Faulconbridge: historic funicular railway

Party: Tim Vollmer, Terence Nhan, Mona Peters, Marta Duda, Brian Gottfried — T2’s photos

Trips like this are about more than just nature. Sure, we were offered up an incredible display of diverse natural beauty, but this trip was also about history, about the changing experiences of the world around us, about rediscovering and imagining.

I’d been planning to explore this section of Linden Creek, just north of Faulconbridge, for a few months, ever since I was told of the existence of an old funicular (incline) railway and sawmill, the remnants of which could apparently still be found in the valley.

An ingenious treehouse built by some local kids

The first attempt was canned due to illness, so when I was looking for an easy half-day pre-work walk to celebrate my birthday, I knew this had to be it.

We were met with crisp blue skies and radiant sunshine, and the air quickly warmed until it was feeling decidedly like spring. After converging on Faulconbridge Station, we drove a short way to the start of our walk.

Setting off down the fire trail, my eyes were darting from side to side, not knowing where the old railway dropped off the ridge. I dragged the others to a few rocky vantage points, which offered spectacular views of the valley, as I checked to see any signs of the incline.

The path of the old incline railway became very obvious

What we did find, a short way below a cliff, was an amazing treehouse, apparently pulled together with rope and fallen timber by some very keen local kids. But still no sign of this old railway.

Then the track started to drop, and suddenly the straightness of it became clear. We were on it. That was easy!

The old cable-driven railway must have dropped pretty steeply, because in places the track required some scrambling down rocks, but it was easy to follow. Lower down the old cutting, now overgrown with ferns, was still very distinct.

A wheel and steel cable in the tributary of Linden Creek

While I’m glad these valleys are no longer logged, and the stands of towering trees remain for our enjoyment, I really enjoy the thought of sharing this place with the men who a century ago built this railroad deep into the bush to provide access to the old sawmill.

At Linden Creek, where the line must have run on an elevated wooden trestle, we paused to examine the pristine waters, spotting a large yabbie.

Crossing to the other side — where we turned up a major tributary — we soon found the first real signs of the old railway: a large metal wheel and some steel cable.

The century-old stationary steam engine that drove the railway and sawmill

As we walked further I found myself looking down too much, looking for more signs of the railway, which meant when we arrived at the rusty old steam engine I completely missed it. Despite being just a couple metres from it I was busily examining the remains of a skip when the others pointed out the impressive old workhorse.

Looking at the rusting steam engine — forgotten in the deep recesses of the Blue Mountains valley — you’re inner child can’t help but come out. I could just imagine a group of kids clambering over it, pretending it was a submarine or something equally exotic.

It really does make me think of a submarine from this angle!

We pressed on — having discovered the site of the old engine far quicker than I’d expected — to look for the remains of a timber structure, possibly part of the mill.

Dave Noble had told me after a previous walk nearby about this structure that he recalled from childhood (which admittedly was a little while ago). He described it as being a bit like an old timber barn, but with no walls.

While we spotted a few more remains of the railway, including pipes and a single rail, we had no luck with the building. A few flatter areas looked promising, but all we found were clumps of lawyer vine! Perhaps bushfires have claimed what remained of the building?

The towering trees above that have regrown since the days of the sawmill

We continued up our unnamed tributary, which was quite attractive.

Other than the patches of lawyer vine it was easy walking, and there were a few interesting spots like the towering moss-covered stone monoliths and a small waterfall.

For a minor creek, it was pretty impressive!

Eventually we decided to turn off and start looping back to the start. We scrambled up a steep, dry gully, past an impressive eroded cave where our resident geologist came into his own, and up through several layers of small cliffs.

The wildflowers were everywhere, making for plenty of stops, while the relatively open bush on the ridge-top was particularly attractive.

Scrambling up a break in one of the minor cliff-lines

Back to the east we went, following the main spur where it dropped through thick bracken ferns to the creek. A short stroll had us back to the steam engine for a final photo stop.

Back up the path of the old railway we went, pausing near the top at a stunning rocky outcrop where we enjoyed a siesta in the glorious sunshine.

When we woke from our snooze, Brian asked if winter was normally like this in Australia. I couldn’t blame him, it was an absolutely spectacular day, and a perfect one to be in the bush.

Walking through open forest on the ridge-top
Dealing with neck-high ferns as we made our way back down to the creek
A group photo on the steam engine
The steepest part of the old incline railway’s journey
The view from our siesta spot

20 Replies to “Faulconbridge: historic funicular railway

  1. Great trip report Tim! Brings back great memories of the trip. It was definitely a great day to spend in the lower mountains. Oh and Happy Belated Birthday!! I cannot believe I just found out about it. Anyways it was great to have unofficially celebrated it with you bushwalking and exploring!

  2. hi
    live in Faulconbridge for past 6 yrs. be good to see maps so can take kids. 11 & 13 for an explore.

    1. Darren, this would be a great easy walk for kids that age. It is quite easy to find. If you look at the topo map for the area (Springwood 3rd edition) a good section of the old railway’s route is marked as a track. Simply drive to the northern end of Highland Rd in Faulconbridge. There is a fire trail that continues from here. Follow it, and eventually it continues down the slope. This is actually the old railway. There are a couple steeper sections where you need to scramble down rocks (in one area I assume the railway followed a wooden trestle) but lower down the railway cutting become pretty obvious. It reaches the creek right near a creek junction. Cross over and follow upstream in this one (again there would have been a wooden bridge here). At this point you will find the wheels from a railway car, then some of the old steel cable. Not to much further on you come to the stationary steam engine. Look around in the ferns, as there is a section of rail and other artefacts!

      1. Hi, I’ve been downstream and there is a track that follows the creek and then crossed the creek twice but then the track fizzles out. Does this lead anywhere else?

      2. I haven’t been downstream, so don’t know for sure. It’s very close to me, so might make a good solo walk during the current period.
        I’d expect there were a lot of tracks around there when the logging took place, but most of those are likely long gone. There is a fire trail that runs down from Shirlow Avenue, so you could create a loop walk by following Linden Creek about 2.5kms down.
        Let me know if you do explore further.

  3. I was up there earlier today however, instead of crossing the creek and looking at the old railway relics, I turned upstream and eventually crossed and turned right up the next major tributary.

    Nothing too interesting but some amazingly large gums and a rather impressive overhang. The creek was also bursting with water due to the recent heavy rains, it was very impressive for what is normally such a tiny stream.

    I hope to get to some more impressive places whilst the water is still this high.

    1. There was also a rather gross amount of rubbish around where the small tree house is built. I removed some but there were some larger things such as an old broken bike and a plastic basket along with the usual cans and bottles from kids getting drunk down there.

    2. Yes, there are some stunning trees around there. The next valley east is even better, as it was never logged, and the towering trees are almost as impressive as those in Blue Gum Forest in my opinion.
      The increased water levels also make a big different. The cascades and waterfalls really come to life, and the whole aesthetic changes. Totally agree with you. This weekend will probably be the perfect time for walking and canyoning!
      It’s a shame to hear about the rubbish though. They’d be local kids doing it. Hopefully someone can have a quiet word with them and help them explain the importance of looking after our natural environment. It is great that they love spending time there, just as long as they treat it with respect!

  4. Hi Tim, I run a bush walking group for local home school kids and their families. This is the next walk I’m planning. Can you give me an idea of how long it took you?
    Love the pics, can’t wait to go exploring!

    1. Jade, it’s actually quite a short walk if you’re just going down to the old steam engine. Maybe two hours return. We did a larger loop, exploring upstream then coming back down a ridge. Even with that extra stuff it was probably five hours at most. It’ll probably be slower with kids. There are lots of nice little cascades and other things to explore in the creeks around there which should keep them interested.

  5. Did this walk last weekend . Great site thanks have only lived in faulconbridge for a couple of years and didnt know this was sitting in my back yard . I did notice the marker in google earth is in the wrong spot which threw me a little at the start ill see if i can work out how to update it. Once you reach the creek now its quite overgrown with a lot of tree debri around /in the creek itself but a great walk enjoyed it and finding the old steam boiler and bits was great. Cheers

  6. Hi. I lived in St. Georges Cres Faulco in the 1950’s/60’s. The area you are talking about was sort of our ‘backyard’. My father, Dave Hope and his Senior scouts (including my brother, Lindsay Hope) built a 3 sided hut or shelter in the valley not far from the old milling site. Perhaps it is that old hut you came across…the structure with out walls?
    Sue Olsen .

  7. I grew up in Faulco and visit frequently. One point I would make about your directions. The tributary has built up a sizeable spur between itself & the main creek, and the outflow has moved downstream. It is easy to miss, and in any case, you really want to cross *before* that. Very soon after you reach the main creek bank, the first wheel&axle can be seen in it, to your left. A few steps further is the easy creek crossing, with the footpad clearly visible on the other side.

  8. I’ve recently joined with a friend to find as many local walks around Faulconbridge as we can manage, and was fascinated by the chance to see a historic site so close to home. I’m not very experienced, not young anymore, and my knees creek and groan but we managed the incline to the creek, enjoying the serenity of the bush after rain. Having reached the creek though, we couldn’t find any evidence of where to go to find the relics. By then we were tired and wishing we had done more research. Can you please explain in a little more detail where to go after crossing the creek? We saw some tags on trees and what looked to be a bit of a path to the right. Everything around us was a scramble of ferns, fallen trees or branches and a steep bank. There was evidence of a lot of water having moved through there, perhaps a bit of a flood? So, before I do it again, I’d love some clear directions to follow because I really want to visit that old boiler. Can you help?

    1. Ruth, just after the old railway reaches the creek you need to cross over. A very short way downstream a second creek comes in on the left (flowing from the west). It is a short way up this valley that you’ll find the steam engine etc. You’ll start finding relics quite quickly if in the right creek. There wasn’t a track when we went there, so you just need to explore.

  9. I grew up in Adeline st Faulconbridge in the early 60’s , we used to go to the old sawmill from the end of Stgeorges cres, it was a fairly quick trip from their ….from what i remember the track wandered WWS until you got to the creek at the bottom of the slope, and i think it was the second stream on the right and not to far up that stream we would play around the old steamer , at that time there was an old corrugated iron shed that housed a few old saw blades and other implements , around 8 years ago i took some of the grand kids down their and there was no sign of the shed at all , the trees down there are so tall and straight , a trip anyone who could take, should take. if anyone does go , they should head down stream from the sawmill until they come to a decent sized creek that is opposite at 90 degrees to Adeline street on top of the ridge , head up there not far and you will come across an impressive waterfall with a beautiful pool at the bottom.

    1. Thanks Mark. Interesting how much things have changed. I think a few fires over the years probably explain the shed being gone. I need to get back down there with the kids. Visiting the waterfall and pool would also be a nice addition, once the warm weather returns.

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