In 1888, our transport infrastructure consisted of rail tracks, coach routes, cart tracks and bridle paths.
Bridle paths – the path used for walking, riding a horse or driving stock – were not constructed but followed the ancient trails of the first people. These paths were formally established through the work of early surveyors, who carefully noted the ancient trails, and who operated with stern directions to maintain first people names for major landmarks and features. There were plenty of exceptions – but this simple act of recognition helped to preserve a surprising amount of the law of the first people – the law of names. And, within the names, we still heard the music of those languages.
The surveyors also started the process of establishing private land-holdings within the overall structure of the ancient trails come bridle paths. With an eye for the future, surveyors left sufficient room in the crown reservations for an eventual expansion of paths to roads, as well as for future towns and government facilities (such as ports).
Within the patchwork of land grants and holdings came a need to use some paths for heavy vehicles. By the 1850s, local authorities were taxing land holders to establish semi-permanent cart tracks and permanent coach trails – although this became a source of claims and counter claims of local corruptions and, then, when the tracks and trails were washed away by flood, incompetence. Finally, alongside these tracks and trails came permanent rail infrastructure.
In examining archive files in Penrith a week ago for the Imaginary Cities Project, two old maps dropped out of the files for the national city competition. One was dated 1888 – and they both show the state of rural infrastructure in New South Wales at the time.