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Portland, NSW

Historic cement making town known as 'The Town That Built Sydney'.

Portland is a quiet town surrounded by beautiful, undulating countryside. Today the economic focus of the town is the Mt Piper Power Station and related coal mines. Wool and forestry are other major local industries. However, the first successful manufacture of cement in New South Wales was carried out here late in the 19th century, based on local limestone deposits. Today the cement works are gone and the town is surrounded by sheep and cattle farms. Small boutique farmers are also growing and breeding goats, alpacas, horses, olives, chestnuts and there are a smattering of vineyards.

Location

Portland is located 164 km west of Sydney via the Great Western Highway and Pipers Flat Road.

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Origin of Name

There is an argument about the origins of the town's name. Some sources argue that it was named after the Isle of Portland, offshore in West Dorset, England. Others suggest that there were stone quarries in Portland, Kent (near the Thames) and the quarrying activity prompted this name. And still others claim that the local cement-making process produced Portland Cement and that the town was named after the cement.

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Things to See and Do

Signs of Yesteryear 
It is rare to come across a genuinely original tourist attraction but Signs of Yesteryear, which are abundance on the walls of the buildings along Wolgan Street, is a genuine and fascinating attraction. The idea is simple: artists from all over the world come to the town and reproduce, with meticulous detail, the old advertising signs which were commonplace from 1895 to 1945.
It was the idea of Ron Bidwell back in 2001. Bidwell, who was a tree changer from Sydney, had been a signwriter by trade. He had a vision of revitalising the town by recreating signs of yesteryear to spruce up the town and to create a tourist attraction for visitors.
“Visitors to the town can now see historic brand names such as: Goanna Salve, Shell Motor Oil, Kinkara Tea, Bushell’s Tea, Mother’s Choice Flour, Uncle Toby’s Oats, Arnott’s Biscuits, Toohey’s Flag Ale, old movie posters, Solvol, Federal Safety Matches and Swagsman Blend Tea. 
“Ron gathered together some of his signwriting colleagues from many parts of Australia for a Letterheads meeting in October 2001 and with the help of some of the locals, they recreated the historical advertising signs which now adorn the town.” 
It is, for those old enough to remember, a real trip down memory lane and, in the case of the Shell Motor Spirit and the movie posters, the art work is on the appropriate building – the service station and movie theatre in the main street.

Masonic Hall
At the top of Wolgan Street is an impressive building with elegant Doric columns. It is the local Masonic Hall. It was completed in 1923 and is a comment on the importance and prosperity experienced by the town's booming cement industry.

Bottle Kilns
The brick bottle kilns were built in 1888 and were the first cement-making kilns west of the Blue Mountains. To inspect them the visitor has to head west on Villiers Street and turn right into Kiln Street which becomes Carlton Road which becomes a gravel road. Keep driving and you will see the two kilns on the right hand side. 

Williwa Creek Picnic Area and Town Common
Williewa Creek is an ideal place for a leisurely stroll, picnicking, bushwalking and relaxing. Bushwalking can also be enjoyed on the 650 acre (259 ha) town common. A very English remnant of the town.

The Glen Museum (previously Charlie Pinch's Museum)
Located at 301 Cullen Bullen Road, the museum contains a large collection of Australian memorabilia which was collected by the late Charlie Pinch and his partner, the late Valerie Risby. The museum describes the collection as "There is a lot of collectables anything from industrial, gardening, kitchen supplies and electronics, bedroom furniture, hospital equipment and the original Band Hall, musical instruments and trophies from Portland. You can find something as small as a cup to as big as an industrial metal lathe. Tours of the museum can be organised by prior arrangement, tel: (02) 6355 5046.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Mt Piper Power Station and Energy Expo
Mt Piper Power Station Energy Expo is located just beyond the corner of Castlereagh Highway and the road to Portland. It lies beyond the main gates to the power station. 
The Mt Piper plant is now fully automated and computer-driven. It operates two 700 megawatt turbine generators. Each is about 50 m long and weighs 1342 tonnes. 
About 18,000 megalitres of water per annum are provided by the Fish and Cox's rivers for cooling purposes. The water is pumped from Lyell Dam about 20 kilometres from the power station to the Thomsons Creek Dam which provides an additional 27,000 megalitres. Both these dams were built to supply water to the power station.
Coal is crushed to powder in large coal mills, using 80 tonnes of steel balls in a large rotating steel cylinder. The coal dust burns like a gas, and gives off large amounts of heat in a very short time. When both generating units are operating at full load, approximately 14,000 tonnes of coal are consumed daily. The power station has the capacity to meet the energy needs of approximately 1.18 million homes in New South Wales every year. That is about 15% of the state's electricity needs. The  station is fuelled using black coal sourced from Springvale Mine in the local area. The power station’s furnaces are designed to utilise the characteristics of the locally available coal to improve its efficiency and help keep the power station’s emissions below statutory requirements.
It is possible to have a conducted tour of the Power Station, but only in a group. Also there are conducted tours every day at 11.00 am. It is sensible to ring a day or so before arriving so the guides know you are coming. The Mt Piper Station Energy Expo, which has hands-on, high-tech interactive exhibits that cater to all age groups, is open every day of the year between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm. If you can't arrive at 11.00 am it is still possible to inspect the exhibits, models, displays, photographic and printed information, videos and touch screens which are all designed to help visitors gain an understanding of the way electricity in New South Wales is produced and distributed. The Expo is located in a landscaped setting. There is a picnic area with a playground, electric barbecues and amenities. For more information check out https://www.energyaustralia.com.au/about-us/energy-generation/mt-piper-power-station/mt-piper-tours and https://tourism.lithgow.com/energy-expo or tel: (02) 6354 8111.

Glen Davis
Located 50 km north-east of Portland, Glen Davis is an old shale-mining ghost town on the Capertee River. The first mining tunnel, established in 1881, later became the basis of the major mining enterprise which opened in 1938. The Post Office was opened the following year. A town of some 2500 people developed around the mine, which was named Glen Davis after the Davis Gelatine interests who headed the mining consortium. The operation closed down in 1952 due to high costs and the increasingly small output, leaving what remains today - a fascinating ghost town characterised by crumbling furnace ruins, retorts and collapsed shafts covered in vegetation and surrounded by steep sandstone cliffs and a profuse array of birdlife. Glen Davis has a picnic area with an amenities block.
There is a bushwalking trail (22 km return) to Newnes up the Green Gully, in the Wollemi National Park, following the old pipeline track. There are lyrebirds, cycads, banksia serrata and assorted eucalyptus. 
The only realistic way to see the ruins of the old shale mining town is to go on one of the Glen Davis Shale Oil Works Tours. Alex Mateer, who runs the tours, explains: "We do a weekly tour every Saturday at 2.00 pm. We meet at the front gate of  “The Poplars”, Glen Davis. The tour costs $15 pp,  ($8 for children under 12 yrs) and takes approx 2 hours - it's a walking tour, where you can see the ruins and hear the stories, so dress for the weather and bring some water. We also sometimes do private tours by arrangement, but they are more expensive.  It's always good to prebook and that way I can get in touch if we have to cancel for any reason (very unusual, but it has happened). You can do this by email (rickstalex@gmail.com) or phone (02) 6379 7380."

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History

* The Portland district was occupied by the Wiradjuri people prior to white settlement. * The first European in the immediate vicinity was James Blackman who surveyed a road from Bathurst to the present site of Wallerawang in 1820. 

* In 1821 Blackman journeyed north from Wallerawang, marking out a road to what is now Mudgee. In the process he passed only a few kilometres to the east of Portland and crossed the Cudgegong River. 

* In 1828 Peter McPherson was granted land around Pipers Flat. 

* Local limestone was used in the construction of McPherson's son's house in the 1830s, thus earning the area the name of Limestone Flat, although it was officially known as Cullen Bullen until the end of the century.

* William Russell took up land which included what is now Portland in the 1830s. 

* In 1863 Thomas Murray selected a portion of land on what would become the townsite of Portland and established his first lime kiln on what is now the corner of Lime and Villiers Streets.

* The railway arrived in 1883 and the station was called Cullen Siding until 1889. 

* The Cullen Bullen Lime and Cement Company established operations at the village that year.

* The town's bottle kilns were built in 1888.

* The first cement-making kilns west of the Blue Mountains were built at Portland in the early 1890s. 

* A school, also known as Cullen School, opened in 1884, moving to the present site in 1895. 

* In 1894 the village was gazetted as Portland. 

* The local Anglican church was consecrated in 1901.

* The present cement works opened in 1902.

* Portland was declared a town in 1906.

* The local hospital was opened in 1913. 

* The Portland Cement Works closed in 1991.

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Visitor Information

There is no visitor information in Portland. For information check out Lithgow Visitors' Centre,1137 Great Western Highway, Lithgow, tel: (02)  6350 3230 or 1300 760 276.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.portlandnsw.com.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

3 suggestions
  • I understand there was an industrial diamond mine in the hills overlooks Ng Airlie Coal at Capertee – might be worth a mention…

    Michael Drenth
  • Hi everyone, When you come to Portland pop in to Bella Zora’s Milk Bar at 51 Williwa Street Portland. It’s Retro – like stepping back to 1945. The music is great and the food is fantastic. Check them out on Facebook

    Kristina
  • The silos of the old cement factory were decorated with Guido Van Helten’s painting. The owner of the coffee shop across the Glen’s Museum says it’s painted in around April 2018

    Vera Segoh