Tullah, Farrell Mine, Trains and a Dam
We had an enjoyable time with Lyn, her bears and her blooms.
On the opposite side of the road was an intriguing structure, a poppet, so over we went.
The township in 1905. St Andrew’s Church erected by volunteer labour and opened in 1913. Tullah Hotel before it was destroyed by fire in the 1930’s
The Town of Tullah: Many towns that once existed on the West Coast have long disappeared back into the forest,Magnet, Dundas, Williamsford and even recent settlements such as Luina, Australia’s second largest tin mine in the 1960’s and 1970’s can now barely be seen under a generation of forest regrowth. Although the settlement on the slopes of Mt Farrell faltered in the depression years of the 1930’s and the mine closed long ago, Tullah has survived.
Initially it was called Farrell, after Tom Farrell. When the settlement was declared a township in 1901 it was named Tullah, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘meeting of the waters’. Before the hydro-electric schemes were built in the 1980’s, the township was near the confluence of the Mackintosh and Murchison Rivers.
In 1908 the town was well established with four hundred and seventeen people living in two ‘suburbs’ sharing two hotels, two general stores, a cottage hospital, state school, post office, bank and a public hall with the rather grand title of the Tullah Academy of Music. With little competing for entertainment, Elsie Tole organised concerts there as well as teaching music lessons.
The town had its own football and cricket teams, brass band and like almost every other West Coast town, a homing pigeon racing team.
1982. That same year the state Hydro Electric Commission [now Hydro Tasmania] began construction on the Pieman River Power Development. Tullah’s population skyrocketed. By 1980 Tullah village had more than two hundred and sixty houses, with separate accomodation for nearly a thousand workers. The population soared to nearly two thousand.
When the Pieman River scheme was completed in 1987, the town remained the base for the new King and Anthony schemes. When these schemes were completed in 1994 Tullah Village was put on the market. A house could be bought for as little as ten thousand dollars. many were sold to redundant HEC workers or to anglers keen to pick up a weekender, but the majority were bought by miners from the nearby Hellyer or Henty mines.
The last chapter on Tullah has yet to be written.
The Mines of Tullah: Circa 1904, an early view of South Tullah looking at south Mount Murchison. Circa 1905, well established, the Mount Farrell Mining Field was to be known as Tullah. The settlement of Tullah, once a cameo frontier mining town which in the mid 1970’s became part of a major hydro-electric development.
North Mt Farrell mine workings looking south-easterly circa 1920.
Mount Farrell is named after prospector Tom Farrell who discovered galena on its eastern slope in 1892. While he had some success mining copper, the lode was patchy and unprofitable. Two years later he moved on.
Payable lodes at Mount Farrell were found however, when the Innes brothers were surveying and cutting the track from Liena near Mole Creek to the new mining fields at Rosebery. The brothers did not publicise their find, but returned ten months later to peg their their claim. In 1899 the North Mt Farrell Co. was formed and very quickly consignments of ore were packed out by horses to the Emu Bay Railway Line.
By 1906, the mine had produced more than 430,000 ounces of silver and 4,000 tons of lead, and a township was established.
The mine prospered and the community grew, but by the 1930’s the quality of the ore had diminished. As the Great Depression took hold, metal prices fell and for the fifty miners and their families the outlook was bleak. The mine closed. Milling operations continued but only a few days before the scheduled closure another, richer outcrop of galena was found just north of the old mine.
The North Farrell Mine re-opened in 1934, producing 700,000 tonnes of silver-lead ore by the time it closed in 1974.
The winch mechanism in this shed was used at both North Mt Farrell mines. It was originally powered by steam and later by electric motor.
The winch driver, Rollie Anderson at the controls of the auxiliary underground winder used to facilitate mine development. Going down. Miners Tony Tyler, Kevin Roles and Sid Brookes in the cage of the Farrell mine in 1962. At 1,000 feet [304 metres] the mine at that time was the deepest on the West Coast. Some of the veterans of the mine a few years before its takeover by the EZ Co. in 1964. From left: Leo Powell, Alf Richardson, Bert Richardson and Mick Mahoney.
The cage and the ore trucks under the poppet head are originals that were used at the new North Mt Farrell shaft.
All that glistens is not gold. Although mostly humble lead, Galena can be a beautiful mineral. Some galena crystals have been discovered as large as twenty five centimetres across. The lustre is from the silver, the metal still most prized for its unique reflective quality. The ore mined at Mt Farrell was galena, commonly called silver lead, or more accurately, lead sulphide. Galena [Latin for silver lead] is the most common form of lead bearing ore around the world. At its height, the Farrell mine produced galena that was 63% lead and 60 ounces of silver t the ton. Prior to both world wars, there was an enormous demand for lead for bullets and before its toxic effects became better understood it was commonly used as a performance booster in petrol.
Two thousand year old Roman lead pipes unearthed in Bath, England.
Because it does not corrode, melts at low temperatures and is easily beaten into any shape, the Romans used lead extensively for plumbing [from the Latin plumbum, for lead]. Although now treated warily, it still has many uses, notably fishing sinkers and, perhaps more importantly, protective aprons to prevent excessive x-ray radiation to medical staff and patients.
In Roman times it was widely accepted that lead added an ‘agreeable flavour’ to many dishes, despite suspicions that there was a connection between mysterious maladies and the metal. The metal enhanced one-fifth of the four hundred and fifty recipes in the Roman Apician Cookbook, a collection of recipes. Some historians believe this practice may have contributed to the fall of Rome.
The Railway Links to Tullah: The only access to all the mining fields on the West Coast was by crossing a long sand bar that protected the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour. At low tide the sand bar was only nine feet below water and at high tide only two feet deeper.
Inside the bar was a channel less than a hundred yards across and fourteen fathoms deep where a furious tidal ebb and flow raced in and out of the harbour. Shipwrecks were frequent. Ships often waited, riding the southern ocean swells for ten or twelve hours before venturing across the bar. Sometimes they would have to sail south to Port Davey to wait for better conditions.
In the 1890’s, seven ships were lost in five years.
Insurance and freight charges for the trip to Burnie to Strahan were six times more expensive than from Burnie to Sydney. The largest ships that could clear the bar were limited to six hundred tons at a time when steamers were being built many thousands of tons larger.
In 1896 the government engaged a leading British maritime engineer, Napier Bell, who recommended deepening the channel. However, for many state politicians, Hell’s Gates was a ‘sacred’ barrier against the ships of Melbourne: reason for inaction. “The removal of Macquarie Harbour bar would be one of the rashest undertakings that could be proposed by any man that has the interests of Tasmania at heart. It would be throwing trade into the hands of Victoria.” Hon C.D. Hoggins MHA .
Between 1886 and 1889 the ‘budding city’ of Teepookana on the King River was serviced by thirteen barges ferrying coal, coke, timber, beef and stores to be loaded onto the Abt trains bound for Queenstown and smelted copper to Strahan on their return. Two engines working in tandem on the steepest sections of the Abt line.
Regatta Point, Strahan exported more wealth than any other port in Tasmania 1900-1901.
Queenstown Station 1902. Dub No 6 at Guildford Junction, circa 1902
The region became home to a huge assortment of trains and trams – a train spotters delight. They ranged from the Abt locos that ran on a rack and pinion track to the impressive 86’ locomotives that ran on the North Lyell line from Gormanston to Kelly Basin. They included Tullah’s ‘Wee Georgie Wood’. Other lines were notable for introductions of new technology – such as the Garrets with articulated axles that plied the notorious “ Serpentine” North-East Dundas Line.
The west coast also became a destination for adventurous tourists, looking to see for themselves exotic sounding places such as Montezuma Falls [named after the Aztec emperor who lost his gold and his empire to the Spanish Conquistadors]. Travellers to the Falls were sprayed with mist from three hundred feet above. To get a good view of the top they would lie across the carriage seats on their backs craning their necks to look up.
With petrol motors, railcars became common for emergencies or the well-to-do. This 1947 Wolseley belonged to the manager of the EZ Co. mine at Rosebery and was used on the Rosebery-Burnie line until 1964.
The Railway War: In 1883, near where Queenstown stands today, prospectors found gold at the ‘iron blow’. As well as gold, there was a vast lode of copper. The discovery was to become one of the richest mines in Australia’s history. The ensuing boom sparked an intense railway war as competing syndicates from around the state lobbied the government into building a railway from Hobart, Launceston and Burnie to the peaks of Lyell.
As long as sand clogged the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, any of the deepwater ports around the State could compete for the West Coast trade. In the late 1890’s, eight competing syndicates had formed to establish a rail route to the riches in the west. All of them petitioned parliament, appeared before select committees and sent surveyors and axemen into the wilderness. They also fought each other with propaganda, in the local press, public halls and especially in the English newspapers. Most of them denigrating the opposition while exaggerating the extraordinary benefits of their own schemes.
The Hobart - Launceston Feud: Then as now there was intense competition between Hobart and Launceston. A Launceston syndicate had funded the enormously rich tin mine at Mt Bischoff. In 1875 smelters were established on the banks of the South Esk River, and the northern city embarked on a period of great prosperity. This seeming advantage had provoked two rival syndicates in Hobart to act, one of them even suggesting the unproven technology of an electric railway that would run from the southern city to the western mining fields. Both proposals, however were publically ridiculed. Through the rugged terrain, rail routes could not be found from either Launceston or Hobart.
The Feud of the Irishmen: There was a personal element to the war between the two Lyell mining companies. James Crotty had been one of the original prospectors of ‘Iron Blow’ but the mine had struggled until Bowes Kelly, one of Australia’s wealthiest men after his investment in the Broken Hill silver mine, bought into the Mt Lyell Mining Company. Later, when the company sought to raise finance for its railway using London money rather than call on local shareholders, James Crotty found himself no longer on the Board of Directors.
Crotty held Kelly responsible. however, Crotty had retained the North Lyell mine and when it was discovered to be far richer in copper than the ‘Iron Blow’ at Mt Lyell, it became Crotty’s personal goal to wrest back control of Mt Lyell from Bowes Kelly.
It was not to be. After Crotty suddenly died in 1898, copper prices plummeted and in 1903 the two companies merged. The township of Crotty and Darwin disappeared as quickly as they had sprung into existence, while Bowes Kelly remained on the new company board, still in control.
The EBR prospectus published in national and British newspapers showed the EBR line as the only railway in the region. The version published in Tasmania showed the competing railways.......
Greed, Gold Diggers and the Gullible: In the atmosphere of a boom that lasted nearly two decades, speculation and skulduggery were general practice. News of rich finds would create frenzies in the Hobart and Launceston stock exchanges but all too frequently the mineral samples that provoked such speculation were ‘salted’: samples underhandedly taken from other mines that were of proven quality. On many occasions, speculators were swindled. One of the most famous was the prospectus for the Emu Bay Railway that showed only one railway [theirs] steaming into the Mt Lyell fields.
Although a blatant lie, gullible investors around Australia and in Britain subscribed four hundred thousand pounds in a matter of days in one of the most hectic share rushes of the decade. The directors, one of whom was Bowes Kelly, who also sat on the Mt Lyell board, retained shares to the value of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, rejected applications for the other two hundred and fifty thousand shares and began construction.
The dishonest publicity provoked outcry, and when the Premier admitted in parliament he had privately given the Emu Bay Railway the go ahead, his government almost fell. The scandal continued to escalate when the shareholders were then told the railway would only go to Zeehan, not to Queenstown. When Bowes Kelly was confronted, he calmly replied he did not know about the misleading map.
We next went up the hill in search of the dam and a place to picnic lunch.
The Mackintosh Dam. A rockfill face dam about seventy five metres high and a crest length of eight hundred and seventy seven metres, containing some nine hundred and forty thousand cubic metres of material on the Mackintosh River and Tullabardine Dam – a subsidiary rockfill concrete faced dam twenty five metres high with a crest length of two hundred and fourteen metres and some one hundred and eighty six thousand cubic metres of material containing Lake Mackintosh, with twenty nine square kilometres of area, two hundred and twenty five metres above sea level.
We read the information board and had our picnic ‘in the bottom left hand corner’, next to the access road. The Murchison Dam on the Murchison River is a rockfill concrete face containing nine hundred and sixteen thousand cubic metres of material. Ninety five metres high and a crest length of two hundred and twenty eight metres, two hundred and forty metres above sea level. The two thousand metre Sophia Tunnel diverts the flow of water from the Murchison to the Mackintosh catchment. The rise and fall of Lake Murchison will be within ten metres, while the level of lake Murchison will vary according to rainfall. Now, time to get back on the road to Strahan.
ALL IN ALL AMAZING WHAT YOU FIND ALONG THE WAY
INCREDIBLY DETAILED HISTORIES