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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)

A Glimpse of Rural Victoria

page 26

A Glimpse of Rural Victoria

The parlour-observation car on the Reso Train.

The parlour-observation car on the Reso Train.

When I was invited to make a tour in the “Reso” train I was somewhat doubtful as to what “Reso” meant, but on making inquiries I found that it meant “resources” and that the object of the “Reso” train was to instruct not only the people of Victoria but also visitors as to the wonderful resources of this State of the Commonwealth. We boarded the train on a Sunday evening and found it to be as they described “a modern hotel on wheels.” There was an observation car with easy chairs, an excellent dining car where well-cooked meals were served, comfortable cabins, shower baths and every modern luxury.

Leaving Melbourne about 2.30 a.m. on the Monday we arrived at Colac, in the Shire of Colac, in the heart of the western district of Victoria, which contains some remarkably fertile areas. The country generally is suitable for both pastoral and agricultural activities and enjoys an average annual rainfall of 27 inches. Dairying is the chief industry, but grazing and onion growing are other important factors in the prosperity of the district. Wheat, oats, rye and potatoes are also grown. We were met by members of the local authority and driven to Red Rocks, a high volcanic hill which commanded a most sweeping view of the whole countryside for miles around. This countryside presented a network of lakes and beautiful farms of rich soil and splendid pasture. It is very refreshing to find that in Australia, which is considered to be subject to droughts, these rich patches of fertile soil exist.

We then proceeded to the Nestles Milk Factory at Dennington, which is regarded as one of the most efficient factories in Australia. Everything is rationalised and conducted on sound modern lines. Nothing is wasted, not even the milk in the thin-milk water, the milk from which is extracted from the liquid and given to the pigs, which are also fed with condemned chocolate from other factories.

We passed on to Horsham, in the Wimmera District, where wheat is grown in almost illimitable areas. It was pleasing to note that in this mechanical age the tractor is almost entirely absent. I did not notice one tractor in my journey right throughout the whole district, either in train or by motor. The noticeable feature of the farming operations is the use of horses, particularly the Clydesdale breed, and we were shown some remarkable teams of ten horses dragging the harrows round the wheat fields. It was also noticeable that around the edge of the wheat crops a considerable amount of oats had been sown, intended no doubt to provide feed for the horses.

The Seppelt vine-yards was the next place of interest to be visited. After inspecting the vine-yards we journeyed through their wonderful cellars. These now comprise 3 1/2 miles of tunnels cut in the soft, partially decomposed granite rock, and varying in depth from 20 to 40 feet below the surface. Here the uniform low temperature and absolute quiet, factors essential to the making of this class of wine, are assured. The temperature, which averages 58 deg. F., does not vary more than two degrees from winter to summer. After noting the continuous handling to which the wines are subjected in the long process of manufacture, one does not wonder why first-class wines are so expensive.

Continuing the tour, we inspected the workings at the Hume Dam, which is being constructed jointly by the constructing authorities for New South Wales and Victoria. It is located a little below the junction of the Rivers Murray and Mitta Mitta, where the reservoir receives the run-off from a catchment of 6,000 square miles of mountainous country. The lake formed by the dam has, I understand, an area of about 50 square miles (about three times the area of Sydney Harbour) and is not only intended for irrigation purposes, but may be used in the future for hydro-electrical generation.

Ten-horse team harrowing at Horsham, the centre of the famous Wimmera wheat growing province.

Ten-horse team harrowing at Horsham, the centre of the famous Wimmera wheat growing province.

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A striking view from Red Rock Colac. (In the vicinity there are 85,000 acres of high quality land.)

A striking view from Red Rock Colac. (In the vicinity there are 85,000 acres of high quality land.)

The dam consists of two main sections—(1) the outlets and flood spillway, and (2) the earthen embankment containing a concrete core wall sunk into the solid granite and provided with a tunnel for drainage and inspection purposes. The total expenditure incurred to the 30th June, 1933, on the whole of the works at the Hume Reservoir amounted to £5,248,248. I mention the Hume Weir as being one of the features of the wonderful irrigation schemes which the Victorian Government has adopted. The authorities in Victoria have certainly well planned their irrigation schemes to provide against the discrepancies of annual rainfall. I was informed by an officer from the Victorian Government who was on the train and gave a lecture, that in one case an irrigation scheme had its effect 360 miles from its source. As an illustration of the efficacy of irrigation schemes in Victoria, at Shepperton, which is a dairying district and contains one of the largest fruit canning factories in the Southern Hemisphere, land was pointed out to me on one side of a road (not susceptible to irrigation) worth £4 an acre, and on the other side of the road (which was properly and efficiently irrigated land), it was worth £40 to £50 an acre. On this land there were vast areas growing lemons, oranges, peaches and apricots.

The famous Mount Buffalo National Park was also included in our itinerary. This is considered one of the finest mountain resorts in Australia—a favourite place for winter sports. It is located on the western fringe of the towering alps of north-eastern Victoria and is portion of the great system of ranges in the south-east of the Australian continent. And even in such a wonderful setting Mount Buffalo National Park stands pre-eminent at all seasons of the year. It was interesting in proceeding up the Valley approaching to the foot of the mountains, to note the extensive fields of hops growing, and also in some cases, tobacco. By way of contrast with the old history of Victoria's bushranging days, it may be mentioned that the “Reso” train passed through Glenrowan, a small township which will go down in Victorian history as the site of the last stand of the notorious Kelly Gang of bushrangers which in the ‘80's terrorised the northeastern district of Victoria. A special train was bringing a number of policemen from Melbourne, and in order to prevent the train arriving safely, a portion of the railway line was torn up on an embankment in the hills near Glenrowan, and all the inhabitants of the township were imprisoned in the local hotel to prevent the alarm being given. However, on the plea of sickness one of the prisoners was allowed to leave the hotel, and he was able to stop the train before it reached the broken line. The sharp fight which then took place resulted in the destruction of the gang. The leader, Ned Kelly, was hanged in Melbourne some time later.

The Buffalo Mountains are in parts between 5,000 and 6,000 feet high and present a beautiful vista of the Valley immediately in front with its patchwork of yellow, green and brown—that is when the mist of the valleys clears away and presents this wonderful view. On the south side of the mountain range there is also faintly visible another valley which seems to present equal charm. Although the climate is somewhat cold in spring and summer in these beautiful mountains, it is only in certain portions of the winter months that mountain sports can be indulged in Rock formations are a feature of the National Park. The Monolith, a great rock whose summit rises above the landscape like an eagle's eyrie, is perched on another huge boulder, ready apparently to topple at any moment. But so well is it balanced that it has weathered countless years and is in daily use as a lookout, a stairway affording access to the summit. Precariously

A section of the extensive open cut at the Yallourn coal field, showing the electric dredge in operation.

A section of the extensive open cut at the Yallourn coal field, showing the electric dredge in operation.

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page 29 balanced “egg” rocks are found at various points on the plateau. The most spectacular of all is The Leviathan—33,000 tons of solid granite—perched on what appears to be an absurdly inadequate foundation.

The last place to be visited was Yallourn, wherein is situated the amazing electric-power scheme of Victoria. Yallourn is the township on the State Electricity Commission's brown-coalfield. It is a town which has grown up strictly according to plan. The site selected comprised high and dry land on the slopes of the Haunted Hills and was capable of effective drainage while water supply facilities could readily be installed. A permanent belt of parkland has been preserved to keep the township clear of the industrial atmosphere of the works. The present population is approximately 3,600. Yallourn forms the basis of one of the most interesting and comprehensive schemes of electricity supply in the world. While Victoria may not possess a greater length of transmission lines than any other country, it can safely be said that nowhere else do transmission lines stretch for such vast distances over sparsely populated areas. In other words, Victoria possesses a greater length of transmission line per capita than any other country in the world. Yallourn coal field consists of a seam of brown coal anything from 150 feet to 600 feet in depth. The brown coal contains 65% of moisture and is won from the ground by a quarry process. A huge gap, probably 200 feet deep, exists in the earth's surface, and the whole process of extracting the coal from the land is mechanical. Dredges, equipped with buckets, scoop up the coal and convey it to the top where the coal is deposited into railway trucks. (About four inches is the depth of the cut of each bucket.) The coal is then conveyed by rail to the electrical generating plant and automatically the contents of the trucks are dumped into a hopper. The fines are separated from the larger coals, and after the timber and other materials are extracted therefrom, the larger coal is crushed and whatever is required for the electrical plant is conveyed to that plant while the balance is conveyed to the briquetting plant. The briquetting plant process is simple and it consists of subjecting the coal to such a temperature that the moisture contained is reduced from 65% to 15%. The coal thus reduced in moisture is led into compressors and then subjected to certain pressure by the machines, and according to the size as required the briquettes are produced, no foreign matter being introduced in the process. Briquettes are then, according to their size, conveyed into different trucks and taken away by train for the market. This is a wonderful process and I am informed that it was planned by the Germans before the War. Some idea of how the scheme has grown is shown by the fact that, whereas in 1924, when Yallourn began to function, thirty centres were supplied with transmitted energy, the number is now 194. During the same period, the output of energy from the Commission's stations has increased from 220,000,000 to 530,117,855 units. Altogether it must be considered as a wonderful scheme. The capital expenditure of this scheme has been somewhat great, namely, £20,000,000, representing to a great extent developmental works and including a briquette factory, the huge mechanised Yallourn open-cut with its vast reserve of uncovered coal, and the model township of Yallourn. Included in this capital expenditure is about £1,200,000 for the Sugarloaf-Rubicon hydro-electric scheme, which is the Yallourn's main adjunct and supplies the North-Eastern district with energy. Although the scheme has cost a tremendous amount of money, so far as I was able to ascertain the cost of electricity to the citizens of the State was comparatively cheap.

It will thus be seen that during six days this “Reso” train travelled through the greater part of Victoria and enabled the passengers to visit places of great interest throughout the State.

Although the climate has some vagaries, there has been an abundance of water for the past few years. The settlers seem to have made very good provision for their water supply by windmills and catchment areas.

The one outstanding fact in connection with the visit is that Australia is a country of vast areas and of wonderful natural resources. The policy of the country has been to develop these resources to the fullest extent.

Courtesy Always Obtainable.”

The relations between industry, the travelling public and the department were never better than they are to-day, states the “Taranaki News.” The railway service is unceasing in its endeavours to obtain increased business, it shows a willingness to meet special conditions, and the courtesy that is expected of any well-run industrial organisation is always obtainable.

“Bob's Cove,” Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand. (Govt. Publicity photo.)

“Bob's Cove,” Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand.
(Govt. Publicity photo.)

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