Destination Newcastle


Destination Newcastle

Featuring photographs from the Ken Magor collection

©2013 Greg and Sylvia Ray

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic

or mechanical, and including photocopying, recording or by information storage and retrieval systems,

without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Second printing, with revisions

Printed by Newcastle Camera Print, Channel Road, Steel River, Newcastle

Published by Greg and Sylvia Ray with the support of the Newcastle Herald

Concept and design by Greg and Sylvia Ray

Research and captions by Greg Ray

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-publication entry

Ray, Greg and Sylvia. Destination Newcastle.

ISBN 978-0-9871883-3-5

Front cover photo: Girls admiring an engine, decorated for Newcastle’s 150th anniversary in 1947.

Title page: Looking west along Hunter Street

Destination Newcastle

Selected, arranged and interpreted by Greg Ray

Layout and image restoration by Sylvia Ray

Introduction: Ken Magor’s passion for transport

Ken Magor was born in Broken Hill in 1913 and was a transport enthusiast from his early years.

Photographs of the young Ken often show him playing with his mates on the two famous Newcastle-built

solid-tyred buses - Red Robin and Cock Robin - that ran in the mining town in the 1920s.

Ken’s first job was helping out in a garage, and he moved from that to become a busboy during the Great

Depression. After that he tried his hand working in a jewellery store and picking fruit at Mildura before

getting a job in 1936 at Broken Hill’s Zinc Corporation mine.

But Ken’s ambition was to be a fireman, and he weathered many knockbacks before eventually winning a

job that brought him, in 1941, to Newcastle.

He spent 33 years with the NSW Fire Brigade, 31 of them in the Newcastle area, at Tighes Hill, Cooks Hill

and Waratah, before retiring in 1972.

While he worked at the Fire Brigade, his spare time was spent on his consuming hobby - collecting

transport memorabilia. At its peak, his collection of photographs and negatives numbered 250,000.

His other collections were just as impressive, covering transport tickets, timetables, books and a

bewildering variety of models and pieces from redundant buses, trams and trains. Such was his depth of

knowledge, and his notorious persistence as a collector, that he won the nickname “Minister for Transport”

and was often quoted in Hunter newspapers as an authority on transport history.

As he approached the end of his life Ken began dispersing parts of his collections to various transport and

fire brigade museums around the country, and when he passed away in 1993, the remainder was gradually

sorted and disposed of.

Ken Magor’s extensive collections have featured in our three previous books: Newcastle, the Missing

Years, Recovered Memories, and Changing Places.

In this fourth book, assembled from a final collection recently acquired from Ken’s son, Barry, we have

narrowed our focus in line with Ken’s own lifelong passion for transport.

Not a comprehensive survey, the book doesn’t attempt to cover ground best left to experts and specialists.

Instead, it presents some photographic gems that - while created to depict transport modes - have a much

broader social and commuity appeal, especially to Hunter residents.

Ken Magor, at right, with mate Clive Maddern, in Broken Hill in 1928, had a lifelong love affair with transport.


Ken in his den in Newcastle in the 1960s. His collection of transport memorabilia was huge and varied.

Ken took many of his own photographs, and he travelled widely for picture opportunities. He and his circle

of enthusiast friends also traded photos and information, a practice that has helped many scarce items survive.

As noted in our previous books, a portion of Ken’s collection of negatives appears to have originally been

part of the archive of the Newcastle Herald and Newcastle Sun. Ken was good friends with some newspaper

photographers and they may have passed items to him to preserve in his famous collections.

Many of the images in this book - as in our previous publications - were almost certainly produced by

such press photographers as Milton Merrilees, Arch Miller, Tom Hall and Cec Piggott. Sadly, it is no longer

possible to accurately attribute most of these images to their creators.

Impressively, Ken maintained a hand-written index of his photographs and negatives. Occupying a small

pile of exercise books, this index lists whatever information he had for each image, usually including date,

location, film format, source and subject. This index, recently acquired from Barry Magor, has been an

invaluable aid in compiling the present volume.

We would like to express our thanks to Barry for his help in making our books possible. Thanks too, to

Ken’s step-daughter Betty Mead and her husband Norman, who generously gave us another portion of Ken’s

collection that been in their hands for some years.

Our gratitude, again, to the families of the late Milton Merrilees and Arch Miller, and to our kind friend

Daphne Barney. Thanks to Mrs Joan Duffell, who kindly loaned the fascinating negatives her father took of

railway accidents, during the period in which he worked on the Craven breakdown crane.

Thanks to my late colleague Chris Watson, who encouraged our first books so strongly, and to the

Newcastle Herald, my employer, for its continuing support and assistance.

And thanks to the many, many people who have helped in a myriad ways with information, photographs

and kind encouragement.


Greg and Sylvia Ray

The Newcastle to Stockton punt, Kooroongaba, laid up for repairs on Newcastle’s waterfront, in October 1935.

The Newcastle Harbour ferry, Darra, photographed from the Stockton side of the harbour, on July 14, 1937.


Shipbuilding was for many years an important industry at Stockton. Here, a wooden ferry is taking shape.

A completed wooden ferry hull, prepared for launching into the harbour from Stockton, on February 3, 1945.


An undated, but early, view of Newcastle’s waterfront, showing hydraulic cranes loading coal into a “turret

ship” - so named for its peculiar hull shape. The ships in the background are a mixture of steam and sail.

A typical waterfront view, showing a visiting warship, with the familiar bulk of Nobbys in the background.


The Clan line’s TSS Perthshire, under wartime repair in Newcastle’s floating dock, on December 4, 1942.

Newcastle’s old stalwart pilot vessel, the Birubi, laid up in the floating dock. Photograph taken circa 1934.


An old steam tram motor tows flat top trucks along the Nobbys breakwater railway lines, on June 23, 1939.

Public Works Department steam motor on Nobbys breakwater during reconstruction work, on January 27, 1939.


Zaara Street power station was built by the NSW Railway Commissioners in 1915 and supplied power

to Newcastle until its decommissioning in 1971. The above photo was taken on March 3, 1939, while the

view below, from the power station towards Nobbys Beach and headland, was taken on October 12, 1938.


An old steam tram motor - used for breakwater reconstruction - in the Zaara Street power station yards.

Rail trucks full of coal, waiting to be fed into the hungry furnaces of the power station, on October 12, 1945.


Smoke from the power station and from steam trains made Newcastle a polluted place, on November 6, 1946.

An evocative view of a steam locomotive at Newcastle, with the familiar buildings of Scott Street behind.


Another kind of smoke, this time from an accidental fire at a Hunter Street shop in January 1934. Fire fighters

are using a tower wagon to fight the flames while crowds gather to watch and trams back up to the east.


An old-style trailer bus, crippled with collapsed suspension, at Pacific Street, Newcastle, on June 28, 1947.

A wartime recruiting tram, parked between Telford and Pacific Streets, Newcastle East, on July 21, 1941.


RAAF train standing on the colliery line in Burwood Street, on December 16, 1940. Interior shown below.


An elevated view of Hunter Street, looking west, on January 24, 1945. The intersection is Newcomen Street.


Another elevated view of Hunter Street, looking eastward, past the Post Office, on November 23, 1938.


An east-bound tram trundles past groups of men at work widening Scott Street, on November 17, 1936.

Roadwork on Scott Street, December 17, 1936.


A cyclist in a busy Scott Street scene, near

Newcastle Railway Station, February 19, 1937.

Wet day scene outside Newcastle Railway Station in October 1935. Note the George Hotel awning at left.


A tram in Hunter Street, between Bolton and Newcomen Streets, on a grey and rainy day, February 1, 1938.

Mayfield-bound tram, with headlight on, approaching the Post Office stop on a stormy day, November 15, 1936.


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