Wonthaggi and State Coal Mine or The Evolution of Fuel

We are housesitting for good friends in Inverloch, Victoria. Inverloch is best known as a seaside town on the Gippsland coastline offering surf beaches, quiet swimming beaches and boating opportunities. They tell me that the fishing from the beach is also good. We have spent our time here exploring the area and the history of the region. The closest large town is Wonthaggi. This town is best recently known as the site of Victoria’s Desalination Plant.

The weather at this time of year is cold, wet and windy and occasionally there are days where the sun shines and it is a pleasure to be out and about. On this particular Sunday we decided to explore the closed Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. This site is managed  by Parks Victoria  and restored by the local community ( Friends of Wonthaggi State Coal Mine) for the enjoyment of future generations.

For me the interest is the history which we did not learn at school. In spite of this sounding like a history lesson, I will try to put this in perspective of the current arguments on fossil fuel and Climate Change.

Back in 1826 William Hovell ( of Hume and Hovell fame) discovered  black coal near Cape Paterson only seven kilometres from Wonthaggi. The Victorian Coal Company dug out 2000 tonne from a workable seam. This coal needed to be transported by whale boat to to larger ships anchored offshore, proving both dangerous and costly and soon any mining activity was curtailed.

Black coal, with its low moisture content, was regarded as the premier fuel for household heating, industry, and railways.



The Victorian Railways at at the turn of the century sourced all its black coal from New South Wales. In 1909 as a result of a protracted miners strike in New South Wales saw the Victorian Government very quickly develop The State Coal Mines at Wonthaggi to supply coal to the railways. Opening on November 22, 1909 the mine dispatched its first consignment just three days later with coal transported to the port and Inverloch by bullock wagon.  Coal production peaked in 1929 at 662,159 tonnes.


The Nyora/Woolamai Railway was extended 22km to Wonthaggi and built in 10 weeks. ( I would like it see that happen today!)

In the 1930s, production started to decline as the large seams were worked outing the mine was hit by industrial strife and profitability declined.  In 1937 disaster struck in Shaft 20. Thirteen men lost their lives.

Disaster at Shaft 20

Disaster at Shaft 20

In order to maintain a coal supply for its locomotives Victorian Railways subsided the mine until the last regular stream locomotive operations ceased.




I started to think and a couple of things came to mind. As stated above black coal is a very efficient energy source, so I questioned why we now use brown coal. One of the volunteers at the State Mine explained that black coal strata were quite narrow in comparison to brown coal, so the only way to remove it from the ground was by underground mining. Brown Coal strata are in excess of 150 metres thick and this allowed open cut mining.

So how does this relate to the current arguments. My take on it as one energy source proves unsatisfactory for what ever reason, it needs to be replaced. As black coal became more difficult and expensive to mine, it was shut down and energy needs were taken up by brown coal. Now, Victoria is blessed with an abundance of fossil fuel, so alternatives could well be more expensive however our climate is changing due to emissions  of carbon and other things into the atmosphere. It must be time to shut this industry down and replace it with renewables.

We have an abundance of sunshine in this country so the obvious thing is to utilise the sun to provide our power needs. Sure there will be pain felt by those that work in the coal industry, but why is this different from closing down the black coal industry or going back further in history the Industrial Revolution where there was a transition from an agrarian base.


Geocaching (or the things you learn while searching)


A new hobby for us while we are on the road. I should have posted this a month or so ago but was unsure how to approach it. This hobby combines my interest in history with our adventures .  While we were in Gundagai, we started caching. This is what we learnt.

IMG_1442For thousands of years this part of the Murrumbidgee River was an important ceremonial, hunting, and crossing point for the Wiradjuri people.


By the 1820’s European explorers had documented this crossing point. Being the main route from Sydney to the newly developed grazing lands, the Victorian goldfields and Port Phillip (Melbourne), a town soon sprung up which was colloquially known as the ‘Crossing Place’. This was in spite repeated warning by the Wiradjuri people of the risk of large floods. Gundagai was officially gazette in 1840.


On the night of 24 June 1852, the flooded Murrumbidgee raged through the small township drowning more than one third of the 250 inhabitants, an unknown number of travellers and destroying 71 buildings.


Rich agriculture and gold mining made Gundagai prosperous and a center for bushranging, giving the town a romantic bush appeal.


Many outback stories, songs and poems reference Gundagai, including Jack O’Hagan’s songs ‘Where the Dog sits on the Tuckerbox’ and ‘Along the Road to Gundagai’.

National School



IMG_1426An impressive three-meter high monument in Gundagai commemorates the spot where the National School once stood until a devastating flood in 1852.

After a campaign for a Government School, The National School was created on the floodplain in 1850. It was a two-room schoolhouse with a loft and included accommodation for the teachers. The teachers appointed to the school were Joseph McKenna from Ireland and his Glasgow born wife Elizabeth who arrived in Australia in 1842.


Since early settlement, Aboriginal people had warned Europeans of the great floods that swept the Murrumbidgee. In June 1852, the Murrumbidgee rose 12 meters in the early hours. A wall of water cascaded through the entire town. Most people were thrown into the darkness of the raging torrent. Between 80 and 100 unfortunate men, women and children were lost from a population of 250.

The torrent collapsed the walls of the schoolhouse, drowning the whole McKenna family and their two boarders.







Yarri – Hero of Gundagai.



That is the inscription on both a tribute granite monument and headstone of an aboriginal man who rescued 49 people on the night of 24th June 1852 from the flooded Murrumbidgee River. The tribute monument is near the cache in a picturesque park named in his honor together with the nearby Yarri Bridge.


The massive flood of 1852 swept the town away, killing at least 78 people of the3 town’s population of 250. It is one of the largest natural disasters in Australia’s history.


The heroic efforts of Yarri, Jacky Jacky, Long Jimmy and one other indigenous man were incredible, rescuing over 40 people in their bark canoes at nighttime against raging torrents.


Yarri and Long Jimmy were awarded with Bronze medallions for their efforts. Later Long Jimmy passed away from the effects of being exposed to the freezing conditions.


Yarri’s is one of the most dramatic stories of Aboriginal-European interaction and certainly one of very few from an English perspective in which the Aboriginals are shown in an heroic light. More than a century after his heroic efforts a gravestone was erected in his memory in the North Gundagai Cemetery.

Captain Moonlite






The Old Gundagai Goal started operating as a lockup in 1861. Horse, cattle stealing and larceny were common crimes for which offenders were imprisoned. Captain Moonlite became its most infamous inmate. He now lays at rest in a lone position in the Gundagai cemetery.

Some more serious criminals were only ever held in the goal for short periods in transit to larger goals or waiting to face court.


In 1879, Andrew George Scott, better known as Captain Moonlite, held up a farmhouse at Wantabadgery, half way between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai. Over 3 days Moonlite and his gang took 35 hostages and thus began a siege that would go down in Riverina history.


One of the hostages managed to escape and return with 9 policemen. A battle followed and one policeman and 2 of Captain Moonlite’s gang were shot dead.


Two of the gang were jailed for life. Moonlite and one of his gang were tried and hanged. On January 20, 1880 just before he faced the hangman’s noose at Sydney’s Darlinghurst Goal, Captain Moonlite wrote, “ I want to rest in the grave of my friend. Gratify my last wish if you can. Do it in the cheapest possible manner. I have 1 hour to live.”


In January 1995, Moonlite got his wish. 115 years after his death, his remains were moved from Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery and laid to rest meters from the unmarked graves of his friends James Nesbitt and Augustus Wernicke at Gundagai.




Gundagai Lookout



IMG_1438What more can you say? It is a great view over the Murrumbidgee flood plain.

The historic Prince Alfred Bridge and the timber railway bridge dominate the landscape.

The Prince Alfred Bridge was built in 1866, the first major crossing spanning the Murrumbidgee River. The Prince Alfred Bridge is the longest timber viaduct in Australia and has bee classified by the National Trust as a structure whose preservation is essential to Australia’s heritage.












Dad and Dave




IMG_1432Dad and Dave, Mum and Mabel were created by Steele Rudd, and became household names throughout Australia with the broadcast of the popular radio serial ‘Dad and Dave’.

The links to Gundagai were forged when Jack O’Hagan’s ‘Along the Road to Gundagai’ was used as the serial’s theme tune.


In all we learned a bit more about this town and the part it played in Australian history. We are looking forward to finding out more as our hobby progresses. Not promising anything, but I may do the occasional post about other things we learn by geocaching our way around the country.




Stone the Crows – Thursday April 2, 2015

We survived the first full day at the festival.

I had an early start at the Morning Show where Jim Haynes, Grant Luhrs and the O’Donoghue family (Katelyn, Liam and Kasey) started the morning off with Aussie Humour, Verse and song. They were ably supported by Irvine. We saw Vinnie as he is now known at the first Stone the Crows, reciting his own brand of bush poetry. His verse about the Check up is extremely funny, and brings tears to your eyes, especially if you are a male.

Then there were seminars, and information sessions. We chose to learn a bit more about diabetes and blood sugar levels. This was followed by a talk on Family History. Not how to trace a family tree but what we can do now to help our great grandchildren create stories about our time now. The interesting thing to note was that records need to be kept in a media that will last the test of time. Paper has been around for thousands of years and is still the most reliable way to preserve history. Of course you need to store it properly.

The afternoon was taken up by catching up on some  reading , but there was a good session talking about Preprogrammed digital camera settings.

Has the day finished yet. This retirement is getting tiring. No there was the evening entertainment. This variety concert showcased Jim, Grant and Katelyn  but the absolute stand out was Jamie Way as  The Great Pizzarotti. Jamie had entertained us yesterday and agreed to come back tonight.   Just think this guy sang Elvis and other rock songs yesterday and tonight opera ( with a touch of comedy). When it was announced that the full Great Pizzarotti  show will be included in next years festival the assembled flock cheered and clapped wildly.

Jamie was greeted with a standing ovation at the end of his segment. Here is a YouTube video of this talented performer.



A good night’s sleep and we will be ready for another day. At this rate we will need a holiday to recover.

Stone the Crows Festival, Wagga Wagga- Easter 2015

It has been some time since I sat down and made a serious effort to record our adventures on the road. I must admit to be shamed in to resuming this activity at a recent seminar at the Chapter rally in Numurkah.

For the last couple of years we have spent Easter in Wagga Wagga at the Stone the Crows Festival or the Stone the Crows website.Basically a celebration of Grey Nomads. You need to be at least 50 to attend. Linda and I just qualify 😉

We arrived at the the festival grounds on Wednesday April 1. It was after 12 noon so no pranks could be perpetrated. The line if vehicle was long and it took us just on an hour to enter the grounds and set up at our allocated spot.

The afternoon was spent in setting up and getting our registration package, entering the disc bowls tournament and just catching up with friends. We also ended up on a trivia team made up of people we had played with at Numurkah.

The entertainment at this festival is top class. I will tell you about this as it happens. ( Well that is one one to stay on top of the blog posts). Happy Hour came and before you knew it it was time for dinner. The Charities for this Festival are The Wagga Wagga Men’s Shed and Wagga Wagga Breast Cancer Support Group. The Men’s shed cooked up sausages and steak.

The entertainment for the night was provided by Jamie Way. He is a performer, writer, photographer and student based in Wagga Wagga. He won the Elvis sound alike competition in Parkes in 2007. He was selected to play in a movie ,a story about a boy you sounds like Elvis Presley. He is entered into the Parkes competition and wins it. The only way that the movie could be convincing is by actually entering Jamie into the contest. He won. A story of life imitating art.Jamie did readily admit that 7 years and 30 kilos was not conducive to wearing the Elvis costume. His voice was amazing. He entertained us with a mixture of Elvis and the favourites from the 60s and 70s.

I have attached 2 short video clips of his performance so you can judge for yourselves whether he sounds like Elvis or not.