One of the most popular memories of the Camden area by locals and visitors alike is the Camden tram, affectionately known as ‘Pansy’. It has always had an enthusiastic bunch of supporters. They positively drool about it and overlook its foibles. Old timers tell and retell Pansy stories to anyone who wants to listen.
Fans gloss over its short comings. All the stories are laced with a pinch of nostalgia and a touch of the romantic. It was a vital part of local life. So why does this old locomotive conjure up such a strident bunch of supporters?
Steam engines and locomotives bring back memories of the glory days of industrialisation and the great days of Australian nationalism in the late Victorian and early 20th century. Great monstrous engines that hissed, spat and groaned. They were mighty machines that were living beings. They had a life and soul of their own. They were responsible for creating the wealth of the British Empire. And Pansy is part of that story.
The Camden branch line was operated by the New South Wales Railways from 1882 to its closure in 1963. The Camden tram was one of a number of standard gauge light rail lines in the Sydney area. The tank locomotive worked a mixed service that took freight and passengers.
Local railway stations
The branch line was thirteen kilometres and had eight stations after leaving Campbelltown station, where it joined the Main Southern Railway. The stations were Maryfields, Kenny Hill, Curran’s Hill, Narellan, Graham’s Hill, Kirkham, Elderslie and finally arriving at Camden.
Most of the stations were no more than a short rudimentary wooden platform with a shelter shed that were unmanned. Others like Camden had a longer platform and an associated goods handling facility. Pansy 1963 on its last run Pansy was a regular part of daily life for those who lived near the line. Locals in the Camden township would listen for the loco’s whistle and know that the morning papers had arrived from Sydney. Legend has it that the engine driver would hold the train for regulars who were running late for work on their way to the city, especially local lasses.
Some of Camden’s better off families sent their children to high school at Parramatta and Homebush each morning on the train. Pansy would chug past the milk factory at the entry to Camden township as local dairy farmers were unloading their cans of milk from their horse and dray. Tourists from Sydney would be dropped off on Friday afternoon at Camden station to be bused to their holiday boarding houses in Burragorang Valley.
The first passenger service left Camden station left at 5.47am to connect with the Sydney service onthe Main Southern Line. On the return journey the last passenger service from Campbelltown left at 9.44pm. During the Second World War the tram provided transport for many servicemen (Army, RAAF) who were based at local military establishments.
Airmen from Camden airfield would catch the train to Sydney for weekend leave, and would be joined by soldiers from Narellan military base and Studley Park Eastern Command Training School. Camden station and good yards were located adjacent to Edward Street, with a siding to the Camden Vale milk factory. Coal from the Burragorang Valley mines was loaded at Camden yard from 1937, although this was transferred to Narellan in 1941 and eventually the Main Southern Line at Glenlee in the late 1950s. But even by the 1940s the limitations of the narrow gauge line for caring freight were showing cracks.
The writing was on the wall for a while
From its enthusiastic opening the tram never really lived up to its predictions. The mixed goods and passenger service was of limited value. Its light gauge restricted the loads and the grade of the line, particularly over Kenny Hill, severely limited its capabilities. Even in 1939 there were already signs of the eventual demise of the branch line with more coal leaving the district by road than rail.
Its days were numbered and the writing was on the wall. Its death blow was delivered by the Heffron ALP Government in 1963 as a cost cutting exercise and a drive from modernization of the railway system across the state. Diesel was the new god.
Railway heritage and archaeology
For current enthusiasts with a keen eye there are remnants of the embankments and cuttings for the narrow gauge line still visible in the area. As visitors leave the Camden township travelling north along Camden Valley Way (old Hume Highway) embankments, culverts and earthworks are still visible in the farm paddocks on the Nepean River floodplain.
You can make out the right of way as it crosses Kirkham Lane and heads towards Narellan before disappearing into a housing estate. For those with a sharp eye a cutting is still evident on the northern side of Narellan Road at Kenny Hill just as you take then entry ramp onto the freeway going to Sydney. It appears as a bench above the roadway and is evident for a short distance. (for details see Peter Mylrea, ‘Camden Campbelltown Railway’, Camden History March 2009, p. 254263).
A number of streets in Curran’s Hill are connected to the history of Pansy. Tramway Drive is close to the route of the train and a number of other streets are named after past railway employees, for example, Paddy Miller. The Camden Community Band celebrates the legend of Pansy in their repertoire. They play a tune called The Camden Tram written by Buddy Williams a Camden resident of the 1960s.
Visit the real thing
Are you interested in seeing the real deal? Do you want to see what all the fuss is about for yourself? Go and inspect the real Pansy: ‘the steam locomotive 2029 and a small composite multi-class 13/09/2015 The glory of steam, Pansy, the Camden tram carriage’. They are on display at the New South Wales Transport Museum and Trainworks, Barbour Rd Thirlmere NSW 2572 (02) 4681 8001
The Camden Community Band added the tune ‘The Camden Train’ to its repertoire. The lyrics tell an interesting story about Pansy, the locomotive. It was written by Camden local Buddy Williams about the time of the last run on of the train in 1963.
One of the icons of the southwestern Sydney fringe that has long disappeared was the car museum and picnic ground know as Greens Motorcade Museum Park at Leppington on the Old Hume Highway.
The car museum opened in 1974 and had a collection of cars under cover in a museum hall. Museum volunteer Ray Sanderson recalls that the manager was David Short. He
was George Green’s right-hand man of his large collection, not just at the museum but storage sheds about the country. Not far from the museum was an old chook farm shed (commercial size) [that] housed more unrestored vehicles.
On the car museum site there was a re-creation of a early 20th century village with The Oaks Tea Rooms, the old Beecroft Fire Station, a garage complete with hand pumped petrol, and train ride which was a former cane train from Queensland. Rides were also provided by a 1927 Dennis Fire Engine and a 1912 English Star.
In 1975 changes in equipment and the expanding number of personnel meant that the oldest fire station building was carefully taken down and reconstructed at Leppington in Green’s Motorcade Museum Park.
The museum collection was owned by woolbroker George Green who lived at Castlecrag in Sydney and was a member of a number car clubs in the Sydney area. George Green was a keen collector of Rolls Royce motor vehicles and foundation member of the Rolls Royce Owners Club of Australia in 1956. He was also a member of Veteran Car Club of Australia (1954) and The Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia (1944), which holds the annual George Green Rally in his honour.
George Green owned the museum in partnership with car dealer and collector Frank Illich. The manager of the museum was David Short of Camden from its foundation to its closure in 1982 when George Green died and the collection was auctioned off on site.
On the old Hume Highway the visitor and their family were met by the steam traction engine that was originally used to drive the timber cutting machinery at the Woods Timber Mill at Narooma on the New South Wales South Coast. It was presented to the museum by Mrs Woods.
There was also a large picnic area which hosted many community events, car club days, children’s Christmas parties, corporate functions, and other events.
The Vintage Vehicle Car Club of Australia held its foundation family day event at the picnic ground at Greens Motocade Museum on 21 August 1977.
The museum occasionally supplied its ‘old cars’ for film shoots, commercials and corporate events all over Sydney. At one time the museum management organised shopping centre car displays across Sydney, with a display at Birkenhead Point Shopping Centre after it opened in 1981.
One car in the collection was a Leyland P76 which was an Australian icon.
In about 1958 the car was purchased by George Green who from the mid 1950s collected some 100 vintage and veteran cars which he displayed at Green’s Motorcade Museum at Leppington, NSW, from 1974. In 1971 Green swapped the Stanley for a 1904 Vauxhall which belonged to Allan F. Higgisson of 22 Banner Street, O’Connor, ACT. Higgisson was keen to work on the Stanley, while Green wanted to restore a veteran car he could enter in the annual London to Brighton car rally. It was an unwritten agreement that should Higgisson tire of restoring the Stanley it would be returned to Green.
Catherine Fields once boasted a national tourist facility which attracted thousands of visitors a year to the local area, the El Caballo Blanco entertainment complex.
The El Caballo Blanco complex opened in April 1979 at Catherine Fields. The main attraction was a theatrical horse show presented with Andalusian horses, which was held daily in the large 800-seat indoor arena. .
The El Caballo Blanco complex at Catherine Fields, according to a souvenir brochure held at the Camden Museum, was based on a similar entertainment facility at the Wooroloo, near Perth, WA, which attracted over a quarter of a million visitors a year. It was established in 1974 by Ray Williams and had a 2000-seat outdoor arena. The horse show was based on a similar horse show (ferias) in Seville, Jerez de la Frontera and other Spanish cities.
The programme of events for the horse show at Catherine Fields began with a parade, followed by a pas de deux and then an insight into training of horses and riders in classical horsemanship. This was then followed by a demonstration of dressage, then a session ‘on the long rein’ where a riderless horse executed a number of steps and movements. There was a Vaqueros show (a quadrille) then carriage driving with the show ending with a grand finale. All the riders appeared in colourful Spanish style costumes.
The indoor arena was richly decorated in a lavishly rich style with blue velvet ceiling drapes and chandeliers. The complex also had associated stables and holding paddocks, within a Spanish-Moorish setting The stables had brass fittings and grilles, based on the design from stair cases at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
The horse show at Catherine Fields was supplement with an ancillary Australiana show which consisted mainly of sheep shearing and sheep dog trials, while a miniature horse show was introduced in the late 1980s. The also boasted a variety of rides (train, bus, racing cars, paddle boats, and ponies), a carriage museum, a small Australiana zoo, picnic facilities, water slides and swimming pool, souvenir shop, shooting gallery, restaurant, snack bar and coffee shop, and car parking.
Emmanuel Margolin, the owner in the 1989, claimed in promotional literature that the complex offered an ideal location for functions and was an ideal educational facility where children could learn about animals at the zoo, dressage, and botany in the gardens. At the time the entry charge was $10 for adults, children $5 and a family pass $25 (2A + 2C), with concession $5.
A promotional tourist brochure held by the Camden Museum claimed that it was Sydney’s premier all weather attraction. It was opened 7 days a week between 10.00am and 5.00pm.
By the mid-1990s the complex was struggling financially and in 1995 was put up for auction, but failed to reach the $5 million reserve price. The owners at the time, Emmanuel and Cecile Margolin, sold the 88 horses in July, according the Macarthur Chronicle. By this stage complex was only open on weekends, public holidays and school holidays.
At a subsequent auction in July 1997 the advertising claimed that it was a historical landmark site of 120 acres just 45 minutes from Sydney. That it was a unique tourist park with numerous attractions, luxury accommodation and a large highway frontage.
The last performance of the horse show at Catherine Fields was held in 1998.
Unfortunately by 2002 the good times had passed and the horses agisted on the site, and according to the Camden and Wollondilly Advertiser, were part of a ‘forgotten herd’ of 29 horses that roamed the grounds of the complex. It was reported that they were looked after by a keen group of Camden riders.
Worse was to come when in 2003 a fire destroyed the former stable, kitchen and auditorium. The fire spread to the adjacent paddock and meant that the 25 horses that were still on the site had to be re-located. It was reported by Macarthur Chronicle, that Sharyn Sparks the owner of the horses was heart-broken. She said she had worked with the horses from 1985 and found that the complex was one of the best places in the world to work. She said that the staff loved the horses and the atmosphere of the shows.
its empty performance halls, go-kart tracks and water slides were overtaken by unruly grass and wildlife.
Gia Cattiva visited the deserted site and stated:
I have these special memories of visiting there in the 80s when I was a little kid – my grandma took me there.
It was a bittersweet experience. I feel really lucky to have experienced the park as a little kid and get to see the performances.
In 2018 Channel 9 News Sydney ran an item on the news highlighting how housing development is about to overrun the former theme park site. It features archival footage and what the site looks like before the new houses and street put in.
Former horse rider Sharyn Sparks states that working at the theme park was
Campbelltown and surrounding areas have lost much in the way of their local heritage. Does anyone care and more to the point does anyone notice?
Heritage is what the community considers of value at present and is worthy of handing on to the next generation. It is a moveable feast and changes over time. What is important to one section of the community is of no value to another. And so it is with different generations of the one community. Many regret the loss of building from the past yet there were others who did not miss any of these buildings. This story clearly illustrates this trend.
The loss of Campbelltown’s heritage is part of the story of the urban growth of the town and surrounding area. Starting with the 1948 Cumberland Plan then the 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan of which 1973 New Cities Structure Plan was a part. These plans set a path for a growing community and generated hope for some and loss for others. Campbelltown like other communities has gone through loss and renewal, and some are only interested in the new. Yet the need and yearning for a clear view of the past is part of the human condition where people need to honor and respect their ancestors and what did and did not achieve.
Andrew Allen has started to detail the loss of Campbelltown heritage buildings that coincided with a period of incredible urban growth the Campbelltown LGA in his history blog The History Buff. This blog post details just some of the buildings that have been lost. There have been many others as well.
Lost Buildings of Campbelltown
Marlows Drapery Store, Campbelltown
Retailing in Campbelltown has changed over the decades. There has been a transition from the family store to the mega-malls of today. One family store was Marlow’s Drapery Store.
Andrew Allen writes:
The demolition one quiet Sunday morning in 1981 of an old curiosity shop divided Campbelltown. The shop was built in 1840 and was once owned by former mayor C.J. Marlow who used it as a drapery. It stood between Dredge’s Cottage and the old fire station and Town Hall Theatre.The last owner of the building was Gladys Taylor.
Bradbury Park House, Campbelltown
Andrew Allen writes:
In 1816 Governor Macquarie gave a grant of 140 acres to Joseph Phelps who sold it to William Bradbury the following year. Bradbury Park House was built on this land in 1822.The house was located about 140 metres opposite where the town hall is located in Queen Street. Unfortunately Bradbury Park House was demolished in 1954.
Leameah House, Leameah
Leumeah House at 2 Queen St, Campbelltown (cnr Queen Street and Campbelltown Road) was constructed in 1826. The house was owned by the Fowler family for many years and Eliza Fowler lived there in the 1880s after marrying Joseph Rudd. John Warby was given a 260 acre land grant in 1816 which he called Leumeah. His house was demolished in 1963, but his old stable and barn still exist. Part of the site is now known as Leumeah Stables also known as Warby’s Barn and Stable which were constructed around 1816.
Andrew Allen writes:
Just south of the original Woodbine homestead, and adjacent to the old Sydney Road (since renamed Hollylea Road) there once stood an imposing landmark, Keighran’s Mill. John Keighran purchased the site in 1844 and in 1855 built the mill on the banks of Bow Bowing Creek. Percy Payten was the last member of the Payten family to own the mill. In 1954 he offered the mill to the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society. The historical society also didn’t have enough funds at the time for its restoration. In 1962 the mill was dismantled and the stone was used in the building of the RAE Memorial Chapel at the School of Military Engineering at Moorebank, which opened in 1968.
Woodbine Homestead, Woodbine
While James Payten was living at Leppington Hall in 1873, he bought Woodbine – the remains of John Scarr’s early farmhouse – as a new family home.The homestead stood on Campbelltown Road (Sydney Road), just north of the bridge, which crosses the railway line.
James Payten and his wife, Sarah (nee) Rose, shared their home with her brother, Alfred Rose and his family. Rose died in 1951 and her aging Woodbine cottage was demolished in the 1960’s.
Ivy Cottage, 31 Allman St, Campbelltown
Some of the buildings that have been lost in Campbelltown have religious connections. One those is Ivy Cottage.
Andrew Allen writes:
Local storekeeper William Gilchrist purchased land in Allman Street and built Ivy Cottage on it for his brother, Rev. Hugh Gilchrist, a Presbyterian minister appointed in 1838 to take charge of Campbelltown and many other surrounding towns. The cottage became the Presbyterian Manse and served as such until about 1882. The cottage was demolished in the 1960s.
The Engadine, cnr Broughton & Lindsay Streets, Campbelltown
The Engadine was built in 1924 by Minto grazier Kelvin Cuthell and designed by local architect A.W.M. Mowle.
Mowle lived at the family farm of Mount Drummond at Minto. He enlisted in the Australian Flying Corps in 1915 with the rank of Lieutenant and returned in 1918. In the 1920s he lived in 44 Wentworth Road, Burwood. In 1926 he supervised renovations, additions and painting of a weatherboard cottage in Campbelltown and in 1929 supervised the construction of shop and residence (SMH).
Kelvin Cuthell married Daphne Woodhouse in 1924 and moved into The Engadine. Kelvin Cuthel died in 1930 and after Daphne died in 1945, her sister Iris moved into the house, remaining there until her death in the 1970s. The house was demolished in 2012.
Milton Park, Ingleburn
Built in 1882 by hotelier David Warby. By 1909 it was owned by Thomas Hilder, manager of the silver mines at Yerranderie in the Burragorang Valley. Later this century it fell into disrepair and the owner, Campbelltown Council, demolished it in 1992 after being unable to secure a financial offer for the building.
Rosslyn House, Badgally Road, Claymore
Marie Holmes writes that she believed the house to be built in the 1860s. Samuel Humphreys purchased two lots of land from William Fowler in 1882 which included the land and house. The house was in the hands of the Bursill family for much of the 20th century.
Andrew Allen writes:
In 1970 the property was sold to the State Planning Authority who in turn transferred it to the Housing Commission for the development of Claymore suburb. The house was left vacant, fell into disrepair and was damaged by fire in the mid 1970s. It was demolished in the late 1970s.
Silver Star Garage, Queen Street, Campbelltown
Charles Tripp operatted the Silver Star Garage on the corner of Queen and Dumaresq Streets, Campbelltown. The Tripp family operated a variety of businesses on the site. In the 1880s there was a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, hired horses and sulkies and operated a mail coach. After the First World War the business changed to sell and service motorbikes, and later serviced motor cars and sold petrol. In the 1920s he sold radios and broadcast radio programmes from the store. The garage was still operating commercially in the 1940s. The premises were demolished in 1966.
Hotels are an ancient institution offering hospitality for the traveller. They provided comfort and shelter, a place to do business, a place to create wealth, a meeting place and a place to rest. In the past they have provided warmth, safety and a good meal from the elements. Hotels in Campbelltown did all of this and their loss has been a tragedy to many from the local community. Some of the hotels that are no longer with us include these listed here.
Royal Hotel, Cnr Railway and Hurley Streets, Campbelltown
The Royal Hotel was originally known as the Cumberland Hotel in the 1880s and became the Royal Hotel in the 1890s. Between 1899 and 1905 the licencee was Thomas F Hogan. Between the 1920s and the 1970s the premises were owned by Tooth & Co. The Royal Hotel was demolished in 1986 and suffered the fate of many heritage icons in Campbelltown and elsewhere.
Andrew Allen writes
The hotel was demolished in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning July 6, 1986. Newspaper reports described how at 5.30am council workmen first set up safety barriers around the hotel. By 6am a massive Hitachi caterpillar-tracked back hoe commenced clawing the building down and by evening most of the remains had been removed from the site. Council needed to widen Hurley Street and unfortunately the Royal Hotel was in the way of this.
Lacks Hotel, Cnr Queen and Railway Streets, Campbelltown
Lacks Hotel was located on the corner of Queen and Railway Streets and over the years was part of the complete re-development of Railway Street.
Andrew Allen writes:
Built by Daniel Cooper in 1830 as the Forbes Hotel, in 1901 it was refurbished and renamed the Federal Hotel. The license was transferred to Herb Lack in 1929 and it became Lack’s Hotel. After Herb’s death in 1956, his son-in-law and daughter Guy and Tib Marsden took over. Lack’s Hotel was demolished in 1984. A modern commercial building including a modern tavern now take its place.
Jolly Miller Hotel, Queen Street, Campbelltown
Hotels continued to disappear from the Campbelltown town centre. The buildings might still exist but they changed to other uses for other purposes. One of those was the Jolly Miller Hotel.
Andrew Allen writes:
The Jolly Miller Hotel was built in the late 1840s at the southern end of Queen Street opposite Kendall’s Mill. The hotel was opened by George Fieldhouse who had followed his convict father to New South Wales in 1828. George’s two sons William and Edwin Hallett opened a general store next to the hotel in 1853. This building, which later became the offices for the Campbelltown and Ingleburn News, is still standing opposite McDonald’s restaurant in Queen Street.
Campbelltown continues to grow and renew. Some of that renewal is high quality and other parts of it will disappear with time and be completely forgotten. A clear view of the past is necessary to understand the present. It provides a perspective to life and the human condition. People have a yearning for their story to be told by those who come after them. They want to be remembered and want to leave a legacy. This blog post is part of the Campbelltown story and is attempting to tell Campbelltown’s past.
New Book on Lost Campbelltown
The Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society has published a book of Lost Campbelltown (2018). The author of this great read is The History Buff blogger Andrew Allen who gives an excellent account of the built heritage that has been lost in the Campbelltown area. The book is 99 pages in full colour in an A4 format. The author outlines the stories of 61 buildings that have been demolished in the local area over the past 100 years. The buildings were a mixture of grand Victorians to humble slab and timber workman’s cottages. They range across the Europeans presence in Campbelltown and cover the Victorian, Edwardian, Interwar and Mid 20th Century periods. Modernism has much to answer for around their destruction along with the planning decisions linked the 1948 Cumberland Plan and the 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan and the Three Cities Structure Plan that went with it.
The book is available from Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society and Campbelltown Library.