The Lithgow area is full of historically significant & interesting places to visit, one of these is the Ruins of the Shale mining operations at Newnes which is on the banks of the Wolgan River.
A major oil shale mine with two headings was started on the north side of the river, opposite the works. It was intended to tunnel through the mountain to meet up with some earlier workings in the Capertee Valley as mining conditions in the Capertee were regarded as being much better than in the Wolgan. However, mining difficulties and the generally low quality of the shale in this area meant that mining became concentrated on the No. 2 mine and work on the No. 1 mine was eventually abandoned. Although construction of a tunnel linking the Wolgan Valley with the Capertee was proposed on numerous subsequent occasions, it was to remain an elusive dream.
The No. 2 mine was established on the southern side of the river, east of the works.
The main works site was established in a sweeping bend on the south bank and extending up the adjacent talus hillside. These works consisted of retorts, various distillation areas, oil storage tanks and washers, plant for the refining of the various finished products, a power station, workshops, etc, with provision for future expansion. They were built in a substantial manner, as attested by the extensive ruins that stand to this day. Although construction commenced in 1906, it was not until 1911 that the initial stage was completed, and the retorts charged for the first time.
A village was established close to the mining leases & was originally known as Wolgan, but was renamed Newnes—after Sir George Newnes, the chairman of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation at the time—in early 1907. In its early years, Newnes was also known as South Newnes to distinguish it from the small settlement of North Newnes, in the Capertee Valley, from where a tunnel was being driven toward the Wolgan Valley operations until September 1906.
Over the years its prosperity reflected that of the mining operations so that in 1906 there was a population of about 100, increasing to 800 by 1907, falling to 96 in 1914, grew to 200 by 1924 but then fell again to only 4 families in 1940. At the 2016 census, Newnes had a population of 4.
The company built the 50 kilometre railway line from the main government railway south of Newnes to their works through exceedingly difficult country, particularly where the line descended into the Wolgan Valley from the plateau above. This railway is no longer in use and the rails have been removed. A tunnel on the railway has survived as the Glowworm Tunnel, which has become something of a tourist attraction.
The Newnes Hotel functioned successfully for some time, although business was affected when mining operations were shifted to Glen Davis, further north in the Capertee Valley. However, the hotel was flood-prone because of its proximity to the Wolgan River & in 1986, flooding undermined the building's structure, so it was moved further from the river by volunteers in 1987 & the licence was sold in 1988. The business still operates as a Kiosk on weekends. The owners have added numerous cabins to provide some incredible accommodation along with a private campground with access to the river.
Their contact details can be found at http://www.newneshotelcabins.com/