as there were no churches in Springwood around this time.
At the turn of the century the population of Springwood had reached around five hundred people. Springwood gained a reputation for its climate, surrounding bush and wildlife, which is still as glorious today as it was in the early 1900s.
Surprisingly enough Katoomba was little known in history until 1879 when J.B. North opened the Katoomba Coal Mine. Coal was obtained from the side of the mountain near Orphan Rock using a cable car to bring the coal to the top. The now famous Scenic Railway operates in the original cutting in the mountain side.
The first hotel in Katoomba was erected in 1882 by Mr. Harry Rowell. Known as the ‘Great Western Hotel’ this establishment attracted many visitors and tourists to the area. The hotel was sold in 1886 to Mr. F. Goyder who performed major alterations on the building and renamed it "The Carrington" after the reigning Governor.
Along the Blue Mountains railway line in 1874, there was an area where stone was quarried to provide ballast. The area was given the name of "Crushes". It was at this point trains stopped to adjust the brakes of the carriages to allow for the descent to Springwood. The name "Crushes" was changed to Katoomba in 1877.
Blue Mountains - Motor Vehicle History
In 1832 Major Mitchell built a road from Mount Victoria to Hartley to replace the dangerous grades of Bathurst Road built by William Cox. This new road made it possible to travel safely via horse-drawn vehicles. However, not foreseeing some 72 years into the future in 1904, the first motor car to travel down Victoria Pass required the assistance of a horse to be able to get back to the top. Of course motor vehicles soon improved with the likes of the prestigious De Dion Bouton.
The motor vehicle created a lot of dust and noise, yet the appeal of their speed soon saw the end of the horse and carriage for Blue Mountains travellers. The Blue Mountains began to boom as a tourist destination just prior to the roaring twenties with the first Motor Coaches coming on the scene.