The importance of transport in the Colony's formative years was never more convincingly demonstrated than by the coming of the railway through Fairfield on 26 September 1856. The line brought developments along its path and in the spread of paddocks around the new Fairfield station, a store soon appeared, a couple of cottages sprouted up in the crescent-shaped street near the station; a little later a hotel; one or two more shops and then people started to buy land near the station for a home or business. Citizens could now speak of a Fairfield township. The benefits of the Great Southern Railway spread to the saw-miller and the farmer as the line offered transport to distant markets. The rail service brought advantages to al community except Smithfield, which had been bypassed on the rail route.
Railways were the answer to the Colony's problems of communication. As settlement spread to the north, the south and across the Blue Mountains, distance had become more and more significant. Reports of the railway boom in Great Britain reached New South Wales in the 1840's and many Colonists could see the advantages offered by railways. A series of public meetings held in Sydney during 1846 eventually led the Legislative Council to grant the Sydney Railway Company the right to construct and operate a railway system.
Fairfield Station 1894
The Regents Park - Cabramatta route was opened on 14 October 1924. The original names chosen for the station were Sefton Park, Woodville and South Fairfield; were changed before the line's opening, except South Fairfield which became Carramar on 1 July 1926. A station was built at Leightonfield (named after a Canberra official) on 24 August 1942 to serve the munitions factories in the area. The line was electrified on 2 December 1929 and over the years was upgraded to carry the Express train services and the heavy goods trains on the main southern line.
The Widemere line was one of the State's many privately owned quarry lines. Located at the Prospect Hill (Phillip's Bellevue) the Widemere Quarry was one of a number blasted out of the igneous mass.
Blue metal has been quarried at Prospect for over a hundred years and in 1901 a new quarry was opened by the Emu Gravel Company on the northern side of the Prospect Hill. The following year a railway line was constructed to link this quarry with the Main Western Quarry Line at Toongabbie. This proved such a success that when the Widemere Quarry was opened in 1924 by the Sydney and Suburban Blue Metal Co Ltd on the southern side of Prospect Hill it was decided to link this new quarry with the Southern Line at Fairfield, some eight kilometers distant. A major portion of the selected route was a long public street with only a comparatively short length on the line's owned right of way.
The line closed on 2 June 1945, mainly due to the shortage of rolling stock but fortunately motor vehicles large enough for the cartage of blue metal had been developed. The railway line was sold and most of the rails and sleepers were soon removed. For many years the rails crossing the Crescent could be seen but surface regarding gradually covered them. In the Hassal Street-Widemere Road area remains of the embankments and timber trestles were long discernible but eventually effects of time and land reclamation have removed all traces of the quarry line.
Until 1919 there were still horse buses going to Fairfield railway station from Smithfield and they later went to Fairfield West. "In the early 1920s the run was taken over by a man named Mr Naggs who ran a reliable service for a few years" This was Arthur Packer reminiscing in 1991. Arthur was a great storyteller with a reliable memory. He grew up in Smithfield in the second and third decades of the 1900s and, fortunately, recorded some of his memories for posterity. "At one time there were three different bus owners trying to get a living on the Smithfield run," Arthur wrote for the museum's booklet, Reflections of Fairfield. "If my memory serves me right, Arthur continues, they were messrs Gordon, Snooks and Lawrence. Competition was very keen, resulting in a few arguments and soon reverted to only one owner. "the buses had names after Melbourne Cup winners. They were Beautiful, Poitrel and Gloaming".
The Lawrence brothers who named their buses after racehorses entered the Smithfield-Fairfield stakes in 1919 with horse buses and over the next three or four years, gradually switched to motor buses.
Smithfield - Fairfield Bus 1926
Fairfield City today is a far cry from the early days of public transport, but it took another 30 to 40 years before the effects of the transport revolution really took hold. When the Calabro family started their Bonnyrigg bus service in 1952 they purchased four second-hand vehicles. By the 1980s their business was one of Sydney's major public transport companies. Bosnjaks, later known as Westbus also had humble beginnings. The Bosinjak family eventually bought out Calabros and Westbus now dominates the Sydney public scene.
Source: George, Vance. Fairfield: history of the district.
Fairfield, NSW: Fairfield City Council, 1991.
In the early thirties of last century the main southern road was in reality little more than a dirt track made by the pioneers of the district south of Sydney. Where the Lansdowne Bridge now stands there was then in existence a wooden bridge, known as Bowler's Inn, or Greyhound Inn. This wooden bridge was frequently swept away by floodwaters, so Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, the Deputy-Surveyor General, decided to build the stone bridge which now spans the creek.
Luckily enough Mitchell had discovered in the colony a man named David Lennox, who had arrived two years earlier from the Old Country. Lennox was a skilled bridge builder and had been associated with England's famous bridge-builder, Thomas Telford. Lennox designed the bridge which still stands. It consists of one arch 110 feet long between butresses, across Prospect Creek on the Hume Highway./
At each end the approaches are flanked by stonework. The foundation was laid on 1st January 1834, and the bridge was opened for traffic on 26th January, 1836, by Sir Richard Bourke. The opening ceremony was described by Roger Therry in his Reminiscences as follows:
The Governor (Sir Richard Bourke) and the Military and Civil officers attended by a numerous body of citizens of Sydney, rode out to the spot , twenty miles distant, and imparted quite a national demonstration to the event.
It was inaugurated by a procession over the bridge. First a small herd of fat oxen crossed the bridge;some fine horses of Colonial breed came next; sheep rivalling in weight and fleece some of the best Southdown sheep, and others of Saxon origin followed. A dray laden with wool then took its place in the procession. Cases of preserved hams,borne on trucks, succeeded. Next came a dray laden with tanned oxhides. Riley of Raby drove over the bridge a flock of fine Angora goats, which he had just imported. Sir John Jamison contributed a butt of home-made wine. Macarthurs of Camden, besides wheat grown on their estates and wool from the first Merino Flocks imported by their father, exhibited wine and oil made from olives grown on their estates. They further supplied a display of fruits, the grape, the orange, the peach, the mulberry, the almond, the cherry, the fig, and, in short every fruit and flower cultivated in England (with the exception of the gooseberry and the currant) and many fruits peculiar to tropical climates... honey from the native as well as English imported bee was also exhibited.In the evening the celebration wound up with a Ball in Government House at Parramatta, given to the principal contributors to the Great Exhibition and the gentry of the neighbourhood.The Governor so enjoyed the whole scene of the morning that it seemed the happiest day he had spent in the Colony.
In the account of the ceremony in the Sydney Gazette, it was stated that upwards if a thousand persons were present; that a marquee was pitched in "an adjoining" field. Where upwards of two hundred ladies and gentlemen were entertained, and the bands of the 4th and 50th Regiments were present.
That the Governor's was pleasure was real can be seen from his letter to Under-Secretary Hay, written on 1st February,1836,in which he states:-
"You will be glad to learn that the Colony continues to advance with surprising rapidity. We have just celebrated the 48th Anniversary from its foundation by opening a large stone Bridge, which has been constructed by convict labour at the small expense to the colony of One Thousand Pounds. Such a structure in England would have cost Seven Thousand.The fete went off uncommonly well and there were exhibited a gallant show of well-dressed Dames and Gentlemen, of equipages and horses quite surprising in such a place."
(Geike,Archibald,Fairfield Through The Centuries.Fairfield Municipal Council:1949)