10 — 1865 — Picton and more

Posted originally on January 22, 2015 by Neil with additional material from March 6, 2013.

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

Here we are starting to see some people I actually remember.


That is enlarged from a tintype photo:

The invention of the tintype in 1854 brought the reality of photography closer to the mass population. A Tintype consisted of a thin iron ( not actually tin ) plate coated with a wet collodion emulsion. Once developed the tintype exhibited crisp detail on a varied gray background. The average tintype was about 2.5 x 3.5″ however many other sizes were produced, including miniature tintypes the size of postage stamps. Initially presented in ornate cases with pressed metal boarders similar to that of the Daguerreotype, most tintypes were housed in decorative card sleeves, specially designed albums or often left loose. While certainly more robust than a Daguerreotype, the tintypes emulsion was sensitive and often scratched due to careless handling….

It is a portrait of Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield, my grandfather, who was born in Picton in 1866.

His father, William Joseph John Whitfield, had been born in Sydney in 1836, marrying Elizabeth Ratcliffe in 1861.

While WJJ did go on to considerable success in the Picton/Myrtle Creek/Tahmoor/Bargo area, the 1860s had their moments, it appears. This is from February 1866.


Meanwhile Picton was being linked to the world by rail!

Following the completion of the first railway from Sydney to Parramatta Junction in 1855, proposals for the first railways to the rest of NSW were driven by postural communities interests seeking improved transport for their produce from inland centres such as Goulburn, Bathurst, Singleton and Muswellbrook. When John Whitton arrived in Sydney in 1856 to take up his position as Engineer-in-Chief of the NSW Railways, “he understood his job was to plan the extensions which would take the infant railway into the interior of Australia. At that time only the railway from Sydney to Liverpool was open, just twenty-one miles (34km) in length. Its extension to Campbelltown and beyond to the banks of the Nepean River at Menangle, a total of about seventeen miles (27km), had been surveyed” (Lee, 2000, p98). This was one of the first sections of line completed by Whitton by 1862…

When John Whitton planned the railway extension from Campbelltown to Picton, he was under pressure from government to keep costs low by using as much local material as possible, and originally proposed a timber bridge for crossing the Nepean River at Menangle. However following a large flood in 1860, Whitton designed a high level wrought iron large span bridge to get extra clearance from the waterway. Flanked by long timber approach viaducts, the bridge was a total of 582 m (1,909 feet). It was a massive structure for its time, comprising 5,909 cubic yards of masonry, 1,089 cubic yards of brickwork and 936 tons of wrought iron for a total cost of 94,562 pounds. The completion of the bridge in 1863 was an internationally recognised engineering achievement (Lee, 2000).

The single line from North Menangle to Picton opened on 1 July 1863 with Picton Station opening on the same date. The contract for the construction of the station buildings was awarded to M Jamieson & Eaton. The design of the Georgian style station building at Picton is attributed to Whitton and was completed for the opening of the single line in 1863. Other notable early stations attributed to Whitton include Mittagong, Moss Vale, Scone, Muswellbrook, Penrith (No.3 platform), Bowenfels and Mount Victoria. These early buildings borrow heavily from Whitton’s design experience in England and increasingly move from Georgian to Victorian architectural styles and represent Whitton’s obstinate faith in British railway standards and workmanship which continued throughout his career (Lee, 2000).

A goods shed and engine shed were also constructed at Picton in 1863. Picton remained the terminus of the line until the line was extended to Mittagong in 1867…


Picton Station 1863

You can read about the difficulties attending that Mittagong extension here.


Segue to my mother’s family, and the first time England gets a mention in this series*:


  • Born: 2 JUN 1846, Kirkby Thore, Westmorland, England
  • Baptised: 12 JUL 1846, Kirkby Thore, Westmorland, England
  • Died: 20 JUL 1912, Dulwich Hill,N.S.W., Australia
  • Buried: Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney

married 31 DEC 1867, St Michael, Appleby, Westmorland — Isabella Ann NELSON

  • Born: 1845, Bongate, Appleby, Westmorland
  • Baptised: 30 DEC 1845, St Michael, Appleby, Westmorland
  • Died: 23 JUL 1925, Dulwich Hill, N.S.W., Australia
  • Buried: Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney

They had the following children:

  1. Elizabeth Anne HUNTER
  2. Mary HUNTER
    • Born: 15 AUG 1870, Middlesborough, Yorkshire
    • Died: 5 JUN 1872, Middlesborough, Yorkshire
  3. Margaret Jane HUNTER
  4. John Henry HUNTER
  5. Nelson HUNTER
    • Born: 29 DEC 1876, Sydney,  New South Wales,  Australia
    • Died: 2 AUG 1878, Sydney, New South Wales,  Australia
  6. Isabella HUNTER
    • Born: 7 APR 1879, Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia
  7. Emily HUNTER
  8. Ada HUNTER
  9. Thomas HUNTER
  10. Mabel HUNTER

Ada Hunter was my grandmother, my mother’s mother, and wife of Roy Christison. Mabel was cousin Irma’s mother and wife of Horace Martin. My mother’s middle name, which she suppressed, was Isabella. My own name could have been Nelson as the uncle Neil Christison after whom I am named was originally Nelson.

In a post about my mother’s late cousin Irma Martin (1916-2013) I used this photo taken at Dulwich Hill during World War I of the Hunter family.

Irma was born on 21 August 1916, her parents being Horace Martin, a teacher, (1887-1970) and Mabel Martin, nee Hunter (1888-1966). Ada Hunter, Mabel’s sister, was married to Roy Christison, thus my mother’s father and mother. That is the Hunter family above with my mother and her brother Eric (with the boat) next to the pram. It would not be impossible that Irma is the one in the pram but it may also be my mother’s sister Beth.

I remember Aunt Margaret, married to Charles E. TREVOR, a baronet, so the story went – a title that was treated by some of us with a fair amount of derision.


But the story about the baronetcy was true, except Charles was a second son!


Thomas Hunter had a son, Harry, born in 1923/4 who was killed in New Guinea in 1944. I do recall hearing this mentioned at some time.

And am I right in thinking that the patriarch, Henry Hunter, was an engine driver? Certainly seeing Goulburn mentioned in that family tree brought back stories Grandma Ada told me about him and Goulburn, and his being crippled with arthritis partly as a result of time spent in the cab of steam locomotives.


Kirkby Thore, where Henry Hunter was born in 1846. The station, now demolished, opened in 1862.

So many half-recalled stories and such scope for someone to do some detective work.

I certainly remember being told that the old lady, Isabella, centre in that group photo, spent her last years imagining she was in Westmoreland again.

And I should also mention that my great-grandfather John Hampton Christison and my great-grandmother Sophia Jane Christison nee Lillie had both been born in 1858: in his case in Scotland, in hers in Australia. On GenForum:

George Lillie (Born 1834 in Aberdeen to Thomas [Lillie] and Martha Mathers) married Mary Collier in 1836. They went to Sydney, Australia as assisted immigrants and had the following children: Mary, George G., Thomas C., John K., Frederick W. and Sophia J.


Kind of true, given I haven’t mentioned it yet in this series, but the Wests (as in Caroline Philadelphia West, wife of William Whitfield) and the Ratcliffes (as in the wife of William Joseph John Whitfield) were of English background, just for starters.

Closely watched trains 5

There was a siding near my grandfather’s place in Sutherland, and every afternoon he would take a walk over there around 4pm because the Milk Train would be sitting waiting. My grandfather would climb through the fence and go over to the locomotive and talk to the driver and fireman. He had lived at Braefield near Quirindi and got to know railwaymen rather well. He enjoyed chatting to them. Sometimes I would go with him.

Most often the Milk Train was hauled by a C32 — the general work-horse from the late 19th century through to the end of the age of steam. Occasionally, though, it would be a C30T, converted into a tender-equipped 4-6-0 from its original configuration as C30, a tank engine used pre-electrification on suburban lines. A few C30s were still working into the early 1970s on small country tracks probably now shut down, in the main. The top picture is a C30T, and below a C30. Again the source is Preserved Steam Locomotives in NSW.


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Closely watched trains 4

The Garratt D60 was a rare sight in Sutherland. I seem to remember they had a habit of bending the tracks on some of the hairier sections of the Illawarra Line. Also, they were only just coming into service in the 1950s and 1955 was my last year by the main line between Jannali and Sutherland. There was an Australian connection with the concept, which I hadn’t realised: The Garratt Locomotive. The Garratts were the largest and most powerful steam locomotives ever to run on any railway in Australia.


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Closely watched trains 3

Another part of my childhood, as I recount here — which at the moment is Google top hit for “C32 steam”! This picture could have been taken on the Illawarra Line, though in fact is on Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains. It is certainly the kind of regular South Coast train I saw every day through the 1950s from my vantage point in Vermont Street Sutherland. This C32 was built by Beyer Peacock & Co in the UK in 1891!


Linked to an excellent resource from which this image is taken.

Closely watched trains 2

Part of my childhood: bloody long coal train near Sutherland NSW.


Linked to source

But if you were lucky, hauled by one of these, or two — a D57. I hadn’t realised they date back to 1929!


Linked to source

“Owing to their weight and cylinder dimensions, they were strictly confined to working between Sydney and Thirroul, Junee and Wallerawang and were not permitted to run on any part of the Northern Line.”

Closely watched trains 1


Linked to source

Sydney’s first electric train (1926), a few still in service in the 1960s. It appears it is a Bradfield, and yes it is wooden! At speed they used to rock in different directions from one end of the carriage to the other. See Rail rollingstock in New South Wales. “The last ‘Bradfield’ power-cars were withdrawn from service in 1975.” By that time the few left had been given steel walls.