Sunday, November 2, 2014

School Holidays Part 3–The Trip Home

The kids and I decided that we would “play tourist” on our way home from Cobbald, determining that Forsayth and Einasleigh, thriving metropolises that they are, wouldn’t take up too much of our travelling time but break the trip nicely.

Happening upon phone signal on our exit from Cobbald did however delay matters somewhat with a backlog of four days worth of messagebank messages to catch up on.

A potted history of Forsayth:

Originally known as Finnigan's Camp after the prospector who discovered gold nearby in 1871, within a year the settlement had become Charleston township, and it continued to grow despite near desertion when its inhabitants rushed to the Palmer River Goldfield in 1874 and to the Hodgkinson in 1876. After a slump in the mid-1880s the township was again a flourishing centre by the mid-1890s, having five hotels, a school and a court of petty sessions.

By the late 1890s base metal prices were high: a number of promising copper deposits were opened up in the Etheridge district at Charleston, Einasleigh and Ortona, and several were acquired by a subsidiary of the Chillagoe Company. This led the company to commence a rail link in 1907 from Almaden to Einasleigh and the Charleston area, which was completed in January 1910. The Etheridge Railway terminated at a new settlement on the other side of the Delaney River. First known as New Charleston, it was renamed Forsayth after the railways commissioner, James Forsayth Thallon. During the year, all the buildings in Charleston, including the police station and the school, which had previously been at Gilberton, were moved across the Delaney River to Forsayth.

New buildings and services followed the opening of the railway; these included a hospital, a new court house and a new school built in 1912, and a public hall built two years later. In 1914 the Chillagoe Smelters were shut down and the town's importance as an ore-loading facility and centre for miners and their families declined as mining activity in the area was scaled back. Forsayth remained the railhead for transport to the west, although plans in the 1930s to extend the railway to connect to the Croydon line did not proceed. From the 1980s, renewed mining activity in the area and increased livestock traffic revived the town. Today Forsayth is a service centre for road transport and regional tourism.

What interested the kids was the little machinery display that was around the town, what interested me was a well kept older building I noticed on our way through. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very small township, in the middle of some very dry, barren hills, but the stop was interesting enough.


Many old mining and other assorted machinery were also display in the centre of town, with great signage explaining their purpose. I’m all over this sort of thing these days, nothing worse than wondering what the importance of something is.


I got to investigate the old building that caught my eye as we also visited the public toilets, were I may or may not have liberated a small plant cutting from the healthy pot plant in its foyer (husband calls it “pinching plants”, I call it propagating).


This charming old building was the Stationmasters residence back in the day, and has had new life breathed into it as a B and B apparently. The railway – still in use for the Savannahlander– runs past its front door (although I believe this is the end of the line, from Cairns) . I possibly could have asked to look around the building but didn’t.  I like its distinctive shape.

On the way in, the kids and I had noted the sign indicating the old cemetery. Now knowing the history of the town (see above) this cemetery is mostly consisting of residents of the old settlement as we expected. It was also on a slightly different soil type, which probably meant it was on high ground above flood level and was better for digging? It wasn’t a big cemetery, and possibly a great many unmarked graves; some that were there were fenced and tiny, no headstone but obviously a child's. It would have been very inhospitable here back in settlement days if one had been ill.


{I believe the Newton referred to on the headstone was another mining settlement in the area}

We also found an interesting flowering tree which Georgie, lover of weird looking things, begged we investigate. We did, plucking from it (not without some gymnastic endeavours from both of us!) a large, very light, green seed pod or fruit. Turns out that this is a native Kapok tree, the inside of the pod (seed) being used to stuff saddles, pillows and mattresses. One must have to have had a rather good crop of trees to get enough pods?!


So onwards we drove, back to Einasleigh, perched on the banks of a small but spectacular Copperfield Gorge.

The township of Einasleigh, originally named Copperfield, was laid out in 1900 by the mining warden on a new township reserve established near the Einasleigh Company's copper mine. Although the company had been formed only in the previous year, already two hotels, a store, a billiard room, and butcher and baker shops were being built and funds were being collected for a school. The town briefly became the largest population centre in the shire during construction of the Chillagoe Company's Etheridge Railway in the years 1907-10. After the closure of the mine in the 1920s, however, the township almost disappeared and was saved from extinction only by its location on the railway. 

Found by Richard Daintree in 1866, the Einasleigh copper deposit was one of the earliest mineral discoveries in north Queensland. It was initially too remote to develop and was abandoned and virtually forgotten after Daintree's death. The Chillagoe Company rediscovered the Einasleigh shaft when exploring the area and began developing it in 1900 through its subsidiary, the Einasleigh Copper Mines Company. A small blast furnace was erected for smelting in 1902, but until the opening of the Etheridge Railway in 1910 operations proved uneconomical because of high transport costs. The mine closed when the Chillagoe Smelters were shut down in 1914.

Acquired by the Queensland Government in 1919 as part of the assets of the Chillagoe Company, it returned to full production the following year, supplying the reopened Chillagoe Smelters. As the Einasleigh State Mine, it finally closed in 1922 as a result of depleted ore reserves and a post-war drop in the world copper price.

Einasleigh sits on the Eastern edge of the Newcastle Range, on the banks of the Copperfield River.  Einasleigh is on the old Chillagoe to Forsayth railway.  Once a Copper mining town, it is set among some unusual scenery with flat top hills that rise out of the grasslands.

Our arrival in Einasleigh happened to coincide with not only the arrival of the Savannahlander, disgorging its mostly elderly passengers for lunch at the pub (which pretty much sat on the banks of the Gorge) but also the RFDS Clinic Day.

The kid wished we could stay for a swim in the Gorge.


(another stellar family holiday photo for the album, yes?!)


Other buildings caught my eye as we again found need to check out the public conveniences.


The police station building(now unmanned but still used by the police throughout the year) is a very old building. Thankfully good signage quelled my curiosity somewhat, this building moved to Einsasleigh from Port Douglas and named Dyas Homestead in the early 1900’s.



This building too also had a familiar roofline, the old stationmasters residence. (appeared to be a private residence so I didn’t stick beak). Clearly all stationmasters buildings on this line were built on the same specs.

So then it came time to move along again, crossing the Copperfield Gorge via the rather spectacular road bridge. Its a single lane bridge and I itched to stop and photograph the aspect however sense overcame that urge, even though traffic wasn’t exactly thick, murphy’s law would indicate that as soon as I did a road train would come along.

This nearly concluded our touristy adventures on the way home, however the kids also begged that we cross the big Einasleigh River waterhole at Carpentaria very slowly so they could see if there were any freshwater crocs lolling about. Considering there was a merry band of bikini clad holiday makers swimming there as we crossed, the lack of sighting was understandable. (and possibly could have been a traffic hazard for locals?!)


And then, after a refuelling of both car and bellies back at the Oasis, and chatting with a surprising number of other travellers that we knew, and receiving a message to go the “long way home, we are out of milk!” from The Husband, we put head down bum up and headed the next 300km home.

And I got the milk.


  1. Isn't it amazing how buildings for certain things and from certain eras have similar or identical plans. I love seeing well preserved old buildings. You are really making me want to go exploring.

  2. We have a Kabok tree at an older set of yards. I think I prefer a feather pillow!


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