|The pipeline carrying water from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie
A mixture of wheatbelt and goldmining town
Located 357 m above sea level and 368 km east of Perth on the Great Eastern Highway, Southern Cross can be seen as either the last town on the edge of the wheatbelt or the first town on the Eastern Goldfields.
Southern Crossıs importance is based on its status as the first major gold discovery in the huge Eastern Goldfields region.
Indeed, as the authors of The Mile That Midas Touched observed, Southern Cross, because it predates the larger towns to the east, has a special relationship with Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.
The Cross, too, had its heyday, first as a mining town, then as ³head of the line² before the railway was pushed further inland. It was the ³mother townı of Coolgardie, ³the old Camp², and at least the grandmother of Kalgoorlie and the Golden Mile.ı
Explorers had passed through the area decades before gold was discovered. H M Lefroy, for example, in his Journal of the Eastern Exploring Expedition (1863) declared that the area had great agricultural potential. The area had also been explored by the indomitable Charles Cooke Hunt (who duly sunk a few wells) and John Forrest.
Some pastoralists had moved into the area by the 1880s but it was really the discoveries of Thomas Risely and Mick Toomey in 188788 which established the area as an important goldfield. Risely and Toomey claimed they had been led to their discovery by the Southern Cross and they named the goldfield after the constellation.
Thomas Riselyıs account of the discovery gives an insight into the hardships which were to confront the settlers of the area.
Myself, Toomey and Charlie Crossland, started out from our camp at Barcoyton. After prospecting the belt for some days our water gave out. Our blackboy whom I call Wheelbarrow, said he knew plenty of Gabby (water) at Koorkoordine. When we got to Koorkoordine we found one of Huntıs dry wells, just as dry as we were. We decided to start back through the night and return to our camp, distance about 40 miles, and we travelled by the Southern Cross - taken to stars to the north - thanks to Charlie Crosslandıs knowledge of the stars. Or our bones would be bleaching in the scrub now, as we were two days without water at this time. We had to remain at our camp until rains came, them myself and Mick Toomey set out again. We discovered gold four miles from Koorkoordine. I named the place Southern Cross.ı
There was a small goldrush but it was short-lived (this was an area of reef gold not alluvial gold) because on 17 September 1892 a young Queenslander, Arthur Wellesly Bayley, rode into Southern Cross with 554 oz of gold which he had discovered at Fly Flat (now Coolgardie). The discovery started the greatest gold rush in West Australian history. Overnight the miners who had flocked to the Southern Cross diggings moved to the more lucrative eastern fields.
The townıs growth was dramatic but it was never a boisterous centre like Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie. In 1891 the Eastern Goldfields first courthouse was built. By 1893 it had become a municipality. And in 1894 the railway arrived giving the town fast and reliable access to the coast.
Today the area produces oats, barley, wheat, sheep and gold but the average annual rainfall of 279 mm means that the land is marginal. In recent times the fluctuating price of gold has seen renewed interest in the Southern Cross area with both Broken Hill Metals NL and Golden Valley Mines NL being the main operators in the region.
Things to see:
The main attractions in the area include the Number 6 Pumping Station, the Old Cemetery, Fraserıs Mine, Huntıs Soak, the Court House and the Museum. It is indicative of the area that all the attractions either relate to gold mining or to water supply.
Number 6 Pumping Station
The Number 6 Pumping Station, located about 11 km east of Southern Cross at Ghooli, is one of a series of eight steam pumping stations used to carry water to Kalgoorlie on C. Y. OıConnorıs remarkable water pipeline. Listed by the National Estate the Number 6 Pumping Station was still being used as recently as 1969 when it was replaced by electric pumps.
The Old Cemetery, located at the eastern end of Southern Cross, has been redeveloped by the Southern Cross Historical Society as a Pioneer Memorial. It was only used from 18911898 and consequently is an important reminder of the miners and pioneers who first settled this inhospitable area. The high incidence of typhoid on the early goldfield is dramatically recalled on the headstones of many of the miners.
Fraserıs Mine can be reached by heading west on Orion Street onto the Greenmount Road. It is located over the hill behind the Palace Hotel. Although Thomas Risely and Mick Toomey may have discovered Southern Cross it was Hugh Fraser, an experienced prospector, who pegged out the most important rich lode and it was Fraserıs Mine which became the centre of the townıs continuing growth. The old headframes, those symbols of early underground gold mining, are still on the lease and, nearby, is the modern open cut mine which is still exploiting the quartz and greenstone fault which Fraser identified as being rich in gold. It is one of the ironies of goldmining that Fraser died penniless. The town mayor paid £20 to have him buried as a citizen rather than a pauper.
7 km north of Southern Cross is Huntıs Soak. It is one more of the remarkable daisychain of wells and soaks which provided the whole of south eastern Western Australia with water until OıConnor built his pipeline. This soak was built in 1865 and was indirectly responsible for Thomas Risely and Mick Toomey finding gold in the area.
Registrarıs Office and Court House
The Registrarıs Office and Court House (now the townıs Museum), located in Antares Street, was built in 1891 at the height of the townıs goldrush. It continued to operate until 1976 when the court was moved to new premises. It was in this building that Paddy Hannan took out his Minerıs Right and it was to this building that Arthur Bayley came to register the claim which subsequently became the rich fields at Coolgardie. This was also the location of the first claim on the Lake Dundas (Norseman) goldfields.
Not surprisingly the museum, which is run by the Southern Cross Historical Society, concentrates on the history of mining in the area. It is open from 9.00 am - 12.00 noon and 1.30 pm - 4.00 pm Monday to Saturday and 1.30 pm - 4.00 pm on Sunday.
Like so many Goldfields towns, Southern Cross sprawls. One of the townıs most delightful characteristics is that all of the streets, maintaining the stellar associations of the town, are named after constellations. Thus there is Sirius Street, Altair Street, Centaur Street, Orion Street, Spica Street and so on.
The Karalee reservoir, rock catchment and aqueduct, a natural rock formation adapted to maximise the catchment, delivery and storage of rainwater, was listed on the State's Register of Heritage Places in 2001. The reservoir, located about 50km eastwards of Southern Cross, had been essential in railway development to the Goldfields region.
The supply of water and its quality was a constant worry for the railways. Quality was a key concern as salt contaminated water could drastically reduce the life of steam bodies. Steam transport required large amounts of water for locomotives, construction work and for railway employees. When the Goldfields pipeline was constructed, the railways declined to use this scheme water as it had too high salt content for their use and relied on developing their own resources such as the Karalee reservoir.
In 1892, Bayley and Ford discovered gold at Coolgardie precipitating a massive gold rush. Soon after the Goldfields Road, sometimes called the Coolgardie Road, was established roughly following Hunt's original track. Two coach services started in 1893 and 1894 to take advantage of the increasing passenger traffic and burgeoning population, but due to the poor state of the road and the roughness and difficulty of travel, people were convinced the time had come for a railway.
During 1895 and 1896, a railway between Southern Cross and Coolgardie was constructed by the Wilkie Brothers Contractors and passed approximately 3.1km to the south of Karalee Rock. William Shields, an engineer with the government railways, designed the Karalee Water Supply.
In his report Shields estimated that only one train would be needed per week on the line and water supply was adequate for up to six trains in each direction. However, the growth of Coolgardie meant twenty trains were running daily."
In 1897, the Karalee rock catchment and reservoir was constructed by railway and firewood entrepreneur William Noah Hedges, who later went on to serve in the Western Australian Parliament as a member for Fremantle.
Set in dry bushland the centre utilises two massive granite rocks. A stone dam wall was built around the perimeter of each rock with a fall to an outlet. Water flowing off the rock was caught at the perimeter wall, flowed down the fall to a stone lined sluice and was then conveyed cross-country to a large earthen reservoir. Water from the rocks was taken cross-county in a steel aqueduct and from the smaller of the rocks in an earth channel. Water from both rocks was joined at the entrance to the sluice. The method of collecting rain water using a perimeter wall was common for railway catchments in the Eastern Goldfields. Although rainfall was low (250mm per annum) the run off from the rocks could be considerable. The Karalee tank was the fourth largest of the railway catchment reservoirs built between 1895 and 1900. The largest was at Tammin, which held a massive 94 million gallons (426 million litres).
Karalee held 10.64 million gallons (48.3 million litres) of water in an earth dam known as a 'box tank'. Water collected in the reservoir was piped to an overhead tank adjacent to the railway that was 3.6km to the south near the railway station. Karalee continued to operate as a supply of water for the railways steam locomotives until the introduction of diesel locomotives to the line in 1953. In 1999, the Karalee rock catchment area was vested in the National Trust (WA). The place continues to attract visitors, picnickers and campers