The Bulli Black Diamond Museum & Heritage Centre at the eastern platform Bulli Railway Station was opened in 1989. The Centre is an affiliated member of the Royal Australian Historical Society. The Centre houses a collection of railway and local coal mining artefacts, as well as physical and photographic exhibitions of local interest. The old station was headed for demolition in 1987, which triggered a concerted community effort to save it - click here for more details of the Centre’s establishment – why not join us too – download Membership application (New members 50% discount in 1st year).
Rail in Bulli has a history of over 150 years. The first rail in the township was the 1861 horse drawn tramway of standard gauge for the Bulli Mine, after mining had commenced as early as 1858. Though commercial operations didn’t get underway for several more years. The horse drawn trams were followed by the first steam locomotive in May 1867. The South Coast Line was opened between Clifton and Bombo on June 21 1887, with full duplication of the line completed May 27 1923 (Source : C.C. Singleton - “Railway History in Illawarra“).
In addition to the main focus on Rail and Coal, the Museum also features some local family history, particularly of the Blinkco and Chamberlain-Hargrave-Nicklin-Aston families. There are also a number of books on local history for sale.
Visitor Entry to the Centre is via the Porch at the roadside on the Station ‘down side” – which then opens to the Main Waiting Room. Self guided heritage tour brochures, of Bulli’s heritage trails, are currently being developed for visitors to the Museum.
Exhibition Rooms include :
Main Waiting Room : holds a mining collection concentrating on 3 local coal mines : Bulli, Woonona (Bellambi or Old Model) and South Bulli, only South Bulli still operates.
Bulli Mine, also known as Old Bulli or the Corn Beef Pit, operated at the western end of Hobart St Bulli, west of Bulli Public School from 1858 until 1987. It is where the gas explosion occurred in 1887, which killed 81 miners – the second worst industrial disaster in Australia to this day (NSW State Records) – see Illawarra Coal site on history of Old Bulli Pit & Michael Organ’s article on Trains & Trams of Bulli Coal Company Mine.
Woonona Mine was west of Gray St Woonona, in which is now the Edgewood Housing Estate, Woonona, and operated from 1857 until 1921. The mine was operated by Thomas Hale and later by the Bellambi Coal Company – see Illawarra Coal site on history of Woonona Mine
South Bulli Mine is situated halfway up the escarpment, west of Bellambi Lane, above Russell Vale, and has operated since 1862. Currently it is still operating, with its parent company having recently being renamed from the Gujarat NRE to Wollongong Coal – see historical article by Martin Kimber.
Signal Room : To the North up the step is the Signals room, housing the operating levers which were used for the control of signals and points between Thirroul and Woonona, including the Bulli Mine siding and the Goods siding to the South of the Bulli Station. The room also contains original Station desks and equipment.
Lamp Room : Continuing north and down the step is the former Lamp room, which was used for the storage of oil lamps, oil and cleaning equipment. It now contains various items of Railway memorabilia.
Ticket Office : The former Ticket Office is used as the Centre’s office and also with a display of books for reference and sale – note a doorway has been added to the north side to connect with the Signal Room.
Ladies Waiting Room – the Blinkco Room : To the left of the Main Waiting Room, on the South Side, through a doorway (added during the transformation of the building, is the former Ladies Waiting Room. This room houses the Blinkco Collection which was donated in 1999. It is a social history collection, mainly of three Blinkco Sisters, Elsie, Rita and Alice. It now houses a collection of items from the Blinkco family home in High Street Woonona.
The Blinkco family was one of the many Sherbrooke families who relocated into the coastal villages of the northern Illawarra in the early 20th Century years. They had been forced to leave Sherbrooke, when it was resumed for the construction of Cataract Dam – read more at the Sherbrooke web site.
Note – The Blinkco’s also brought down the Union Church Building at Sherbrooke, and moved it to Woonona, integrating it into a private home. When that Woonona property was bought by developers in the 1990’s, the old timber Church was moved to the Illawarra Grevillea Park, where it is used for weddings etc.
Steam Locomotive : to the south of the museum, resting on the grassy knoll is a steam locomotive. It is the South Bulli No. 2 Loco; which was imported by Thomas Saywell in 1888 to be used in the mines, and was in use until the early 1960s.
The aims and objectives of the Centre are to :
- Generate a sympathetic and appropriate use of the old “down side” Bulli Railway Station building.
- Promote local history, including family history.
- Open the Centre to the Public at set times – 1pm – 4pm on most Sundays – and at other times for Group bookings.
- Continue to restore, maintain and landscape the whole of the Bulli Railway area, encouraging other groups to be involved.
- Make the Centre available as an educational resource.
The Black Diamond Heritage Centre is located on the eastern or “down” side of the Bulli Railway Station in Franklin Avenue, off Park Road Bulli. It is open Sundays from 1pm-4pm and at other times by appointment. For details on current office bearers – CLICK
New members are welcomed, and volunteers are always sought to assist in the operation and maintenance of the Centre. Download Membership application (New members 50% discount in 1st year).
Further Reading …
- “Railway History in the Illawarra” by C.C. Singleton, Past President and Honorary Research Officer – Australian Railway Historical Society – originally published by the Illawarra Historical Society in 1964, later editions published in 1970, 1972, 1984. The book was expanded from a January 1946 article in the Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin.
- “Steam on the Illawarra” – Frank Larkin 1979
- “A Railway History of the Illawarra – The history of rail transportation at Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd, Port Kembla, New South Wales together with an account of the development of railways and shipping ports in the Illawarra regoin – J.L.N. Southern 1978
- See more suggested reading at our Bulli in Books Page