Bulli Pass water troughs


bulli pass water trough

The Bulli Pass water trough, now outside the Bulli Railway Station. Photo: Patricia Klaus.

OUT the front of the the Black Diamond Heritage Centre at Bulli Railway Station, there’s an odd looking water trough. A little too high for the average canine to sip from, the trough is a relic from Bulli’s past, when horses dominated the roadways.

The water troughs were the pre-motor car service station of their time, and dotted the roads and byways of the district providing a welcome refreshment for horses.

The concrete water trough outside Bulli Railway Station originally sat at the foot of Bulli Pass, on the western side of the Prince’s Highway, providing drinks to horses in preparation for their tough climb over the escarpment.

Interestingly, the motor car had well and truly arrived when the water trough was provided on the roadside, indicating that the horse was still a popular mode of transport around Bulli at the time. The South Coast Times reported on Friday April 23 1937 that the Bulli Shire Council gave permission for the water trough to be put on the roadside.


Horse Trough – Mr and Mrs. Keelan, Mr. Lord (secretary RSPCA), Mr. Hawley (M. R. Board), Cr Kelly and himself had conferred on this matter and it was decided to place the trough on the western side of the Highway on the south side of and adjacent to Hewitt’s Creek bridge. — Adopted.

By the end of the year the water trough was in place near Woodlands Creek, and the debate on just who was responsible for its maintenance had begun – and would continue for decades to come. The South Coast Times reported on a Bulli Shire Council meeting on Friday November 5 1937, where a debate was had on the maintenance of the trough.

From Mrs. A. J. Keelan, Thirroul, regarding horse water trough, recently erected by R.S.P.C.A. Such required cleaning but and council was asked to attend to same. She was prepared to pay a boy 2/- to clean it periodically or else do it herself. The engineer said the R.S.P.C.A. put the trough in it was presumed it could arrange for maintenance. In the meantime he would have same cleaned out.

The trough sat on the roadside for decades, until the motor car took precidence, and it was pushed into the scrub, near Woodlands Creek, when the Princes Highway was widened by the Department of Main Roads during the 1960s. I was tipped off about the trough during the 1990s, and found the reminder of slower times amongst the lantana bushes beside the creek.

After some debate over who was the legal owner of the trough, myself and Ray Brown organised to have it relocated and placed in front of the Black Diamond Heritage Centre at Bulli Railway Station in Franklin Avenue. It remains there today (2016).

Water troughs for horse have been a part of the history of Bulli Pass since the steep mountain road was built in the early 1860s. The most famous was a natural spring situated between “The Elbow” and the summit of the Pass. It became known for its refreshing water, with touring parties often stopping there for drinks while admiring the scenic wonders of the rainforest clothed roadway. The Evening News (Sydney) reported on Wednesday 21 October 1896:

The Government officials, through Mr. Nicholson, M. L. A., have signifled their approval of a water trough and fountain for man and beast being placed at the top of the Bulli Pass, where there is a splendid natural spring.

wishing well c1910 bulli pass

The “Wishing Well” was located on the section of the pass between “The Elbow and the summit” by the NSW Government in 1896 to provide for “man and beast”.

Another well-known watering trough sat for decades on Greens Pinch, near the property of W. B. Green. Green was the retired undermanager of Mount Keira Colliery and later a Wollongong publican. He applied to the NSW Government to place a trough on the roadside near his property on Bulli Pass in 1897. The Evening News reported on January 8:

Mr. W. B. Green, of the Pass, has presented the Roads Engineer, Mr. Cox, with a huge water trough, hewn out of the barrel of a mammoth tree, for watering horses, the water being conveyed to the trough by a pipe from the range. The trough has been placed in position some distance up the Pass, and will be a great boon to owners of stock.

Green installed a new 600 feet pipe to supply water from a natural spring on his property to the trough on Bulli Pass in 1912.

In 1915 a property owner on Bulli Pass, W. T. Clarke was given permission to connect his home by pipe to the trough. He told Council he “would see that the trough was always full”. He also referred to the fact that he had already done a certain amount of work to keep the water flowiing as the pipes had needed repairing.

During 1918 Bulli Council engaged “maintenance men” to “overhaul” about 50 chains of piping lying on the ground surface to the trough. There was also some discussion about removing the trough “a little lower down”.

F. J. Moran, hon, secretary Austinmer Progress Association, wrote stating that complaints were still being made that the water trough on the Bulli Pass-road was still dry. The President stated that this matter was to be attended to immediately.

– South Coast Times January 10 1919

The fate of the old timber water trough remains a mystery.

water trough green

The “mammoth hewn out tree trunk” presented to the Roads Engineer by William B. Green and placed on Bulli Pass on the steep section just before Greens Pinch. in 1897. The image is part of Cazneaux family photograph collection 1870-1943. The inset picture is W.B. Green, who had a farm on the mountain pass, and installed the trough in 1897.

THE water trough erected on the side of the, road by Mr. D. Pendlebury near his (brick) works (at Woonona), for the benefit of the public, has proved a great convenience.

-Illawarra Mercury Friday 28 December 1906.

Bulli Shire Council – Engineers Report – Re water trough at Clifton. The trough referred to was in front of the Clifton Hotel, and required removing, likewise the piping. He recommended council could not take any action under the circumstances, but when circumstances permitted, steel troughing could be placed on the side of the road in Clifton, a small concrete basin inserted at the end of the railway culvert, and a connection of galvanised iron made at a cost not exceeding £30.

– Illawarra Mercury Friday 4 October 1907.

The engineer reported that it would cost about 14 pound to make a water trough at Horse Creek (Scarborough). He recommended that the work be carried out. Cr. Dove said that if this work was carried out it would be a great boon to the residents of Scarborough.

-Illawarra Mercury  October 1909.


Mr. B. W. Jakins wrote to the effect that as the Water and Sewerage Board had removed the tank and stand from a site near his hotel at Woonona, he wished to bring under the notice of the Council the suitability of this site for a drinking trough for working stock. It was decided to write to the Department and ascertain the conditions relating to the installation of the water trough.

– South coast Times August 28 1914

The Water Board wrote that a free supply of water would be provided for the trough at Clifton.— Received.

-South Coast Times July 16 1915.

 The Water Board approved of free supply of water for trough proposed to be rented by Council near Jones’ bridge, Bulli. — Received.

-South Coast Times February 22 1918.

The Water Board forwarded approval of free supply of water for horse trough on main road, , Thirroul. — Received.

– South Coast Times May 31 1918

The Metropolitan Board of Water Supply wrote in reply, acceding to council’s request to grant a free water supply for a water trough to be erected at Thirroul. Council agreed to erect the trough at a cost of £10.

– South Coast Times May 31 1918.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2016

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