RoadTrip2021: Hartley and Lithgow

April 26, 2021 | 14 Comments

Whilst the Blue Mountains are very spectacular (see previous article here) I have visited them many times. So I was very excited on the third morning to be starting the ‘new’ part of the trip! Most of the locations on my itinerary are not places that I have visited as an adult and therefore will be new to me.

Our destination for Day 3 was Lithgow but on the way we stopped at the tiny historic village of Hartley. 



Hartley used to be an important centre but now it’s just little more than a single street with a number of old buildings scattered along its length.

To quote from Wikipedia:

Hartley was once a major administrative centre on the Great Western Highway. It has since fallen into decline, replaced by other towns that are on the railway line. It was formerly a judicial and administrative centre that had a busy courthouse. The courthouse was built in 1837 and was designed by prominent New South Wales Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis. The courthouse, which operated for over fifty years, dealt with a constant stream of robbers, thieves and convicts.

The main reason for stopping in Hartley was to sketch this beautiful courthouse. I wasn’t feeling totally comfortable on my stool so the result was very loose – but it was a pleasure to sketch it. While I was working I couldn’t help thinking about sketching Palladio’s buildings in Italy.

I also did a quick sketch of the church and presbytery before joining Chris…


She had found a rusty building (The Shamrock Inn) and a nice tree – two favourite subjects of hers!


So I joined in – here is my version!


Sometimes it’s really hard to see the colours inside shadow areas (especially when sitting in the harsh Australian sunlight) so I was amazed, on getting closer, to discover how colourful the doors were!


Here is the full spread with a little map of Hartley. (BTW I have been doing plenty of maps so far this trip!)


Lithgow – Blast Furnace Park

As there wasn’t a cafe at Hartley, our first stop when we arrived in Lithgow was to get a coffee – we both loved the coffee at Lithgow Tin Shed. BTW I’ve started ordering flat whites (rather than lattes) this trip so that I can be assured of getting a cup and saucer. I asked a very serious coffee question on Instagram about the difference between flat whites and lattes here.

My coffee sketches are always a good way to get to know the properties of the paper I’m using and I was still working out ways to best manage the granulation in this Moleskine sketchbook.


Next we headed to the Blast Furnace Park containing ruins of an important industrial site. We spent a number of hours here and then in the evening spent even more time doing some research so we better understood the history and processes involved. Super fascinating!


The most useful part of all the information panels scattered around the site was when they included old photos  and  – as you will see below –  I decided to draw from one of them. This really helped me understand what I was looking at.


Remains of the main engine room.


I really enjoyed designing this page – including the coffee, a sketch of the Blast Furnace in the early days and a side view of the remains with the huge plate from one of the furnaces.


Really quick and loose sketch from the highest viewing platform with notes about the various parts and overall history.


The finished spread containing the Engine Room sketch – with a column of text and a partial sky shape.


Lithgow – Main Street and town centre

I really liked the Main Street in Lithgow – this end of it had a lot of old shop fronts with some fun variety! This is a photo from the morning.


After our time at the Blast Furnace Park we came back (looking for another coffee!)


Chris wanted to see if there were any good op shops so I spent 30 minutes doing these quick sketches exploring different aspects of the street. Wow! this was so much fun!


Here is the final spread… I was intending to include an overall map of Lithgow but I doubt it will happen now!


On the next morning we visited the Uniting Church – I did a really quick sketch (coming below) while we chatted to the young minister. The autumn trees are so beautiful!


Oh, BTW it was 3C that morning and there was frost! (This is a big deal as my car is never covered in frost like this in Sydney.)


Hassan Walls

We had hoped to visit the Hassan Walls lookout (on the western edge of the Blue Mountains) on Day 3 but ran out of time, however on Day 4 we had 30 minutes to wait until a museum opened. So we were able to check it out. The view was so expansive that we both decided not to sketch. Too hard?


And another BTW – this was my first stretch of unsealed road. Thankfully it was in good condition.


Lithgow – Small Arms Factory

This museum is listed as one of the main attractions in Lithgow so we thought we had better check it out. SAF was an important manufacturer of firearms during the wars and I was surprised at how big it was (I love a good model!)

It was a lovely old style museum with an incredible collection of guns. It’s not a topic that means anything to me but I was amazed at how many different models there were. But I didn’t sketch any of them!


We were then taken into the machine room (I have no idea why this photo is on an angle!) and I did a few mostly continuous line sketches (coming below.)


Most of the factory is abandoned…


I managed a quick sketch of the entrance while talking to our guide – colour added later.


Lithgow – Gun Emplacement

Our final stop in Lithgow was this gun emplacement on the outskirts of town. Built to protect the Small Arms Factory.


No sketch but a few photos – we were both impressed by this site and information included….


…plus I love a bit of concrete!


I mean, how cool is this!

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Lithgow and it is a place which I definitely plan to revisit!


  • Laurence says:

    Thank you for the guided tour !
    A great adventure out of time 🙂

  • Susan Deetz says:

    I am loving your trip so far. Not sure I will ever get to Australia, but this provides a peek and maybe some enticement. to get there someday. Through the eyes of a sketcher has made it so so interesting. There are some good lessons here on how to keep a travel sketchbook. Thank you! Looking forward to the weeks to come.

  • Alan Barbour says:

    Of course Australia isn’t California, but looking at the photo of Lithgow’s Main Street, I should have expected some cast iron store fronts; they can rival first-rate stone (which, of course, they are meant to imitate).

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Alan – you will see lots of cast iron in this trip. I think there is little in Lithgow because it’s a bit later.

  • Will says:

    Dear Liz, we miss your videos on YouTube. It’s been about 2 years since you last uploaded a video there. Please favor us with a new video of your work. Maybe a new sketchbook tour? Love your style!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Will – yes I know I’ve been focusing on my SketchingNow videos lately but when I’m home I will create some videos from this trip!

  • O says:

    I love it all! Especially the scripture ??
    Thank you.

  • Oops… meant !! Not ??

  • Jamie C says:

    Old Blast furnaces are fascinating and what a fascinating bit of history to capture! I love ruins so much, and I’m loving your sketches! And the maps! And the historic towns. I almost feel I’m touring Australia, and learning so much about her history! I must also add, I’m squeezing over all the maps! Love the maps!

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