Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c
|11 June 2015
Peterborough to Broken Hill
The morning was cold and wet after two days of particularly damp, dank weather made more uncomfortable by a biting cold strong wind. We had connected caravan and Pathfinder during a break in the rain the previous evening and were soon away with Broken Hill as the day's destination expecting to stop for fuel at Yunta.
Peterborough is at an elevation of about 540 metres and the road gradually decreased to be about 300 metres at Yunta. As we had noted while a few days ago while driving from Broken Hill to Peterborough the vegetation around Peterborough (to at least Oodla Wirra) was much greener, with significant mallee cover, than around Yunta where bluebush/saltbush prevailed. This change reflected higher annual rainfall around Peterborough.
We stopped for fuel at Yunta, not so much because it was needed (only 25 litres filled the tank) but because we knew this was the last reliable fuel before Broken Hill 231 kilometres away. Although we carry several 10-litre drums of diesel in the Pathfinder they are not intended for routine use and we refuel the Pathfinder tank when possible.
Leaving Yunta we continued along the Barrier Highway with the Sydney-Adelaide train line running beside the road. We were treated to the sight of the India-Pacific passenger train heading towards Adelaide. This was a long train with 12 to 15 passenger carriages as well as a freight car and a specially designed carriage loaded with passengers' cars immediately behind the engines. We travelled on that train some years ago and recall that even more carriages are added in Adelaide for the long leg across the Nullarbor Plain to Kalgoorlie making the train more than 20 carriages long.
As we had seen a couple of days ago while driving from Broken Hill to Peterborough we found the Barrier Highway a reasonably good road made up of long, nearly flat and nearly straight stretches. The terrain was nearly uniformly low bluebush or saltbush scrub. Traffic was light, mainly heavy transports, sedans, 4WDs and caravans in about equal numbers.
After leaving Yunta the few settlements we passed until Cochrane on the SA/NSW border had begun as support sites for steam engines hauling ore-trains on the Silverton/Broken Hill to Peterborough then Port Pirie train line.
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The passage of time has not been kind to these settlements. We had already stopped at Olary (see entry for 7 June) and today stopped at Manna Hill and Mingay. Manna Hill (or Mannahill) still has an ornate station (surprisingly ornate for this remote place), a crane once used to load/unload trains, and a fresh water tank for steam engines. Across the road from the station there is a hotel with a handful of other buildings nearby. Reportedly the hotel did good business when the railway team worked there and did even better at shearing time when shearers descended on the place. Now the railway personnel are gone and shearing sheep is no longer a major occupation.
Mingay has declined even further. There are no buildings at all left near the tower-mounted fresh water tank beside the passing loop on the railway line. The only other residue of the Mingay settlement is the sign over Mingay Creek.
After passing Cockburn on the New South Wales border the road climbs over the Thackaringa Hills. Passing lanes are not available on this road with generally light traffic but travelling behind a big, slow, vehicle on this winding, hilly road, would have been slow. Then there was an easy drive into Broken Hill with its mostly bumpy roads; even the Barrier Highway's generally comfortable surface deteriorated to the Broken Hill standard as the highway entered the city outskirts.
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