Diggers’ Car Run to Cataract Dam


cataract dam

Cataract Dam, where the diggers spent ANZAC Dat 1929.

IF you take a trip to Cataract Dam, there are three essentials to the complete enjoyment of the trip; one is a permit from the Water Board, the other an inch rule and a ready reckoner.

Through the goodly management of Mr. W. Cochrane, O.B.E., and the fine response to his appeal, something like 60 diggers were able to make the journey to the Dam via Bulli Pass on Anzac Day.

The fixture has grown into an annual and to the great joy of all and sundry, was much better attended than the previous year.

Fourteen cars filled with Diggers bent on having a good time left the Town Hall at about 2.30 p.m. and proceeded to Bulli Hotel where the demands on the staff for dust sinkers were fast and furious. Only a short stay was necessary to appease the thirst and the column pushed on in extended order to the Pass

Like all cars, some were and some were not, able to do the climb, and from varying causes, two cars were left behind for minor adjustment, catching up to the main body at the Dam.

Mr. Lang, who had been good enough to obtain the permit to view the dam acted as guide and interpreter to the party, and his knowledge of the place was drawn on to appease the thirst for Information about the great work.

The dam was completed in 1907, so says a bronze plate, and in June, 1908, it was handed over to the authorities. The depth of water is 150 feet and the greatest height of the wall above the foundations is 197 feet. One arm of water stretches away 9½ miles, whilst another runs away from view 7½ miles. The capacity of the dam is 20,500 million gallons.

Such a wonderful catchment area few miles from our Wollongong is unknown to many, and one feels impresser with the enormity of the undertaking to harness such a volume of water so that its flow may be controlled and used so effectively. By a system of gates and valves, the quantity of water released can be governed. It flows steadily along to Prospect for distribution to the residents of Sydney and its environs.

At the far end of the dam promenade a stone pillar is supported on two small stone supports, and on this is a brass plate bearing the following inscription: — “This pillar is a sample of the sand-stone used in the construction of the Cataract Dam. The greatest difference in its measured length of 20ft. under the condition of Maximum Solar Temperature and absorption of moisture and minimum solar temperature and moisture being 7-32 of an inch.”

Now, that’s where the rule and ready reckoner were necessities. At first it was accepted as being correct, indeed one Digger was quite sure it was correct. He could see it but some guy set things moving by asking for a paper and pencil — a two-up school couldn’t have gathered a crowd quicker. “Where’s George Dovers” someone said and after he had been discovered the question was put to him. “How many cubic yards in a ton, George?”

“I never work on Anzac Day,” said the doughty one, and George Payne coming to the rescue with some paper and pencil set to work. Phillips got busy taking measurements with his fingers, but that wasn’t very satisfactory so the search started for a rule. Dad Scott only had the Golden Rule – he always carries that and has almost worn it out using it. Hughie said he had one at home and Bill Hall, remembered there was one in the library draw, but it didn’t get the measuring done.

To assist to a conclusion Mr. Lang offered the pillar and plate to anyone able to carry it away. Undeterred George Payne wrote on “anyone know how many cubic yards in a ton?” he asked again, Charlie Dawson volunteered there were 1760 yards in a mile but that didn’t help.

“Take away the number you first thought off” urged Norm Hancock and asking for more, paper George figured on. He got up as far as 50 tons and hadn’t quite decided the square root of four, when U. Holland shook the bottom out of the argument by offering the overflow basin for subdivision – this being his second effort at salesman that afternoon – he tried to sell the dust on the road – but anyhow a good salesman al-ways talks business.

Then someone found two pennies, and the National pastime was in full swing and was so like old times that George forgot all about cubic yards and absorption and left it that the pillar weighed anything from 2 to 25 tons. Time came to return home. It was a real good trip and a happy one. Congratulations to W. Cochrane, the diggers’ friend and hearty thanks to the kindly disposed car owners who made the trip possible.

– South Coast Times Friday 26 April 1929

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