Wimmera – Sheep and Grain Country

The area west of Horsham is flat and not particularly photogenic. Once you leave the Grampians behind, there are no outstanding natural features to break the relatively flat landscape. As I drove towards the South Australian border, it was clear that this is a broad-acre grain farming and sheep area. At the moment, newly sown cops of wheat and canola are emerald green but soon the colour of the wheat will change to gold and the canola will burst into its bright yellow flower.

These enormous fields seem to stretch all the way to the horizon. Each town has a machinery dealer that markets various brands of enormous sowing and harvesting equipment. The road runs parallel to the railway line which is the main form of transport for the grain crops. Every tiny locality has a siding and a grain silo that causes the road to make a wriggle around it. There is a major town every 30 to 40 kilometres – just enough ti maintain interest.

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Right on the border of Victoria and South Australia is the old town of Serviceton. Up until the 1970’s this town, built to service the railway, had acres of railway yards and sidings. Over 100 people were employed here as it was where the South Australian locomotives were disconnected and the Victorian ones connected to the train to take it on further over the border (or vice-versa). Now its all gone except for the the old station building. This form of old fashioned bureaucracy could never be effective with today’s requirements for productivity and efficiency. The station is a few kilometres off the road, but I saw a sign pointing the way to the ‘historic railway station’ so I decided to go and investigate.

I found a retired farmer who was doing some renovation work on the building with the hope that the station might, one day, become a museum. He kindly showed me around and I spent much more time there than I had intended. In the colonial days, the station had a customs office where duty was calculated and charged on freight moving across the borders. It had separate ticket offices for each of the Victorian and South Australian Railway systems. It even had a number of cells on the basement where, during WW2, transported prisoners were chained until the train was ready for departure again. The centre piece of the station was the large ‘Refreshment Hall’ where food and drinks were sold to the hundreds of passengers on each train. Nowadays, nothing stops at this station. I doubt that the trains even slow down. But in its heyday, a number of trains per day stopped here for as long as two hours.

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I found the section of road between the SA border and Murray Bridge to be quite boring despite the fact that it had settlements with interesting names such as Ki-Ki, Coonalpyn and Yumali, These were little more than a pub or a store along with an annoying area of speed restriction that lowered the driving speed from 110 km per hour to 80 kms per hour though each settlement. Occasionally there was a touch of interest as I passed a long disused building or shearing shed hat had fallen into disrepair.

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I did notice that the further west that I travelled, the more advanced the crops were becoming. The wheat was higher and the canola was more in flower. As I turned off the highway to drive towards my destination at Victor Harbor, The country of the Fleurieu Peninsular became much more interesting. Like other areas near to Adelaide,this region was settled by German Lutherans. Little churches like this one at Salem are still in use. I find that many of the stone buildings and cottages in this area to be particularly appealing.

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I am now at Victor Harbor enjoying the camaraderie and mateship of the men I served with in Vietnam.

One comment

  1. Pamela Saunders · ·

    The best thing about taking a non-rushed drive from A to B is the ability to wander off the beaten track and explore. Always good to meet up with the ‘old locals’ and hear the history of that place as seen by them. Glad you have arrived safely in Victor Harbour and have had some photographic delights on the way.