Dr Lenore Coltheart OAM is an Australian historian and heritage consultant now based on the Eurobodalla coast of southern New South Wales.
A speaker, researcher, writer and editor, her interests include landscape history, engineering heritage, the history of ideas, Australian politics and constitutional history, and feminist internationalism. She is writing a biography of Australian internationalist Jessie Street.
Recent work in landscape history and engineering heritage includes The Timber Truss Bridge Book (co-editor, with Amie Nicholas).
I am hoping you can help me with some information about the availability of original records from the NSW Public Works Department.
My research concerns the locomotives that were employed by the PWD and the projects on which those locomotives worked. Your books on the history of the PWD provide a comprehensive guide to the projects and I am wanting to drill down to find greater detail. The books provide many references to Annual Reports and deliberations of the Pariliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works but very few references to specific PWD files. I am unable to find relevant files through the State Archives website. Recently, I managed to obtain some original PWD correspondence on the harbour works at Coffs Harbour by purchasing a photocopy of the relevant Navigation Department file from State Archives. The archivist with whom I dealt was unable to find anything on any PWD file and was extremely helpful in going to the Navigation Department records to find a specific letter that was referenced in an article on the subject in Light Railways magazine. Some of my colleagues have managed to find relevant information in the records of the New Wales Government Railways but have not found relevant PWD files. All this makes me wonder if PWD records have somehow disappeared, maybe in the Gardens Palace fire or other disaster.
The PWD used locomotives mainly for the construction of river training works and public railways. Do you know of original PWD records on these subjects and can you tell me where to obtain some sort of index and how to access the records themselves? As I live in Brisbane, I need to be fully prepared before venturing down to State Archives at Kingswood.
Also, your writings mention a Public Works Heritage Group. Can you tell if this group still exists and how to contact it?
I shall be extremely grateful for any guidance you can provide.