History: Looking Back

Looking Back: Coaching the sea cliffs

James Waterworth on his first coach.

James Waterworth on his first coach.


THE eagerly awaited arrival of the railway to the Illawarra awoke the world to what is known today as Lawrence Hargrave Drive and its scenic splendour, altering what was a coastal bush track from a quiet local thoroughfare into a busy main road linking Sydney to Wollongong.

Soon after the opening of the railway to Waterfall in March 1886, the magnificent views from Bald Hill were described by a coach passenger on his way from Wollongong to meet the morning train at the Waterfall Railway terminus:

“Every passenger on the coach gazed as if spell bound upon the enchanting scene presented by Stanwell Park, Coal-Cliff, the Five Islands, and other interesting headlands jutting out along the coast line as far as the eye could scan southward. So magnificent an expanse of bejewelled sea and land, as it were, illuminated by the beaming rays of the bright morning sun, was such a sight as does fall to the lot of every person to see even once in a lifetime, and having been seen can never be forgotten.”

Prior to the opening of the railway to Waterfall, the quickest and most convenient route to the city was a seven hour trip on Waterworth’s Line of Coaches over Bulli Pass to Appin, and on to Campbelltown Railway Station for a train to Sydney. With the completion of the Sydney to Waterfall railway, Illawarra was a whisker away from rail travel and enterprising business people spied the opportunity to provide a shuttle coaching service to Waterfall.

The obvious conclusion was James Waterworth would be the man for the job. He had the Wollongong to Campbelltown coach run, as well as the contract to deliver Illawarra’s mail to Sydney.

The pioneering “whip”, who had had the Campbelltown mail contract since 1865, contemplated running an additional service to Waterfall, but seemed to be reluctant to opt for change. As a consequence, he was beaten to the punch by William Gibson, who began the first coaching service between Clifton and Waterfall, in March 1886.

Read more about coaching in the northern Illawarra at the Looking Back website.

About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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