In a final look around Burra before leaving, we found a few sights that we hadn’t yet seen such as the old railway station. The last trains from here ran in the 1990s. Railway lines were once the life blood of rural Australia but have now been replaced by modern road transport. Trucks now transport the grain and minerals that were once handled by rail. Freight also opened up the opportunity for passenger transport but people travel by car now.
Stations such as this one were obviously built in the days when women were regarded as the weaker (or gentler) sex and had to have their own waiting room to protect them from obnoxious male travellers!
Located approximately 3km north of Burra on the Barrier Highway, lies an abandoned farmhouse. This cottage, located on ‘Cobb and Co Corner’, was first photographed by iconic Australian landscape photographer, Ken Duncan, and rose to fame on the album cover of Midnight Oil’s ‘Diesel and Dust’ record. Known as the ‘Midnight Oil House’, this cottage has become one of Australia’s most photographed ruins.
It was evident that crops were being sown in this area as there was obvious evidence of the enormous paddocks being workaday farmers.
About 60 kilotres further along, we came to the old railway town of Terowie. Around the time of WW2, this town saw 100 trains coming and going each day. It was at the junction of the narrow gauge line from Alice Springs, the broad gauge line from Adelaide and the standard gauge line from Perth. With the standardisation of railways, Terowie became redundant and it is now a ghost town with only 100 people.
It was on this station that General Macarthur pronounced his famous words of “I will return”. He was travelling south from Darwin on a special train after leaving Darwin from the Philippines.
The rest of our trip to Broken Hill took another three hours. The vegetation became more arid as we continued. We kept an eye out for animals but we only saw an occasional sheep, a couple of emus and lots of feral goats. The birds have a tough time and an eagle had resorted to building a nest on a disused telegraph pole.
The road follows the main railway line. The towns (settlements) are few and far between. Some had rather impressive stations like this one at Manna Hill. It made me think of a horror movie in which a woman gets off the train here in the middle of the night. It’s pitch black and she’s all alone. There is no sound at all. She stands on the station platform with her bags. Suddenly, she notices a dim light coming towards her from the distance until . . . . (you can fill in your own ending). Apart from the station, there is nothing much in this town at all. The last census recored the population of Manna Hill as being zero.
As we continued, the flatness and remoteness just continued.
We stopped at Yunta for lunch in a picnic area by the side of the road along with a group of other people travelling through this area. Some were towing caravans, others in motor homes and a few, like us, were travelling in cars.
At the border with NSW we found the town of Cockburn. It had two pubs and a school but they were all closed. Nothing open at all. Al the towns along the way were nothing more than a pub or a roadhouse or a few abandoned house.
In the words of Dorothea Mackellar:
“I love a sunburnt country,A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!”