A number of years ago, I was following a casual interest in the O'Keefe Rail Trail that runs about one kilometre from my home, essentially on the bed of the no-longer-existing Wallan, Heathcote and Sandhurst (as first named) railway line for the majority of its route between Bendigo and Heathcote. This then led to compiling a comprehensive history of the line. Along the way, I found quite a bit of information that wasn't really relevant to the rail line as such, but of great relevance to my local township of Axedale. This led to a largely separate compilation on that subject, making two very large collections being worked on at the same time. Such large collections required structured repositories so that any part of them could be quickly accessed at any time. I even considered writing a book, or maybe two. However, publishing books implies that their content is largely complete, and I have absolutely no way of determining when that might be. Something needed to be done to make the compilations available as too much time is passing far too quickly.
The size of the two main collections is enormous and the editing process could go on for years. From time to time, I was presented with the problem of what I might do with all the information: Do I hold on to it until I have a manuscript ready and, if I never reach that point, how can I make it available? How do I allow for the ongoing, potentially forever, edits?
I decided that the only way was to provide this web site presentation, with a rider that the information was subject to that editing and could change at any time. That is my excuse for any of the information being incomplete, factually or grammatically incorrect, etc., still allow for corrections and additions to be made, and also make it available for others along the way. It also allows me to add other subject matter if I am sufficiently moved to do so and if I get the time.
If you think there is anything incorrect in what is presented, including typos, content, or links that do not work, please don't keep it to yourself. If you let me know via the email link that appears at the foot of every page, the problem can be readily fixed for the benefit of everyone. If what you report is a potential factual error, please also supply something of a reference as I am prepared to argue in defence of what I have put together - until proven wrong, that is. I am told that everyone makes mistakes and, based on that, my turn is apparently coming one day.
Around 1972, when I was Stationmaster at Glenrowan, I was taking part in a cleanup working bee at the Glenrowan 1742 State School. While others were sweeping the floor, I noticed an old book in the ever increasing pile of rubbish before it was picked up for dumping. I retrieved the book and have held onto it ever since. It is titled "Descriptive Geography of Australia and New Zealand", written by George Sutherland and published by George Robertson, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. Conversion of the Roman Numerals printing date shows that it was printed in 1881 - 7 years before the railway line in this collection was opened.
The book provides a general, but limited, insight into Australia and, as this collection is history related, I feel it pertinent to include a few extractions that relate to Victoria.
In Victoria, the only one (harbour) has risen to importance, Corner Inlet (Wilson's Promontory) contains deep water, but is rendered almost useless by a bar at the entrance. Western Port affords excellent anchorage, but the shore is in many parts swampy. Port Phillip, however, although not free from shoals near the entrance and at Corio Bay, the western portion, nevertheless possesses a deep entrance and a large area of clear water. The other three Victorian harbours - namely, Warrnambool Harbour, Port Fairy or Belfast Harbour, and Portland Bay - are only partially protected by nature.
The Murray or Hume River, as its upper portion is called, rises in the Australian Alps, where it commences as a mountain stream, flowing between hills and cliffs, which in one place, called the "Murray Gates", rise to a height of 3,000 feet. In the lower part of its course, the river flows between muddy banks bordered by low cliffs, sometimes of glistening crystal rock. Passing through Lake Alexandrina, it crosses an extensive bar and falls into Encounter Bay. Including the principal bends, the total length is nearly 2,000 miles; and the river is navigable during several months out of the year as far as Albury, a distance of 1,700 miles from the sea.
The tributaries of the Murray on the south side are the Mitta Mitta, Ovens, Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon. The Mitta Mitta and Ovens are snow-fed streams flowing through rugged country, with fertile flats here and there. The Goulburn is a wide, navigable stream in the lower part of its course, but the upper part is interrupted by numerous falls and rapids. The Campaspe and Loddon flow through open agricultural districts, dotted with small trees, such as the sheoak and cherry.
Flowing into Port Phillip is the Yarra, a short river, which rises among the inaccessible spurs of the Baw-Baw Mountains. In Gippsland, or Eastern Victoria, are the Latrobe, McAllister, Mitchell, Tambo, and Snowy rivers. They are for the most part snow-fed streams, flowing at first through mountainous country and afterwards through open wooded plains. On the western side of Victoria we have the Barwon, flowing through an agricultural district of farms and vineyards; the Hopkins, an irregular stream situated in a flat region; and the Glenelg, a river which depends very much on the rainfall. Having very precipitous banks, it is liable to floods, and the water sometimes rises 50 feet above its ordinary level. The Wimmera and Avoca flow northwards into Lakes Hindmarsh and Tyrrell.
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, lies on the Yarra, about 2 and a half miles from Port Phillip. It possesses two ports - Sandridge and Williamstown - where the largest vessels lie, while ships of moderate size pass up the river to Queen's Wharf. The principal street, such as Collins, Bourke, Flinders, Elizabeth, and Swanston streets, are very broad, and perfectly straight. The largest suburbs are Emerald Hill, St. Kilda, Prahran, Richmond, Collingwood, Carlton, Fitzroy, and Hotham; and altogether, the population numbers about 265,000.
In Victoria, there are four main lines of railway, starting from Melbourne. One goes east to Gippsland, one north-east to the Upper Murray, one north to the Murray (being continued into New South Wales by a private line), and one line runs through the western interior to Portland Bay. Numerous branches from these lines connect the intervening districts with Melbourne.
Each colony has a Governor, representing the Queen (Victoria), by whom he is appointed. Victoria has two Houses of Parliament, both elected by the people. The Legislative Council is elected by those who possess a certain amount of property, or who pay a certain rent. The Legislative Assembly is elected by a manhood suffrage [any man above 21 years of age is allowed to vote].
Victoria exports wool, tallow, meats, and hides, as well as leather and live stock from the stations in Victoria and in the Riverine District; gold from the famous goldfields; and articles of apparel, such as woollen goods, boots, etc.
Melbourne - the capital of the colony [Victoria], lies on the River Yarra, very close to the northern part of Port Phillip, called Hobson's Bay.
Lancefield, Romsey, Gisborne, and Sunbury, are small agricultural townships lying in the midst of a picturesque farming region near the Dividing Range. Bacchus Marsh, further to the south, is called after its former owner, who, by draining it, converted it from a swamp into the most fertile land in the colony.
Geelong - is situated on the sloping hills west of Corio Bay, between the River Barwon and the shores. A channel is cut through the sand bar at the mouth of Corio Bay, and this allows vessels to enter the Bay and unload at the large jetties which are used as wharves. Several woolen mills give employment to a large number of workpeople, and the total population is about 25,000.
Queenscliff is a watering place and fishing station on a small peninsula at the entrance to Port Phillip.
Colac and Winchelsea are both on the western branch of railway, which starts from Geelong. The surrounding country is flat and grassy, maintaining large numbers of sheep and cattle.
Warrnambool - on the western coast, is a place of considerable size and importance, being the outlet for a large farming district near the coast. The town exports considerable quantities of wool and supplies Melbourne and other cities with potatoes.
Belfast, on Port Fairy, is also a busy seaport town; and Portland, further to the west, besides possessing a good harbour, is the terminus of the Western Railway line.
Hamilton, about halfway between Ararat and Portland, is the centre of the south-western squatting country.
Coleraine, near the Glenelg, is a small town in a very fertile district, the land being a rich volcanic soil similar to the neighbouring country of Mount Gambier.
Ballarat - close to the Dividing Range, is the metropolis of the most celebrated mining district in Australia. The alluvial diggings were followed down to a greater depth than in any other part of the colony; and this, together with the discovery of many quartz reefs, has rendered the city permanently prosperous, and attracted a population which still amounts to about 50,000. Sturt-street, the principal business quarter, is very wide, and well planted with trees.
Buninyong, south of Ballarat, and Smythesdale, a little to the west, are townships in the midst of a very rich mining district, which supports a large population.
Creswick is a large town about 11 miles from Ballarat. Although one of the earliest Victorian goldfields, it is not by any means worked out, and is still a busy, thriving place.
Clunes is another populous gold-mining town, lying in a valley a little further from Ballarat. Very rich quartz reefs have been worked by the Clunes miners for over 20 years.
Daylesford is reached by a branch line from the Northern Railway. It lies on very high ground, crossed by numerous quartz reefs, which yield gold in abundance.
Ararat - in the centre of the mountainous country of the Pyrenees, owes its origin to mining, but is now rapidly developing the industries of farming, agriculture, and woolgrowing.
Stawell is reached by railway from Ararat. It possesses one of the richest mines in the world, and contains a population of about 9,000.
Horsham, in the Wimmera district, is a small town, chiefly important as being the depot for a large number of sheep and cattle stations.
Sale - is a large town situated on the Thompson River, about three miles from its junction with the Latrobe, at which point there is a wharf for the steamers entering the lakes.
Walhalla, in North Gippsland, is enclosed by very precipitous hills. It is essentially a mining township, and contains the celebrated Long Tunnel mine, with one of the richest quartz reefs in Australia.
Bairnsdale, on the Mitchell, is chiefly supported by the surrounding sheep stations, and by some excellent hop plantations on the low-lying flats near the town. Steamers can reach the town when the river is high, that is to say, during about six months of the year.
Beechworth - is the principal town in the mountainous gold-mining district of the Ovens. A branch railway connects it with Wangaratta, on the North-Eastern line.
Wangaratta is much smaller than Beechworth, and depends entirely on the surrounding farms and vineyards. Benalla, further down [actually Up in railway terms, towards Melbourne] the railway line, is a town of similar character.
Wodonga, on the Murray, owes its importance to its position, being the terminus of the Victorian North-Eastern Railway, and lying very close to Albury, in New South Wales.
Chiltern is on the line, a little further south.
Echuca - lies on the tongue of land at the junction of the Murray and the Campaspe. It is a flourishing town, with numerous woolstores, sawmills, and flourmills. River steamers are employed to bring wool to Echuca from all parts of Riverina, for transmission to Melbourne by rail.
Shepparton, on the Goulburn, is at present a small town, but is rising to importance owing to the fact that the river is easily navigable to this place.
At Seymour and Tallarook, further up, the river is rather swift to be easily navigable, although, with skilful working, steamers can be brought up that distance. The surrounding district contains the fertile farms of the Goulburn Valley.
Kilmore [probably today's Kilmore East as there was no rail line to Kilmore at this stage], on the same line of railway, lies among mountains and fertile valleys of volcanic soil, capable of yielding very heavy crops.
Sandhurst - or Bendigo, is the richest quartz mining city in Australia. The mines are very deep; and the steady yield of gold gives employment to large numbers of miners. Pall Mall, the main street, is a very busy thoroughfare; and the population, including suburbs, approaches 30,000.
Eaglehawk, 4 and a half miles from Sandhurst, is about one fourth of this size. The soil is rocky and barren, but the mines are very productive.
Inglewood, another quartz-mining town, is connected with Sandhurst by a branch railway.
Castlemaine - is surrounded by alluvial diggings, most of which are now worked out, so that the present population does not amount to 10,000. It is, however, a well-built city, and important as being the chief station on the Northern Railway.
Chewton, two and a half miles distant from Castlemaine, is the celebrated Forest Creek goldfield, which, in the early days of gold-mining, rivalled Ballarat in richness.
Kyneton stands on high, hilly ground, a few miles from the Northern Railway line[?]. It is the market town for a large farming district.
Maryborough - is the point at which the branch lines from Ballarat and Castlemaine meet. The surrounding country abounds in quartz reefs, many of them yielding rich returns to the miner.
Carisbrook, close to Maryborough, is almost entirely devoted to agriculture.
Talbot and Majorca were originally mining township, but the inhabitants are now turning their attention to agriculture, so as to supply the miners of the other goldfields with grain and produce.
I sincerely hope that you derive as much enjoyment in reading what I do present, as I had in putting the collections together.