Nothing like a bit of decaying industrial architecture to get the geeks amongst us interested. And if you can add in some interesting history, a lovely view, and a good walk, well what more could you ask for?
The Coal Loader at Ball’s Head manages all that and some more. Is a great combination of decaying industrial architecture and a beautiful bit of greenery in the heart of Sydney. The Coal Loader was a wonder in the 1920s, managing to shift an astonishing 700 tons of coal per hour via a series of little train trucks and a complicated loading system. Trucks came and dumped coal on a huge raised platform shrouding the surrounding suburbs in black dust; cranes deposited the coal down chutes (visible in the picture to the right) to a moving feeder which in turn dropped it into rail cars which took it out to ships via 920 meters of railway. From a modern perspective is seems astonishing that such a messy and intensive activity took place in the heart of Sydney.
Today you can walk through one of the tunnels, look at the remnants of rails and concrete footings and almost see the long wharf decay in front of your eyes. Look off to the right for a view of the minesweepers at HMAS Waterhen and ahead for Cockatoo Island and the mid-Harbour moorings. Today there were barges and dredgers arrayed for our viewing pleasure. To the left is moored the MV Cape Don which a dedicated group of boat geeks are lovingly restoring.
Go through the tunnel and you come to Balls Head which was terraced and built up as a pleasure garden in the 1930s and retains many of the original features today. It boasts a stunning view of the Bridge and Harbour and a lovely network of walks. Today, it must be noted, it also had a world-class collection of spiders perched high up in webs strung between the trees.