Beltana
January 19, 2010, 8:21 am
Filed under: Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

We’re back from a trip interstate to visit family and friends, but before I post photos of Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, I did promise you some shots of Beltana, a near ghost town in the Flinders Ranges, just a few k’s short of Leigh Creek and a few k’s off the highway.

I have to admit it. I find ruins and ghost towns fascinating. What sparked their existence, what brought their downfall – I don’t think it’s just writers who feel that way, at least I hope not:-)

First populated in the 1870’s, Beltana boasted many sound reasons to exist. Copper mining, the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line and the original Ghan intercontinental railway line, all served to turn Beltana into a thriving outback community of up to 500 people. And maybe that’s what’s so fascinating to me – the idea that once upon a time people came to Beltana with hope in their hearts and a desire to build something, to be part of a growing and thriving pastoral and mining community, and yet now, it’s all come to nothing, with only a few hardy souls returning to tend the buildings that remain.

Old schoolhouse

The old schoolhouse still stands, an old swing rusting away in the foreground.

The Royal Victorian Hotel

 This old pub looks in pretty good nick, all things considered. At one time the town boasted two pubs and also its own bakery, brewery, police station and courthouse. I guess if you have a brewery and 2 pubs, you’re going to  need a police station and courthouse:-))

Australian Inland Mission nursing home - with ventilated roof!

 

 These buildings form the two sides of the old AIM nursing home.  I love the ventilated roof on the building at left – clearly any and all attempts to create ventilation was encouraged in what must have been stinking hot conditions a lot of the time.

Labourer's cottage

Most of the buildings are merely shells now, or a pile of rubble guarded by an ancient peppercorn tree, so it was fantastic to find a few mostly intact buildings still remaining and great to see that some people are actively now involved in preserving what is left of the town.

Apparently the heyday of Beltana came in the years between 1875 and 1920, though years of drought, depression and the failure of the mines hit hard.  Slowly times changed, the town of Leigh Creek to the north was born and the fortunes of Beltana waned. The rail line moved away in 1956 and in 1983 the highway moved west and there was no reason to pass through, unless, like me, you had a fascination with old towns with no reason to exist.

The Flinders Ranges is a tough place to eke out an existence, even in our modern times of air conditioning and six cylinder engines.  And it’s worth a visit, or three, not only for the spectacular landscapes, but to witness first hand the evidence of just how harsh and brutal this land can be,  to see the ruins of homesteads and stations and entire towns, and to admire those people who came so long ago, full of hopes and dreams and expectations, and whose hopes were so frequently dashed by drought or depression or other circumstances beyond their control.

It’s one of those places that makes you realise how insignificant you really are. And that’s not always a bad thing.

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