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Navvies working on the Illawarra railway near Helensburgh
By MICK ROBERTS ©
Grog shanties like this sprung-up in secluded bushland along the Illawarra railway works during the 1880s.
AMERICA’S Wild West could be considered tame compared to the wilderness separating Sydney from Illawarra’s far northern coal mining villages during the mid to late 1880s.
Notorious shantytowns sprang up in the bushland to service the men who built the Illawarra Railway and they were no place for the faint hearted.
The navvies employed on the government railway from Sydney to the Illawarra were tough, hard men who endured primitive living conditions in the wild country between the Georges River and Clifton.
The most notorious of these settlements was known as the 22-Mile Camp – located in the vicinity of the present Heathcote. It numbered over 200 workers and their families, who were regarded as the toughest of the tough, and where “respectable” navvies…
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