PEOPLE say the only constant thing in life is change. This helps explain why we are often transfixed by precious moments of time frozen by the photographer's lens.
Time marches on for all of us and yet some of life's scenes live on, captured forever on film in a pre-digital age. Take the two latest publications just released by Hunter railways and hotels historian Ed Tonks.
One is a 2020 calendar labelled Hotels of old Newcastle depicting a "baker's dozen" of rare pictures recorded by the region's great 19th century photographer Ralph Snowball and saved as part of the Norm Barney Collection at the University of Newcastle.
In Tonks' own words, "Some pubs have gone the way of history and others have been redeveloped beyond recall. Which ones would Ralph recognise today?"
His other new publication - a glossy, hardcover photographic book entitled Tracking Back 2 is an impressive, 128-page colour book, a sequel to a printed work showing rail scenes of Newcastle-Lake Macquarie in the 1970s and 1980s.
The latest work by Tonks, a retired social sciences teacher, deals with the 1990s, recording in part the last days of the Toronto and Belmont rail lines. And what changes have occurred are starkly displayed within the pages of this slick, coffee table book.
Primarily aimed at railway buffs, the book shows in vivid detail how quickly things vanish. Of particular interest to me, for example, were images preserved from the former Toronto spur line from Fassifern station, like a red passenger set (pictured) crossing Stoney Creek between Toronto and Blackalls Park back in March 1990. All gone now.
And then there's the image of Mayfield's forgotten Tourle Street bridge.
No, it's not the old road bridge onto Kooragang Island, but surprisingly a big railway bridge instead. I'd almost forgotten about it, but road traffic drove under it daily until this structure was demolished in 2002.
Following the closure of Newcastle Steelworks on September 30,1999, the bridge was sold. Locomotives used this east-west line high over the Tourle Street road artery for BHP dumping operations.
Other enduring images glimpsing into our recent past give an insight into rail operations at Newstan Colliery and Teralba's coal preparation plant with aerial shots of Broadmeadow's huge, now closed yet "unknown" locomotive depot in 1992.
As well, there's a permanent record showing the delivery of the then new Tangara rail cars for the Sydney rail network highlighting the importance of Broadmeadow's A.Goninan & Co's as a railway products manufacturer.
I couldn't help but be impressed by the scope of railway subjects covered in this superb book. They range from pictures of Newcastle's own majestic rail relic from the steam era, the Newcastle Flyer 3801, to a record of the historic Hexham railway station being quietly demolished in April 1993.
And browsing through pictures of big diesel electric locomotives you soon realise the significance of things lost now from the backgrounds of many photographs. With so much of the landscape changing over the years, the book often acts as a time bridge linking us to the way we were.
The images shown were all taken by Tonks. He's made it a habit to carry a camera with him to capture special moments in rail history. The book's 155 photographs were selected from his personal stash of about 250,000 colour slides.
Things change unexpectedly and I've been lucky at times to be there to record events.Historian Ed Tonks
"Things change unexpectedly and I've been lucky at times to be there to record events," Tonks said. "Once well-known station buildings are removed and rail lines go. There's a shot almost midway through the book of the 1886 rail bridge over Cockle Creek being cut up for scrap in May 1992. This (historic) Butterly & Co plate web girder style rail bridge disappeared.
"Cutting down the heavy panels came ironically on the day I believe the Lake Macquarie Heritage Study was being launched at the council chambers at Speers Point," Tonks said.
The rail historian said his big railways book, costing $49.99, would have a broad general appeal as well as to the curious and railway enthusiasts. "But the special rail market I'd like to tap into is the model makers market," he said. "Rail enthusiasts might be divided whether something existed at a particular time, or not. I'd like to think they might be able to point to a particular photo in this book and say, 'well, here's photographic proof that it was that way once.' "
Another valuable addition to our local history knowledge is Tonks' second book, using some priceless Snowball photographs.
The 2020 calendar ($15) is also a peek into times past. The photos range from Court's Adamstown from 1906, renamed the Nag's Head in 1928, to the original Premier Hotel at Broadmeadow advertising Buddha Tea, to Tudor's Family Hotel (later the Hotel Bennett) at Hamilton and Newcastle's Grand Hotel and two old Wallsend pubs.
"The calendar cover features the original Sunnyside Hotel, Broadmeadow, in 1884.It was then rebuilt in 1921. And look closely. Snowball's photographs always contain great revealing detail," Tonks said.
"And did you know where the Commercial Hotel, Adamstown, was? That's the name in 1903, but its name changed in November 1972 to the Gates. It once had a toy train going around the walls inside and had heaps of rail pictures, around 50 of them, but none were about Newcastle," he said.
"And now here, on the July page, there's an interesting photo of Lambton's vanished Gold Miners Home Hotel.
"And here's a favourite 'people' shot of mine, for October 2020, of the Hand of Friendship hotel at Russell Road, New Lambton, in 1903. It's not listed in licence records after 1906 and the building was itself demolished in 1923.
"Some 14 drinkers and pub staff are standing outside posing against a sign featuring Tooth's Imperial ale and double stout. A XXX ale is also advertised on the wooden wall. Tooth's were the first to denote alcohol beer strength by the letter X, so 3 X probably means a mid-strength beer, like having 4.6% alcohol.
"Here's another interesting one, from November. It shows the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel on the corner of Macquarie/Corlette streets, The Junction, in 1901. The hotel there no longer exists, but the old building does. Macquarie Street is now Glebe Road. The licence went to the Beauford Hotel, Mayfield, and the building (minus verandahs) is now Talulah's restaurant," Tonks said.