Below are a series of photographs taken on a recent bushwalk to the Ruined Castle. The group of 10 walkers were seconded to assist with some industrial archaeology, spending the day searching for relics of the area’s mining past.
They were led by Philip Hammon, who not only co-authored the most authoritative book on the area’s mining history (The Burning Mists of Time: A technological and social history of mining in Katoomba) but is also a life-long Katoomba local whose family have owned and run Scenic World for almost 70 years.
While millions of tourists gaze across the Jamison Valley at the Ruined Castle, few realise the significance of this spot to the birth of Katoomba. It was the high-grade oil shale buried under this rocky pinnacle that let to the creation of the town, also inspiring the construction of the arial ropeway that once crossed the valley, along with the tramway that still forms the basis of the walking track used to this day.
For this trip the group headed directly to the Ruined Castle, searching the area where the mine once operated. Thanks to the good-sized crew — not to mention their handy metal detector — they were quite successful, locating a number of items of interest including the remains of three mining skips, a rope saddle and bucket from the ropeway, a buried metal pipe and two rail dogs.
Despite the fact that this is a popular spot for bushwalkers, thick undergrowth makes locating historic remnants quite challenging, meaning few have any idea what still remains.
Much of what was found was downhill of the old mine adits. From these adits, the skips once ran out about a metre above the main track level, tipping shale into horse-drawn skips below or continuing past to dump stone or other waste down the side of the hill.
While the metal remains of three of these old mining skips were located, all the timbers had completely rotted or burnt away, leaving not so much as a trace under the bolt heads or in other protected spots.
Phil also reported an extremely disappointing case of the region’s industrial past being pillaged, with somebody going to extreme trouble to steal the chain from the rope end at the tension pit from the old ropeway. It was cut free with a battery powered grinder, and given it weighs close to 100kg it would have being quite a challenge to lug it out of the valley. It’s very sad to see the limited remains of the region’s mining past being stolen by a greedy few!