UNLOCKING THE PAST: The Pinch at Pelton has a most hazardous history

SLOW DOWN: The
SLOW DOWN: The "Pinch" has long been known as one of the most hazardous stretches of road in the area.

Rural and regional roads often have bad reputations as death traps.

However, there is one stretch of our local road which is notorious. Officially its Wollombi Road just outside of Bellbird, but to us its the Pelton pinch.

This narrow piece of road with its distinctive twist was known by locals as the pinch as far back as 1916.

This narrow piece of road was known by locals as ‘the pinch’ as far back as 1916.

In that year the Newcastle-Wallsend Colliery Company opened the Pelton Colliery and as part of this development built a rail line from the Bellbird Colliery to the new pit and a link into an already existing colliery rail line.

This meant building a rail bridge over a local road. Newcastle newspaper the Northern Times, reported that it will cross the Wollombi road by a viaduct at the top of The Pinch a steep hill [a] mile and a half from Bellbird.

As private motor cars became more affordable this narrow stretch, where it passes under the railway line, became an infamous traffic black spot. With its single lane, blind spots and sharp turn accidents here soon rose.

By 1938 there had been so many deaths that the Deputy Coroner of Cessnock recommend that warning signs be erected on either side of the bridge, trees on the northern side be removed, along with the piers in the middle of the road, the overhead rail bridge be reconstructed and that Kearsley Shire Council take up road matters with the colliery company.

Accidents, near accidents and fatalities continued for decades.

Kearsley Shire Council, the police, colliery proprietors and local residents regularly described the site as a death trap.

As if negotiating the roadway itself wasnt difficult enough, in 1944 lumps of coal falling from the wagons on the rail line above on to the roadway below created even more hazards for drivers to contend with.

It took until late 1962 for State government funding to be made available for this urgent upgrade.

The following year Wollombi Road at the pinch under the overpass was divided and became two lanes, but despite this, it continues to be the local road with a most hazardous history.

Kimberly OSullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library. Contact her at Kimberly.OSullivan@cessnock.nsw.gov.au. The Library is located at 62-78 Vincent Street. Phone 4993 4399.