Wednesday, 15 April 2015

TOD Tour, Day 64 - Mt Morgan

Camp Kitchen
Our night and subsequent day at Mt Morgan were very pleasant.

Absolute cracker of a caravan park. The Silver Wattle Caravan Park, just a small, family run business, owned and run by a young couple who have travelled about Australia and gathered all the ideas they liked best and tried to put them into their own park.

As I say, it's small ... a few cabins and twenty five sites ... but it's fabulous. The amenities were clean and really well maintained ... you turned the lights on and off like it was your bathroom at home. When we arrived, we were told to pick a spot we liked, given four huge eggs from their chickens and a ten minutes description of what there was to do in Mt Morgan and a potted history of the place. The camp kitchen had a full size fridge/freezer, microwave, gas bbq, tv, cutlery, plates, cups, spoons, toaster, electric kettle, condiments, tea towels ... and a pizza oven! There is a constant feeling of brightness about the place and owners, Sarah and Mark, are improving the place daily. Old cabins are being demolished and new ones put in their place.

It was all built into the style of an old shearers hut, with authentic slabs and corrugated iron roof. At one end was a camp fire ring, which they apologised for not firing up at night, where they normally have happy hour and shout guests nibblies! Outside the camp kitchen is a herb garden and beside it a vegetable garden which are there for guests to pick fresh produce from!

The owners dropped in during dinner to see if we needed anything.

The next morning, Sue got acquainted with their miniature horse which they bought on Gumtree. It had looked bigger in the photos. It is used as their lawn mower and provides fertiliser for the veggie garden.

All of this, plus a powered, level, shared site in return for $25 a night and a weekly rate which translates to a bit over $18 a night. The best value on the road in all the hundreds of thousands of kilometres we have travelled around Australia since 1978. 

This morning, after bacon and eggs which were nearly two centimetres thick, we went into Mt Morgan, starting at the two look outs. The town has been built in a shallow bowl between and including short, sharp hills, through which the Dee River flows. It exists because gold was mined here from 1882. Silver and copper have also been mined in profitable quantities. The post office opened in 1885 and is one of the very substantial buildings in this heritage listed town. Like Mount Isa, only on a much smaller scale, the town is dominated by the now dormant mine which occupies its western side.

Mt Morgan Railway Museum
Mt Morgan is also important for the establishment of the railway line in 1898, at the behest of the mine which had transported gold by wagons down the rough track off the steep range and across the plain to Rockhampton to the north. The track, built up the mountain called Razorback, included a Swiss breaking system which used a notched rack which was laid beside the rails and special bogies fitted between the wheels with ratchet wheels which locked into the rack race. The climb and descent was so steep, it was the only way of making sure a lack of traction didn't occur in heavily laden trains. An example of the system is on display at the Railway museum ... along with some interesting photos, railway associated paraphernalia and a few examples of rolling stock.

The town has some very interesting buildings.

The first state secondary school in Qld still stands on the Burnett Highway, which runs through the centre of town. A tall, two storey building constructed of sturdy brick, despite being 103 years old, still looks as though it could last several more hundred years.

The School of Arts is the biggest public hall I have ever seen in rural Australia, with a full stage, an upstairs balcony with seating to view the stage and a high, high ceiling. It has been recently painted and looks in great nick.

Across the road is what used to be a pub but is now a private residence. It has a turret on the top which was used as a spotter's tower during WWII so that Mt Morgan would have an early warning if Japanese soldiers came over the range ... no, I haven't been drinking.

There are several murals painted on buildings depicting early life in My Morgan and their public toilet block is in the middle of the main street ... not halfway along ... I actually mean in the middle of the street. Perhaps that's because of all the drinking which used to happen in a town that once had 27 pubs and where beer used to be fetched in billy cans (cutters) and run out to the mine at the end of a shift. Every year, the tradition continues with a relay race for four runners who carry a cutter of beer between the remaining four pubs, with final runner chugging the cutter.

We went out to "The Big Dam" for lunch, which was, surprisingly enough, a big dam and the source of the town's water supply.
Themed shopping at

Having been told of the treacherous road which finishes the climb up the Mt Morgan Range and then descends the Burnett Highway down to the plain and Rockhampton, we set out with some degree of trepidation: me with none, Sue with maybe 3 degrees. After all, the lady at the railway museum won't drive it, for fear of her very life ... not life ... no, no ... more important than that ... her VERY life.

All a bit of a fizzer really. Speed limit of 40km/hr. Lots of tight bends and a steep road. I just placed the cruise control on 40 and steered the car down the hill without touching the brake pedal once. Technology 1, steep mountain road 0.

We went on to Rockhampton, settled in,  did some shopping, planning, eating, laughing (it was Micallef night).    

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