Trip Report – May 1st – Scenic Railway to Ruined Castle Katoomba.

Party: Bruce, Claudia & friend, Anne & friend, Josef & friend, Alex J, Marty D, Mollie, Peggy, Trang, Diana D, Jana R, Chris, Arada, Ben, Cathy S, Robert F M.

After meeting up at Strathfield Station, we headed off to Katoomba Station to await the arrival of the train with more walkers aboard. We got there 10 minutes ahead of the train which time was put to good use as a loo break.
When all had been gathered at the Station, I gave directions to the car drivers how to get to Scenic World and Violet Street where we would all park before setting out for the walk together.
Four of the five cars duly arrived at the parking spot and our passengers gathered to await the arrival of the fifth car, Robert’s. And waited. And waited.
After about 20 minutes a call came from Trang, one of the passengers in Robert’s car, asking where we were! She said that Robert had gone straight to the top of Furber’s Steps instead of Violet Street, and there they had sat waiting for us wondering where we were!
I then led the group around to the top of Furber’s Steps, and down we went into the valley. On the way there were great views of the Three Sisters, Jamieson Valley,and Katoomba Falls at full flow after the recent rains, and a photostop was arranged at a lookout; there were several in our group for whom this visit to the Blue Mountains was their very first ever, and they found the view awesome.

At the bottom of Furber’s Steps we reached federal Pass and the bottom station of the Scenic Railway. There was a throng of tourists who had just come off the scenic train (bad timing for us), who then proceeded to look at all the touristy things around the former mine adits. I hadn’t been along this section of the Pass for many years, so the touristy stuff was unexpected for me. There are fake coal mine entances (with recorded sounds), old coal skips (with coal obviously from the Maitland Coalfields, not Katoomba), and so on – you get the picture.
A wooden walkway has been installed which goes further down into the valley by a spiral route, and we followed this down. I started getting suspicious after 5 minutes as I recalled that the Federal Pass to Golden Stairs didn’t go down into the valley, and my suspicions were confirmed when we reached the bottom after ten minutes to find it was a dead-end!
Well, not quite a dead end; a short cut was found to get back up to the fake mine entrances, and then we looked carefully to find the track of continuation of the Federal Pass to Ruined castle.
(I will also mention that the wooden walkway – which is supposed to be wheelchair accessible – was quite slippery underfoot, as it is almost perpetually damp in that rain forest. I can just imagine a runaway wheelchair causing havoc on that walkway one day!!)

Anyway, the diversion through the rainforest was interesting in itself, and nobody minded. We even saw a Lyrebird there.

We found the start of the Federal Pass near the fake coal mines; it is poorly signposted, and the sign indicating it’s junction with the wooden walkway can’t be seen until one is already on Federal Pass! The Pass continues along a muddy track until The Landslide Section, where it becomes fairly rough. By that time it was after 12 noon, but the group agreed to press on regardless and wait until Ruined Castle for lunch.
After Landslide the track becomes fairly level as it is the old coal tramway formation. The recent rain had however caused it to be almost continuously muddy.
We passed the botttom entrance to Golden Stairs and continued on the reach the turn-off for the short 600m track to Ruined Castle. Once at the “Castle” (actually a massive boulder), we settled down to a well deserved lunch. A pair of Currawongs soon appeared and started begging for food.
Some of the group climbed up the Rock for lunch and admired the splendid views.

After lunch we retraced our steps as far as the Golden Stairs, and I decided to exit via these rather than Furber’s Steps as it was getting late. The idea of climbing the slippery Furber’s in the dark didn’t appeal.
Golden Stairs themselves are rather rough but it is noted that reconstruction work is being undertaken over the next month.
Eventually we reached the top of Golden Stairs and proceeded along Narrow Neck via a road bash back to Violet Street and the cars.

Then it was a trip to Echo Point and a local shop for coffee and hot chocolate before the drive back to Sydney. The traffic was unusually light on the way home.
A good day despite the earlier delays, and the mountains were a revelation to the overseas visitors.

Bruce Stafford

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