The Red Cliffs Pumping Station

Recently there’s been an increased interest in the narrow gauge train line that fed coal to the Red Cliffs Pumping Station. One or two movies have surfaced from collections such as Frank Jenners’ but in general information and photos have been scarce. In this episode, we hear from an authority on this topic Mike McCarthy, not only about the train but also about the activities on the Red Cliff Pumping Station site since it opened in the early 1920s.

The Pumping Station site with coal heaps visible
Detailed map of the location
A loaded train heads to the pumps

Following the recording of the podcast, we supplied this footage taken by Frank Jenner to Mike. He’s come back with the following observations which are quite amazing. Remember we’ve had no details on this short film since it was found amongst the Jenner collection.

“I thought it was coal fines being tipped from the tram trucks but its not. It is briquettes. The piece of machinery shown is the hopper and bottom of the conveyor/lifter used to take dumped briquettes/coal up to the top of the pumping station from where it was  carried by a conveyor to the bins behind each of the boilers.

The interesting thing is that the ramp you can see with the two trucks at the top was used to bring briquettes, stored at the pumping station, up to the dump point. It replaced the structure you can see next to the ramp. The crowd of people are standing next to the structure. This structure was removed in 1931 as it was no longer needed. I think the crowd are there to inspect the changes made during late Dec 1930/Jan 1931 to accommodate briquettes. This was a big deal at the time. The film is demonstrating how briquettes are handled. They are dressed for summer so, firstly I think the film has to be in 1931. Secondly, the new appearance of the ramp and the machinery coupled with the dress of the attendees suggests it was filmed around Jan to March 1931.”

6 Replies to “The Red Cliffs Pumping Station”

  1. Thanks Ian Mac for an excellent interview and to Mike for sharing his research and knowledge on this subject. The Red Cliffs Historical Steam Railway are having a working bee this morning, so hope this encourages them in their tasks. 😊
    See the Red Cliffs & District Historical Society’s Facebook or website:
    for copies of Mike’s articles published in the Light Railways magazine.

  2. The Collinson family that I was part lived at 57 Pumps Rd Red Cliffs. We saw this train on its regular trip to the pumping station..we left that address and moved to Robinvale in 1958/9.

  3. Thankyou for this most interesting Frames of History radio show about the Red Cliffs Pumping Station. Back around late 1940’s my husband Robert lived near railway line and attended the Red Cliffs East School. He was fascinated by the train going to and from the pumps, which could be seen across the vines from the front of his home. His parents were renting the home from people called Jarry. I also recall visiting some of my
    relatives with the surname of Scott who lived out at the pumps, where the father worked at around that time.

  4. There was a light guage railway at Nowingi carting gypsum in from the Raak gypsum mine, I can recall seeing it ghosting through the pine and belah trees once, I don,t know if one of the later diesel loco,s ended up there! I am not even sure if it was a 2ft guage it might have been wider as the line was originally intended to travel out towards SA and open that area up for farming.

    1. Lance, the Nowingi Towards Millewa South railway was a broad gauge Victorian Railways branch line – not narrow gauge. It had no connection to the Red Cliffs pumping station locomotives.

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