Monthly Archives: February, 2013

F4 Expressway/SWR Western Motorway/M4 Freeway – Concord, NSW

swr

Image courtesy RTA Magazine/OzRoads

As promised, we’re now going to plunge into the half-assed history of the M4 freeway’s eastern terminus. I’m imagining you’re already as joyful and excited as those people on the bridge above, but don’t peak early – we’ll dig up some good stuff. If I do a half-assed job, consider it an homage.

After World War II it became clear that Parramatta Road wasn’t going to cut it anymore as a way of getting people to and from the western suburbs of Sydney, which had exploded in terms of population. Of course, in those days, Leichhardt was a western suburb, but you get the idea. In 1947, the newly created County of Cumberland Planning Scheme identified a possible route for an expressway which would connect Glebe to the Great Western Highway at Lapstone (of the treacherous Lapstone Incline fame). In reliably speedy NSW Government fashion, the corridor of land was reserved in 1951.

As an aside, I’d just like to shine the spotlight on my ignorance: I had no idea what Cumberland County was, and I was surprised to learn that not only was it created by Governor Arthur Phillip in 1789 and encompasses most of the Sydney metro area, but that there are 141 counties in New South Wales. A shadowy cabal of local government councillors would elect the Cumberland County Council, which then had a powerful influence over town planning in metro Sydney. Spooky stuff.

Anyway, the M4’s construction started backwards, with the first stage completed at Emu Plains in the late 60s. The late 60s. After the plan was formed in 1947. Yeah.

As the freeway crept closer and closer to Sydney, the pocket of land set aside to relieve the ever-building traffic pressure in the city waited patiently for its turn.

It’s still waiting.

IMG_9092

This is the start and end of the M4, and as close as the freeway gets to the city. Every day, traffic from the western suburbs and beyond is ripped from the (theoretically) 90km+ flow into the waiting 60km arms of Parramatta Road, Concord. Citybound motorists must then contend with the stop/start rhythm of Sydney’s oldest road and a new nightmare: traffic lights. If this sounds awkward, it’s because it is. And it looks even more awkward:

swrmap

Image courtesy Google Maps

In 1976, the F4 freeway (as it was then known) was all set to drill right through the inner west and end up at its intended starting point in the city, Glebe. But Glebians (?) had had over 20 years to prepare their outrage and protests, so the Department of Main Roads found itself staring down a pissed off neighbourhood that feared the freeway would shatter its layout and atmosphere. In what would be the first of many such moves for the NSW Government, it backed down. The Concord to Glebe section of the freeway was abandoned, and a backup plan was hastily slapped together.

1979m4

The F4 prepares to cross Silverwater Road, 1979. Courtesy Main Roads Journal/OzRoads

Also hastily slapped together were the physical components of the eventual fix, which was to spill the M4 onto Parramatta Road and hope that it all worked fine. In 1982, more than 30 years after planning had commenced, the section of the M4 between Concord and Auburn was opened to traffic, despite the next section between Auburn and Granville not being complete.

1985m4

Concord reforged: the F4 ends, 1985. Courtesy Main Roads Journal/OzRoads

What a shemozzle! Although the rest of the freeway west of Concord was eventually completed (pretty much), it’s the section between Concord and Auburn that remains the most interesting and telling of the struggles that went into constructing it. With the O’Farrell Government now gearing up to deliver on its promise to complete the M4 (via a tunnel system, natch), it’s as good a time as any to see what kind of stopgap measures we can look forward to.

IMG_9094

Where the M4 itself joins Parramatta Road, it LITERALLY joins Parramatta Road in a series of glued on slabs of cement. It’s easy to see the difference in road material here..

IMG_9098

…here…

IMG_9087

…and here. This is because the entrance to the M4 as it is today was originally part of Concord Road, which was relocated a block to the west. Why? Bear with me…

IMG_9078

When this section was completed in 1982, the one-way Sydney Street was the only way off the M4. Traffic would then spill into Concord Road, which at the time followed a different alignment…

IMG_9085

…being this, the current end of the M4. To accommodate more traffic, Concord Road was realigned to cross Parramatta Road instead of joining it.

IMG_9081

Concord Road was extended towards Leicester Street on the other side of Parramatta Road, and the former curve was filled in by parkland and a bus stop:

IMG_9083

So if you’ve ever wondered what this big bit of nothing was all about, that’s the story, although it could be argued that providing more access for buses adds to Parramatta Road’s problems, but that’s another story.

IMG_9074

A tunnel was dug here between the M4 and Concord Road to form the overpass that exists there today, and to direct the traffic flow onto Parramatta Road. What was the fruit of all of this effort? One set of traffic lights is bypassed by eastbound traffic.

IMG_9072

This restructure meant that Young Street, which in 1982 acted as the eastmost on-ramp for the M4, was cut in half by the new end of Concord Road. What was once one of the most important streets in Sydney now ends with a whimper:

IMG_9070

…where once it would have joined the M4 it now provides access to a unit block’s carpark.

As mentioned, the other problem the M4 faced in 1982 was that it stopped at Silverwater. You could get on at Young Street, belt down the freeway at 90km/h in your Holden Monaro for about five minutes before being dumped back onto Parramatta Road, the defacto western expressway, at our old friend Melton Street.

IMG_9120

Yes, this is the sight you would have faced exiting the M4 between 1982 and 1984, when the next segment was completed. You would have zoomed up past the school and the Melton Hotel, and then back onto Parramatta Road for the next million years if you were trying to get to Springwood. If we look a bit closer, we can see where the exit ramp used to be:

IMG_9121

In the bushes between Adderley Street and the M4 you can see a clear path the motorists would have taken to rejoin Sydney traffic. I’m assuming the RTA has set this land aside for future widening of the freeway, as if that will ever happen, but in the meantime it gives us that vital link to the past. Once again, a seemingly insignificant little road like Melton Street actually did have a grander place in the scheme of things. Parramatta Road: where anything can happen.

Further up from Melton Street is the Silverwater mainstay Stubbs Street, as seen in the very first picture in this article. The M4 proceeds under the Stubbs Street overpass…

IMG_9104

…which was completed in 1981 to mark the end of this section of the freeway.

IMG_9105

Once the next section between here and Granville was completed in 1984, Melton Street was once again exclusive to pub patrons and parents dropping off their kids, while motorists were free to drive on to the west.

Or were they?

IMG_9107

By 1989 only a small section of the M4 as we know it today was missing, and a private consortium, StateWideRoads, was contracted by an exhausted NSW Government to finish the job. As we all know, a grand don’t come for free, so by the time this missing link (and some hastily approved widening) was completed in 1992, someone had to pay.

That someone was you.

SWR tollbooths, 2007. Image courtesy someone who isn't me.

SWR tollbooths, 2007. Image courtesy someone who isn’t me.

It was determined that the section between James Ruse Drive at Granville and Stubbs Street, Silverwater was the section through which the majority of cars would pass, thus ensuring the shortest possible time for a toll to be in place. In May 1992, $1.50 was required to continue out to the western suburbs. By the time the toll was removed in February 2010, over $970 million had been paid to pass these booths.

IMG_9113

Today, there’s little apart from the alignment of the lanes to suggest that the toll booths were ever there, but other remnants of the M4 project have left a more lasting mark all over Sydney. The freeway is back in the hands of the NSW Government, which is akin to returning an abused child to their abusive parent. As the battle to complete the M4’s route into the city rages on in state parliament, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has even expressed support for the completion should he win government at the next election. Thousands of motorists a day are still inconvenienced by the half-finished freeway. One accident on the M4 causes traffic chaos all over the city. The Eastern Suburbs are still effectively isolated from the rest of Sydney due to a lack of motorways….so I guess there are always upsides. There’s been talk of reinstating the toll to pay for what would by now be a very expensive couple of kilometres. In 1977, the projected cost of completing the M4 from Concord to Glebe as intended would have been $287m.

The M4 is only 46km long.

Maybe if it ever gets finished, it’ll be linked up to the Western Distributor so that it can actually start distributing people to the west instead of, you know, nowhere.

TRAFFIC STOPPING UPDATE: Thanks to Burwood Library’s archive of interesting old stuff, you can now enjoy this old pamphlet detailing the opening of TWO new segments of the F4 back in 1982. Even better is that this article’s diagrams illustrate the progress of the F4 almost as well as the above article. You all thought I was mad when I wrote this one, but who’s mad now?

img099

img098

img100

img101

img104

img105

The Melton Hotel – Auburn, NSW

Get comfy, this’ll be a long one.

IMG_9019Sometimes, it’s not so much about what a place has become as it is about how it got that way. This is certainly true in the case of Auburn’s Melton Hotel. Ordinarily I, like any passer-by, would take one look at the Melton and think ‘I value my life too much to go in there,’ subsequent to the instinctual thought of ‘Just another pub.’ Situated along Parramatta Road at the corner of Station Street, there’s just nothing that sticks out about the hotel in any way; not even the jovially named ‘Hey Hey Kebab’ adjoining gives cause for anything more than a mild double-take.

IMG_9018So why, dear reader, am I subjecting you to this dry account of a seemingly humdrum pub? Well, what piqued my interest (as I’m sure it will yours) was the simple fact that the street running parallel to the hotel’s side of the block is called Melton Street South.

Not pictured: Melton Street North

This got me thinking: why was the pub named the Melton Hotel if it wasn’t actually on Melton Street? Clearly it was time for some field detective work, because I knew if I didn’t solve the mystery it would bother me all day. I couldn’t find anything about anyone named Melton in the area’s history (it’s not even clear to historians why the area itself is named Silverwater), but I had a feeling if they were honouring some local hero, they wouldn’t just name a pub and a street after them. First port of call: the Atlas of the Suburbs of Sydney, ca 1885-1890.

newest

Courtesy the Atlas of the Suburbs of Sydney, ca. 1885-1890

This map of Auburn shows that neither Station Street nor Melton Street South existed at the time. Today, they’re located between the map’s Stubbs Street and Sutherland Street (now Silverwater Road).

Next: time to research the pub itself. Thankfully, the pub in question has an illustrious history; according to the hoteliers, its license dates back to 1811 (when it was owned by Samuel Haslem, of Haslem’s Creek fame), attached to an inn located not too far from the current site. In 1877 a former jockey, Fred Martineer, became the licensee of the Melton Hotel and held that position for over 30 years, firmly establishing the pub as a favourite of the area’s myriad meat workers.

Tragedy struck in 1914 when, after too many cases like this…

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 21 feb 1906

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 21 February 1906

…the public was swept up by a need to reinstill a sense of public decency via a series of local option acts. The acts enforced a six o’clock closing time for pubs and resulted in 293 hoteliers losing their licenses, including Martineer. Despite the pub’s closure and with flagrant disregard to the after hours prohibition, he continued to live in what became known as the ‘old Melton Hotel’ until his death in 1918:

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 16 mar 1918

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 16 March 1918

The Old Melton had been named sometime prior to 1895, when it appeared on that year’s list of Hotel Licensees. It’s this hotel that sat on the corner of Melton Street South (then Melton Road), so from this we can assume the street was named after the pub. But, like me, the Martineers couldn’t let it go. In 1929, the Martineers built the NEW Melton Hotel at its current location, which at the time seemed to take up the entire section of Parramatta Road between Melton Street and Station Street.

That’s all well and good, but today it’s a very different story. Nothing remains of the Old Melton, the New Melton is nowhere near the corner of Melton Street, and there’s a string of dingy shops between it and its namesake street. What happened?

IMG_9020Discounting the obvious greed associated with subletting the Melton Street side of the block to said dingy shops, the true answer seems to lie in the Melton Hotel’s parking lot. The hyperbolic claim of “stacks & stacks of parking” is betrayed by the truncated nature of the car park itself. Here it is, seen from Station Street:

IMG_9021Further encroachment into the lot reveals a flimsily constructed wall on the Melton Street side. Hmm

IMG_9022And a gap in the northern end of that wall. HMM

IMG_9023The gap leads out to Melton Street, whereupon you’re immediately facing a school. This sign:

IMG_9024…is all that remains of this side’s former life as an entrance/exit to the Melton’s car park, and indeed of the Melton’s connection to the street it inspired. A closer look at the other side of the fence backs this deep bit of insight up.

IMG_9015The kerb is clearly a lighter shade of cement, indicating the spot where the driveway used to be. The two bushes are doing a laughable job of hiding the wooden fencing that blocks off those driveways.

IMG_8995Even stranger is the choice to keep these former barriers, and simply cut them where the new fence intersects.

IMG_8981One of the more interesting aspects of all of this is the sign that once guided thirsty drivers into the parking lot. Hidden by overgrown branches and worn away by years of neglect, there’s no real reason for the hoteliers to have left it there – least of all what it’s advertising. After all, if it hadn’t been for the sign, I never would have stumbled upon this madness in the first place. No, for me, the real gold is the sign’s reverse side:

IMG_8979Remarkably well-preserved, the sign advertises Tooheys 2.2, which was an attempt by Tooheys to introduce a light beer to their otherwise heavy range in the late 1980s.

While it would be nice to think that this was Tooheys doing its part to avoid another 1914 Local Option fiasco, the way the ad puts a jokey spin on drunken violence and employs a disturbing tagline clearly aimed at the breathalyser crowd suggests a more cynical set of motives. For better or worse, this didn’t take, and by 1995, 40 years after the Local Option acts were repealed, 2.2 was 6.0 feet under. It’s worth pointing out that 2.2 was supplanted in 1998 by Hahn Premium Light, which is now Australia’s top selling light beer…and owned by Tooheys. A fascinating trail of the significant episodes of 2.2’s short life can be found here (WORTH READING). I think the lesson here is don’t give your beer a name that invites terrible Richie Benaud impressions.

But back to the Melton. Also of note are the apparent remains of either a garbage can or a phone box (remember those?) located between the two driveways.

IMG_9008Let’s stop for just a second to process this. Regardless of whether this was in fact a garbage can which spent countless nights being chundered into by melting Meltonians, or a phone booth which spent its Friday and Saturday nights listening to endless pleas by hopelessly pissed pub patrons for their wives, girlfriends, parents or less drunk mates to come and pick them up, and then being chundered into, the fact remains that it was located BETWEEN the two driveways. How is this a spot for either of those objects which both appear as bright flames to drunken moths? The line for the phone alone would have been both long and drunkenly ignorant enough to queue across the nearest driveway. You can’t tell me this didn’t cause at least one clipped wing.

Even worse is the pub’s proximity to Auburn North Public School. Anyone foolish and drunk enough to ‘breathe easy’ and attempt to drive home via the Melton Street exit (or entrance, depending on the level of drunkenness) on a weekday afternoon ran the risk of knocking over a kid on their way home. If it didn’t happen or nearly happen, I’d be surprised.

With these reasons in mind, it’s easy to imagine just how and why the Melton would have had these driveways sealed up, thereby severing its ties to its own history. It’s also easy (and funny) to imagine particularly OCD and DUI pub patrons attempting to drive out of their usual exit and smashing the fence, otherwise why the need for the bushes and the potplants? Sure, the Melton could have chosen to seal up the Station Road driveways, which face the old Joyce Mayne complex, but it turns out that a child’s life is worth more than that of a shopper looking for bargain whitegoods. Who knew?

And all because some public spirited men didn’t know their limits and couldn’t hold their beer.

Of course, I could be wrong about everything, and I might owe both the Melton and overdrinkers everywhere an apology, but have a look at this:

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate  10 jul 1915

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate,  10 July 1915

EPILOGUE

IMG_9035

Not pictured: Melton Street South

You may have just read all that and be wondering ‘what was the point?’ or ‘where’s the remove bookmark button?’, but more inquisitive (or less demanding) readers may be wondering ‘What was so drastic that happened to Melton Road to cause it to be split into Melton Road South and Melton Road North?’

Next time, baby.

swr

Vend-A-Card/Pez Dispenser – Strathfield, NSW

This one’s a bit different to the usual stuff, but if you’re my age and demographic (and I’ll bet you’re not) this’ll appeal to a long-forgotten part of your brain. Prepare your past life for a future shock.

When I was a kid, if a big budget movie was coming out to appeal to all six of my senses (you know you have more when you’re a kid), chances are one of its avenues of assault would be a series of trading cards. On me, it worked like a charm. I had a tonne of them, and they made sure that each set was an OCD’s delight. You had to order them correctly in the official collector albums, you had to get all the inserts, you could even collect the wrapper variants. Nothing was more boastworthy at school than the rarest inserts or a complete set, but completing a set wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Trade negotiations between jealous and selfish five-year-olds were more heated than that era’s US-Soviet peace talks, and eventually you’d reach the point where you only needed one or two cards to be done with the whole business. A pack would typically contain seven cards or more. How to solve this dilemma?IMG_8851That’s where Vend-A-Card came into the picture. A vending machine for cards. The only thing better for a kid my age would have been a vending machine for action figure accessories you’d managed to lose. The machines would typically play host to single cards (at inflated prices), and sometimes packs as well, presumably because newsagents had gotten sick of snotty kids coming in and chewing them out for picking the wrong pack off the shelf (if I’d wanted Spiderman 94s, I wouldn’t have asked for Spiderman 95s, would I?). It should say something about the popularity of trading cards at the time that these beasts could even exist. Many a set was completed through the luck of spotting that last elusive #33 staring out at you through the Vend-A-Card, and for a time they were heroes.

Then 1997 happened. Topps and Skybox execs were jumping from the 40th floor windows of their buildings and hitting the streets below among scores of pedestrians too busy playing with their Tamagotchis to notice. The videogame industry had inflicted a Dim Mak upon trading cards, and things would never be the same. The Vend-A-Card machines were destined to become landfill, and they, once my eternal saviours, exited my consciousness…until about two weeks ago.

Strathfield bowling alley’s arcade isn’t huge, and certainly isn’t huge enough to contain THREE Vend-A-Card machines, but they made it happen. Even back in the day you wouldn’t have seen a Vend-A-Card at a bowling alley despite their ubiquitousness, but Strathfield quietly installed these three to provide for the needs of the masses once more. But, I hear you say, cards are an anachronism. Surely they wouldn’t be vending cards these days.

You’d be right.

IMG_8850The sight of a relic from 1995 reborn as a dispenser dispenser made me extremely thankful for the Nurofen.

Hamburger Joint/Residential – Eastwood, NSW

IMG_8945Once upon a time, this shop would have served the hamburger and hot chip needs of as many residents of Eastwood as could be bothered walking to it. These days, it’s easier to just go to the Macquarie Centre.

Situated along Balaclava Road (bal-A-KLAAAAR-VA, or buh-LACK-luvuh for our SA readers), it’s clear that this was one of those corner shops of yore, the kind that would require a visit every few days to stock up on such olden days essentials like sugar, lard and chicken feed. But as times changed, so did the shop’s offerings.

IMG_8943

Above the roller-door of the former loading dock is a telltale sign boasting of hamburgers and hot chips, cunningly repurposed as…some kind of reverse sign. You can bet that when it opened, hamburgers and hot chips were probably just gleams in Fred Hamburger and Glenn ‘Hot’ Chipps’ eyes, but to stay alive in the corner shop game, you’ve gotta diversify.

IMG_8944

By what looks like the late 90s or, at a stretch, early 2000s, the place was even supplementing its bread-and-butter milk supply with Ski yoghurt. With a Woolworths within 5km in every direction by this point, it was a desperate time calling for desperate measures. But even the combined deliciousness of Fruits of the Forest weren’t enough to reverse the fortunes of this store.

In the end, the big boys won, and this dangerous threat to their dominance and manhood was eliminated. Do you think Coles and Woolworths shared a beer over this death? Do you think they even noticed? Undeniably aware of the building’s deep-fried past, the current owners have decided to take it in a different direction – residential. Won’t Coles and Woolworths be pleased?